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He Really Can Act / Western Animation

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  • When Teri Hatcher is cast as the Other Mother in Coraline, let's just say that most people didn't expect her to pull it off that well.
  • Doc Hammer of The Venture Bros. had this reaction to himself. In the DVD Commentary to The Invisible Hand Of Fate, he says that normally he and Jackson Publick are reading the lines for their many side characters, they're just reading the lines in a funny voice without even trying to act. In that particular episode, Doc discovered his acting chops, pointing out the scene where Billy Quizboy angrily confronts the people manipulating him.
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  • Even though it was just voice-acting, Andy Dick (in)famously known for his shock-value comedy, gave a truly tragic performance as Nuka in his last moments in The Lion King II. He was also very good in the English dub of Castle in the Sky. Maybe he should stick to voice overs.
  • Ellen DeGeneres's "I look at you, and I'm home" speech in Finding Nemo. The DVD commentary said that the take they used was her second one—by the end of recording the first one, she was crying so much because she thought she had ruined the line, and she had to take a break. By the second try, she was still distraught over the first take. An example of accidental method acting.
  • It seems odd to say this considering she's an Oscar-winning actress, but Julia Roberts does a fantastic job voicing the titular character of Charlotte's Web. Listen to her voice in her final scene — it legitimately sounds like she's at death's door.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Andrea Libman has always been known for playing kiddie roles that doesn't exactly require too much acting. But her performance as Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy was great. The final two episodes of Season 1, "Party of One" and "The Best Night Ever", had the characters she voiced crack under pressure and it was outright unnerving.
    • This also applies for some of the other voice actresses on the show. As CR put it, their performances in the previous My Little Pony shows were probably only lackluster because they weren't given anything interesting to say.
    • Kazumi Evans is best known in the show as the Non-Singing Voice for Rarity and Princess Luna, and she had her first in-series speaking roles as the deliciously evil Adagio Dazzle and the cultured-to-a-fault Octavia Melody in Rainbow Rocks. But her heartwrenching outburst and emotional breakdown as Moondancer in Season 5's "Amending Fences" prove her talents go well beyond her incredible set of pipes.
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    • While Kathleen Barr does a great Large Ham as Trixie and Chrysalis, the deeper characterization afforded to Trixie as a recurring character starting in "No Second Prances" allowed her to showcase a greater range as the character.
    • William Shatner proves he can do a fine performance not just in his live action appearances, but as a voice actor as well when "The Perfect Pear" aired in Season 7. Many viewers who were expecting a cop-out or parody from Shatner as he is infamous for doing in his later years were blown away by his complex performance as Grand Pear, Applejack's estranged grandfather and a damn near tragic character at that, showing a great deal of respect for the source material.
  • Judith Barsi's role as Anne-Marie in All Dogs Go to Heaven. This was her final role before her tragic death, and she really gives it her all during some of the more emotional moments, specifically the very end of the film.
  • Nathan Lane's sinister turn as Preed from Titan A.E. may come as a surprise to people who know him as Timon from The Lion King.
  • Richard Steven Horvitz played against type in the Static Shock episode "Jimmy", and it's one of the few times he's shown to have been subtle in a voice role.
  • Tom Kenny has generally played a lot of comedic roles, such as Spongebob, The Mayor of Townsville, Dog, etc. It comes off as a shock when he plays Doctor Octopus, who is a legitimately creepy and threatening character, as well as managing to make you feel a bit of pity for him in a hall of mirrors when he laments "I was handsome once." in "Me Time", as well as the fact that he's about to be fired if he doesn't get Spider-Man.
    • He also does a great job as the Anti-Monitor.
    • Don't forget his role as the Ice King, initially a comedic and relatively harmless villain... until we're shown his backstory and you're hit by just how emotional he can get...
    • In fact, one of his first roles, Shakes the Clown saw him in a legitimately intimidating turn as Binky.
    • When he plays Mr. Jelly Bean in Rick and Morty, he once again proves his chops. With just a few lines he nails the role of a creepy pedophile rapist chillingly well.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Pretty much all the main cast members have fantastic emotional moments, especially considering most of them actually were kids or teens at the time of their casting. Zachary Taylor Eisen (Aang) in particular stands out for this.
    • Dante Basco, who's best known outside of Avatar for his role as Rufio in Hook, mostly just gets to be angry for the first season, but later on gives some absolutely brilliant performances as Zuko, perhaps his crowning moment being his reunion with Uncle Iroh in Sozin's Comet. The way is voice breaks as he tells him how very sorry he is just breaks your heart. Plus, in Season 3 we get to see more of his sweet, awkward, vulnerable side, which is always nice.
    • Grey Delisle has proved herself multiple times as a fantastic voice actress, but her performance as Azula in the last few episodes of the series shows off skills of a different kind. Her anguished wails of madness when Katara captures her make for one of the most heartbreaking and disturbing moments in the show despite her status as a villain.
    • Mae Whitman has always been excellent as Katara, but she really pulls out the emotional stops in Awakening.
  • In The Legend of Korra, there's Seychelle Gabriel as Asami. Originally she played Princess Yue in the panned adaptation of the original series. Then she got cast in the series and started off as The Scrappy before proceeding to win fans over to her through a combination of the writing and her often heartbreaking performance, making her one of the more sympathetic (and popular) characters in the series. Her final confrontation at the end of Book One with her father in particular, stands out.
    • From the same show, before being cast as Korra, Janet Varney was mostly known for her work on various comedic projects (such as Rifftrax). After being cast, however, viewers got to see what she could do when given dramatic substance (in particular many critics have praised her acting in Book 4 for her realistic, and heartbreaking performance of Korra suffering from PTSD).
    • Steve Blum has never been regarded as a bad actor per say, but was extremely pigeonholed as the go-to, over-the-top badass kind of character. In this series, he's terrifying as Amon as well as very charismatic (while still being badass to boot), commanding the screen in every scene he was in, and both he and Dee Bradley Baker had one of the most heartbreaking moments of the entire season at the end.
    • J. K. Simmons, typically the Largest of Large Hams, gives a subtler and extremely well-done performance as Tenzin.
    • Zelda Williams certainly has a lot to live up to, her dad being who he is and all. She proves well up to the task with her performance as Kuvira, giving the role plenty of both commanding gravitas and humanity.
  • Jeremy Shada, the voice of Finn from Adventure Time has already proven himself to be quite the capable actor, considering his age. But his performance in "Finn the Human" is even better. When Finn was under control of the Ice King's crown, his performance was disturbing.
  • Bill Farmer as Goofy. He's usually a clumsy, happy-go-lucky guy, but come A Goofy Movie and its sequel, Goofy shows a wide range of emotions, adding authenticity to the heartbreaking moment when Goofy finds out Max changed the map.
  • Jim Cummings as Tigger in The Tigger Movie. Tigger is usually a bouncy, dim-witted nut, but when he's sad, it's sad for the viewers too. His original actor, Paul Winchell, had some well played emotional moments as well (particularly in The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh episodes such as "Stripes").
  • Walt Disney himself demonstrated his capacity to make mature animation with "Education for Death", a powerful and moving propaganda piece which tells how the Nazi war machine trains its expendable youth for the battlefield with, admittedly, a bit of exaggeration, but absolutely zero irony (apart, of course, from the fact that Adolf Hitler himself is the cartoon's only source of comedy). It's also the absolute most serious Disney animated short subject ever to be made.
  • Mary Kay Bergman has had a long history of roles up until her death, comedic and serious. Many of her South Park voices were funny, but her role as Sheila in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut...never had such a silly-sounding character sounded threatening.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars is full of fantastic performances, ranging from veteran voice actors to vocal newcomers alike:
    • Matt Lanter's performance as Anakin Skywalker is very popular thanks to his portrayal of Anakin as a more likable and heroic character while also showing moments that foreshadow the Chosen One's fall to the Dark Side.
    • James Arnold Taylor did a brilliant job with his performance as Obi-Wan Kenobi, portraying the wise and sometimes snarky Jedi Master with his own characterization that feels unique yet faithful to the other actors that portrayed Kenobi before him.
      • Taylor also displayed a versatile vocal range with other characters such as Plo Koon, Osi Sobeck, and Rako Hardeen (both the real Rako and when Obi-Wan disguises as Rako).
    • Ashley Eckstein's performance as Ahsoka Tano is very well received by many thanks to her portrayal of Ahsoka's growth from a snippy Padawan to the fan favorite she's known for today. Her performance at the end of Season Five when Ahsoka leaves the Jedi Order is almost guaranteed to make you shed a tear.
    • Dee Bradley Baker's performances as all of the Clone Troopers was incredible, especially since he was able to differentiate each of them with just slight variations in his voice. A good example of this is the Umbara arc, where Baker did most of the voice work for four episodes.
    • Corey Burton did a wonderful job as Count Dooku, showcasing the menacing Sith Lord in his own light. Even Christopher Lee gave his own approval when he heard Burton's performance.
    • Liam Neeson retains every bit of Qui-Gon Jinn that made his performance as the calm Jedi Master back in The Phantom Menace well-regarded and makes every second of Qui-Gon's cameos in the installment count.
    • Sam Witwer wowed many with his haunting performance as the Son in the Mortis arc. He took it even further with his awesome performance as Darth Maul and made Maul's return one of the highlights of The Clone Wars.
  • The LEGO Movie: Alison Brie as Uni-Kitty. Special mention goes to the scene where Uni-Kitty is crying over Cloud Cuckooland's destruction.
  • Ryan Potter's performance in Big Hero 6 counts as this. He had previously been best known for working on the Nickelodeon show Supah Ninjas, and many people went into Big Hero 6 not expecting much out of him. He proved everyone wrong, especially in any moment involving Hiro grieving over Tadashi, and when Baymax makes his Heroic Sacrifice. A shame that the 2015 Kids Choice Award nominees (announced a few months after the film's release) didn't have the "Favorite Voice in an Animated Movie" category this time aroundnote , and BH6 didn't get a single Annie nomination in the voice-acting category; Ryan would have won both by a landslide.
    Hiro: TADASHI'S GONE! (breaks down crying) Tadashi's... gone...
  • You wouldn't think that Diedrich Bader would be any good at serious deadpan roles after The Drew Carey Show and Office Space. But his performance as Batman on Batman: The Brave and the Bold showed us all!
  • Amy Poehler's performance as Joy from Inside Out is mostly just her being...well, Amy Poehler. But then we get to Joy breaking down at the bottom of the Memory Dump, holding forgotten memories. You will believe that Amy Poehler can make you cry.
    • The normally comedic Richard Kind as Bing Bong. Even Kind himself was tearing up during his character's Heroic Sacrifice.
      Take her to the moon for me, will you?
  • Steven Universe:
    • Deedee Magno-Hall is always heartbreaking as Pearl, and gets some of the best moments in the show because of it. We truly first got a look at this in "Rose's Scabbard", where she talks to Steven about her feelings for Rose.
      Pearl: Everything I ever did, I did for her. Now she's gone, but I'm still here. Sometimes, I wonder if she can see me through your eyes. What would she think of me now?
      • The climax of "Sworn To the Sword" will tug at your heartstrings when she's so lost in her argument with Steven it's clear she's no longer talking about his relationship to Connie.
        Pearl: NO! In a real battle, Steven won't be there to save you.
        Steven: Yes, I will!
        Pearl: Steven, you don't know that!
        Steven: Yes, I do! If Connie is going to fight, we're going to fight together!
        Connie: That's right!
        Pearl: You shouldn't be anywhere near the fight! You're too important!
        Steven: I'm not!
        Pearl: Yes, you are!
        Steven: No!
      • Let's not forget "Mr Greg", where she sings an utterly stunning Tear Jerker of a love ballad, "It's Over, Isn't it?" Particularly the final high note of "And she loved you, and she's gone", something improvised by her actress in the recording studio.
    • Jennifer Paz is consistently haunting as Lapis Lazuli, from her melancholic scenes after she's released from her mirror, to her wrath when either trapped as Malachite or admitting how she took out her hatred on Jasper in "Alone At Sea".
    • That Kimberly Brooks can do a gravelly-voiced brute (this is the same lady who voiced Buena Girl and currently voices the main character's mom in Doc McStuffins) is impressive already, but Jasper's Villainous Breakdown accelerating her corruption in "Earthlings" is intense.
    • Matthew Moy really outdid himself when voicing Steven inside Lars's body. After that, there's also his confession of his self-loathing to Steven, when they're both being taken to Homeworld.
    • Zach Callison, the voice of Steven himself can have some incredible moments of pathos. His debate with Bismuth over the ethics of shattering, his obvious concern trying to heal Jasper in the moment mentioned above in her own entry, and his emotional breakdown with Connie, confessing how guilty he feels over not being able to save the above two and Eyeball Ruby, despite his best attempts to solve the conflicts peacefully. But, what really gives him kudos was in the episode "Change Your Mind" where after White Diamond rips his Gem out of him, said Gem becomes a Pink copy of Steven. Zach voices both him and regular Steven and you can really hear how much in pain regular Steven when he is trying to return to Pink Steven due to him slowly dying. But, that's nothing to the sheer power in his voice where after White asks where Steven's mother Pink Diamond is, Pink Steven replies: "She's GOOOOOOOOOONE!" with a voice so powerful that it breaks the floor underneath him.
  • Nobody's denying that Mel Blanc is as prolific a voice actor as they come, but there are times where he comes off as just going through the motions. Then, once in a while, he'll have a moment that shows he's a damn fine actor. Notable examples:
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show: How can you go wrong when the two leads are voiced by John Kricfalusi and Billy West? (And eventually just West?) While Kricfalusi isn't s well-known for his voice acting, he turns in a few genuinely terrifying performances as Ren, usually when he freaks out (see his threatening Stimpy and Sven in "Sven Hoek" and his almost Shakespearean monologue when he contemplates killing Stimpy in "Stimpy's Fan Club.") West also gets in a few great performances, particularly the insane yak in "The Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen." West never wanted to work with Kricfalusi again after the original Spumco episodes, but boy, did it work.
  • An In-Universe example occurs on The Simpsons with Troy McClure. He's portrayed as a washed up has-been whose Glory Days consisted of a lot of forgettable roles, and became radioactive in Hollywood when word got out about his fondness for fish. However, when he gets the lead role in a genuinely good production, Troy's excellent performance gives him a brief Career Resurrection.
  • Zootopia:
    • Ginnifer Goodwin delivers a pretty emotional performance as Judy Hopps later on in the film. Check the scene where she tearfully asks Nick to help her again for a quick and powerful example.
    • Kath Soucie's performance as Young Nick makes his backstory even more tragic.
  • Prior to his being cast as Joker in Batman: The Animated Series, Mark Hamill was best known for the heroic Luke Skywalker from Star Wars, and many people had doubts that he'd be able to do justice to such a villainous character. Today, if you ask any stranger on the street to point to a definitive version of The Joker, they'll either cite Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning performance from The Dark Knight, or Hamill. And some will choose the latter over the former.
  • Say what you will about Superfriends, but it did Grow the Beard during The Super Powers Team era and one of the reasons is the episode "The Fear", where Adam West gives one of his best performances in his most famous role as Batman is triggered by Scarecrow going to Crime Alley into reliving the night his parents died, and his feelings and fears about it.
  • Art Parkinson's most famous role is Rickon Stark in Game of Thrones, where he was infamously given almost nothing to do across the four seasons he appeared in. This caused some fans to wonder if this meant the crew was disappointed in his acting skills, but his performance in Kubo and the Two Strings definitely shows he has real chops.
    • Rooney Mara's sinister turn in the same film also qualifies. Even people who don't like the film find her performance intimidating.
  • The great thing about South Park is that even when the plots are goofy, Trey Parker and Matt Stone have the characters play it dead serious. So, the more serious the parallel is, the better the performances. See Stan confronting Kyle's evasive behavior when Indiana Jones is raped in "The China Probrem" or Cartman's Freak Out when the boys are about to destroy his gadgets (as if he's getting murdered) in "Skank Hunt."
  • The Powerpuff Girls
  • BoJack Horseman has Will Arnett, mostly a goofy comic actor, showing a serious amount of cred as the washed up 90s actor BoJack. Special mention to his plea to Diane to tell him he's still worth something, or his breakup with Wanda (also a SRCA moment for Lisa Kudrow).
    • Season 3 had Kristen Schaal show her acting chops as Sarah-Lynn, a Former Child Star with Hidden Depths, in the penultimate episode "That's Too Much, Man".
    • In Season 4, BoJack's mother Beatrice has more of her backstory explored, allowing Wendie Malick to show off her skills in a dramatic role. She gives a heartbreaking performance as Beatrice, both as a little girl dealing with an uncaring father and lobotomized mother and as an old woman losing her mind to dementia.
  • In the Rick and Morty episode, Lawnmower Dog, Rob Paulsen voices Snuffles/Snowball. His performance of the character is most definitely noteworthy and Tear jerking during the final act, where he's manipulated by Rick into being forced to choose between Morty's life or his kingdom.
    Accountant: Do you think they would've done any of this for us?
    Snowball: We are not them! (Beat) We are not them.
  • DuckTales (2017):
    • For Donald and for Tony Anselmo's mastery of the voice. Donald has never shown a greater emotional range than he has here, when Donald's previous characterization was largely just the angry guy.
    • Keith Ferguson is clearly having fun voicing Flintheart Glomgold, and gives him just the right amount of jerkishness that makes him a villain we Love to Hate. He also manages to do a flawless impersonation of the Darkwing Duck villain Megavolt sounding exactly like how Dan Castellenata voiced him in the original series.
    • Catherine Tate, best known for her comic roles and her heart-breaking role as Donna from Doctor Who, is surprisingly chilling as Magica De Spell.
    • The Beagle Boys in the original series were voiced by individual voice actors like Frank Welker, Peter Cullen, Will Ryan, and Chuck McCann, among others. Here, they're all voiced by one voice actor, Eric Bauza, and he manages to give each Beagle their own identity and voice.
    • Kimiko Glenn and Kate Micucci really make Lena and Webby stand out in the horror-oriented "The Other Bin of Scrooge McDuck!", conveying the fear and grief of their characters during the Nightmare Sequence in a chillingly convincing way.
  • Sarah Silverman may not have been the most family-friendly performer with a Disney film (Wreck-It Ralph) on her resume, but the way her character Vanellope cries out when Ralph destroys the car they had built will break your heart.

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