“Name some famous voice actors.”Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a variety of different answers; the everyday moviegoer might name James Earl Jones or Sean Connery, or Morgan Freeman. A child might name current Hollywood stars, many of whom have lent their voices to animated characters. British nature show lovers may gush about David Attenborough. Avid animation enthusiasts may give you a whole list of people you’ve probably never heard of.
This post has been updated in August 2021.
Let’s take a look at some famous voice actors who are a credit to the voice acting profession.
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This post was updated in June 2021
Like Mel Blanc.
Mel Blanc is the voice actor who made voice actors famous. Famous for the line “What’s Up, Doc?”, he provided the original for Looney Tunes characters ranging from Bugs Bunny to Elmer Fudd to Tweety Bird. His versatility earned him immense respect.
He was also the voice of Barney Rubble in The Flintstones and Cosmo Spacely on The Jetsons. And because he voiced so many of the characters, he got himself a screen credit.
This is in a time where studios like Warner Bros were actively suppressing the names of voice actors in efforts to keep their cartoons more believable. Mel Blanc’s huge talent made this impossible, and that’s how we found out that, behind those adorable characters on screen was an immensely hard-working, talented and passionate voice actor.
Other actors with a thousand voices include Billy West, who voices various characters in Futurama, including the hero Phillip J. Fry and his ancestor, Professor Farnsworth. There’s Jim Cummings who voiced Winnie the Pooh and a ton of characters in Disney cartoons from the late ’80s through the ’90s.
There’s Frank Welker, who played both Apu the monkey and Rajah the tiger in Aladdin as well as Cri-Kee the cricket in Mulan, Megatron in Transformers, and Fred Jones in every version of Scooby-Doo since 1969.
How about Nancy Cartwright?
It will always be surprising to learn that Bart Simpson, a cartoon megastar and pop culture icon, was in fact voiced by an adult woman. It became such a career-defining move that she managed to publish a bestselling autobiography about the experience. She then performed the book as a one-woman show!
In fact, it is interesting to note that many beloved young heroes of our childhoods were in fact voiced by adult women- Elizabeth Daily created the voice of Tommy Pickles from Nickelodeon’s Rugrats, Debi Derryberry gave voice to Nickolodeon’s Jimmy Neutron while Veronica Taylor played the role of Ash in Pokémon for years.
These voice actors all hold a special place in the hearts of millions of fans. There would not be space in this article to name all the amazing voice actors who have worked hard to bring characters to life over the years.
But voice acting is a strange profession because despite their voices being known and loved by millions, voice actors have in the past largely remained anonymous. Even if their names were credited, they would still be unrecognizable if we were to pass them on the street.
No one would be running after them shoving cameras in their faces. Meeting a voice actor would be interesting, but it would not hold the cultural cachet of meeting someone truly famous.
Things have, however, changed somewhat in recent years.
In fact, if you were a child today, you would take for granted that your favorite cartoon characters would probably be voiced by a famous celebrity and not a professional voice actor.
Compare the cast of Frozen 2 to something like Beauty and the Beast. The former features Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Sterling K. Brown, Alfred Molina, and Evan Rachel Wood. Even a small supporting role is played by Ciaran Hinds, who has had a long and distinguished acting career.
Can you name any of the leads in the latter 1992 classic?
Only a very small number of people would be able to tell you Belle was voiced by Paige O’Hara while the Beast was played by Robby Benson.
In less than 30 years, voice acting for movies especially has been mostly taken over. From voice actors, people who trained specifically to voice animated characters, to celebrities and folk famous for being in front of the camera.
Why is this so?
We can thank one film for this phenomenon: Aladdin. If you think back to hit film, which is the one character that stands out? Chances are you would remember the Genie best. Voiced by Robin Williams, the Genie is funny, hyper and has an undeniably brilliant performance. He was also very clearly Robin Williams; an energetic blue caricature with comically gigantic pectorals and inexplicably tiny goatee doing impressions of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jack Nicholson while singing, dancing and pulling gags.
And although Aladdin was voiced by some of the world’s best voice actors including Frank Welker, it was William’s Genie who captured the hearts of audiences.
As the most marketable character, he launched the trend of using famous celebrities as voice actors.
A trend that has become something we all take for granted today.
Today, for the casual movie-goer, the term “famous voice actor” and “famous actor” have become synonymous. There isn’t a single film out there that hits the cinemas without a string of A-list names in the cast. For studios, it makes good business sense to cast famous names. Celebrities are more expensive, but they draw more attention and make marketing so much easier. Big names simply sell more tickets.
Sometimes this is a good thing. Take Shrek, for example. A grumpy green giant with a Scottish brogue, he is the creation of Mike Myers, who is frequently credited for the critical and commercial success of the film.
Sometimes sheer star power can be very commanding. Peter O’Toole brought gravitas to the role of Anton Ego in Ratatouille. While a talented voice actor with a French accent would probably do a great job as the food critic, they would not have brought O’Toole’s signature dignified tone to the role.
However, this reliance on celebrity might sometimes result in something like Shark’s Tale where the creators of the show were so zealous in matching character to cast that they produced creepy fish that looked like Will Smith and Angelina Jolie, but not in a good way.
For famous celebrities, it makes good sense to lend their voices to animated characters.
A celebrity can command up to $10 million per job. They get a break from the spotlight, they don’t need to spend hours in make-up and on set, while also still earning a paycheck and boosting their brand and adding to their repertoire.
For voice actors, this trend has made competition much tougher. It is certainly extremely rare for an unknown voice actor to score the lead role in a contemporary animation (a notable example being Pixar’s Up which starred Ed Asner and newcomer Jordan Nagai).
Is there still a place for traditional voice actors?
In this age of celebrity worship, it’s worth noting that the main skill voice actors bring to the table is versatility. Most famous voice actors are great film or TV or stage actors. They’ve probably gone through acting training themselves. They are character actors, and have the ability to create entirely unique characters and truly embody them.
And character actors rarely ever score leading roles. Hollywood has very specific criteria for appearance. There’s a set idea on what a “leading male” and “leading female” should look like. That’s not to say that voice actors are ugly. It’s just that their skill sets enable them to do much more than being the hero or the romantic interest.
Voice acting is for more than just the movies.
While famous celebrities are the choice for animated movies, and increasingly so for commercials and video games, there is still lots of demand for voice out there.
Audiobooks, anime dubbing, YouTube explainers, podcasts, corporate training videos and a huge amount of digital content all require voice. Long-form television animation is as popular as ever and hence will always offer lots of opportunities for voice actors.
Voice assistants like Siri and Alexa require human voices, because humans will always respond better to human voices as opposed to robotic ones. As technology advances further, it is not a stretch of the imagination to say that robots will all require a human voice as well.
Also in our globalized world, a single job will represent work for more than one voice actor. Audiences today are not limited by a country’s borders. As shown by the popularity of anime, a single piece of media content may require translation and dubbing into multiple different languages for different audiences and markets.
Traditional voice actors are also enjoying greater recognition from fans of their work.
Thanks to the Internet, fans can easily find out who voices their favorite characters. Today, once-anonymous voice performers lead panels in crowded convention centers all around the world. With social media, they can also reach their fans directly, and many have plenty of followers and are famous voice actors in their own right.
Hire a Voice Actor Now
If a voice actor is what you need, you should know where to look first. You can’t just accept the first person that comes through the door and call it a day.
It is an immensely competitive field, but voice actors have the magical ability to connect with people and touch lives. Their voice could impact another person in untold ways, remind them of their childhood and even get them through difficult times.
That’s why if you need the ideal voice actor, you should just go with Bunny Studio! Submit a project right here and we’ll help you find the perfect voice!