By Nathanael Rodriguez, Sunday Signal Contributor
Brian Hull stood behind the recording microphone. His mouth stretched wide, his lips and teeth forming a thin line.
“Hello, I would like a pot of honey.” It wasn’t Hull’s voice that said this but the voice of Winnie the Pooh.
Next Hull’s lips had moved to the right side of his face, his tongue protruding slightly from between his teeth. “Hey there, buddy ol’ pal.” He was now speaking as Tigger.
Since he was a child, Hull had been fascinated with cartoons and as a kid even refused to watch anything that wasn’t animated. Hull’s mother Melody remembers the phase of his life well.
“He used to draw cartoons all the time, he even tried to write movies and screenplays,” said Melody.
Hull’s love for Disney also blossomed at this time, something that has played a large role in his life even today.
“He went crazy over ‘The Lion King,’ ‘Bambi,’ ‘Dumbo,’ he had to have ‘Dumbo,’” said Melody.
Brian spent most of his childhood submerged in the world of cartoons. He loved everything from the music to the art work and storyboarding. Voice acting however, held a special place in his heart.
“As a kid you never really put two and two together that there’s actually someone behind the character. I remember when I found out that people did this for a living,” said Hull.
Jim Cummings, known primarily as the voice behind Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, was one of the first voice actors to inspire Hull.
“I was shocked to learn that the same guy who did Pooh and Tigger was also the voice behind some of my favorite villains like Pete and the singing voice of Scar,” said Hull.
The fact that one man could create the soft cuddly voice of Winnie the Pooh as well as the gravellings of Pete from “Mickey Mouse” was enough to inspire the 13-year-old cartoon fanatic. Hull began to practice voices on his own and was soon able to project the voice of Scooby Doo. From there he began adding to his repertoire.
“I’d ask him to do something and he’d answer me in all kinds of different voices,” said Melody.
Passion and projection
Although he was never formally trained in voice acting, Hull attributes most of his success to his study of opera and musical theater at Dallas Baptist University. Through his education, Hull learned how to manipulate his voice. He then began to take the principles and apply them in ways to fit the voices of the characters he wanted to create.
“I thought if I can open the back of my throat and get an open sound I can close the back of my throat and get this very soft sound,” said Hull. “If I can raise the soft palate and open up the nasal passages to remove a nasal sound I can close it to make somebody who sounds like they have a common cold.”
Along with his experience in opera and theater, Hull trained his voice through experimentation, copying techniques of other voice actors, and discovering skills on his own.
Breaking into the business
At first, Hull assumed that his skill wouldn’t amount to anything more than a hobby. However, in March 2014, he entered a “Let it Go” cover song contest. He sang the famous solo in the voices of dozens of Disney and Pixar characters like Gaston and Mike Wazowski. As a huge fan of Disney, the winning prize of a $100 Disney Store gift card was enough for Hull to enter. After the video went viral however, he got so much more.
“At the time I lived in Texas, nobody had any idea who I was,” said Hull. “All of a sudden people from Hollywood are calling and saying ‘Hey have you ever considered doing voice acting work?’”
From there, Hull met with Disney and decided to move out to California to take a shot at a voice acting career.
“I just wanted a giftcard to get a few movies and now I got a job,” said Hull.
“Disney and Pixar Sings Let it Go” was the turning point for Hull. It now has over thirty million views on YouTube and brought him a fan base, something that pushed him into the realm of many others who have made YouTube a full time job. Hull currently has 1.7 million subscribers on YouTube and is sponsored by MickeyTravels a Disney vacation planner travel agency.
Building a following
Hull also has more than 200 million video views, which ranks him into the top 3% of YouTubers, according to research done in 2016 by Mathias Bärtl a professor at Offenburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany.
Most of Hull’s videos on YouTube involve voice impressions but he does a number of other things on his channel, including movie reviews, answering fan questions and days at Disneyland.
“Sometimes it’s as simple as, ‘I saw ‘Dumbo’ yesterday, let’s sit down and talk about it.’ Some days I’m going to Disneyland all-day filming,” said Hull.
As of now, Hull is a one-man crew but is seeking to change this due to the level that the channel has gotten to and the potential he sees for it in the future.
“I’m going to get an editor very soon and possibly an assistant to help with the day to day tasks,” Hull’s also looking to take complete advantage of the website’s potential.
“I love the fact that I’m my own boss and get to decide what goes on this channel,” said Hull. “I’m a family-friendly man anyways and I want to stay family friendly in everything I do.”
Along with his full time YouTube job, Hull is currently working with CESD a talent agency located in Los Angeles that specializes in voice acting. They have worked with everyone from Kevin Michael Richardson, the voice of characters like The Joker in “The Batman,” to Frank Welkner the voice of Scooby Doo.
“They are a powerhouse, and I’m still shocked that I got in with them,” said Hull.
CESD originally came into contact with Hull through a character voices division of Disney in April 2016. Hull immediately wowed them with his talent.
“He’s incredibly versatile,” said CESD agent Pat Brady. “As a voice actor, the more versatile you are, the more work you’re going to get.”
Through his connections with CESD, Hull has landed a number of roles, including four “Airbud” films, as well as the narration voice for Osmo Mickey and Friends.
“He’s one of the best voice matches for Disney characters,” said Brady. “He’s also just one of the best guys.”
Hull also has two larger roles in films set to premiere in the near future. One entitled “Fairytale Afterall,” and another whose title he is required to keep under wraps. His role in this film will be be one of the larger ones he has played.
“I started with characters that had two or three lines but now i’m getting involved in bigger and bigger projects,” said Hull.
With his rising career as a voice actor and his love of Disney growing with every step of his journey, Hull sees great things on the horizon.
“The ultimate dream I have is to be a comedic sidekick in a Disney feature animated film,” said Hull. “If I could be an Olaf or a Pumba or Timon, I could quit my job right now and be totally happy.”
With “The Lion King” as his favorite Disney film and Winnie the Pooh as his favorite voice to impersonate, Hull finds Disney to be his greatest inspiration. Being a voice actor is Hull’s way of keeping his inner child alive like Walt Disney so strongly advocated.
“That clean unspoiled spot, there’s something so wholesome and wonderful and magical about that and I’ve never wanted to lose it,” said Hull. “I always want to believe like Walt did, everyone still has it, it just needs some help getting out. That’s one of the things that I love to see.”