Tim here. Earlier today, we posted our Team Top 10 for the best voice performances in the movies, focusing on ten individual performances that impressed us the most. But as good as those vocal performances all are, I wanted to follow that post up by singing the praises of a different sort of voice acting. As great as any one performance in a single feature film can be, there’s also something truly exceptional about those people who have created entire careers out of voice acting without necessarily having the kind of showcase roles we were talking about today. With that in mind, I’d like to share this list of some of the most important contemporary voice actors that you should know about.
Why you know him: He’s the current voice of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger for Disney.
Where else you’ve heard him: An astonishingly prolific Disney workhorse, he’s also active in television and video games, and it sometimes feels like the rarer projects are the ones where he’s not providing background voices or a small character. In recent years, his biggest featured performance was as the Cajun firefly Ray in The Princess and the Frog, but his most widely-heard turns are probably the small roles he had in helping to boost singing voices in The Lion King and Pocahontas. Ever noticed how Pocahontas’s father suddenly sounds like Pooh bear when he starts to sing? That’s why.
Why you know him: He voiced the Orson Welles-sounding mad scientist mouse Brain in Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain, titles which have the status of holy text for a certain generation of cartoon watchers.
Where else you’ve heard him: He also voiced the Orson Welles-sounding Orson Welles played in the flesh by Vincent D’Onofrio in Ed Wood. Mostly, though, his best work is on TV, including his small army of characters on the voice actor lover’s paradise Futurama, where he played the miserable green alien Kit. He was the voice of Elsa and Anna’s soon-dead father in animated musical Frozen, which you may have heard of.
Why you know her: She’s a supporting member of the cast of The Simpsons, with her most prominent character being miserable, abusive old lady Agnes Skinner.
Where else you’ve heard her: She voiced the leading ladies on Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs (Gadget, Babs Bunny, Dot Warner) back in the 1990s, which on top of The Simpsons makes her perhaps the single most recognizable voice actress in history to a whole generation. She’s also Disney’s current Daisy Duck, in those rare occurrences where Daisy Duck makes an appearance, and like damn near everybody else who does voice acting professionally, she’s had a few iconic roles in Futurama
Why you know him: He voiced Megatron in the ‘80s Transformers cartoon, and started voicing the mutated form of Megatron, Galvatron, in this summer’s Transformers: Age of Extinction. Now, I know you didn’t see Age of Extinction, because you are classy and have good taste, but a whole lot of other people did.
Where else you’ve heard him: Everywhere. Welker’s stock in trade isn’t voicing characters who speak words, but providing animal noises and sound effects. He was Flit the hummingbird in Pocahontas; he was the footstool dog in Beauty and the Beast; he provided the squeaky voices of the killer Martians in Mars Attacks!; he contributed to the sounds of Godzilla in the misbegotten 1998 Godzilla; he’s been more dogs than I can count. He voiced the anaconda in 1997’s Anaconda, for God’s sake. Who knew that the anaconda even had a voice? Well it did, and it was Frank Welker, and he was AMAZING.
Share your own favorite voice actors in comments!