Have you ever wondered how voice-over came to be what it is today? Or how silent movies transitioned to talkies? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this is the article for you! Sit back and enjoy our quick history lesson on the making of voice-overs!
The first ever voice-over artist was Reginald Fessenden, the inventor who was inspired by fellow Canadian, Alexander Graham Bell, and his newly invented telephone. Reginald’s first act of voice-over work was reporting the weather on the radio while working for the United States Weather Bureau in the early 1900’s.
More commonly cited as the first voice-over work was Walt Disney, who voiced the most famous cartoon rodent in the world, Mickey Mouse. This was Disney’s first sound animated short, titled ‘Steamboat Willie’ and was released in 1928. Soon after, Warner Brothers came out with their own form of voice-over animation with the release of “Looney Tunes”. Mel Blanc was the go-to Warner Brothers voice for many years. Blanc voiced a variety of characters including Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, and others that we still love today.
The Voice of the Movies
The 1960’s to the early 2000’s belonged to the voice talents of Don Lafontaine and Frank Oz. Lafontaine started voicing for movie trailers, advertisements and promos. He eventually became “the voice of the movies”. Lafontaine is credited with turning movies and movie trailers into what they are today. Frank Oz is responsible for voicing nearly every lovable character on daytime TV. You may recognize his work in this voices of Miss Piggy, Yogi Bear, and the Cookie Monster. Most famously, Frank can be credited for being the voice of Master Yoda in George Lucas’ “Star Wars” saga.
In the 90’s, voice-over work started to appeal to the bigger names in Hollywood. For instance, Disney’s worldwide phenomenon ‘The Lion King’ is filled with the vocal talents of Rowan Atkinson, James Earl Jones, and Jeremy Irons.
Today’s Voice Talent
Today, voice-over work is largely dominated by comedians. You’re sure to recognize Billy Crystal voicing Mike Wazowski in “Monster’s Inc.”, Ellen DeGeneres as Dory in “Finding Nemo” and the late Robin Williams as the Genie in “Aladdin”. More recently, Pixar’s “Inside Out” starred the voice talents of “The Office”‘s Mindy Kailing and “SNL”’s Bill Hader and Amy Poehler.
It’s hard to believe that a big part of our most beloved movies was originally intended to report the weather on the radio!