I have been planning this post for months and of course now that I’ve finally arrived to this point in the narrative… the website is no longer up and the picture I wanted you all to see is no longer available.
While this really, really, really sucks for the point I was going to drive home… I guess I’ll just have to use words instead of an image that would have said it all.
There was another living legend in the studio that first day in Burbank at the Marc Grau studio.
And the immense impact this person would have in my life is so significant he merits his own post.
I had become obsessed with the Art of Voice Over due to this process. And every cartoon, every movie, every documentary with a narrator… I’d always wait through the credits to see who were the names that came up the most.
Remember, there is no IMDB in 1992. There’s no way to find information other than physically going to your local library or your home shelf of encyclopedia volumes written 50 years earlier.
And so information is hard to find.
And living where I lived, just far enough away from the industry to not really have access to any of it, I would wade through what was available to me… tv shows and videos I can rent.
I would pore over the cast/credit lists to see what were the names of people I figured I needed to know in case I ever ran into them in the studio. This kept happening every time I would be in studio.
And over the years, you start seeing the same 10-12 names pop up again and again and again.
There was one name I kept seeing that popped up in so many places and in such odd invisibility that I couldn’t help but notice… that’s a phrase that will make no sense.
What do you mean by “odd invisibility”, Dave?
Gather round kids, I’m about to sorta educate you about something that is so esoteric that it’s effectively a useless observation that has no bearing on anything of significance in this world except in one place: My personal list of the greatest voice over talent on earth.
Almost every single voice over artist I’ve ever studied or worked with or known has an easily identifiable timbre? Tone? Thumbprint? To their voice.
No matter how much you bend and strain and frazzle your vocal chords, it is virtually impossible to disguise your vocal DNA, imo. To a trained ear.
I would see this name pop up again and again and I couldn’t figure out sometimes which character he was playing unless clearly identified in the credits.
I couldn’t be certain what his vocal signature was.
We’re talking something so absurdly specific… my ear was super trained for this at the time. I could tell you who was the voice within the first line of dialogue sometimes the first word spoken. Which is saying something because the medium of Voice Over is a medium where Artists are intentionally disguising their voices. That IS the Art form.
And so part of the fun for me was learning how to tell who was dubbing over what in what shows on tv and what person is playing that new cartoon character…
But, this name kept popping up and I could never fully get a grasp on what the vocal DNA was.
And his name was everywhere.
He was all over the Disney stuff like crazy.
And it really sucks that his website is down because he had a really wonderful picture of himself as a young VO Artist and standing directly over his shoulder directing whatever the performance is… is Roy Disney.
This man is a living legend.
And a unique thing I would learn later… a bonding point between this person and I as we would get to know each other over the next few years is that we both had the same person present at our very first professional voice over gig: Hal Smith.
As I’m walking down the hallway of the Marc Grau studios the first door you pass is the engineering side of the studio and further down the hallway right before the common area/greenroom is the mic and performing side of things.
And riiiiight as I’m passing it the door opens and someone comes out of the performance booth and I hear the director’s voice being piped in to give direction. I’m barely paying a lick of attention because I’m trying to get to the Greenroom to see all the people that I think love me.
And as I pass the door that’s now swinging open I hear the director give some directions blah blah blah Corey blah blah blah.
I have seen a Corey mentioned in about 1,000 projects over the last 4 years of studying this voice over thang.
And instantly, my interest in The Uncles spectacularly vaporized.
It can’t be.
No. fucking. way.
And I see this small-ish man standing at the mic and before he opens his mouth to try out the direction he was just given… the door closes.
No idea what that man’s voice sounds like.
Whatever… there’s probably lots of Coreys in Voice Over work. Right?
*Editor’s Note: There ARE probably a lot of Coreys in the Voice Over Industry… but there is only ONE Corey in the Industry that if you say the word “Corey” everyone knows who you’re talking about.
I get into the back and see The Uncles and get my Jimmy-less script and mark my lines and settle into familiar routines. But, now I’m itching to know who that man is.
Is it just some other Corey?
OR IS IT THE COREY WHOSE NAME I’VE BEEN SEEING EVERYWHERE.
I think I was in the first scene that morning and my memory is that Corey was still in the booth when I was called in to do the first read thru of Scene 1.
But I also have a memory of Corey eventually coming out of the booth before I’ve gone in and him kinda quietly leaning against the wall in the background. And when we’re all called in somebody calls him by his last name. Or maybe that happened in the studio.
Sometimes the ole noggin is useless as fuck.
YOU’LL UNDERSTAND WHY LATER.
I choose to go with the memory that we were in the studio together, him already being in there when I come in to take my spot (usually always next to Hal if there were more than the two of us– if it was a scene of only us two I liked to be across from him so I could see his face and reactions).
And I seem to recall the other boys who were now teens like me also being in the room. Because I feel like there were some hasty intros? Maybe?
Somewhere somebody calls him, “Mr. Burton”
AND THAT’S WHEN I FUCKING KNEW.
I’m certain he would hate my use of profanity.
His IMDB is sicker than Hal’s. Which is impossible.
Just… take your time going thru that IMDB page. Please respect the body of work that this Artist has created. I promise you, you have enjoyed a LOT of this man’s creative output.
Corey is about 5 foot nuthin.
And has the Voice of God.
He is also, one of the quietest, shyest, most gently sensitive people you will ever meet in your life. If you were to actually bump into him in life you wouldn’t even notice him. He’s an invisible personality.
And I don’t mean any of this as a negative.
It was so refreshing to meet someone like me for once.
I know I’m boasting and swearing like a cocky punk in this project… but at this time of my life I was a timid, shy, kid that mostly quietly observed.
In fact… I was so shy and unsure of myself that when I was called into audition for the cartoon version of Someone to Watch Over Me (oh yeah that episode became so popular they made cartoon out of it) and because it was being produced by people I didn’t know and didn’t feel comfortable with, I bombed the audition. And lost the part… to my own episode.
And here was a man who was a pro in the industry and he didn’t have that show biz “look at me” ego that always drove me nuts about actors.
I was interested in the Artists. The worker bees that are in the room because they love the Art.
And this guy… THERE’S NO WAY THAT’S COREY BURTON.
I don’t know what I was expecting.
But there he was. In the flesh. In the same fucking studio I’m in and we’re working together.
A thing I’ve said before: I don’t get star struck often. This whole blogject explains why. But this was one of the times I was genuinely impressed with the company I was keeping and wondering how in the hell I’ve ended up with a winning lottery ticket in the Voice Over game.
Corey became a unique fixture in the studio over the next 2-3 years. He was the guy that played all the other parts. Hal did this as well. Walker for sure. Will, of course. Katie too. But Corey… it’s like they brought him in with the specific goal of being the Swing person.
A Swing in theatrical tradition is an understudy that typically understudies like 5 parts. They’re the blue collar worker bee who needs to be able to jump into any part on a moment’s notice if someone calls out. You have to be insanely talented to be a Swing. You have to have tremendous range. I could never be Swing.
Actually… now that I think about it… in the 5 minutes I was in college I once did 4 different One Act plays on the same day for a Final. That was… insane. Completely forgot about that until just now.
ANYWAY. I don’t think of myself as having that kind of range.
I swear they would write scripts– in the old days the writers or engineers would jump behind the mic to play all the little one off characters that have only one or two lines like a waiter or cab driver– when Corey came along it was like he was the swiss army knife of the team.
Hey, we need a 900 year old Rabbi who limps due to sciatica.
Give it to Corey.
What about a 30 year old drill sergeant with a lisp and has been shot in the throat.
An emu that’s on fire.
A table that has just become possessed by the soul of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Can you make the table an oak table instead?
Fuck me that definitely sounds more oaky.
Actually– scratch that– oak is too… dominant for the piece… can we have a cedar table that’s been possessed by FDR?
Corey can do it.
There were no limits.
I’ve never seen this. Even Hal… as amazing as Hal’s voice was and all the crazy shit he could do with it, Corey was somehow even more insanely bonkers with his vocal chords.
I even wondered if they were writing him crazy parts just to see if he could do them.
And Corey is a true blue Artist.
He is in the room because this is THE ROOM.
This is the room where all the industry folk were ending up because for a solid 20 years AIO was the only ticket in town for this kind of work.
Most VO work is lonely. You’re in a small coffin sized booth by yourself. To do these larger scale full-cast recordings was exceedingly rare. And that attracted all the top talent. They want in on that Jazz club scene so they can Jam, too.
It was an insane privilege to get to experience this.
It has been the frustration of my life that I have so many obstacles in my way for being in these rooms again.
Because when you have the skill… there is no other outlet that exists.
And true Artists hunger for the work. It’s an appetite that needs to be fed. It’s a muscle that needs constant work and development otherwise it atrophies.
The things that Hal and Walker and Will did always blew me away.
But, Corey… is on another level, if that’s possible.
Every session with this dude was a Master Class in the Art form. He was just so much goddamn fun to watch. His mic technique. His script analysis. And his vocal flexibility was unbelievably awe-inspiring.
Corey can do something I’ve only ever seen one other Artist do… and I wouldn’t meet him for another 15 years– Jess Harnell IMDB
Sorry, there’s so much to get out I’m all over the place.
So what is the thing that these two men can do that I’ve never seen any other Voice Over Artist do it?
They can completely disguise the thumbprint of their vocal DNA.
That is a sentence that probably only makes sense in the head of Dave Griffin. And maybe there’s others who would argue that these two men are NOT the finest talent in the history of the Recording Industry and if you feel really strongly about it write your own blog.
CUZ THIS IS MY BLOGJECT!
And I say Corey is the greatest VO talent alive today.
With Jess maybe barely coming in second to him, but that’s only because I never worked with Jess that much so I never saw the depth and breadth of what he can do.
But, I saw Corey up close and got to jam with this dude for a few years and he never ceased to amaze me with his range.
He’s someone who regularly fools me.
I’ll be watching a documentary with a classy British David Attenborough style narration and wait for the credits and I’m expecting it to be Lord Colin Argylesworth of Canterbury and instead it’s narrated by Corey fricking Burton.
To not be able to recognize the voice of somebody you know is bizarre.
And again the whole industry is about disguising the voice… but he has stumped me more times than all the others who have ever stumped me combined.
Corey is… what’s a parallel?
He’s the Simone Biles of VO work. The G. O. A. T.
The other thing that makes Corey a really special actor, imo, is his emotional honesty in the performance.
And this is some really deep in the weeds kinda stuff– Acting geek out shit. BUT I’M AN ACTOR AND I GEEK OUT ON THIS STUFF.
I mentioned once before that I’m an Actor and NOT a Voice Over Artist. I make this distinction because I deeply respect both sides of the business. MOST Voice Over artists– even the best ones– I would find the emotional performance to sometimes be a bit… thin or shallow. Performancy.
Not that these people can’t Act. They can. They’re amazing. But I’m talking about an emotional authenticity that is so hard to explain and it’s really a rare thing to find– even in the Industry.
Corey had that ability.
And he became one of my favorite Artists to work with because he was someone I could completely go toe-to-toe with on the emotional side of the work. And that was rare even in That Room. I rarely saw people that I felt could bring it at the level I was comfortable at, if I may toot my own horn here for second.
And it’s like Jazz. The give and take that scene partners who completely trust in each other’s instruments to push the performance right to its edges.
It is a thrilling, exhilarating moment of collaborative creative bliss.
It’s better than damn near anything on the planet.
Sex. Chocolate. Chess.
Eating chocolate while having sex on a chess board… doesn’t even come close.
I’d be in that room jamming with Corey and Hal and Will and Dave and Alan and Walker and… wow, that’s never gonna ever be possible again…damn.
Corey’s the only one left.
There was one other factor about Corey that made him rather unique in the studio.
He was one of the few adults that would give me his complete undivided attention. He would answer any question I had. He gave me so much time and knowledge and care. And as our relationship developed over the ensuing years, it became clear that I had found a kindred spirit in The Room.
Someone who is trying to do the things I’m trying to do. But way better than me. And knows the business. And if somebody like him can be successful, maybe I can, too.
I don’t really care about fame.
I do care about money.
But I don’t Act with the idea of being richandfamous.
Richandfamous is a throwaway line that a LOT of Actors starting out in the industry use at their respective acting studios and coaching sessions.
“Some day when I’m richandfamous…”
It means “success in the industry”.
But Corey doesn’t give a shit about being richandfamous and I certainly didn’t care about this concept.
It’s. about. The. Work.
It’s the thrill of crafting a performance so exquisitely the Writer who wrote and Directed the piece is either doubled over in laughter or has tears streaming down their cheeks. Knowing you delivered the *chef’s kiss* perfect moment.
And if you can get half a dozen of those reactions in a 4 hour session, you’ve hit a fucking grand slam in the bottom of the 9th on Game 7 of the whatever.
Like, you have to be one of the best to do this stuff this well.
At this stage of my life, I don’t see myself this way. Because nobody was telling me how good I was.
But Corey did.
Corey knew how good I was.
And he saw my relationship with Hal and all these guys he knows…
He was always incredibly generous with notes and thoughts and encouragement.
If the writers and crew were my Uncles… and Katie and Chris were my Aunts… and Hal was my Grandfather and Walker and Dave and Alan were my Great Uncles…
Corey was my big brother.
Or the closest thing you could find in that kind of setting.
And as this Adventure winds on, he will play a very critical role in my life and career.
The actual G.O.A.T.
And I got to Jam with him.
*also.. I’m very aware that this entire post would make Corey blush and feel awkward because he hates compliments and attention. But, the G.O.A.T. must be acknowledged and hailed as the G.O.A.T.