Ten Celebrity Voice Roles You May Have Missed
To paraphrase Homer Simpson: celebrities, is there anything they can’t do? It is a long standing practice for studios to cast celebrities in voice acting roles. Being able to list Tom Hanks, Larry King, or Beyoncé on the movie poster for your animated feature will, in theory at least, lure in more viewers. The quality of the performance obtained from these celebrities can run the gamut from wooden read-throughs to the development of complex characters exhibiting real emotion. The ten voice roles that follow are significant parts but, for various reasons, the casting has been largely overlooked.
Fergie – The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show
Ok, this first entry may be a bit of a cheat. It is true that Fergie provided the voice for Sally in multiple episodes of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show as well as the specials Snoopy’s Getting Married, Charlie Brown and It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown. However, this voice acting work occurred from 1983 to 1985. That means Fergie was 8 – 10 years old and therefore probably not yet experiencing her Fergalicious celebrity status.
Russell Brand – Despicable Me
Russell Brand’s role in Despicable Me was overshadowed by Steve Carell’s excellent depiction of Gru and what I’ll call Minion Mania. This is a shame because his performance as Dr. Nefario is quite good. Brand has also voiced the teenage son of the Easter Bunny in Hop. He did a decent job as E.B. but the voice was closer to Brand’s actual voice. The voice he created for Dr. Nerfario suits a geriatric evil scientist. It is also not something you would expect to come out of Russel Brand. Even when you watch behind the scene footage of Brand voicing Dr. Nefario it doesn’t seem like that voice is coming out of that person.
Michael Keaton – Toy Story 3
Michael Keaton first teamed with Pixar when he provided a voice for Chick Hicks in the film Cars. Knowing this I was still surprised to learn that Keaton also voiced Barbie’s male counterpart in Toy Story 3. Ken is a clothes loving metrosexual who, in the end, does right by his girl. He is also both cool and groovy.
Craig Ferguson – Winnie the Pooh
The former host of The Late Late Show is no stranger to voice acting. As far back as 1995, when he voiced one Roddy MacStew on Freakazoid!, Ferguson has found himself cast as Scottish animated characters. More recently he had parts in Brave and both How to Train Your Dragon and its sequel. However, his casting as Owl in Winnie the Pooh (2011) was unexpected. Knowing what to listen for, you may recognize Ferguson’s inflections when Owl is arguing with Pooh Bear about catching a cold.
Brent Spiner – Star Wars Rebels
This one is a little interesting. Brent Spiner is one of the most popular actors from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Now, however, he is also part of the Star Wars universe. Spiner recently protrayed Gall Trayvis in four episodes of Star Wars Rebels. Thing is, Gall Trayvis’ appearance is modelled off British actor David Niven. So we have Lieutenant Commander Data providing the voice for Sir James Bond in the role of a former member of the Imperial Senate posing as a dissident. For some reason, that makes me happy.
Alan Tudyk – Wreck-It-Ralph
Alan Tudyk gives a great performance as King Candy in Wreck-It-Ralph. There is a good chance, however, that you never realized that was Tudyk playing the part. In a film fairly heavy with celebrity voices, Tudyk’s credit got lost in the shuffle. It is also very unlikely that you recognized Tudyk’s voice. Tudyk played King Candy as an impression of the vaudeville comedian and actor Ed Wynn.
David Warner – Batman: The Animated Series
David Warner was the beheaded photographer in The Omen, Evil in Time Bandits, the Master Control Program in Tron, and Lord Downey in Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather. He has been a Klingon, a Cardassian, an intelligent ape, and Superman’s biological father. There hardly seems to be a geek-friendly franchise that he didn’t have at least a small part in. I guess, therefore, it should come as no surprise to learn he voiced Ra’s al Ghul in Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, and Batman Beyond.
Brendan Fraser – Looney Tunes: Back in Action
It is no secret that Brendan Fraser was in Looney Tunes: Back in Action. But did you know that, in addition to his live action role, he also provided the voice for the Tasmanian Devil? Mind you, I’m not saying he did a fantastic job of it. But to be fair it’s not so much a bad performance as it is just not Mel Blanc. And that’s true of almost all the Looney Tunes in the film. Still, the Tasmanian Devil is not known for being a verbose character. I’m surprised they didn’t re-use some existing recordings of Mel Blanc performing Taz’s sputters and growls.
Micky Dolenz – Snuggle Fabric Softener Commercials
My intent was to restrict this list to only animated voice acting gigs. But this example of puppet voice acting is to amusing to pass up. Although he was not the original voice, Micky Dolenz provided the voice of Snuggle the Snuggle Fabric Softener bear for a short period. For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Micky Dolenz was the drummer for the Monkees. The Monkees was the American answer to the Beatles created specifically for television. I suppose the closest modern day equivalent would be Big Time Rush. Dolenz has done other voice work including Arthur from the animated version of The Tick, but something about him voicing this nauseatingly cute and cuddly bear just tickles my fancy.
Bill Fagerbakke – Spongebob Squarepants
I feel like everyone should be aware of this one by now. After all, you’ve had sixteen years to figure it out. But there are still people surprised to learn that Bill Fagerbakke has been the voice of Patrick Star since 1999. Prior to this gig, Fagerbakke was best known as Dauber Dybinski on the sitcom Coach. Coach appears to have been a breeding ground for voice acting. Shelley Fabares who played Christine went on to voice Ma Kent in the Superman TV series of 1996-2000. And Craig T. Nelson provided the voice of Mr. Incredible in The Incredibles.
Have you ever been shocked to discover the voice talent behind one of your favourite animated characters? Please share your revelation in the comments below.