Famous people as voices in animated films- why?

I never got the point on this- why do the creators of every single animated film feel the need to have every single character voiced by a famous actor? Granted, some actors also have really great voices, but mostly they don’t. What is the point of having Ray Romano voice the mammoth in Ice Age? Does his voice add anything, other than have the audience go “who is that, I know that voice…honey it’s Ray Romano!” Then what? Does anyone go to these films if they wouldn’t otherwise because they like the voice actor? “Hey I really have no interest in Ice Age 2, but I love Denis Leary, and I am dying to hear what he adds to the character of the sabre toothed tiger??” Why not use the hundreds of voice actors out there instead of whatever actor is hot at the time? Again, this does not include actors who truly have interesting voices.

The worst is Disney’s anime dubs. It’s seemingly more important to them to cast a name actor than an actor who’s appropriate for the role. In particular, Phil Hartman as Jiji in Kiki’s Delivery Service is completely wrong for the role and practically ruins the dub single-handedly. (Not to say name actors can never be good. Patrick Stewart, Alison Lohman, and Shia LaBeouf are all excellent in Disney’s Nausicaa dub.)

Sounds like somebody’s been reading a little Billy West on Slashdot. (Question 1).

Or maybe you ARE Billy West? :dubious:

Anyways - on the off chance you aren’t Billy West, and you haven’t seen that interview you’ll find it interesting.

Star power, baby.

It’s all about The Name to draw in people.

Actually I barely know who is Billy West is, and have never seen that article, and I also am not an out-of-work voice actor. :slight_smile: But I am glad to see that someone agrees with me, and can express the pointlessness of it beter than I did.

Well-known actors can do a lot of press to promote the film, by going on talk shows and such.

I certainly won’t go see an animated movie because someone’s voice is in it, but it might be a contributing factor if the movie already sounds interesting, such as Sarah Vowell’s voice in The Incredibles.

One of the reasons I like Pixar is that they seem to choose their voice actors based on what works best for the character rather than how hot the actor is at the moment. That said, I don’t really believe that Owen Wilson was the best choice for Cars, but he was okay.

Marketing. Never underestimate the value of name recognition.

Although there were fairly well-known celebrities who were featured as voice characters in earlier Disney animated films (Cliff Edwards, Bobby Driscoll, Peggy Lee, Rod Taylor), I think the most distinctive example through the mid-60s was in Alice in Wonderland, where the animated portrayal of the Mad Hatter & March Hare very obviously resembled the physical features of Ed Wynn & Jerry Colonna, who did their voices (and the most famous of the voice cast).

But I think the real turning point was Disney’s Jungle Book. In it, you had a TV star (Sebastian Cabot’s Family Affair was on at the time), a music legend (the very distinctive Louis Prima), and an Oscar-winner (George Sanders). Phil Harris was a big radio personality, so I won’t count him.

Since then, more and more of the voice casts were recognizable personalities: the 70s with Robin Hood and The Rescuers, the 80s with The Fox and the Hound and Oliver & Co..

The Disney “Renaissance” started really modestly, with only Buddy Hackett providing stunt casting in The Little Mermaid. But with Robin Williams in Aladdin, it exploded. He was a main selling point of the film, and the potential of marketing names was incredibly clear. Soon after, stars with undistinctive voices (Matthew Broderick, Minnie Driver, Demi Moore) were assuming lead roles.

Naturally, non-Disney films followed suit. Does Cameron Diaz contribute anything significant to the Shrek films other than her marquee value? Instead of Ewan McGregor and Halle Berry in Robots, couldn’t it have been, well, anyone? Ditto J.Lo & Sharon Stone in Antz? Even if they’re not the best choice, some stars sound familiar enough that it creates a comfort level, recognition-wise, plus they can make appearances on Late Night publicity tours, etc.

Pixar has been better than most, but even they fall victim to the temptation–how else to explain the gratuitous (and rather pointless) inclusion of Geoffrey Rush in Finding Nemo or Bonnie Hunt in Monsters Inc.?

Of course, the public’s not dumb. Sinbad was a flop despite having Brad Pitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Catherine Zeta-Jones as its principles. Ditto Titan A.E. (Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore). Still, it’s a trend that I suspect is here to stay (w/TV the more obvious career path for voice personalities looking for steadier work).

That’s like asking why cast famous actors in any movie?

Dunno about Rush, but with Bonnie Hunt, it could be because she’s worked with Pixar before (A Bug’s Life), and they liked working with her enough to call her back as a regular – note that she’s also in Pixar’s Cars, in a starring role.

I’ll just add my vote with the folks who don’t care if the voice is a celebrity or not, as long as it’s appropriate for the character. That said, I do get very wary when the trailers/advertisements for an animated program tout the celebrity voices to excess – IME, that’s a warning sign that the movie really stinks, and the folks in marketing are hoping that the star power will mask the smell (I’m looking at you, Dreamworks!).

“Big Name” actors and actresses will now accept the roles, and the cost to hire them is recouperated at the box office. And it’s not like they do a bad job.
Voice work for animated movies is pretty light work: no makeup, no costumes, no waiting for lighting fixes, no location shoots, no ADR, etc.
I’d say Pixar is getting about right so far, Dreamworks has been gratuitous from the beginning, but that doesn’t make it bad. Blue Sky pretty much had to do it, but the posters for Hoodwinked were just stoopid.

I agree.

This sums up about 90% of studio thinking.

The other 10% of studio thought is summed up in saying: Who the hell cares what you think? You’re buying it, aren’t you?

Originally Posted by rjung
I’ll just add my vote with the folks who don’t care if the voice is a celebrity or not, as long as it’s appropriate for the character. That said, I do get very wary when the trailers/advertisements for an animated program tout the celebrity voices to excess – IME, that’s a warning sign that the movie really stinks, and the folks in marketing are hoping that the star power will mask the smell (I’m looking at you, Dreamworks!).
I agree also.

I thought Ray Romano was good for Manfred in Ice Age. But I have not seen the second one yet.

I realy liked the casting of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen for Toy Story. I think it would have been a different movie without them.

By the way, did anyone else think ‘Antz’ was not really a kid’s movie. Not the violence but the adult themes- Z/Woody Allen makes a whole lot of psychiatrist jokes and other adult jokes.

And even then, they never made a big deal of his role. Moreover, while Hackett was certainly well known, he was by no means an A-list (or even B-list) celebrity at the time. More like a well-respected veteran than anything else.

I wouldn’t say that those examples amount to stunt casting. While Geoffrey Rush and Bonnie Hunt are both respectable celebrities, I wouldn’t expect either one to be a big draw. In fact, Pixar has always been fairly low-key about the celebrities that they cast in their movies.

I heartily agree. If a trailer spends more time on the voice actors than on the plot, I run the other direction, fast.

That’s why I see few animated movies that aren’t Pixar.

There is one point to casting recognizable voices in animated films that I don’t mind, and that’s cameos. The Magliozzi brothers in Cars was fine, because those characters don’t drive the plot, and can really only contribute as cameos. Owen Wilson as the lead in the same movie was silly- I spent half the movie wondering why he was doing the voice. He wasn’t bad, but his voice wasn’t all that exciting either.

I like West’s work but I’m getting some serious sour grape vibes from him. Katey Sagal might have done some voice acting work in an episode of Duckman and Recess before starting Futurama but she’s mainly known for her role as Peg Bundy from Married With Children. Does that make her enough of a “voice actor” for Billy West? She doesn’t use any other voice then her own but she did a pretty good job. Sylvester Stallone did a great job in Antz, Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, and Samuel Jackson were great in The Incredibles, and Batman the Animated series had people like Adrienne Barbeau, Kate Mulgrew, and so far as I know Kevin Conroy wasn’t much of a voice actor until he started the series.
So why are famous people cast for voices in animated work? Sometimes they do a good job.


Actually one of the things I liked about Cars is that I didn’t recognize anyone except Tony Shaloub. I knew Paul Newman was in it - and I could pick him out with no problem, but I don’t know his voice well enough to have been constantly reminded “that’s Paul Newman.” Didn’t place Bonnie Hunt or Owen Wilson at all. (I did figure out the Car Talk guys must be the Car Talk guys - but based on context)

Other than that - because they think it will be a good casting choice. Robin Williams was great as the Genie. (Dan Castellaneta, who is a great voice actor, doesn’t come close in the sequels). I wouldn’t have thought of Ellen DeGeneris as a voice actor at all - until she was Dory.

Antonio Banderas was brilliant in Shrek 2. I thought it was a stretch to have him do a voice, but it worked very well.

If I had my druthers, Harry Shearer and Hank Azaria would be doing waaaay too much work. They are truly masters.

Owen Wilson, DeNiro, and other A list actors are frequently bad choices for animation, but they draw.

I choose to dwell on the well-cast somewhat unknown actors that the studios pick. Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Alli G) was a brilliant choice for the lemur king in Madagascar. I hear he’s also in Talladega nights as the “foreign” driver. I can’t wait.

That said, Wallace Shawn (think “inconceivable” from The Princess Bride) doesn’t get nearly enough work.

Billy West is amongst the masters as well. Most people, myself included, didn’t recognize the similarities between Stimpy and Fry. Both West.

I’d love to be a voice actor. My friends always tell me I should do it. I can do most of the male voices from the Simpson (except Homer and Bart) to a tee. I take that back, my Homer is passable. My Moe, Wiggum, Frink, Burns, Apu and Barney are pretty good though. Thanks Hank!

Harry Shearer is a God amongst men though. He has a show on NPR Le Show that is brilliant. He’s a funny, smart guy.

What were we talking about?

By the same token, some experienced actors have voices that add to the film.

In Transformers: The Motion Picture, Orson Welles made an amazing Unicron.

And Robert Stack’s voice added to Ultra Magnus.

BTW–I think the “big star voice in animation” really dates back to the guest shots on The Simpson’s.