Because I’m an animation fan, one of the great joys of this job is getting to talk with the creative people behind cartoons. Voice actors are particularly interesting because they are like utility players on a baseball team. They may be signed to handle one specific job but have to be ready in a blink to take on additional duties.
April Winchell has been working as a voice actor for more than 40 years, getting her start as a child on the TV show “Kid Power.” She got her start because of her father, Paul Winchell, a legend in voice actor world. You probably know his voice best for his work as Tigger.
As a child, Winchell loved to impersonate actors like Edgar G. Robinson and Mae West. She was with her father one day when his agent heard the youngster’s mimicry and suggested she should audition to be a cartoon voice. Since then, she’s been talking in animated efforts from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” to her current series, Disney Channel’s “Wander Over Yonder.” In “Wander,” set to launch on Sept. 13, Winchell is the voice of Sylvia, Wander’s faithful steed.
Every job is different for Winchell. Sometimes, she’s given great details about the character she’s to voice and other times there is less than nothing to use in trying to decide how a character would speak.
“Sometimes you are lucky enough to see the art work when you come in to do an audition and that can kind of inform how you sound,” Winchell tells me during an interview at the Disney Television Animation building. “When I did the voice of Miss Finster on ‘Recess,’ I saw in the artwork that she was really jowly. And so I started to think about how you would talk if you had a lot of skin there. The sound came out of it that way.
“Sometimes you don’t see the artwork. Sometimes they don’t know what they want. I did ‘The Mighty Ducks’ and they had no idea. They told me ‘just do something.’ The dialogue was really smart. For some reason I thought about how she would sound if she always had a cold. That’s what I did and it worked.”
The more information she can get, the better for Winchell. For her, too much freedom in creating a voice can be intimidating because it’s hard to decide where to start.
Winchell had one big advantage when she walked into her first recording studio. Often, actors get intimidated because voice acting strips away the physicality of acting. Everything has to be expressed through the voice. Winchell went with her father when he worked and often listened to recordings of his radio shows so she had an understanding of what it means to be a voice actor.
That understanding has resulted in a career that rivals her father’s.