Actor Eric Edelstein, a Gonzaga alumnus, is already known among younger audiences for his voice-acting roles including Grizz in “We Bare Bears” and B.O.B. in “Monsters vs. Aliens.” This week, after hearing from parents struggling to home-school for the first time, Edelstein launched a reading program for children on Instagram.
Edelstein’s new Instagram account, “Voice Actors Read,” will feature some of today’s best voice actors putting their skills to the test by reading their favorite children’s books.
“Hi, friends! You guys stuck at home? We are, too!” Edelstein said Monday in his first video before launching into Arnold Lobel’s “Frog and Toad: All Year.”
The idea came about “as organically as you could imagine,” Edelstein said. After seeing a video of an actor who didn’t specialize in voice work reading on his Instagram account, Edelstein thought he ought to put his talents to work.
“I thought, ‘Let’s get some of these cartoon voices in here – this is what they do!’ ” he said.
Edelstein hadn’t realized the impact he could make until recently when he started offering to leave birthday voice messages for kids as Grizz, his character from “We Bare Bears.”
“I kept getting messages from crying parents saying their kids were smiling for the first time in forever,” he said.
Then, when he started to hear from self-isolating parents dealing with bored and cooped-up kids, he knew he had to try and do more.
“Once I realized that these tiny little messages that take a minute to do (had) such an impact, I started thinking about how to do it on a bigger level,” he said.
Edelstein got in touch with Lisa Schaffer, an Emmy Award-winning animated-film casting director who he met while working on “Monsters vs. Aliens,” and the two got to work contacting voice actors. “They couldn’t have said ‘Yes!’ quicker,” Edelstein said.
The first of Edelstein’s reading guests was Tara Strong, the voice of countless animated characters including Timmy Turner from “Fairly Odd Parents” and Twilight Sparkle from “My Little Pony.”
“When we watched Tara Strong come out today and do our first one, my wife’s jaw just dropped,” Edelstein said. “She has the greatest voice in the world. You listen and you’re just kind of in awe of it.”
Over the next couple of weeks, Edelstein plans to welcome many more voice actors, including Jake Johnson (“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”), Simon Helberg (“The Big Bang Theory”) and Taylor Schilling (“Orange Is the New Black”), as well as musicians including Micah Nelson. Nelson and his wife, Alex, will read “Willy and Hugh,” a children’s book about two unlikely friends, written by Anthony Browne.
“Micah’s going to play some music for us, and his wife just has the best voice-over voice, so it worked out perfectly,” Edelstein said.
Each day, there will be a new 10 a.m. reading for kids on the younger side, followed by an 11 a.m. reading by a different voice actor for kids slightly older. The account also will run a “voice actors after dark” segment for parents featuring John DiMaggio, the voice of Bender from “Futurama.”
Edelstein is especially excited to feature Don Murray, now 90 years old, who was nominated for an Academy Award in 1956 for his role in “Bus Stop” with Marilyn Monroe. “We really want to get senior voice actors sending in stuff, as well, so that people remember why they have to help flatten the curve and stay inside,” Edelstein said.
To listen to Edelstein and his fellow voice actors read now, visit the @voiceactorsread page on Instagram, tap the profile picture and select Watch Live Video.
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