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21 Famous Actors Who Quietly Voiced Cartoon Characters

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Image composite: Getty // PBS

These well-known faces got behind the mic to provide the voices for your favorite cartoons.

1. Jaleel White as Sonic the Hedgehog

While audiences might be more familiar with Jaleel White as Steve Urkel, the actor also voiced Sonic the Hedgehog for the animated series when he was 16 years old and still starring on Family Matters. He later reprised the role for the animated series Sonic Underground in 1999.

2. Fergie as Sally Brown from Peanuts

Before she was the vocalist for the Black Eyed Peas, Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson was a child star who appeared on the Disney Channel's Kids Incorporated. She was also the voice of Sally Brown, Charlie Brown’s kid sister, on three Peanuts animated TV specials produced in the '80s (It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown; Snoopy's Getting Married, Charlie Brown; and The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show).

3. Orson Welles as Unicron from Transformers: The Movie

Legendary filmmaker Orson Welles' last role before his death in 1985 was voice-work for Transformers: The Movie. He played the villain Unicron, a planet-sized Transformer hell-bent on ultimate power.

4. Jessica Walter as Fran Sinclair from Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs premiered on ABC in 1991 and centered on a family of anthropomorphic dinos created using puppetry and animation. Before she played Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development, Jessica Walter voiced matriarch Fran Sinclair. Puppeteer Kevin Clash, who was Elmo on Sesame Street, voiced the scene-stealing Baby Sinclair.

These days, Walter can also be heard as Malory Archer on FX’s animated series Archer.

5. Michael Cera as Brother Bear from The Berenstain Bears

A year before playing George Michael Bluth on Arrested Development, Michael Cera voiced Brother Bear on The Berenstain Bears children’s TV series on PBS Kids. Cera continued to voice the character while starring in Arrested Development through 2005.

6. Phil Hartman as Mr. Wilson from Dennis the Menace

In the same year he started his career on Saturday Night Live, Phil Hartman did voice work on the syndicated TV series Dennis the Menace. He played both Dennis’ father, Henry Mitchell, and the next-door neighbor Mr. Wilson. Hartman left Dennis the Menace after one season to pursue SNL full-time.

Hartman also did voice work on cartoons such as DuckTales, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, and Darkwing Duck. His most notable voice work was with The Simpsons, playing Springfield’s down-and-out lawyer Lionel Hutz (a.k.a. Miguel Sanchez) and washed-up actor Troy McClure.

7. Meg Ryan as Dr. Blight from Captain Planet and the Planeteers

Following the success of When Harry Met Sally, Meg Ryan voiced the Eco-Villain Dr. Blight during the first season of Captain Planet and the Planeteers. After leaving the environmentally-minded animated series, Ryan went on to continue her career as America's Sweetheart.

8. James Avery as The Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

You might know him as Uncle Philip Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but before he took the role on that wildly popular NBC sitcom, James Avery supplied the voice for Shredder on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series. Avery voiced the villain throughout the show's entire run from 1987 to 1993, while also playing the role on the TMNT made-for-TV movie in 1991.

9. John Ritter as Clifford the Big Red Dog

Before his untimely death in 2003, John Ritter voiced Clifford the Big Red Dog for the animated series of the same name on PBS Kids. Throughout the series run, Ritter was nominated for four straight Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program between 2001 and 2004.

10. Vin Diesel as The Iron Giant

At the start of his career in the '90s, Vin Diesel (whose real name is Mark Sinclair Vincent) took a role as the titular character in Brad Bird’s directorial debut, The Iron Giant. While undoubtedly a lead role, the animated robot only said a handful of words.

Vin Diesel’s voice can also be heard in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, coming out this summer. Diesel once again lends his voice to an unloquacious alien, the tree-like Groot.

11. Earle Hyman as Panthro from ThunderCats

Warner Bros. Television

Actor Earle Hyman is probably best known for playing Russell “Grandpa” Huxtable on The Cosby Show, but a year into his tenure on the family sitcom, Hyman voiced the wise Panthro on ThunderCats.

12. and 13. Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell as "The Ambiguously Gay Duo"

Although the animated short sketches were popularized on Saturday Night Live, "The Ambiguously Gay Duo" made its debut on the short-lived Dana Carvey Show on ABC in 1996. Lending their voices to the crime-fighting duo Ace and Gary were none other than Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell, respectively.

In 2011, Colbert and Carell re-teamed to star in a special live-action version of "The Ambiguously Gay Duo" for a short film on SNL. Jon Hamm and Jimmy Fallon played Ace and Gary while Colbert and Carrell played the villains, Dr. Brainio and Bighead.

14. Jeff Goldblum as Verminous Skumm from Captain Planet

After appearing in '80s cult classics The Fly and Earth Girls Are Easy, Jeff Goldblum took a job voicing the Eco-Villain Verminous Skumm on Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Goldblum only appeared on five episodes of Captain Planet before his career started to take off with roles in big blockbusters like Jurassic Park and Independence Day.

15. Flea as Donnie from The Wild Thornberrys

Flea (whose real name is Michael Peter Balzary) is mainly known as the hyperactive bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Throughout the years, he has taken a few supporting roles in movies like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, My Own Private Idaho, and Back To The Future Parts II and III.

Flea also lent his voice talents to Nickelodeon's The Wild Thornberrys, playing Donnie Thornberry, and voiced the character in the show's film-length efforts The Wild Thornberrys: The Origin of Donnie, The Wild Thornberrys Movie, and Rugrats Go Wild, a cross-over between Nickelodeon’s Rugrats and The Wild Thornberrys.

16. LeVar Burton as Kwame from Captain Planet and the Planeteers

LeVar Burton is a television icon after starring in shows like Reading Rainbow and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but he has also lent his voice to a few cult animated series as well, like Batman: The Animated Series and Disney’s Gargoyles. Burton’s most notable voice work was on Captain Planet and the Planeteers as Kwame, the Planeteer from Ghana with the power of Earth.

17. Arsenio Hall as Winston Zeddemore from The Real Ghostbusters

Two years after the release of Ghostbusters, ABC aired a cartoon version of the hit movie. The Real Ghostbusters featured the same characters from its live-action counterpart, but with different voice actors in the roles. Before he landed his own late night talk show, Arsenio Hall played the role of Ghostbuster Winston Zeddemore during the first three seasons of the animated series.

Actor Ernie Hudson, who played Winston Zeddemore in both of the Ghostbusters movies and its video game, auditioned for the animated TV series but lost out to Arsenio.

18. J.K. Simmons as the Yellow M&M

Actor J.K. Simmons has made a name for himself on the big and small screens with his performances as J. Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man trilogy and as Assistant Chief Will Pope on TNT's The Closer, but he also has done some commercial work as the voice of the Yellow M&M in the candy's popular TV commercials.

Simmons also provides the voice for the AirBender Tenzin on The Legend of Korra animated series on Nickelodeon.

19. Brad Garrett as Hulk Hogan from Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling

Stand-up comedian Brad Garrett is mainly known for playing Robert Barone on the Everybody Loves Raymond, but one of his first big roles was on the Saturday morning cartoon Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling in 1986. Garrett lent his voice to the cartoon’s lead: Wrestling superstar Hulk Hogan.

20. Keith David as Goliath on Disney’s Gargoyles

Keith David is one of Hollywood's go-to character actors. He's most recognizable for his key supporting roles in movies like Armageddon, Requiem For a Dream, and John Carpenter’s The Thing, but the 57-year-old actor has done his fair share of voice work.

David notably played Goliath in Disney’s Gargoyles. While the show only lasted for three seasons, David is still an active participant in fan gatherings and events for the cult animated series. Gargoyles also featured the voices of highly regarded actors including Ed Asner, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, LeVar Burton, and Jonathan Frakes.

21. Brittany Murphy as Luanne Platter on King of the Hill

Brittany Murphy was a rising star in Hollywood, starring in major motion pictures like Cluelessand 8 Mile. She was also a regular on the animated series King of the Hill. Murphy voiced Luanne Platter, Hank and Peggy Hill’s niece, until her unexpected death in 2009.

All photos courtesy of Getty Images unless otherwise noted.

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15 Super Facts About Megamind

In 2010, the superhero craze was on the rise in the wake of such hits as Spider-Man, The Dark Knight, and Iron Man. which made it the perfect time to launch a silly sendup of the genre. And so came Megamind, an animated action-comedy about a clumsy villain whose world turns upside down once he actually defeats his superhero nemesis.

1. THE PREMISE WAS INSPIRED BY SUPERMAN.

Essentially, the pitch boiled down to "What if Lex Luthor defeated Superman?" Except instead of Luthor being a wealthy, vicious human, the film offers Megamind (Will Ferrell), a cowardly, odd-looking (but still bald!) misfit from another planet. Metro Man (voiced by Brad Pitt) is more the Superman type, an alien from another planet who is strong, handsome, and can fly. It's easy for the people of Metro City to love Metro Man, whereas the oddball with the big blue head is instantly regarded as "other" and "bad." It's up to Megamind to prove himself, and find his true path.

2. IT WAS INTENDED AS A VEHICLE FOR BEN STILLER.

The original script by Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons was pitched to Ben Stiller's production company, Red Hour Films, with hopes he'd star as its titular baddie. "[It] was written as a live-action movie," Stiller explained in the spring of 2008. "But we thought it would work as an animated movie so we brought it to Jeffrey Katzenberg [CEO of DreamWorks Animation], and now we're in pre-production."

3. STILLER TURNED DOWN THE LEAD, BUT STILL PLAYED AN IMPORTANT PART IN MEGAMIND.

Instead of voicing Megamind, Stiller opted to executive produce the movie—but he does pop by for a quirky audio cameo as the curmudgeonly curator Bernard, who works at the Metro Man Museum.

4. PRODUCERS WANTED ROBERT DOWNEY JR. FOR THE LEAD.

Riding high off the career revitalization of his live-action superhero hit Iron Man, Downey was game to bring his sarcastic charms to Metro City's menace. But scheduling conflicts ultimately killed the deal. So producers turned to beloved funnyman Will Ferrell, who brought a zany charisma to Megamind, and some crucial gags.

5. THE FILM CYCLED THROUGH VARIOUS TITLES BEFORE MEGAMIND STUCK. 

In the fall of 2008, Stiller was teasing the movie as Master Mind. In that version, Megamind's longtime foe was named Uberman (a more overt spoof of Superman), but by spring of 2009, the title had changed to Oobermind, while Uberman had become Metro Man.

6. SEVERAL DIRECTORS TOOK A CRACK AT MEGAMIND

"There were two or three sets of directors on the movie, each of which started making a different version of the movie before it went to someone else," illustrator/author Jason Porath, who helped with the film as an employee at DreamWorks Animation, told Mental Floss.

The project was kicked off by Gary Trousdale, who had co-helmed a string of Disney animated movies including Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Next, Kyle Jefferson and Cameron Hood, who'd directed the DWA short "First Flight," were brought on. But the final version of Megamind is credited to Tom McGrath, who had co-directed Madagascar and Madagascar 2: Escape 2 Africa with Eric Darnell, and would go on to helm Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (also with Darnell) and Boss Baby. For their earlier efforts, Trousdale, Jefferson, and Hood ultimately received a special thanks credit on Megamind.

7. IT'S PRETTY COMMON FOR AN ANIMATED MOVIE TO CHANGE DIRECTORS. 

In the case of DreamWorks's How To Train Your Dragon, credited directors Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders were brought on about one year before the film's release. Then, the beloved movie about a boy and his pet dragon would have been unrecognizable to its fans. "At that point, I think Hiccup was like 9 or 10 years old, all the dragons could talk, and Toothless as we know him didn't exist," Porath tells us. "Those little bug-eyed tiny green dragons he fights for fish in the first movie, one of those was supposed to be his companion dragon. It was a lot closer to the book source material."

This practice extends far beyond DreamWorks: At Pixar, The Good Dinosaur went from Bob Peterson to Peter Sohn. Mark Andrews replaced Brenda Chapman on Brave, and Brad Bird took over directing duties from Jan Pinkava on Ratatouille. At Sony Pictures Animation, Hotel Transylvania cycled through six directors before committing to Genndy Tartakovsky.

8. OTHER VILLAINS VANISHED THROUGH PRODUCTION. 

DreamWorks Animation

One version of Megamind had its eponymous fiend as part of a supervillain league known as the Doom Syndicate. To concoct this crooked but colorful crew of criminals, DreamWorks had an open call, encouraging its artists to pitch villain ideas. Story artist Ryan Savas has publicly shared his sketches for such quirky baddies as White Zombie, The Barista, The Ectopus, the Liberace-inspired Rhinestone, and Alec Baldwin, who can "hypnotize his victims with awesome acting skills." But as the script became streamlined (and the budget got tighter) the Doom Syndicate was cut from Megamind, meaning characters like Destruction Worker, a smoking skeleton, and "geriatric flame-wielder" Hot Flash never made it to the big screen—but they didn't disappear completely.

Three years after the film's release, DreamWorks unleashed the video game Megamind: Ultimate Showdown for the Xbox 360 and PS3. Some of the Doom Syndicate characters reappeared here, including Hot Flash. But Porath told us the fiery old broad made her mark at the animation's offices as well. "Every year, DreamWorks Animation has a big Halloween costume contest," he shared. "And the winner one year was one of the producers who dressed up as Hot Flash."

9. SOME CHARACTERS WENT THROUGH RADICAL PHYSICAL CHANGES. 

Concept art reveals that love interest/journalist Roxanne Ritchie (Tina Fey) had a variety of longer haircuts before the filmmakers settled on her perky pixie cut. During his Uber Man days, Metro Man's Elvis-inspired look toyed with some more outlandish iterations, which involved fur collars, sunglasses, and plenty of glitter. Some test sketches even showed Megamind with spiky hair. But the biggest transformation came to the cunning character's devoted sidekick.

Though fans of the film have come to know Minion as a fanged, talking piranha who gets around in a robo-ape mechasuit, his origins were once far less fantastical. Early concept art shows a version of the character imagined as a chubby man with a tiny jetpack.

10. STILLER WANTED TO SATIRIZE THE SUPERHERO GENRE.

This is an image of Ben Stiller.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

"This genre's been done so many times, that it's always interesting to try to find a postmodern version of it," Stiller told MTV. So he spearheaded a story about how people are not always what they seem.

Notably, this wasn't Stiller's first tme parodying superheroes and villains. In 1999, Stiller starred in the comedy Mystery Men, which followed a batch of wannabe superheroes as they face off with a nefarious foe who was way out of their league. Their powers included farting, bowling, being furious, and shoveling "well."

11. MEGAMIND UNDERWENT A GAG PASS TO MAKE IT EVEN FUNNIER. 

In an informative blog post, Porath explains that a "gag pass" is essentially the part toward the end of production where filmmakers find opportunities to work in more jokes. In this case, the writers and storyboard artists crafted humorous dialogue and visual gags. Meanwhile, Ferrell was encouraged to improvise to bring some more of his unique brand of comedy to the mix.

12. THE FILM'S MARKETING CAMPAIGN ACHIEVED A GUINNESS WORLD RECORD.

To promote the film, Ferrell invited all wannabe superheroes to suit up and join him for a party on October 4, 2010, just a month before the film's opening. But the event also set a Guinness World Record for Largest Gathering of Superheroes. With 1580 costumed attendees, Ferrell and his friends made hero history, breaking the old record by 79 superheroes.

13. THERE'S AN ANCHORMAN EASTER EGG

Toward the end of the movie, Megamind is channel surfing and crosses a news report about a water-skiing squirrel. A very similar story is covered in Ferrell's 2004 comedy, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.

14. MEGAMIND WAS HURT BY DESPICABLE ME

Cruel timing meant that Megamind opened four months after audiences went wild for Universal's Despicable Me, an animated movie about a villain who goes good. While Megamind pulled in a decent $321 million worldwide, Despicable Me boasted $543 million, spawning sequels and a spinoff for its cuddlier Minions.

The closeness of their premises and release dates hurt Megamind with critics, too. Roger Ebert wrote, "This setup is bright and amusing, even if it does feel recycled from bits and pieces of such recent animated landmarks as The Incredibles with its superpowers and Despicable Me with its villain." USA Today's Claudia Puig was even more cutting, concluding, "Do we really need Megamind when Despicable Me is around?"

15. MEGAMIND FOUND REDEMPTION AS HOME ENTERTAINMENT. 

Released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 25, 2011, Megamind pulled in another $74 million in domestic sales. Readily available in this fashion, its popularity grew. Today, Megamind is warmly remembered and rewatched by fans happy to mispronounce "Metro City," "school," and "spider" like the lovable villain at its center. And despite its bumpy ride through production, it's fondly remembered by the fleets of artists who brought it to life.

You can see their enthusiasm in the blogs linked above, where they've proudly shared concept art and sketches. But perhaps Porath puts it best, declaring, "To put in perspective: almost every movie goes through radical shifts like this. Megamind had a bit longer journey than others, but not by much. I would by no means consider it an outlier. There were a phenomenal number of talented, funny people working to make it great, and it was a fun time at the studio. DreamWorks treated us all really well; I will never work for somewhere that took better care of me."

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Courtesy Fathom Events // GKIDS
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Hayao Miyazaki's Greatest Hits Are Coming Back to Theaters This Fall
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STUDIO GHIBLI FEST: Castle in the Sky
Courtesy Fathom Events // GKIDS

Get ready, anime fans. As part of an upcoming film festival, some of Japanese animation icon Hayao Miyazaki’s best-loved films will be coming back to U.S. movie theaters this fall.

Fathom Events and the North American animation distributor GKIDS are running a film festival devoted to Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki's Tokyo-based animation studio. As part of a series of monthly events that began in June, the festival will be showing Castle in the Sky, Nausicaä, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle. Earlier this summer, the festival showed My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service.

Due to the festival’s popularity, Studio Ghibli Fest is adding an extra day of showings, beginning with the August re-release of Castle in the Sky. Instead of two days of movies, there will be three screenings on three different days.

The films will be shown on the last Sunday of the month, with subsequent screenings the following Monday and Wednesday. The Sunday and Wednesday films will be dubbed in English, while the Monday showings will have subtitles. The festival runs until November 29.

Since it’s through Fathom Events, the films will be shown at hundreds of theaters around the country. You can check where screenings are available near you by entering your ZIP code here.

Miyazaki is technically retired, but he hasn't been able to resist the call of Studio Ghibli. He's scheduled to release Boro the Caterpillar, a film he's calling his last (several years after saying the same about 2013's The Wind Also Rises) in 2019. So maybe we can expect an extended Studio Ghibli Fest in a few years.

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