Inspired by the ranking of Pixar films thread, who gave the best performance in one of those films?
Let’s limit it to main characters. Otherwise John Ratzenberger wins bny default.
The nominees in order of the film in which they appeared:
Tom Hanks- Woody in TS
Tim Allen- Buzz in TS
Dave Foley- Flik in Bugs
Julie-Louis Dreyfus- Atta in Bugs
Joan Cusack- Jessie in TS2
Billy Crystal- Mike in Monsters
John Goodman- Sully in Monsters
Albert Brooks- Marlin in Nemo
Ellen DeGeneres- Dory in Nemo
Alexander Gould- Nemo in Nemo
Willem Dafoe- Gill in Nemo
Craig T. Nelson- Mr. Incredible in Incredibles
Holly Hunter- Elastigirl in Incredibles
Sarah Vowell- Violet in Incredibles
Spencer Fox- Dash in Incredibles
Jason Lee- Buddy in Incredibles
Owen Wilson- Lightning McQueen in Cars
Bonnie Hunt- Sally in Cars
Larry the Cable Guy- Mater in Cars
Paul Newman- Doc in Cars
Patton Oswalt- Remi in Ratat.
Lou Romano- Linguini in Ratat.
Jeanine Garafolo- Collette in Ratat.
Ed Asner- Carl in Up
Jordan Nagai- Russell in Up
Bob Peterson- Dug in Up
Tom Hanks - Woody in Toy Story (Cite: “YOU. ARE. A. TOY!! You’re aren’t the real Buzz Lightyear! You’re- oh, you’re an action figure! You… are a child’s plaything!”)
Ellen DeGeneres - Dory in Nemo (Cite: “I remember it, I do! It’s there, I know it is, because when I look at you… I can feel it. And-and I look at you, and I… I’m home.”)
Ben Burtt - Wall-E, MO, and many others in Wall-E (cite: the whole damn movie)
Ed Asner - Carl in Up
Runners up (in no particular order):
Tim Allen - Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story
Elissa Knight - EVE in Wall-E
Patton Oswalt - Remy in Ratatouille
Jordan Nagai - Russell in Up
Bob Peterson - Dug in Up
John Goodman - Sully in Monsters
Albert Brooks - Marlin in Nemo
Overall, though, the vocal performances in Pixar movies are universally fabulous. Their habit of hiring voice actors based on their talent rather than name recognition (cough Dreamworks cough) has a lot to do with this.
I’ll vote Ellen too, except I haven’t seen all of the movies (missed Cars and Ratatouie). I really don’t remember much about Nemo except Ellen, so I assume she’s stood out the most for me of all the films!
Ellen’s a great choice. I’d say she’s just under Holly Hunter as my favorite vocal performance, with Brad Bird’s Edna very close as third. Heck, Jason Lee was pretty freakin’ awesome too. (Okay, The Incredibles is one of my favorite films ever.)
Holly just made Elastigirl / Helen such a vibrant, believable, capable, funny, down-to-earth, even sexy character. You buy her completely as content suburban mom and daring superhero. The scene in the jet as she tries to evade the missiles while protecting her kids is a tour-de-force.
Ellen was, well, Ellen, but as others have said, Dory was so touching and sweet and funny. She showed a lot more acting ability than I would’ve expected from Ellen.
I actually loved Tom Hanks in Toy Story…which is really saying something, because I can’t stand him in normal movies. I think he was perfectly cast for the role though, and honestly can’t imagine anyone doing better at it than he did.
I ranked him as number one in my list above because, when you think about it, his role in the first “Toy Story” is pretty astounding. He is written as a leader who leads more because of what he is than actual leadership ability (which isn’t to say that he’s a bad leader, just a flawed one), and once Buzz enters the picture he becomes downright petty and jealous.
In other words, in the hands of a lesser actor, Woody could very easily have been extremely unlikeable. After all, he spends a significant chunk of the movie whining about losing Andy, making snide comments about/ yelling insults at Buzz, and generally acting like a complete coward. It’s a testament to Hanks’s skill that Woody’s turnaround into heroism in the third act feels natural, and even moreso that he’s still a remarkably sympathetic character throughout the film. Think about how many movies you’ve seen where the main character’s “flaws” and “conflict” end up being so unappetizing that you end up rooting for the villain. “Toy Story” is a triumph of writing and acting because its protagonists are so well-realized as people that you understand every moment of Woody’s anguish over his displacement by Buzz.
Admittedly, it helps that Woody’s darker moments are almost always leavened by humor. The whole situation above leads to what is for my money the single funniest moment in the Pixar canon: Mr. Shark stealing Woody’s hat (“Hi, I’m Woody! HOWDY HOWDY HOWDY”). But that in itself is a testament to how good movies can be when the writing and the acting couple perfectly.
Fun fact: Woody was originally supposed to be far more abrasive - and downright malicious - than he ended up being, but the writers realized that this made him so unsympathetic that the movie didn’t work. It also helped when they changed him from a giant, creepy ventriloquist’s doll to the hand-sewn action figure we know and love.
I was thinking about that scene just last night (what with all the current Pixar threads.) The way the character keeps trying for a rational solution (explain the situation to the attackers) instead of going into superhero mode is very affecting.
Ellen and (Brad Bird) Edna Head were also wonderful.
And let me throw some love to Bob Peterson as Dug in Up. That might be my favorite animated dog ever, and the voice is a big part of it.
Tim Allen (a perfect Buzz)
Billy Crystal (always a pro)
Obviously it’s hard to separate the writing from the actor. Always is, whether animated or live action. And I can’t remember much about the Ratatouille characters, so I may be short changing them.
I can’t point to a single Pixar casting decision that I’d change. Tanbarkie has it exactly right - they choose the right actor instead of casting a “name”. If the right actor happens to be a name, fine. The name “Craig T. Nelson” doesn’t put millions of butts in seats on opening weekend, but he was wonderfully cast as Mr. Incredible. Their habit of using Pixar people is proof of that. They could have cast Dug or Edna, but the people who came up with the voices were just so perfect that there was never any need. I loathe Billy Crystal, and he was great as Mike - it’s the only place I’ve ever enjoyed his work.
God, yes. I have a major, major crush on Helen due to Holly Hunter’s voice and the way she scrunches her nose.
Pixar just doesn’t go wrong with voice casting, even when I can’t stand the voice. As much as I dislike Vowell’s voice (I’m sorry, she’s just too nasal for me), I have to admit she worked very well in the role.