"I hate when people go on TV and tell you how hard it is to do animation … No, UPS is hard work. I’ve done some animation … It’s the easiest job in the world. I go in a booth and I go, ‘What’s the line?’ And the guy goes, ‘It’s time to go to the store.’ And I go, ‘It’s time to go to the store!’ … And then they give me a million dollars."
For some reason, celebrities do a lot of voice acting in big budget animated movies. Maybe the producers figure more people will see movies with "big-name stars" in them. Maybe John Q. Public just loves his celebrities. The fact celebrities can enjoy acting work without having to deal with costumes, script memorization and other elements of live action film is another factor (although motion capture
animation has many of those demands). Regardless, regular voice actors often get cast aside in favor of someone more famous when a big, important animated movie is made for public consumption.
Sometimes this results in the more Genre Savvy
of viewers not only becoming aware of just who's voicing the characters, but mentally referring to the characters by the actors' names - especially if it's been a while since they've last seen the movie.
As it turns out, professional voice actors are not exactly pleased that their jobs are being poached by actors from other disciplines (especially Billy West
and Tara Strong
), which makes sense, as it implies that the performing skills are interchangeable. While professional voice actors are capable of utilizing a wide vocal or acting range
to create a given character's personality, celebrities are usually cast for marketing purposes because audiences will recognise the popular actor
It's important to note that this is not always a recipe for disaster
. Some celebrities prove to be very talented at voice acting, and would likely be among the most prolific at the profession if they did it exclusively. Indeed, there are a fair number of performers who have managed strong careers in both fields and do not qualify for the pitfalls of this trope, although becoming equally famous in both is unusual. Some on-stage Hollywood actors - Mark Hamill
and Eden Riegel
, to name two - moved onto voice acting later in their careers.note
That said, Billy West's scorn has been justified in some cases where celebrity voice actors haven't delivered the goods, such as Cameron Diaz
's notoriously flat performance in Shrek
; or in cases where an actor is wildly miscast, such as Billy Bob Thornton in the dub of Princess Mononoke
. That's where the reason for this being a separate trope becomes apparent.
Often turn out to be examples of ink suit actors
. See also Pop-Star Composer
for the musical equivalent.
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- DreamWorks Animation is notorious for this trope. Name one DreamWorks movie that doesn't have celebrities voicing the characters. They also market these actors very heavily. If they get a particularly big name, he or she will be Billed Above The Title.
- As shown in the quote above, Chris Rock actually ruffled a few feathers with Professional Voice Actors when he joked during the Oscars that Celebrity Voice Acting is the easiest job in the world.
- Pixar doesn't do this as blatantly as DreamWorks, but Pixar is still very guilty of this trope. All of Pixar's films except one have a cast of familiar faces much better known for on-camera work, assuming they've done any animation at all (beyond Simpsons appearances). Their only lead actor to date with extensive voice acting experience is Ed Asner, and even he is no stranger to live action.
- Disney Animated Canon examples:
- Quite possibly the Ur Example of this trope was Pinocchio (1940), which cast popular musician Cliff "Ukelele Ike" Edwards as Jiminy Cricket. The character proved so popular that Edwards returned to voice him in the film Fun and Fancy Free (1947), as well as in the 1950s version of The Mickey Mouse Club.
- Two examples from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949): Basil Rathbone provided the narration for The Wind in the Willows segment, and Bing Crosby voiced all of the main male characters in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow segment.
- Alice in Wonderland (1951) cast radio personalities Jerry Colonna and Ed Wynn as the March Hare and the Mad Hatter, respectively.
- Lady and the Tramp (1955) cast singer and actress Peggy Lee as Darling, Si, Am, and Peg. Lee also co-wrote the film's songs.
- The 1967 feature The Jungle Book had voice work by jazz musicians Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, George Sanders, and Louis Prima. Harris did such a memorable job as Baloo the bear that he went on to voice Thomas O'Malley in The Aristocats and Little John in Robin Hood.
- Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor in The Rescuers (1977) and its sequel The Rescuers Down Under (1990). Gabor had previously voiced the female lead in The Aristocats as well.
- Mickey Rooney and Kurt Russell voiced the title characters in 1981's The Fox and the Hound.
- From their mid-to-late 1980s output, vocal turns by Vincent Price (in The Great Mouse Detective) and Billy Joel (in Oliver & Company) are particularly well-remembered — but their first real mega-hit with this trope was Robin Williams' role as the Genie in 1992's Aladdin, and they haven't really stopped since.
- 1994's The Lion King featured the voices of James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Robert Guillaume, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Matthew Broderick, Whoopi Goldberg, Nathan Lane, Rowan Atkinson, Moira Kelly, Cheech Marin, Madge Sinclair... it would be shorter to list who wasn't a big-name actor in the cast.
- Pocahontas had Mel Gibson, who was probably the biggest name that Disney had ever gotten to voice one of their characters (in 1995, mind you).
- 1996's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, with Demi Moore as the female lead and Kevin Kline as her love interest. Notable in that, at the time of her casting, Demi Moore became the highest paid voice actress in history, having earned $10 million for her voice work in the film.
- 1997's Hercules had Danny Devito and James Woods.
- The Emperor's New Groove featured David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt and Patrick Warburton. Goodman would go on to voice other animated characters, while by 2000 Warburton was already a voice actor in his own right.
- Michael J. Fox voiced the main character in 2001's Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
- Joaquin Phoenix in Brother Bear (2003).
- Roseanne Barr, Judi Dench, Jennifer Tilly, Cuba Gooding Jr, Randy Quaid and Steve Buscemi in 2004's Home on the Range.
- 2005's Chicken Little had Zach Braff, Joan Cusack, Don Knotts, and Patrick Stewart in a cameo.
- 2008's Bolt had John Travolta voicing the titular character, though he blended in so well that you really couldn't tell it was him. Miley Cyrus was also in the film.
- The Princess and the Frog (2009) featured Keith David, John Goodman, Oprah Winfrey, and Terrence Howard.
- Tangled (2010) had singer/songwriter Mandy Moore as Rapunzel and Zachary Levi as her love interest. Brad Garrett, Jeffrey Tambor, and Ron Perlman also provide voices.
- Mostly averted in the 2011 Winnie the Pooh film. Other than John Cleese as The Narrator and Craig Ferguson as Owl, nearly the entire cast consists of professional voice actors, in keeping with the approach of the company's previous Pooh productions.
- 2012's Wreck-It Ralph featured the voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch.
- 2013's Frozen has Kristen Bell and Glee's Jonathan Groff, but also features a number of Broadway stars, including Idina Menzel of Wicked, Josh Gad of The Book of Mormon, and Santino Fontana of Cinderella. So, non-traditional celebrity voice actors, but celebrity voice actors nonetheless.
- Disney also does this outside of the Canon, as shown with their English dubs of Hayao Miyazaki's films - which often cast Disney Channel Kid Com regulars for young protagonists, and Hollywood actors for adult roles - and the Kingdom Hearts series (though the latter also employs many regular voice actors as well, since there are Loads and Loads of Characters).
- Sheena Easton voiced the Groomer on Road Rovers, as well as Sasha from All Dogs Go to Heaven 2.
- In a rare TV example, Ringo Starr was the narrator of the original animated Thomas the Tank Engine. The American version included George Carlin, Alec Baldwin and Michael Bradon, with the feature-length special The Great Discovery having Pierce Brosnan as the narrator.
- The Critic and Duckman both were star vehicle toons, for Jon Lovitz and Jason Alexander, respectively.
- Speaking about doing the voice of Optimus Prime in the live-action Transformers movies, Peter Cullen remarked that it was great to be working with "the old crew" again (a couple of the voices for the live-action movie were done by the G1 voice actors), but pointedly made the comment that he "wished he could have worked with Frank Welker again." A subtle Take That over the fact that Megatron was voiced by Hugo Weaving for the live-action movies, given that Welker voiced Soundwave, Ravage, and Devastator in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (whom Optimus never meets, for different reasons). Nevertheless, Cullen got his wish granted.
- Dark of the Moon adds another example: Leonard Nimoy as Sentinel Prime.
- Brutal Legend: The voice actor cast reads like a "Who's who" of Heavy Metal musicians and movie actors.
- Doctor Who:
- Ron Perlman narrates every Fallout game. He does, however, have an extensive background in voice acting as well as screen acting.
- Coraline has Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, and Ian Mc Shane in the cast. However, they're barely featured on anything other than the behind-the-scenes featurettes. Also, though most people assumed that the casting of Hatcher was for promotional purposes (because the movie's target audience obviously consisted of Desperate Housewives fans), her acting was well received.
- This marked the second time Fanning hit this trope, the first being her playing the lead in Disney's dub of My Neighbor Totoro.
- David Warner as Hugo Artemis Solon Saturnicus Reginald Arthur Rune. Could also count as Most Wonderful Sound.
- Kiefer Sutherland and Elizabeth Berkley were Billed Above The Title in order to promote and sell Armitage III. This was during the early '90s, when anime's popularity hadn't quite taken off yet. Minor characters in the movie were voiced by professional voice actors though. They also brought in Juliette Lewis to voice Naomi in the sequel movie.
- Dom De Luise was a celebrity before getting into voice acting, being a favorite of Mel Brooks. However, unlike a lot of celebrities, he actually ended up sticking with voice acting for the rest of his life after his first voice acting role as Jeremy in The Secret of NIMH, alternating such roles with other live action fare.
- Lucy Stillman of the Assassin's Creed series is played by Kristen Bell. Likewise, Shaun Hastings is voiced by British comedian Danny Wallace.
- Gundam franchise enjoys using celebrities for voice actors, usually people who are already experienced voice actors. Most notably, Mark Hildreth as Heero Yuy in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, as well as Matt Hill, the world-saving athlete, as Kira Yamato in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED.
- Several characters in Gargoyles were voiced by the stars of Star Trek: The Next Generation, most notably Jonathan Frakes (Also an Ink-Suit Actor) as Xanatos and Marina Sirtis as Demona.
- He didn't appear often, but Brent Spiner turned in a very mischievous Puck (bizarre Puck is apparently more typical of Spiner's roles).
- Phil Hartman, of course, was this when he voiced Troy McClure, Lionel Hutz, and one-shot characters on The Simpsons. He's a bit of a subversion, though. Before his star rose with Saturday Night Live, Hartman already had some voice acting credits under his belt. He just kept it up after becoming famous.
- Yet he is considered by some to have run afoul of the downside of this trope with his role as Jiji in Disney's dub of Kiki's Delivery Service, which many fans of the original consider to be wildly miscast.
- Tom Wilson and Mary Steenburgen reprised their roles of Biff Tannen and Clara Clayton-Brown for Back to the Future: The Animated Series. Doc, however, was voiced by Dan Castellaneta. The Telltale games, however, feature Christopher Lloyd himself as Doc Brown (he also played the role in the cartoon's live-action segments, but he was dubbed by Castellaneta).
- Hugh Laurie, Mr. Little in the Stuart Little movies, was the only cast member who returned for the animated TV series (though the DVD animated movie does feature the voices of the live-action main cast, including Michael J. Fox).
- Samuel L. Jackson has done voice acting in Afro Samurai, The Boondocks, Grand Theft Auto, and The Incredibles. His larger-than-life persona helps. To his credit, these roles have helped him build a fair reputation as a voice actor.
- Former child star Andrew Lawrence was the voice of T.J. Detweiler in Recess (from season two onward). Eerily enough, at the time, T.J. looked just like him!
- Chester McBadbat from The Fairly OddParents was originally voiced by Malcolm in the Middle star Frankie Muniz during the first few seasons. He was eventually replaced with a professional voice actor in the later seasons.
- Mark Hamill has actually become more recognized for being a voice actor than he has for being Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. He moved onto voice acting in the first place because he was failing as an on-screen actor. He's earned particular recognition for his role as The Joker in various media.
- Early episodes of Captain Planet had such big names as Meg Ryan, Martin Sheen, Sting, and Jeff Goldblum in various villainous roles and Whoopi Goldberg as Gaia, although by the second and third seasons, these had been replaced by professional voice actors.
- Also of note is that Tom Cruise was attached to voice Captain Planet, but it didn't work out.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic's two-part Season 2 premiere guest-stars none other than John de Lancie of Star Trek fame as the premiere's villain Discord, who is essentially Q as a dragon... thing. Although to his credit, he already had plenty of voice acting experience on cartoon shows before starring as Discord.
- Friendship Is Magic played this straighter in 2014 when "Weird Al" Yankovic guest-starred as party-pony Cheese Sandwich. Yes, he sang.
- A notoriously bad live-action example was the English-language dub of Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio (2002), which used an All-Star Cast: Breckin Meyer as Pinocchio (whom Benigni plays onscreen), Glenn Close as the Blue Fairy, and in the supporting roles David Suchet, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Topher Grace, Queen Latifah, Cheech Marin, Eddie Griffin, Kevin James, James Belushi, and Regis Philbin. The quality of the performances varies wildly — it's fairly easy to tell who's had prior voiceover experience and who hasn't — and no one's work escapes the Hong Kong Dub.
- Rooster Teeth tends to avert this when it comes to Red vs. Blue, as the cast consists of members of the Rooster Teeth staff, or lesser-known voice actors such as Shannon McCormick (who anime fans might recognize as Koroudo Akabane). In fact, when this was played straight with the announcement that Elijah Wood was cast for the role of Sigma, the general reaction was quite a bit of surprise and praise.
- The Freakazoid! series finale, "Normadeus", is centered on celebrity carpenter Norm Abram, who voices himself. The voice acting in question is something to behold.
- By the time she made her voice acting debut in the 1980s Saturday Morning Cartoon version of The Little Rascals, Patty Maloney had established a recurring presence in primetime television, on the Donny & Marie variety show, The Love Boat, etc.
- On Saturday Supercade, Soupy Sales, the voice of Donkey Kong, was credited separately from the rest of the voice cast.
- The 2009 animated Wonder Woman movie has Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Virginia Madsen, and Vicki Lewis.
- Fairly common in Young Justice. The most prominent examples are Jesse Mc Cartney, Lacey Chabert and Alyson Stoner as Dick Grayson, Zatanna Zatara, and Barbara Gordon respectively - and even then it's downplayed as voice acting seems to be a secondary career for them. Other straighter examples would be George Eads as Barry Allen (Flash), Maggie Q as Wonder Woman, and Alan Tudyk as Green Arrow. And there are even more examples of this trope in that show.
- Subverted with Mae Whitman. Though Whitman does plenty of live action roles, she has made a second career as a voice actor appearing in shows like Johnny Bravo, Avatar: The Last Airbender and American Dragon Jake Long, as well as the Tinkerbell movies.
- Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, and Alan Tudyk come together once more in Halo 3: ODST. Yes, Bungie Studios is mostly staffed by Browncoats.
- Especially Beyonce, but the entire cast of Epic counts to varying degrees.
- Invoked in Call of the Dead with Sarah Michelle Gellar, Danny Trejo, Robert Englund and Michael Rooker fighting George Romero.
- Insofar as English dubs of anime go, you could consider the dub of IGPX Immortal Grand Prix to have a few of these. Haley Joel Osment and Michelle Rodriguez are the two leads, and Lance Henriksen is The Mentor. Peter Cullen (a professional voice actor who never does anime) is The Narrator.
- The Dead or Alive series has featured Dennis Rodman as Zack in Xtreme and Darren Criss as Jann Lee in Dimensions.
- Garfield and Friends had five of these, all but the first and last limited to the last couple seasons. Howard Morris was Wade Duck, Victoria Jackson was Penelope, stand-up comedian Kevin Meaney was Aloysius Pig, comedienne Imogene Coca was The Fairy Dogmother, and Lorenzo Music - up to that point better known as a TV producer and "on-screen" actor - was Garfield himself.
- Worth noting that Morris was a character actor who split his time between on-screen work and voice work, having acted in Hanna-Barbera cartoons for many years prior to Garfield.
- Jaleel "Urkel" White as the titular character in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Sat AM, and Sonic Underground.
- A lot of the promotion material surrounding the TV adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Truckers makes a big point of noting that Sir Michael Hordern is a member of the cast, even though his character only appears in 4 out of the 13 total episodes (and in the last of these, he wasn't even alive!).
English (Video Games)
- The Emperor Uriel Septim VII in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is voiced by Patrick Stewart... and also doubles as Dead Star Walking.
- And Martin is voiced by Sean Bean.
- Patrick Stewart also provided the voice for Professor Xavier in both of the X-Men Legends games and he wasn't the only notable name providing voice work.
- Back to Oblivion. The Dragon Mankar Camoran is voiced by Terence Stamp.
- Skyrim has quite the list of these. See the Trivia page for the full list. Notably, Esbern (the narrator of the trailer) is voiced by Max von Sydow. Unfortunately some of Esbern's lines were voiced by another actor who tried and failed to imitate von Sydow.
- Bethesda games in general have a tendency to hire prolific actors to voice generally small parts. Fallout 3 has the main character's father voiced by Liam Neeson, Dishonored had Michael Madsen and Susan Sarandon as Daud and Granny Rags.
- Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc had John Leguiziamo (best known for voicing Sid the Sloth) voice Rayman's dopey amphibian friend, Globox.
- Castlevania's reboot series Lords of Shadow and its sequels in English are all using this trope for English as opposed to the usual voice actors, so you'll be hearing the likes of Robert Carlyle, Patrick Stewart, Jason Isaacs, etc, all who were more known in their live-action roles. The Japanese version avert this, although they used majorly the Japanese Metal Gear series cast.
- Kiefer Sutherland as Sgt. Roebuck in Call of Duty: World at War.
- Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine had Mark Strong as the main character. He has said in an interview that he wouldn't mind doing more 40K stuff in the future.
- Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2 stick mostly with "regular" voice actors for most of their casts, but have a few celebrities in each. Seth Green, Lance Henriksen and Marina Sirtis qualify for the first game, and Green is joined by Claudia Black, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yvonne Strahovski, Tricia Helfer, Michael Hogan and Martin Sheen in the second.
- Kate Mulgrew and Tim Russ show up in Dragon Age: Origins. Mulgrew also has a part in Dragon Age II.
- The Legend of Spyro features Elijah Wood as the titular dragon, Gary Oldman as his mentor, Ignitus, and a rotating series of stars as his sidekick Sparx (David Spade, Billy West, and Wayne Brady). Of the three, West is the only one who has extensive voice acting experince.
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt features Charles Dance among its voice credits.
- This was the whole point of Call of the Dead With Sarah Michelle Gellar, Danny Trejo. Michael Rooker and Robert Englund fighting George Romero.
- Season Two of The Walking Dead has Michael Madsen as Bill Carver, villain of the first half of the season.
Japanese (Foreign dubs)
- In Kung Fu Panda's dub, Master Tigress is voiced by Yoshino Kimura, who played the Japanese wife in Blindness.
- In The Expendables, Maggie is voiced in Japanese by Chiaki Kuriyama, aka Gogo Yubari.
- The titular Lorax is voiced by Ken Shimura, one of the members of the comedian duo along Cha Kato who appeared in Kato-chan Ken-chan Gokigen TV, who was the inspiration for America's Funniest Home Videos in the U.S.
- Another comedian, Hiroiki Ariyoshi, dubs Ted.
- The Emperor Maltazard is voiced by no other than Gackt.
- The Japanese dub of Beavis And Butthead is an interesting case, since the titular duo is voiced by Ryo & Atsushi Tamuranote , both members of the Manzai duo London Booth No.1 No.2. Atsushi Tamura (Butt-head) is maybe the well-known member of the duo for Western viewers, since he voiced Yoichi Hiruma. He also voiced Bart Simpson in the theatrical version of the film.
- In the dub of World War Z, Karin Lane is voiced by singer Ryoko Shinohara, who many Western viewers can remember her as the singer of the famous theme Itoshisato Setsunasato Kokoro Zuyosa to from Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie.
- In the dub of Adventure Time, Lady Rainicorn is voiced by Korean-Japanese actress Bong Young-hi. This is justified, since in the original English version, she only speaks Korean. Ironically, the main protagonist, who is voiced in Japanese by another Korean-Japanese voice actress, cannot understand her.
- She also voiced Sun-Hwa Kwon, a native Korean, in the Japanese dub of LOST.
- Believe it or not, Hiroshi Fujioka (the original Kamen Rider) dubbed Bruce Lee in the dub of The Big Boss.
- Ken Watanabe (Ra's Al-Ghul) dubbed Col. Trautman in the dub of First Blood but only in the Japanese dub used in NTV. Other networks used different voice actors.
- Tatsuya Fujiwara (Light Yagami in the live-action films and Shuya Nanahara) voiced Kuzko in the dub of The Emperor's New Groove. He's replaced by Showtaro Morikubo in the dub of the TV series.
- In The Incredibles, the villain Syndrome is voiced by pro wrestling legend Nobuhiko Takada.
- In the dub of Prometheus. Ayame Gouriki (who played Shiori Genpo in the Black Butler live-action film) voices the heroine Elizabeth Shaw. She also voice Mystique in the dub of X-Men: Days of Future Past.
- In many of the dubs of the Aladdin films and also in Kingdom Hearts games, Akira Takarada, who played Hideo Ogata in the original 1957 Godzilla film, voiced Jaffar.
Japanese (Video Games)
Spanish (Mexico and Latin America)
- In the Mexican Spanish dub of Ojamajo Doremi, the titular heroine Doremi is voiced by the Mexican soap opera actress Vanessa Acosta, something unusual for an anime dub in Mexico.
- It was because Acosta also was into dub acting as well by the time she dubbed Doremi. Years before Ojamajo Doremi was on TV, she was the dub actress for Melissa Joan Hart in Clarissa Explains It All (she stayed until the final season of the series) and in the first season of Sabrina the Teenage Witch before dedicating completely to soap operas.
- In a similar case, Mexican singer Kalimba Marichal had a previous career as a voice actor when he was a kid: He voiced Simba as a cub in The Lion King's dub, Kitaro in the 90's version of GeGeGe no Kitaro, young Keiichi Morisato in Ah! My Goddess' OVAs and Masaru in AKIRA.
- Mexican comedian Eugenio Derbez has worked in many dubs in his career: He dubbed Jim Carrey in the Mexican Spanish dub of Yes-Man, Donkey in Shrek, Mushu in Mulan, Lucky in the two first Dr. Dolittle films, Johann Krauss in Hellboy 2 (this one as Playing Against Type) and dubbing himself, for obvious reasons, in the dub of Rob.
- The late actress Irma Lozano was the dub voice of Jeannie in I Dream of Jeannie and Carol Post in the Mister Ed Mexican dub.
- Demian Bichir not only is a well-known actor both in Mexico and in the U.S. but also well-known for doing voice acting in his native Mexico: He dubbed Aladdin, Prince Eric, Tulio and others
- The Tagalog dub of BECK had a band member named Jet Pangan voice one of the main characters.
- In the new Tagalog dub of Voltes V, Megumi is voiced by Sandara Park. Yes, the one you know today as Dara from the K Pop group 2NE1.
- The Tagalog dub of Bleach had the late actor Marky Cielo voice Ichigo.