It has been a staggering 110 years since what is regarded as the first ever voice over sydney was recorded. Whilst many wrongly assume that Walt Disney was the first voice actor, voicing Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie in 1928, it was actually Reginald Fessenden, 22 years earlier in 1906 who held this achievement to his name.
Voice Over Sydney History: Reginald Fessenden
On Christmas Eve 1906, Fessenden became radio’s first ever voice, although six years earlier, he had successfully reported on the weather during a test whilst working for the United States Weather Bureau.
The Christmas 1906 broadcast made history; it was made from Fessenden’s makeshift studio in Brant Rock, Boston. Whilst the majority of the broadcast, made to ships at sea, were Christmas messages and music; perhaps the most important section was a short speech by Fessenden, the first of its kind.
Voice Over Sydney History: Walt Disney
As previously mentioned, many assume that Walt Disney was the first voice actor and whilst this isn’t the case, there’s no doubting that he was perhaps the first known to the wider public, voicing Mickey Mouse. This marked the first time Mickey came to life with a synchronised voice and became the start of a number of early cartoons, with Looney Toons following a year later.
Voice Over Sydney History: Mel Blanc
Following the success of Steamboat Willie, Warner Bros. and Leon Schlesinger Productions premiered Looney Toons, with one of the most prominent voice actors involved over the coming years – Mel Blanc. A former radio personality, Mel first joined Leon Schlesinger Productions in 1936 and earned himself the title, “The Man of a Thousand Voices,” one which, to this day, he is still referred to by.
Voicing some of voice over sydney history’s most famous cartoon characters, including Bugs Bunny, Tweety Pie, Porky Pig and other Warner Bros. classics, Mel is accepted by many as the first outstanding voice actor who set the bar at an incredibly high level for others to follow in his footsteps over the forthcoming years.
Prior to Mel’s involvement with Leon Schlesinger Productions, voice artists were given no on-screen credit for their work; something which changed when the company refused to award him a pay rise. As a compromise, Blanc requested that his name be added to the credits. This, as you’d expect, did wonders for his career and quickly earned him a wealth of recognition and a stream of future work. The question we must ask is, at what stage would voice artists have been credited had Mel not asked for, and been turned down, that pay rise?