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Ink-Suit Actor

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Princess Fiona and Cameron Diaz seem to have more in common than just being sound-alikes.

"I'm playing Killmaster. Type casting, y'know."
Lemmy Kilmister, Brütal Legend Celebrity Trailer

An actor whose animated counterpart is designed to resemble the actor themself. Actors playing themselves is an admittedly common occurrence, but one that makes less sense in animation.

Some of this began with traditional 2D animated movies; Disney's Aladdin gave top billing to Robin Williams note , in a very successful example, partly because he was enough of a character to be funny on his own. Movie makers noticed they could bank on an actor's star power even if viewers never saw the actor.

Later, it became common to give voice acting jobs to actors who didn't traditionally perform voice acting, just to get their names on movie posters. One simple example is for the actors to play themselves, with the assumption that the audience will recognize them anyway. This can be taken to extremes when the animated character is modified to look like the actor, even if that requires a bizarre caricature that makes no sense in the story. This has a strange effect: The character feels less genuine, as if the writers just "stole" the actor to make into a character.

The transition from 2D cel animation to computer animated "3D" films, both in the stylistic and literal sense, in both movies and computer games, has made accurately ink-suiting actors much easier, therefore introducing an element of "because we can" to the proceedings. It's also become common practice, especially in video games, for an ink suited actor to be showing going through the motions and "acting," while someone else (usually a name actor) provides the voice.

The advantage to this is it can assist the animator in getting the details and mannerisms to look correct, since it is even easier to reproduce the mannerisms of an actor in three dimensions than in (the already commonly done) two dimensions. Also, there is more "acting" in voice acting than most people think; it is almost impossible to voice act properly without making facial expressions and gestures in front of the microphone.

Note that actors essentially portraying themselves, as on The Simpsons, is not an example of this trope; that's basically an animated Special Guest. Note also that sometimes animated characters in live-action films are intentionally made to look like their actors so that the character can "become real" for a scene or two; two good examples are Gollum from The Lord of the Rings and Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean.

Elements of actors' mannerisms and personality are often worked into their characters; while filming A Bug's Life, for example, Pixar often filmed big-name voice actors and then added a few of their gestures to their characters. This trope is for more severe cases, where the creators basically just took their voice actor and made him a bug/robot/genie/whatever.

See also Serkis Folk, where a motion capture suit is used to model an actor's movements which is then overlaid with the CGI character, and its traditional animation counterpart Rotoscoping where film of an actor is taken and the animation drawn on top of it. Compare "No Celebrities Were Harmed", where the celebrity caricature is voiced by an impersonator, and Comic-Book Fantasy Casting, which includes the modelling of a cartoon or computer character on an actor who does not voice them. Frequently Lost in Translation in dubs, since the animated character looks the same, but the voice actor is different. Not to be confused with Animated Actor, where an animated character is implied to be an actor and the artifice of the work is acknowledged.


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  • The 2021 Marks & Spencer Christmas ad stars a Christmas fairy voiced by Dawn French, who looks exactly like Dawn French.

    Anime & Manga 

  • Raphael Rooms: Raphael Sanzio makes this trope Older Than Steam.
    • "The School of Athens".
      • Plato's appearance is derived from Leonardo da Vinci, whose wizened beard fit well with the wise aesthetic Raphael wanted Plato to have.
      • The grumpy-looking figure in the foreground with the boots is Michelangelo, representing an ancient philosopher who was seen as solitary.
    • The "Borgia Apartment" directly downstairs has the same gimmick, with Pope Alexander's daughter Lucrezia as St. Catherine, his son Cesare as St. Sebastian, and the pope himself kneeling and praying as Jesus flies out of his tomb).
    • It was Pope Julius II who first commissioned Raphael to paint the rooms— he chose the 3rd-floor apartment because he wanted to stomp on the spirit of his old, dead enemy Borgia downstairs. After he died, the project was continued by Pope Leo X (a Medici, the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent). Leo chose as a subject... the accomplishments of previous popes named Leo. On the pope's orders, Raphael depicted Pope Leo III with Leo X's appearance.

    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: A variant, in that the person he resembles isn't actually his actor; Wolffy's face, especially his droopy eyes, were deliberately made to look like the series creator Huang Weiming.

    Audio Drama 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who and other Doctor Who Expanded Universe audio dramas routinely model audio-original characters on real-life photos of their voice actors for the purposes of cover art, photoshopped into period or future costume and/or alien makeup as the story requires.

    Comic Books 

    Eastern Animation 
  • Winnie the Pooh in the Soviet adaptation bears a strong resemblance to his voice actor Yevgeniy Leonov. Blue-eyed thin-necked Piglet also has much resemblance to Iya Savvina (though more common version is that the character is an affectionate parody on famous Soviet poet Bella Akhmadullina).
  • Once Upon a Dog: Wolf's character was redrawn in already drawn scenes to better match the voice of Armen Dzhigarkhanyan, starting to look much like Dzhigarkhanyan.
  • In Mavka: The Forest Song, the Ukrainian folk music ensemble that plays at the village festival in the film is a Real Life one, DakhaBrakha. The likeness of each member was reproduced.
  • Hare from Nu, Pogodi! has large blue eyes and pretty feminine features, like Klara Rumyanova. Probably, the backgrounds of Ho Yay in these series were not so homosexual.

  • Frederic Dorr Steele, the American illustrator for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes famously modeled Holmes after actor William Gillette, famous for playing Sherlock Holmes on stage.

  • For the single "Professional Rapper" by Lil Dicky, him and his featured artist Snoop Dogg play animated, exaggerated versions of themselves.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Show:
    • Three Muppet folk singers who appeared in skits on talk shows and the first season were Foam Suit Actor versions of Jim Henson, Frank Oz and Jerry Nelson. In one talk show appearance, the puppeteers wore identical outfits for the interview afterwards.
    • In the first couple episodes, the human guest stars were presented with Muppet version of themselves for the closing good-bye. This practice was quickly dropped, possibly due to expense, possibly due to it being slightly creepy. However, a few more people got Muppet lookalikes, both on the Muppet Show and afterwards, most notably Michael Caine and Tim Curry.
  • Cantus the Minstrel in Fraggle Rock also looks like Jim Henson.
  • Stiller the Elf, voiced by Ben Stiller in Elmo's Christmas Countdown.
  • Subverted with Dave the Human in The Animal Show with Stinky and Jake, who's a perfect caricature of Dave Goelz, except Goelz plays Stinky, so Dave the Human is played by Bill Barretta. The "wildife film" inserts of Dave and his family have the real Dave Goelz, though.
  • An adaption of Peter and the Wolf with Fluck and Law puppets was narrated by Sting, with a puppet version appearing on screen.
  • To promote themselves and their collaborative show Thunderbolt Fantasy with nitro+, Pili International Multimedia made a puppet modeled after Takanori Nishikawa for a Japanese convention. Series screenwriter Gen Urobuchi loved the design and decided that he should be promoted to cast member in season 2, where Nishikawa now voices the minstrel Rou Fu You.
  • Online trailers and other video publicity for The Infinite Monkey Cage feature puppet versions of Robin Ince, Brian Cox and Eric Idle. The Cox and Ince puppets also appeared in a web series called The Quest for Wonder. Although the Cox puppet isn't always an example.
    Puppet Brian Cox: Am I not Brian?
    Puppet Robin Ince: No, you're not Brian. You're me doing the voice.
    Puppet Brian Cox: Oh, yeah...

    Web Animation 
  • gen:LOCK: A number of the characters appear to be physically modeled after their actors, most notably Cammie (Maisie Williams), Yasmin (Golshifteh Farahani), and Dr. Weller (David Tennant).
  • Red vs. Blue: Once Chairman Malcolm Hargrove got a face, he looked exactly like his voice actor Jack Lee.
  • RWBY: Yang was designed after her voice actress, Barbara Dunkelman, who uses her normal voice when speaking Yang's dialogue.
  • Camp Camp: Aside from the difference in hair color and skin tone, it's easy to see foul-mouthed and cranky Max as a child-sized version of Michael Jones, known for his foul mouth and Hair-Trigger Temper.

    Web Original 
  • There are several Doctor Who Expanded Universe webcast examples:
    • In the Doctor Who animated webcast Scream of the Shalka, Richard E. Grant voiced a now non-canonical ninth incarnation of the Doctor who looked almost exactly like him. In fact, all the major characters resembled their voice actors; the hope was that the webisode would get enough support to start up the TV show again with that cast, so making the characters look like the actors would make it possible to use the webisode as part of continuity for the new series. As it turns out, that plan fell over, as the renewal of the show had already been announced before it aired.
    • Similarly in the webcast Death Comes to Time. Apart from the Seventh Doctor and Ace (who obviously look like they did in the series), the Minister of Chance (voiced by Stephen Fry) looks like this.
    • In the webcast version of "Shada", all of the humanoid guest characters look like the actors who voiced them in the webcast rather than the actors who appeared in the unfinished live-action version. This was because some of the animation was done by rotoscoping to save money.
    • In the Bernice Summerfield webcast Dead and Buried, Bernice looks quite a bit like her voice actress, Lisa Bowerman. But then, she always did, long before Bowerman was cast.
  • The Bedfellows Animated Adaptation episode "Next Door" features a vaguely canid-looking Andrew W.K., complete with an allusion to his infamous "I Get Wet" album cover.
  • The BBC Radio 4 website has a trailer for the Audio Adaptation of Good Omens, featuring comic book panels of the Creator Cameo coppers Terry and Neil, looking very much like the writers.
  • The Radio 4 website's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978) page is illustrated by a cartoon of the main characters of the Hexagonal Phase. Arthur, Zaphod and Trillian look the same as they did in the TV series (played by the same actors), but Ford is based on his voice actor, Geoffrey McGivern, and not his TV actor, David Dixon. Random Dent, who never appeared on TV, is drawn to resemble Samantha Béart, and Left Brain (formerly Zaphod's second head, which on TV was an animatronic that looked as much like Mark Wing-Davey as the FX team could manage) is Mitch Benn's head in a jar.
  • Dimension 20: In Burrow's End, the art on Dr. Wenabocker's character profile shows he's identical to Carlos Luna, his voice actor.


Video Example(s):


A Barracuda's Fangs

Dwight Mendez, the boss of the Barracudas, favors the machete, a tool for making short work of jungle animals and nosy interlopers alike.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / MacheteMayhem

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