The Best Animated Voices of All Time
At the last Academy Awards ceremony, Chris Rock was announced as the presenter for the Animated Feature Film Category. Of course he told some mild jokes about how easy voice acting is for animated films.
As funny as the bit was, many would argue that Rock’s bit was still inaccurate. Yes, it is easy to phone in voice work for an animated film, but many talented actors have found inventive ways to provide inspiring and, well, animated turns as animated characters. Here are ten of the best.
Robin Williams as The Genie in “Aladdin”
Rumor has it that Disney didn’t even bother writing lines for the eccentric actor; they just let him improvise. It turns out that was the right move, because Williams struck comedic gold in this 1992 Disney film. He created a character so iconic, the Golden Globes presented a special achievement trophy.
-> Watch Alladin on Instant Video!
Ellen DeGeneres as Dory in “Finding Nemo”
Prior to 2003, DeGeneres had largely fallen off the map after the coming out episode of her 90s sitcom “Ellen.” But thanks to her hilarious performance as Dory, the lovable yet forgetful fish, her career was reignited and then some. DeGeneres gets some of the film’s best one liners, and her astute comedic sensibilities shine through.
-> Watch Finding Nemo on Instant Video
Brad Bird as Edna Mode in “The Incredibles”
Since the mid-90s, Pixar has dominated the animated film industry, and one of the reasons is because they hire fantastic actors to do their voice work. But for this 2004 standout, director Brad Bird recruited himself to voice the part of the snobby and catty fashion designer for a family of superheroes. It turns out that Mr. Bird is a man of many talents.
-> Watch Incredibles on Instant Video
Phil Harris as Baloo in “The Jungle Book”
Harris, an early radio days pioneer, played a couple of bears in Disney movies later in his career. None of his turns are more famous than this vocal work as Baloo, the carefree bear in the 1967 Disney classic The Jungle Book. His performance of the “The Bare Necessities” remains one of the great Disney music performances in the studio’s history.
-> Watch The Jungle Book on Instant Video
Jeremy Irons as Scar in “The Lion King”
Even though this widely respected British thespian has an Oscar listed on his resume for “Reversal of Fortune,” he will most likely be remembered by most audiences for a performance in which he’s not even seen: As a lion in the 1994 Disney essential “The Lion King.” His sinister vocals as a power hungry lion have haunted young audiences since the film’s release. It may not be a comedic gem like the rest of this list, but that doesn’t mean he was just as effective.
Cliff Edwards as Jiminy Cricket in “Pinocchio”
Edwards was not ever known as an actor; he was famous for being a jazz/pop singer in the 20s and 30s. That’s why Disney was smart to cast him as the cricket for this 1940 classic. His performance of “When You Wish Upon a Star” is an immortalized moment in American cinema.
Peter O’Toole as Anton Ego in “Ratatouille”
The character of pretentious food critic Anton Ego is only in this 2007 Pixar masterpiece for a couple of scenes, but the mark he leaves is indelible. He is menacing, ridiculously snobby, but at a moment’s notice, he turns into something of a hero. Only an actor of O’Toole’s caliber could manage such a complicated character, even if that character is animated.
Eddie Murphy as Donkey in “Shrek”
This legendary comedian has not had the best luck this last decade. He starred in a slew of box office bombs, including “The Adventure of Pluto Nash” and “Meet Dave.” However he started off the decade with an uproarious and rambunctious vocal turn as Donkey, the hero’s sidekick in the 2001 classic “Shrek.”
Trey Parker and Matt Stone as almost everybody in “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut”
You can’t separate these two, who voice almost all of the characters in the film adaptation of their landmark animated comedy series “South Park.” In this gloriously brash, vulgar and funny film, Parker and Stone employ their standard versatility to characters from the four young protagonists to Saddam Hussein. And just like they do week after week with their show, they create truly memorable characters.
Sterling Holloway as Winnie the Pooh in “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh”
The bear Winnie the Pooh is one of the most famous children’s story characters of all-time, in large part due to his instantly recognizable voice. That voice was conjured by actor Sterling Holloway for the 1977 Disney film. Many have tried to emulate it, but few have captured Holloway’s spirit.
As you can see, most of the characters on the list are from Disney movies as well. Disney is famous for its ability to cast amazing actors to do voices. I hope they continue this trend and give us memorable characters for years to come.