There's something really satisfying about blowing a friend's mind by identifying a voice in cartoon. For example, how many of us discovered really late in life that Jerry Orbach wasn't just Lenny Briscoe in Law and Order, but was also Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast? Here is a list of genre actors to listen for.
Let's start with the one of the most famous examples of this. Obviously, Mark Hamill is Luke Skywalker. And, just as obviously for anyone who has heard it, he's the voice of the Joker. Beginning with Batman: The Animated Series in the early Nineties, Hamill's played the Joker in a ton of related television series, video games, and movies. Part of what makes Hamill's Joker so great is that he clearly loves doing it. Speaking with IGN, Hamill said:
I played The Joker from 1992 to 2004, for the entire run of the series. I did everything, even the talking toys. They weren't going to hire me, they were going to get another guy and I got very protective of the character.
They said, 'Well, we can't pay you what you expect, we can only pay a scale.' I said, 'Look, I'd rather not let anyone else sleep in my sleeping bag.' I would do all those things for scale. I even did the voices on the Australian Batman rollercoaster ride, I'm totally into it.
Which made it all the more upsetting when he announced that it was likely that the work in Batman: Arkham City would be his last appearance as the Joker. But even aside from that performance, Hamill's had an impressive voice career.
He was Maxwell Smart in Mel Brooks and Buck Henry's spy-fi parody Get Smart. Armed with a very specific voice and delivery, Adams gave Smart a litany of catch phrases that are still instantly identifiable: "Sorry about that, Chief"; "Missed it by that much"; "That's the second biggest X I've ever seen"; "Would you believe. . ."; and so on. Adams also had a lengthy voice acting career, but most of us probably first encountered his voice as that of Inspector Gadget. Gadget had a lot in common with Smart, and having Adams voice Inspector Gadget definitely made him the clear successor.
Star Trek actors. Just, all the Star Trek actors.
Does the same rule that requires Star Trek actors to sing also apply to voice acting? Because, seriously, it might be easier to list the ones who haven't had second careers in voice acting. Maybe, like the two above, it was just easier than getting typecast. Whatever the reason, here, in alphabetical order, are the people from Star Trek whose voices you can be on the lookout for:
- Rene Auberjonois: From Odo to Archer
- Levar Burton: A) Begins the Star Trek/Gargoyles connection B) Captain Planet's Kwame.
- Jeffrey Coombs: He's about as ubiquitous in the various Transformers shows as he was on the Star Trek ones.
- John de Lancie: He's essentially playing Q as a My Little Pony villain
- Michael Dorn: A) Another Star Trek actor voicing Gargoyles characters. B) He voiced the mole rat from the future on Kim Possible.
- Jonathan Frakes: Gargoyles
- Bruce Greenwood: Makes on this list on a technicality, but voicing Batman really put him over the top.
- Kate Mulgrew: Gargoyles again
- Nichelle Nichols: Ditto.
- Leonard Nimoy: Sadly, makes this list through the Transformers movies.
- Dwight Schultz: Seriously, a lot. But obscure points for Eddie the Squirrell from CatDog.
- Armin Shimerman: Also many places, but most often as General Skarr in The Grim Adventures of Bill & Mandy.
- Marina Sirtis: Gargoyles strikes here, too.
- Brent Spiner: Amongst others, he's got Gargoyles as the Star Trek reunion show again.
- Patrick Stewart: CIA Agent Avery Bullock on American Dad
- George Takei: Amongst other things, Pound Puppies
Let's cut to the chase: Ferngully is amazing if you imagine that Curry's animated embodiment of the evils of pollution and logging is actually Rocky Horror's Frank-N-Furter. If you look at his credits, it quickly becomes clear that Curry's voice is all over your childhood. He won a Daytime Emmy for voicing Captain Hook in Fox's Peter Pan and the Pirates. He was Taurus Bulba in Darkwing Duck. Nigel Thornberry in The Wild Thornberrys. Professor Calamitous in Jimmy Neutron. And on and on. For extra genre brownie points, he was the latest voice of Senator/Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine in the animated Star Wars universe.
Image by Todd Spence
Guys, Felix Gaeta is the voice of L in the English dub of Death Note. Guys.
He was also Gambit in X-Men: Evolution, but I'm still stuck on Death Note.
Vincent Price made his name in horror films, but his voice made its way into the nightmares of children as the rodent analogue to Professor Moriarty, Professor Ratigan, in The Great Mouse Detective. Seriously, how horrifying is it when he feeds his minions to a cat he summons with a bell? He does have a great song, though.
He was the flying senator Nathan Petrelli in Heroes. (Although, if you want to be utterly terrified of him, seek out Profit.) Since then, Pasdar's voice has been all over the Marvel animated shows. He's been Hawkeye, Captain America, and Dr. Strange. Mostly, though, he's been Tony Stark.
Ron Perlman: the actor whose most recognizable roles render his actual face unrecognizable. In addition to being under tons of prosthetic makeup in Hellboy, Perlman joins Hamill as a Batman: The Animated Series alum. He voiced Clayface. He's also been Slade in the Teen Titans, Jax-Ur in Superman: The Animated Series, Sozin in Avatar: The Last Airbender, Orion in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, Killer Croc/Rumor/Bane in The Batman, Doctor Double X in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and Sinestro in Green Lantern: The Animated Series. That's a selection; just try to avoid this guy's voice.
He's only here because it's pretty astonishing that a dude who's on a series in its ninth season (Supernatural) also found the time to voice Red Hood in Batman: Under the Red Hood.
The man who played Khan in Star Trek could have gone in the Star Trek list above, but that seemed disrespectful somehow. He did voices for Freakazoid!, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, Dora the Explorer, and Kim Possible (which approaches Gargoyles-level employment of genre actors).
Voice-acting is where Adam West does a lot of his Adam Westing. In BOTH Batman: The Animated Series and Kim Possible, he played an actor famous for a superhero role. Of course, he also voices what is either a version of himself OR an unhinged character who happens to share his name on Family Guy.
Like the actors from Star Trek, a number of people we'd recognize from various Joss Whedon shows have had second careers as voices:
- Adam Baldwin: The Man They Call Jayne is also Breakdon on Transformers Prime
- David Boreanaz: Hal Jordan in Justice League: The New Frontier
- Eliza Dushku: She-Hulk in Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.
- Nathan Fillion: Also Hal Jordan.
- Seth Green: In addition to everything else he's done, he proved his "one of us" status with Robot Chicken
- Gina Torres: Also in Transformers Prime. And Superwoman in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths.
He does work for The Legend of Korra and a lot of other animated projects, but this is also a case of an actor completely owning every iteration of a role. He just is J. Jonah Jameson, now and forever. Live-action in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man? He was perfect. Doing the voice for all the Marvel cartoons? Also perfect. Spidey himself is a number of different actors, but Simmons as Jameson is, at this point, irreplaceable.
Back in the Nineties, Sallah from Indiana Jones did a lot of voice acting. However, one of the most interesting cases of double casting is that Rhys-Davies played Gimli and did the voice for Treebeard in the Lord of the Rings movies.
He already had a place in history for the titular role in the Frankenstein films, but he also did some voice work. Who are we kidding? There's one voice role that's a holiday essential: his pitch-perfect voicing of the narrator and the Grinch in the 1966 animated short of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Honorable Mentions: Actors Who Had Iconic Live-Action AND Animated Roles
There's this thing where child actors go into voice acting. Like, a lot of people easily recognizable from the Disney Channel, ABC Family, or the equivalent then went on do voices. Lacey Chabert. Ashley Tisdale. Christy Carlson Romano. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS.
The prize, though, would probably go to Will Friedle, who went from Boy Meets World to an extremely prolific voice-acting career. Most significant, probably, as Terry McGinnis in Batman Beyond and Ron Stoppable in Kim Possible. (Bonus points to his Boy Meets World co-star William "Mr. Feeny" Daniels for voicing KITT in Knight Rider).
Also impossible to ignore, despite not being strictly speaking "genre" actors:
- Mike Myers in Shrek. He'd already been Austin Powers and Wayne Campbell before that role.
- Tom Hanks and Tim Allen in Toy Story. Again, these were actors already in the public consciousness in a big way, but their performances in Toy Story will always be iconic.
- Ed Asner. There's a big generational split with this actor. Older audiences will probably always think first of Lou Grant from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. But younger audiences have been hearing his voice for years, and thenhe stamped onto their consciousness in a big way in Up.