CBeebies’ new popular programme, Olobob Top, features the voice of Veronica P., a pupil at West Sussex independent school Sompting Abbotts. It was the debut voiceover performance for the 10-year-old who plays an endearing squirrel called Crunch. So was it fun? And what’s involved with bringing a script off the page for an audience who can’t see you?
Olobob Top launched on the UK's favourite pre-school channel CBeebies this summer and it's been an instant hit with young viewers.
The programme is screened twice daily by the BBC and follows the fun adventures of three characters – Tib, Lalloo and Bobble. They live in a huge forest with their friends, one of whom is a clever and sparky squirrel called Crunch. The voice of Crunch is that of Veronica, a Year 5 pupil at Sompting Abbotts Prep School in West Sussex.
The series has been created by wife-and-husband team Leigh Hodgkinson, an award-winning animator who worked as art director on the BAFTA-award winning animated series Charlie and Lola, and Steve Smith, a successful animator and filmmaker.
Olobob Top features the voice of the well-known English comic actor Stephen Mangan (I’m Alan Partridge, Have I Got News For You, Postman Pat, Green Wing) alongside a cast of child voice actors.
Voice and versatility
Veronica (she's known as Roni to her friends) lives in Lewes, East Sussex. Getting involved in the voiceover work was a lucky break for her. Leigh and Steve live in Lewes too and after meeting Roni, it struck them that she might just have the right tone of voice and versatility they needed for voiceover in their new programme.
They were aware that Roni hadn’t done any kind of voiceover work before. But they did know that she takes formal singing lessons at her school, Sompting Abbotts Prep School, which has a lively drama, music and arts department.
Roni has also attended Kaleidoscope, a Lewes-based summer drama school, across several of her summer holidays. So she already had some experience of performing, voice projection and breathing control.
At her audition, Roni was asked to read various sets of scripts to demonstrate that she could give different meaning and expressions to her words. There were lot of takes and much patience and persistence required. Then it was wait and see.
A few weeks later, Roni learned she had been accepted. “I was really excited!” she says. “And even more when I learned about ‘my’ character, a bouncy squirrel called Crunch.”
Getting giggles on tape
Roni had to apply for a child performance licence before attending her first official recording session. These were held at an underground studio in Brighton.
“For each session, Steve would have all the scripts that were finished at that time and my lines were highlighted. So once we were in the recording studio they would set up the microphone for my height and there was a large mixing desk that the sound engineer would sit at and check how my voice sounded,” says Roni.
Was it difficult to do? “The hardest bit was matching my voice to the correct expression but the whole experience was brilliant,” she says. The best bit, she says, was having the producer make her laugh to record her giggles for the show.
Her first taste of working as a child voiceover actor has taught her a lot, says Roni. “It has been great learning how a programme all comes together. When we saw it at the première, it was so much better with the music and jingles.”
A big confidence boost
Altogether, 52 five-minute Olobob Top programmes have been recorded.
Roni’s mother Shireen says: “It was really good seeing Roni interact with Steve and the sound engineer. She had to listen to them carefully and take on all their instructions. Since the show's been out, it's been a big confidence boost for her. Roni feels very proud when she sees any mention of Olobob Top when we’re out and about.”
Programme maker Leigh Hodgkinson said: “We’re so pleased to have had Roni on board Olobob Top. Roni – and indeed all of the children who had roles – were completely amazing and had such a maturity to concentrate and learn whilst bringing an instinctive creativity to the show. We were so lucky to have such a terrific team and are so happy that the process was a positive one for the children.”
So what’s next for Roni now that she has this CBeebies voiceover work experience under her belt? “I don't have any more work lined up yet but if they do another series I really hope I get asked to join them again. I would love to do more voiceovers for other shows too,” she says.
Since Olobob Top’s launch, the series is now being shown in Wales, Finland and Australia too and has inspired a publishing program and suite of digital games. Visit the programme website here.