Bringing Characters to Life: A Tribute to Top Animation Voice Actors

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The field of voice acting has been filled with talented actors. Hundreds of animated shows and films are in production every year, and they are the talented people who help bring animated characters to life.

A good voice actor adds more than just the voice – they provide the personality, quirks, and life to the character. They can play more than one character and still make each one distinct. Often, this is what voice actors must do – be able to create different voices due to a limited voice pool. Voice acting is a fast-paced industry; one actor could star in dozens of projects a year – sometimes voicing two or more characters in a single project. This makes them different from live-action actors who only focus on one project for years at a time.

In this article, get to know some of the most prominent and prolific voice actors in the animation industry:

Mel Blanc

Mel Blanc

Known as the “man of a thousand voices,” Mel Blanc brought countless classic cartoon characters to life. He is famously known for the roles he played in Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes franchise, starring as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Yosemite Sam, Speedy Gonzales, Tasmanian Devil, and more. Throughout his career, he laid the foundation for characters that have been popular for over 80 years.

Blanc is regarded as the most prolific voice-over actor to ever work in Hollywood, with over a thousand screen credits. His versatile voice and innovative techniques in making voices and the characters’ trademark sounds shaped the industry. He used facial and body contortion, speaking with his mouth closed, and other techniques to create unique vocal styles.  

Whenever you hear Bugs say, “That’s all folks,” or “Eh, what’s up doc?” remember Blanc’s legacy.

Tara Strong

Tara Strong

Tara Strong is one of the most prolific voice actresses in the country, able to provide both male and female voices in various cartoons. Throughout her career, she racked up more than 1,300 voices and counting!

Though she strongly identifies as a female, she perfectly captured the portrayal of Dil Pickles in The Rugrats, Timmy Turner in The Fairly OddParents, and Ben Tennyson in many Ben 10 films and series. She famously starred as Bubbles in The Powerpuff Girls, Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony, Raven in Teen Titans, Stella’s Guardian of Sirenix in Winx Club, and Truffles in Chowder.

She also played various character voices within the superhero media from Marvel and DC universe. She has played Batgirl, Mary Jane Watson, Harlequin, Lois Lane, Cheetah, Ursa Thundra, Carnage Queen, and more. Her extensive credits in the animation industry started with her first major role in 1987: voicing Hello Kitty in Hello Kitty’s Furry Tale Theater.

Jim Cummings

Jim Cummings is credited with more than 400 roles, and you surely heard his voice from the many cartoon characters we grew up with. Whether it’s an animal, human, robot, villain, or even gods – Jim Cummings’ versatile voice can bring life to them all! While Cummings is most known for voicing Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Darkwing Duck, and Disney’s Pete – he also voiced villains like Dr. Robotnik from Sonic and the Hedgehog, Hondo Ohnaka from Star Wars.

He also voiced many other supporting characters in famous cartoons like Mickey Mouse ClubhouseJohny BravoTeen Titans, Scooby Doo, Jimmy Neutron, Kung Fu Panda, Phineas and Ferb, Spider-Man, and more. He is capable of voicing the heroic, the noble, the gentle, the energetic, and the downright villainous.

Cumming also has a fantastic singing voice that he used for Chief Powhatan in Pocahontas, Rasputin in Anastasia, and Scar in The Lion King. He famously provided some of the vocals on Scar’s “Be Prepared” song, singing and sounding like Jeremy Irons (the original Scar) at the same time.

Frank Welker

One of the most prolific voice actors of all time, Frank Welker holds an astounding 860 film, television, and video game credits to his name! He has played villains like Megatron from Transformers and Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget, Disney characters like Abu from Aladdin and Sultan from Beauty and the Beast, and non-verbal characters like Curious George and Cujo.

But perhaps his most famous and longest-running roles are as Fred and sometimes the titular dog in Scooby Doo. He is the voice behind Scooby Doo’s signature “Ruh-roh!” He also infused his characters with unique tones and catchphrases that audiences like to hear.

It’s amazing to think that Welker can play an easily spooked dog as convincingly as a menacing robot. By taking both gentle and menacing roles, he secured a place in many of our childhood memories.

The Simpsons Logo

Nancy Cartwright

Since 1989, Nancy Cartwright has voiced the iconic character Bart in the long-running comedy series The Simpsons. She’s legendary for the role – her unique vocal and improvisational skills were recognized as she received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance and an Annie Award for Best Voice Acting in the Field of Animation. Fun fact: she originally planned to audition for the role of Bart’s sister, Lisa, but she found Bart to be more interesting, and she did so well at the audition that she landed the role on the spot.

Cartwright is able to voice characters of any age and gender, having also voiced other characters for the show, including Ralph Wiggum, Nelson Muntz, Todd Flanders, Maggie, Database, and Kearney.

She also worked in other films and series as the voice of Chuckie Finster in Nickelodeon’s Rugrats, Rufus in Disney’s Kim Possible, Todd Daring in The Replacements, and Daffney Gillfin in Snorks.

Seth MacFarlane

Not every voice actor becomes famous for starring as characters in shows that they themselves. But Seth MacFarlane has the talent, fame, and fortune to be one of the few lucky ones. He’s most known for his performance as the bumbling family patriarch Peter Griffin from Family Guy and the foul-mouthed, real-life teddy bear Ted in the titular film he also directed.

On Family Guy, he voices other main characters such as Peter, Brian, Stewie, and Quagmie. He also plays Stan and Roger on American Dad! and Seymour on Futurama.

Even though his roles sound a bit similar side by side, he ensures that each character has their own personality, accents, tones, and humor. The fact that he can sing also makes him very talented.

Billy West

Billy West is one of the most sought-after voice actors in the animation business. He had credits from Nickelodeon’s Doug as both Doug Funnie and Roger Klotz, The Ren and Stimpy Show as both Ren and Stimpy and Space Jam as both Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. He was sometimes nicknamed “the new Mel Blanc” – not only because of his prolific career and talent but also because he performed some of Blanc’s original characters.

He also played many supporting characters and additional voices for The Powerpuff GirlsCatDogJustice League UnlimitedThe Simpsons, and Scooby Doo, among others. He even became SpongeBob in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie!

But his career is most known for what he considers the “best thing I ever did,” which is Futurama. West voices many of the show’s most beloved characters, such as Philip J. Fry, Professor Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg, and Zapp Brannigan. He voices 34 characters in the show – and counting!

Grey DeLisle

Grey DeLisle’s resume is full of voice acting roles for popular shows that span decades. She voiced many characters in the many Justice League and Batman films and shows. But she is best known for her work as the primary voice for Daphne Blake in Scooby-Doo for more than 20 years. She perfectly captured the essence of the character while putting her own spin on the role.

However, her most frightening voice might be Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender. She also gave Mandy’s intimidating voice on The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. When she’s not voicing Daphne, villains, or superheroes, she voices supporting characters like Vicky on The Fairly OddParents and Martin Prince on The Simpsons.

She also voiced various characters in Johnny Bravo, Rugrats, Filmore!, Danny Phantom, The Penguins of Madagascar, Winx Club, Sanjay and Craig, The Legend of Korra, among others.

Tom Kenny

One of the most famous voice actors at work today is Tom Kenny, whose voice gave life to some of the most iconic characters in children’s cartoons. He is most famous for his voice work as SpongeBob SquarePants and Ice King in Adventure Time. His endearing tone matched the wacky character that shapes the undersea sponge we all grew to love. Meanwhile, his whimsical performance mixed with severe and aggressive tones fit Ice King’s best moments.  

In SpongeBob SquarePants, Kenny also voiced the French narrator voice (famous for the iconic, meme-worthy SpongeBob time cards), Gary, Patchy the Pirate, and Jellyfish. He has won two Daytime Emmy Awards and two Annie Awards for his voice work in SpongeBob SquarePants and Adventure Time.

Tom Kenny has been very in demand in the industry. Besides SpongeBob, he has played other famous cartoon characters like the Ice King in Adventure Time, the Mayor in The Powerpuff Girls, Dog and Cliff in CatDog, Brother Ernie in Johnny Bravo, Heffer Wolfe in Rocko’s Modern Life, Gene Gilligan in Rick and Morty, and Yancy Fry in Futurama.

Dee Bradley Baker

While the name does not ring any bells, you’ve probably heard him one way or another. Dee Bradley Baker is one of the most unique voice actors in the industry, voicing all clone troopers in nearly every single Star Wars animated series. In that same franchise, he also voiced Commander Cody, Captain Rex, Senator Onaconda Farr, and others – gaining him an Annie Awards nomination.

Baker is famous for creating distinct sound profiles for various characters – whether they are humans, animals, or any creature under the sun. Some of his best-known roles include Perry the Platypus from Phineas and Ferb and Appa and Momo on Avatar: The Last Airbender. He has an uncanny ability to convey a wide range of emotions through animal sounds like roars and grunts.

He also voiced many supporting and minor characters from many animated series, including SpongeBob SquarePants, Codename: Kids Next Door, Ben 10, The Legend of Korra, Doc McStuffins, Family Guy, Winx Club, Adventure Time, Funboy and Chum Chum, Madagascar, and more.

Tress MacNeille

With more than 1,000 animations voiced, Tress MacNeille is one of the industry’s most decorated female voice actresses. The most popular characters she starred in were Daisy Duck and Chip in many Disney films and TV shows, Wilma Flintstone from The Flintstones, Babs Bunny on Tiny Toon Adventures, and Dot Warner on Animaniacs.

But the highest number of voices she acted on in a single project is probably Futurama, wherein she voices at least 46 characters! Her main role in the show was the character Mom, while also providing voices for Linda, Turaga Munda, Grand Midwife, Fanny, Dixie, Dr. Cahill, and Hattie McDoogal, among others.

She also worked on several popular animated series and films such as Rugrats, The Simpsons, Winnie the Pooh, Lady and the Tramp, Tom and Jerry, Cinderella, Sofia the First, and Hey Arnold! As a kid, she loved cartoons and wanted to be a voice actress since she was eight – and she’s a testament to having childhood dreams come true!

John DiMaggio

John DiMaggio has a recognizable voice – you’ll notice it in every cartoon he’s in, and it’s a lot! When it comes to main roles, he has voiced Bender on Futurama, Jake the Dog on Adventure Time, Marcus Fenix in Gears of War, Brother Blood on Teen Titans, Dr. Drakken on Kim Possible, and Schnitzel on Chowder.

Baker voiced at least 28 characters in Futurama, and his exuberant, gravelly voice perfectly contrasted with Billy West’s easygoing voice for Fry.

He also worked extensively in superhero animated media such as BatmanSpider-ManAquaman, and many other Lego DC Comics, various Justice League media, and more. Notably, he did a fantastic role and showcased his incredible range by playing villains like the Joker and Lex Luthor.

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