• Steph Lynn Robinson

How To Create an Animation VO Demo Reel (for Free)



The animation industry is fiercely competitive and it can take a while for a voice actor to book their first cartoon. Even established voice talent who work regularly in commercials, promos, and audiobooks can find it difficult to break into the niche world of animation.


But if you can do cartoon voices and just haven’t booked any professional work yet, how do you showcase those talents?


First off, nothing can replace a professionally produced VO demo reel; you absolutely need one when you’re competing with industry professionals for animation jobs. A competitive demo reel is a big investment—they don’t come cheap!—so while you’re saving up for one, this is how you can build a collection of quality clips to showcase your amazing character voices.


Each year, thousands of students graduate from animation schools across the nation. These artists are usually required to produce an animated short in their graduating year as a showcase piece. Most students don’t have the resources to pay professional voice actors, so the characters in their animations are often voiced by family members and close friends. Understandably, the voiceover work is usually quite terrible in both audio quality and performance.


Lucky for you, this is a great opportunity for burgeoning voice talent to offer their services for free in exchange for being able to use these student shorts as examples of their character voice work. Since these are student films, some of the animation will likely fall below industry standards but some will be impressive and completely usable in a reel or as stand-alone clips. The students get professional quality audio and you walk away with clips of your animated voice.


It can be a bit of a gamble since you have no way of knowing what the quality of the final student piece will be, but you can voice quite a few without a considerable investment of your time and you’re bound to end up with at least a few great clips. What’s more, these student clips are likely to highlight additional character voices and roles you might not be considered for otherwise.


Voicing student shorts is a great opportunity to practice the art of self-direction and experiment with a variety of different character voices and styles. It will help you discover what characters you are best at and where you could use improvement.

Additionally, it’s a wonderful way to build connections with up-and-coming animators in the industry. After all, these graduating students will be entering the workforce and applying for world-renowned renowned companies like DreamWorks Animation, Lucasfilm, Pixar, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Walt Disney Animation, and many more!


If you want a head start on your research, here’s the 2021 list of the top animation schools and colleges in the United States. Now get to voicing!


This article was originally published in Backstage Magazine under the Expert Advice Column.