Five Star VO


Five Star VO

Ten years ago, my career in VO got a boost of NASA proportions.

Through the kindness of a VP at Disney and five amazing animation stars, I landed my first agent.

Here’s the scoop!

Five Star VO

Chance and Opportunity

Through a series of unlikely events, my wife had connected with the VP of Television Animation at Disney. During their meeting, they had also discussed the animation business. When the VP found out that I was just getting into voice over, she generously offered to have a short meeting with me!

Wow! A bit of chance combined with my wife’s ability to seize opportunity led me to a very enviable place indeed…

First Meeting

With the meeting set, it was up to me to make that all-important first impression.
I was confident in my abilities as a character actor from years of stage experience, but working in VO was still pretty new to me. I’d have to rely on the skills I had built up over the years, combined with my obsessive knowledge of cartoons to get me by.

The actual meeting was fairly short. We shook hands, sat and chatted about my goals and experience. I even did a few voices. It seemed to me like a very friendly test of sorts… but a test none the less. Looking back on that meeting, I believe the VP was seeing how my personality and skills both would fit in the world of animation VO.

Then came the challenge! The VP gave me the names of 5 of the top animation voice guys in the biz:

  • Jeff Glen Bennett
  • Jim Cummings
  • Tom Kenney
  • Rob Paulsen
  • Kevin Michael Richardson

She told me to go home and look up their animation demos on My assignment was to study their demos, and replicate as many of their characters as I could.

We would meet again in two weeks to see how much I had accomplished.

Good luck Mr. Phelps!

Impossible Mission

I had two weeks to emulate over 70 character voices by the top voices in animation. Sure! No problem!

… Did I also mention that I would be on my honeymoon for one of those two weeks? Yikes!

So, before I left for Hawaii, I loaded the demos onto an mp3 player, listened to each, and transcribed all of the copy. While on vacation, I reviewed the demos and copy at least twice a day. And when I returned, I recorded my attempts to replicate each voice on all of the demos.

A lot of work… But I felt well prepared for the meeting. Onward to destiny!

Second Meeting

After driving to Disney and a brief, cordial greeting, the VP had me go into a recording booth. We ran through each of the five pro demos and I gave my take on all the characters. During the session, she directed me in various ways to further gauge both my skills and personality.

We headed back to her office and chatted briefly before she said “Let me make a call…” And that call was to my soon-to-be new agent! I was bowled over! With my agent meeting setup, it was time to go. I thanked her for all of her kind help and was on my way.

Fortunate and Prepared

I was truly fortunate for the circumstances that led me to the meetings at Disney, for the kindness of the VP, and the resourcefulness of my wife.

However, I have no doubt that if I hadn’t been ready for an agent, the story would not have ended as it did. In the end, the VP spent her valuable time and put her name on the line with the agency she called. If I wasn’t ready for prime-time, I’m sure I would have come away instead with a handshake and some good advice.

Here are the key factors that I believe led to my success in these meetings:

Solid Foundation:
Theater, Improv, Singing… Years of prior acting filled my toolbox with the skills, characters and accents I’d need. It also gave me practical experience with taking direction and feedback.

Watching cartoons, taking classes, and studying the VO industry gave me an encyclopedia of reference to draw from.

Years of working in corporate jobs provided insight to the needs of anyone hiring a new person in an industry. Be polite, be prompt, and be considerate of the other person’s time.

Being friendly, easy-going and able to take direction with an open, non-critical mindset allowed me to remain calm and flexible in a potentially stressful situation. It also helped me to not be defensive when being directed.

Hard Work:
There’s no substitute for putting in the hard work needed to succeed. In this case it entailed taking notes at the first meeting, researching the pros on VoiceBank, listening to and transcribing their demos, and rehearsing each of their voices.

Together, these are the traits that helped me to succeed… And they continue to help me today.

… and Five Star Demos

Here are the original 2005 demos that I studied. Interesting note: aside from a few minor changes, these actor’s current VoiceBank demos are pretty much the same. No change in 10 years, but I guess they don’t need to! They’re busy working!

  • Jeff Glen Bennett
          Bennett - Animation (2005)
  • Jim Cummings
  • Tom Kenney
          Tom Kenny (2005)
  • Rob Paulsen
          Paulsen - Animation (2005)
  • Kevin Michael Richardson


All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at:



12 thoughts on “Five Star VO

  1. Thanks for sharing this interesting story Joe. One of my favorite points that you make – ‘there’s no substitute for putting in the hard work needed to succeed’. I have found that success in this business is unattainable without hard work.

    – Lynne Darlington

    • Glad you liked it, Lynne… You’re spot on. Too many look for the get-rich-quick road, and there usually isn’t one. Cheers!

    • Thanks, Ed! You’re right… it’s all about being ready when opportunity knocks. Time to answer the door!

  2. Hello again, Joe!

    You really thought it through before executing your impossible mission, Mr. Phelps! Not only from a vocal standpoint…but the business end as well. Plus, from my previous communication with you, you’re always ready to help and assist those of us who need focus and direction. Kudos and congrats! I have an agent in Orlando, Florida, .but he’s also a friend and former co-worker. You’ve given us all something to aspire to………L.A.

    • Hi Helene!

      Good to hear from you… and congrats on your agent!
      (the first is always the toughest)

      See you when you get to LA 😉

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