Posted by: thataintallfolks | April 1, 2012

Blog Post #8: The (Animated) Voice

In recent years, Pixar’s animated films have gotten some A-list celebrities to be the voices behind their characters. Who could forget Tom Hanks and Tim Allen’s voices in Toy Story as Woody and Buzz Lightyear respectively? Or Billy Crystal and John Goodman’s lead roles in Monsters Inc. as Sully and Mike? While the rule of thumb that great writing is the key to a film’s success, sometimes a greater voice behind the writing in an animated feature can create everlasting memorable characters.

While Disney’s feature-length animation history dates back to the late 1930s, this post will specify more directly on voices of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, during most of the “Disney Renaissance.” To me, one of the first films that successfully combined A-list actors into a successful film is 1988’s “Oliver and Company.” One of the leading characters in the film is a dog named Dodger, voiced by legendary musician Billy Joel. Songs have been a part of Disney films since day one, but I think the inclusion of a singer in an acting role raises the bar to successful music in film.


Another film combining successful actors into a Disney animated feature was The Rescuers Down Under in 1990. It may seem surprising to hear, but some of the actors in the film include famous names as Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, John Candy, and George S. Scott. In 1991, Beauty and the Beast consisted of such famous actors as Jerry Orbach (Lumiere) and Angela Lansbury (Mrs. Potts).

To me, the quintessential film that combined top-of-the-line celebrities into a phenomenal success at the box office was “The Lion King.” If a live-action movie in the mid-1990s consisted of a cast with such members as Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Nathan Lane, Robert Guillaime, Rowan Atkinson, and Whoopi Goldberg, it could probably be considered as Best Picture of the year at the Oscars; yet it only received awards for Tim Rice and Elton John’s music.


Writing may create an animated feature, but the voice of the real-life people behind the characters bring the film to life, and hopefully films of the future will be as memorable with their characters as those of the past.



  1. I really wanted to do a post on the voice actors who aren’t famous but have some of the most important voices in animation. This is a really cool idea as well because there are often times when we don’t realize who the voice actor is or the importance in the choice of voice actor. It has always been one of those things that can make or break an animation for me.

  2. What I’ve always found fascinating, particularly in the older Disney films, is that their casts were made up of a lot of relatively unknown actors, with the one or two real A-list or well known actor. What was incredible about is was that these A-list actors were, more often than not, supporting characters rather than the main ones. I think of Aladdin, where Robin Williams is the Genie and younger actors were Aladdin and Jasmine, or even Lion King, where Nathan Lane is Timon as opposed to Simba. Things have changed a bit in recent years, with Mandy Moore being Rapunzel as an example, but the older movies are proof that characters aren’t exactly memorable for who voiced them, but rather how good the voice actors could bring their character to life.

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