Alumni profile: Voice actor Tom Kane

Posted on Jan 10, 2013 in Alumni News, Career/Life, and News


Jayhawks are everywhere. Even a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

The University of Kansas interviewed acclaimed voice actor and KU alumnus Tom Kane, c’85, to talk about his impressive career. Kane has been the voice of pint-sized Jedi Master Yoda in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and he’s won the prized gig of announcing the Academy Awards, in addition to countless voice roles in movie trailers and television commercials. The video is provided by the KU Office of Marketing Communications.

For more on Kane, read the profile below on the voice actor from Issue No. 4, 2011 of Kansas Alumni Magazine.


Site matters not, as Kane continues voice gigs in KC

Tom Kane’s talented voice debuted with a spot-on imitation of his immigrant grandfather. “My mom tells me I had a damn good German accent,” Kane says from his Overland Park home studio, where he runs his busy career as an A-list announcer. “I was 3.”

Kane, c’85, who this spring announced his third Academy Awards and is the voice of Yoda in the popular “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” franchise, kept himself entertained after school by watching cartoons and reruns. A natural mimic enthralled by “silly voices,” Kane effortlessly verbalized what he heard.

“It’s either in my head or not,” he says. “I’ve never practiced anything. Everything is a character voice to me. I just recycle things I heard growing up.” If he never had to put in much work on his voice, Kane makes up for it when it comes to finding work. “Horrible sounding commercials” have always made him cringe, and Kane was only 15 when he tracked down the ad agency responsible for a notably awful public service announcement.

After a few phone calls, Kane landed an audition. When the advertising execs realized that the voice talent that had won them over during a brief telephone audition belonged to a 15-year-old boy, they went through the predictably comic screaming and gesturing—all of which Kane watched through the studio’s soundproof window—and finally offered a challenge: If he could voice an old New England fisherman, they’d hire him.

“I read it through,” Kane says, “and I looked up and saw three faces, mouths open.” That gig was for free; the next, which came less than a week later, paid $1,200. A career was born.

Kane headed to Chicago after KU, but soon made his way to Los Angeles. Although he “couldn’t get arrested in the cartoon world,” he found work on commercials, movie trailers and promotional pieces. A regular client was LucasArts’ game division, where one day he cracked the room up while showing off his spot-on Yoda.

One of the guys laughing along with the others was the director of the then-nascent animated “Star Wars” series.“

He said, ‘Do that again.’ I asked why, and he said, ‘I just want to record it. I’ll tell you later.’”

Kane has been Yoda’s voice ever since, helping to win over a whole new world-wide fan base for the Star Wars franchise.

Another big step came in 2006, when he landed his first Oscars gig, for which he was hired again in 2008 and this year. It’s one of the few jobs that requires Kane to be in L.A. From his custom-built home studio, Kane can record voice work for clients all over the world.

“No more driving all over town in L.A. traffic. I do as many voiceovers in a day as I used to do in a week or two.”

Tags: , , , , , ,