The following Career Dispatch was told to Allie Volpe by voice actor Eric Bauza. He is the current voice of many “Looney Tunes” characters, including Bugs Bunny.
I fell in love with toy-oriented ’80s shows like “G.I. Joe” and “Transformers” that aired on Saturday mornings. By Saturday evening, “The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show,” which was the resurgence of the classic Warner Bros. cartoons, had my love. Those shows pushed me to start out as an animation intern in Los Angeles in 1999. (The people I met during that internship are now the very people calling the shots, hiring, and executive producing at Warner Bros., Disney, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network.)
Long before I became a voiceover artist working on “Looney Tunes” and “DuckTales,” I was working as a character layout artist at animation studios. I would look at a storyboard and draw final poses that would then be brought to life.
I started practicing my voice acting filling in for other people on that job. Because I would always do impressions of coworkers or cartoon characters, someone asked me, “Do you want to do some scratch dialogue?” They can’t hire the big voice actors for temporary voices, so they’ll get anyone at the studio to read that dialogue. It doesn’t have to be great; it just has to be read. I took the opportunity and would act out those scenes. One time, I did a temporary voice for a pilot episode. It got picked up for series, and the creators loved my voice so much that they fought hard to keep me in, and I became part of the show.
Credit Warner Bros. Animation Looney Tunes Cartoons
Whether you’re playing a superhero or a dramatic role or an animated duck, your acting has to be grounded, because there still has to be a believable performance for the audience to care. On some of my early jobs, people were sending notes back to my agent saying, “He does great, funny voices and he’s a good mimic, but the acting’s just not there yet.” That’s the best note I could have heard. As a vocal performer, you can’t use your body or face to convey emotions. You really have to channel that into your voice. And sometimes, less is more; you don’t have to yell in order for people to know you’re mad.
Lately, I’ve been getting hired because of my own voice—and that’s something only building confidence could provide. The equivalent of going to the gym for me is watching about an hour of “Looney Tunes” a day just to keep the knives sharp. There are so many versions of each character now that you have to be prepared to voice them in different ways.
As a voiceover performer, what do you want to leave behind? Do you want to be known as the guy who’s really good at impersonating Bugs Bunny or the guy who created an original character? One day, I would love to create an original voice that gets imitated years down the road. I’m quite happy if I’m only ever known as the guy who helped keep the “Looney Tunes” alive—as a kid, those characters helped raise me. I feel great being able to give back to those characters that gave me so much in the first place.
This story originally appeared in the July 14 issue of Backstage Magazine.