Have you ever watched an animated film and thought to yourself, “Hey, that voice sounds familiar!” Well, it probably is because a famous actor was behind the camera.
Since the ’90s, the practice of hiring well-known film actors for voiceover roles has become a trend, and it continued steadily until today, when most feature-length animated movies have at least a couple of big celebrity names attached. The star power is supposed to bring more publicity to the films – and it works!
Here are some of the famous Hollywood celebrities with iconic voice action credits:
Being the talented comedian that he was, Robin Williams brought vibrancy and energy to any set he was in. Such is the case for the Disney film Aladdin, where Williams was noted for his work as the Genie. He even won a Special Golden Globe Award for Vocal Work with his performance, which was so memorable that some people go on to say that Genie was the real star of the movie.
Williams made the audience laugh, cry, and watch in awe. He went on to voice Fender Pinwheeler in the 2005 film Robots, where he played a mischievous blender. He also starred in the adorable Happy Feet franchise as Ramon and Lovelace. While he may no longer be here to continue showcasing his talents, his legacy lives on in many memorable films.
Mark Hamill has done the amazing feat of embodying two of the most important characters in pop culture. As Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, he forever secured a place in the pop culture Hall of Fame. But when he voiced The Joker in multiple Batman films and TV shows, he became a legend for DC and comic book fans everywhere. The laughs and mannerisms he gave The Joker have defined the character for every other live-action and animated version of the villain.
Hamill had a prolific voice-acting career. Besides the Joker, his other important voice-acting roles include Fire Lord Ozai in Avatar: The Last Airbender and several villains in Marvel animations, such as various Spider-Man projects and The Incredible Hulk.
James Earl Jones
Who doesn’t recognize James Earl Jones’ deep, rich, and resonant voice? Due to his remarkable voice quality, Jones became one of the most famous and recognizable voice actors in Hollywood. He can easily give a commanding presence to the characters he portrays.
He is famous for voicing Star Wars Darth Vader, where Jones’ resounding and ominous voice perfectly suited the terrifying nature of the character. Also, we cannot forget that he was also Simba’s dad, Mufasa, in The Lion King. Jones brought a warm, paternal nature to the character that is also authoritative and impactful.
A Saturday Night Live alumni, Mike Myers is known for his sharp wit and quirky characters, such as Austin Powers, Wayne Campbell, and Dr. Evil. Debuting his voiceover career in Shrek, Mike Myers made a mark in the animation industry. Everybody loved the big green ogre, and that’s why the movie continued for six films. His comedic side allowed him to completely nail the terrifying yet endearing ogre’s voice. It’s arguably the most successful role of his career.
His next voiceover work after the Shrek films would be in The Cat in the Hat, where he voiced multiple variations of The Cat in the Hat’s personality. His incredible voice-acting skills take his characters to a new level – kids and adults love him everywhere!
There’s no Family Guy without Lois and Peter’s daughter Meg, and there’s no Meg without Mila Kunis. While the role was originally portrayed by Lacey Chabert, Mila Kunis has been playing Meg most of the time since the second season of Family Guy. Kunis has provided fans of the show with some of the funniest female vocals to date. She captures Meg’s dry humor and her awkward and angsty character. Kunis calls it the “greatest job ever” as she records her lines from a makeshift little studio in her closet.
Besides Meg, Kunis has also voiced Greta in the 2019 film Wonder Park, Dema in the 2015 fantasy film Hell and Back, and multiple characters in the 2005 TV series Robot Chicken.
Tom Hanks is one of the most popular and recognizable Hollywood actors – often regarded as an American cultural icon. Because of his magnificent performance in award-winning films such as Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, Cast Away, Philadelphia, and Captain Philips, there’s no shortage of iconic Tom Hanks moments.
Yet, in spite of these legendary roles, generations will also remember him as the voice of Sheriff Woody from the Toy Story franchise. Hank’s vocal performance has been widely praised for bringing Woody to life and making him one of the most popular animated characters in film. Though the movie is loaded with tremendous voice talent, Pixar’s masterpiece wouldn’t have garnered such acclaim if not for Hank’s signature voice and gravitas.
Kristen Bell is famous for her role as the elusive Gossip Girl in the teen series of the same name, and she even revisited this character in 2021 in the HBO revival of the show. She only appeared as a voiceover throughout the original series, with a cameo appearance in the final episode. She’s not a stranger to voiceover work.
So, when she was cast as Ana’s voice in the wildly successful Disney movie Frozen, her performance earned an overwhelmingly positive response from critics and the public alike. Besides Frozen, she has also done dozens of voiceover work, starring as Priscilla in Zootopia, Cora in Astro Boy, and Jade Wilson in Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, and Mollie Tillerman in Central Park.
Starring in the iconic 2000s reboot of Charlie’s Angels and Martin Scorcese’s Gangs of New York, Cameron Diaz cemented her place in Hollywood as a prolific actress. Her film career spanned several genres and landed her some amazing roles.
Her most beloved role, however, is as Princess Fiona from Shrek. Princess Fiona is no ordinary princess – she’s a beautiful royalty who faces a unique curse that turns her into an ogress every night. Her mission to break the curse took an unexpected turn when she fell in love with Shrek, an ogre. Cameron Diaz claimed that she matured during her time voicing the character and hopes to do it again.
Samuel L. Jackson
From Quentin Tarantino movies to Marvel Cinematic Universe to Pixar, Samuel L. Jackson has left his mark throughout these diverse areas of film and animation. He’s a man of action who boasts a filmography of more than 150 movies. With standout performances in Pulp Fiction, Jurassic Park, The Avengers, A Time to Kill, the Star Wars prequels, and even Snakes on a Plane, Samuel L. Jackson is a legend whose versatility extends to voiceover work.
We fondly remember him as Mr. Incredible’s cool superhero dude named Frozone from The Incredibles. He also starred as the lead in the anime adaptation of Afro Samurai, a project he himself helped produce. He also recently reprised his role as Nick Fury in Disney+’s What If…?, an animated series exploring alternative outcomes of key MCU events.
One of the most successful actresses in the 90s, Meg Ryan is known for starring in classic romantic comedies such as You’ve Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, and Sleepless in Seattle – films that brought her numerous accolades. She’s also a serious dramatic actress who brings a lot of life to her voiceover work.
At the height of her breakout career, Ryan lent her voice to Anastasia in the 1997 animated film of the same name, based on a true story of a princess of the Russian Empire. The film became a financial and critical success for Fox Studios, and Ryan’s performance received praise from both critics and the public. She made Anastasia charming and loveable with her heartfelt acting.
Most of us most fondly remember Steve Carell as the Dunder Mifflin manager, Michael Scott, in The Office. Movie fans know him through his comedic performances in Get Smart, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Anchorman. He also dabbled in more serious films like Foxcatcher and The Big Short.
It turns out his comedic talent seamlessly extends to voice work, notably as the sometimes-supervillain, sometimes-superhero Gru in the Despicable Me franchise. His quirky Eastern European accent in that role is unforgettable. You can also enjoy his roles in other animated films, such as Hammy from Over the Hedge and Ned McDodd from Horton Hears a Who.
Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if Morgan Freeman is more of a film or voice actor. He has become popular for his soothing baritone voice, which made him perfect for authoritative roles or as a narrator. He is cast in numerous films of different genres – whether it’s adventure, drama, thriller, or science fiction. His breakout role was Red in The Shawshank Redemption, where he acted on screen and provided narration.
His voice calm, authoritative voice appeared in animations and documentaries, such as The Lego Movie, Cosmic Voyage, War of the Worlds, March of Penguins, and Slavery and the Making of America.
We know Adam Sandler as an outstanding Saturday Night Live comedian and producer who makes funny films through his own production company, Happy Madison Productions, and as a leading man from The Wedding Singer, 50 First Dates, and Just Go With It. He also starred in several other comedies, but he has also taken dramatic roles as well.
But you may not know that the voice of Dracula in the family-friendly animated film Hotel Transylvania is actually Adam Sandler. Dracula is a storied character portrayed by dozens of actors over the years, but in Hotel Transylvania, Dracula (nicknamed Drac) is quirky, funny, and tends to make a fool of himself. He voiced the character in the first three movies and was replaced by Brian Hull in the fourth installment when he dropped out due to scheduling conflicts.
Another Saturday Night Live alum, Will Ferrell, had a successful entertainment career, mainly for his leading man roles in comedy films and his work as a TV producer. In animation, he brilliantly portrayed the role of Megamind in DreamWork’s eponymous film.
Megamind, an alien refugee and sole survivor of his species, came to life through Will Ferrell’s comedic performance of the role. The character draws inspiration from figures like Superman and The Godfather, and Ferrell captured them both amazingly. Besides Megamind, Ferrell also lent his voice to Curious George and The Lego Movie.
Ellen DeGeneres may have only acted as Dory as a voiceover actress, but she has earned her spot for the success of the Finding Nemo franchise. Her character, a blue tang fish with short-term memory loss, is befriended by Marlin, a clownfish, on the journey to cross the deep blue sea to save his son.
Ellen’s fitting vocal pitch for the lonesome yet curious and bubbly fish Dory led the film to earn more than $1 billion at the box office. She also reprised her role in Finding Dory. She may not have lent her voice to many projects, but her decision was a profitable and good one.
Transitioning from live-action acting to being the voice behind an animated character seems easy, but it takes true skill. They must deeply channel emotions to enliven the role because they cannot be physically seen. It takes a slightly different ability to perform voice acting, and not all can succeed in it.
As more celebrities continue to lend their voices to beloved animated characters, their legacy in the world of animation remains a proof to the power of voice acting and celebrity influence.