The advent of the digital revolution has brought about a significant change in the entire media and entertainment industry. The digital marketplace is so wide that it enables a gazillion of possibilities for providing and availing of products and services. The voice-over industry is, by no means, spared from these changes. Where once there was the age of the walk-in auditions or telephone casting engaged in by agencies representing their talents most, it not all, of these activities have shifted to online with technology allowing for faster bookings and less production costs. This rapid advancement in technology paved the way for a major shift in this industry that apparently shows no signs of slowing down.
However, recent changes in the realm of animated films seem to threaten this steady growth in the voice-over industry. Nowadays, the chances of landing major roles for regular voice-over actors have become nil. While we see animated movies being created more than ever and the market for voice-over actors was supposed to have catapulted, huge Hollywood animated projects are increasingly veering away from no-name actors preferring big-name celebrities for the major roles. A case-in-point is, as Sandie Schnarr – co owner and head of the animation and interactive division of AVO Talent Agency – said in an interview with CNBC, “Celebrities are willing to do publicity for animated film the way they will do publicity for a live action film. The studios want to make money and when you have a celebrity actor that will push your film for you, they will use you”.
Industry players say that this trend is not about to change in the near future. The top animated films of all time like Frozen, which went on to gross more than $1 billion worldwide, or the likes of Toy Story 3, The Lion King, and Despicable Me, which grossed more than $5 billion combined, have one major common factor, and that is – all of these films featured mostly marquee celebrities in the leading roles. This behavior in casting strengthens the trend in favoring big-name actors versus regular voice-over actors. As Schnarr further stated, “Voice-over actors can land incidental roles in animated films, sometimes playing two or more different characters but virtually all of the main roles go to celebrities and, given the big budget nature of these projects, is unlikely to change.”
In as much as the future seems bleak in animated films, all is not lost for the voice-over industry as there is a vast array of opportunities outside of the movie industry. Some of the applications that utilize voice overs include computer games, e-learning courses, radio and television commercials, mobile applications, audiobook narrators, and animations. The advancement in digital recording capabilities over the past years has made recording more affordable and easier for producers and creative directors. Tighter budgets and shortened project timelines have driven film and TV producers, advertisers, marketers, and content producers to avail of the services of the growing number of voice-over talent available in the digital marketplace.
Moreover, as expressed by Bruce Kronenberg, a voice over instructor at Abacus Entertainment, “the business sectors of Internet and cable television have created a huge advertising influx. The pay is actually competitive and the amount of voice over work has exploded, yet so has the competition”. Similarly, work available in the audio book market has also increased as publishers boost their audio book offerings. This means that the market for non-celebrity voice actors has not entirely gone defunct but rather, it has evolved and expanded to greater heights, thanks to the internet and the digital revolution.