Tiburon’s Cora Champommier put her heart and ‘Soul’ into her first voice acting job

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Katie Parsons

 

“It’s really fun to talk to people about [my experience voice acting]. I’ve had people come up to me saying to their daughters, ‘She did it, maybe you can do it.’ It’s cool to possibly

be a role model to young girls or boys or anyone out there who wants to get into the industry. They can know that it’s not totally impossible. Even if you’re not the main character, you can still be a part of the big picture,” Cora Champommier, a Del Mar seventh-grader, said.

Champommier voices Connie, a trombone-playing middle schooler, in the Disney and Pixar film “Soul.” The animated feature was released on Dec. 25, 2020 on Disney’s streaming service Disney+. “Soul” has been highly praised, receiving a 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and featuring A-list celebrities like Jaime Foxx and Tina Fey. Champommier was amazed when she made it to Pixar studios in Emeryville and met Director Pete Docter, who produced the major motion pictures “Monsters Inc,” “Up” and “Inside Out.” 

“I was like ‘Wow, I’m really working with the director that did all these amazing movies, movies that shaped a lot of people [including] me,’” Champommier said. “I knew that Pixar was the real deal, and that [it is] a lot more competitive than just a middle school play. I was open to the idea that there were people with more experience than me so [I knew not to] beat [myself] up if [I] didn’t get [the role at first].”

Champommier performimg as Miss Hannigan in the Bel Aire production of “Annie” (Courtesy of Cora Champommier)

Although “Soul” was one of her first voice acting bookings, Champommier has been surrounded by the stage her entire life. From visiting the Shakespeare festival in Oregon every year to watching her sister Claire Champommier, who graduated from Redwood in 2019, perform, Champommier has enjoyed the art from a young age.

One of Champommier’s first lead roles was in fourth grade, when she played the Wicked Witch of the West in Bel Aire Middle School’s production of Wizard of Oz. Despite the typical assignment of lead roles to students in higher grades, her director, Marissa Joy Ganz, knew Cora was fit for the part. 

“Cora’s such a special girl. When casting for the Wizard of Oz, it was instantaneous with Cora. There’s just that je ne sais quoi — that star quality that you can’t verbalize what that is, you just know it when you see it. Cora possesses that star quality,” Joy Ganz said.

Champommier’s portrayal of Miss Hannigan in her 5th grade Bel Aire production of Annie that caught Redwood alumnus and talent agent Lana Barkhordarian Burstein’s eye. 

“To be a good voice actor, you can have a unique voice, but that doesn’t mean that you’re good at [voice acting]. What makes you stand out is that you are a good actor. With [Cora], I could tell she stood out because she really embraced the role of this middle-aged, bossy, cranky woman. Cora portrayed this character naturally. I didn’t feel like she was this fifth-grader playing dress up trying to be Miss Hannigan,” Burstein said. 

Talent agent and Redwood alum of the class of 1999 Lana Barkhordarian Burstein, discovered Cora from her performance in Annie as Miss Hannigan (Courtesy of Heid Alletzhauser)

Around two months after watching her performance, Burstein received a casting call from Pixar that she believed Cora would be the ‘perfect fit’ for. She tracked down Champommier’s contact information and reached out to her.  Champommier then decided to join Burstein’s agency, Shortlist Talent Agency, and audition for the role.

“In order to make the [recording] sound right, I had to go to my aunt’s attic and make a makeshift recording studio out of blankets and boxes,” Champommier said, “My mom and I worked until we found the perfect tape to send in. The whole recording process in the studio probably took less [time] than researching the audition material because I wanted [my audition] to be perfect.”

She then moved from her aunt’s attic to Pixar Emeryville, where she was able to meet Director Pete Docter and playwright Kemp Powers. During the second round of auditions, she still was not sure if she had gotten the role. 

“I had my lucky romper on that I wore to all auditions … I was in this little black booth with a group of people watching me. It only took 30 minutes [of] recording for a good take. I had been preparing for this so I was feeling pretty confident, and I guess they liked [my audition],” Champommier said.

For two years, Champommier had to keep the film’s plot and her role a secret from her friends and community until the film was released. While her future in the voice acting industry is unclear, her connection with Connie will be a permanent part of her life.

  “When we first got the [description] of Connie it said she was strong-willed, she was determined, she was a little bit stubborn, but she also knew she had this talent of playing the trombone. She couldn’t just give up, she had worked too hard for it.” Champommier said, “I think that a lot of kids will relate to Connie in that even though others may push you down for doing what you love, you [have] got to continue if it makes you happy and feel good about yourself.”