HOLLYWOOD 10 Best Animated Characters Voiced By Hollywood Stars

10 Best Animated Characters Voiced By Hollywood Stars

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Summary

  • Alec Baldwin’s performance as the Boss Baby is crucial to the film’s success and humor, showcasing his talent as a comedic actor.
  • Steve Carell’s unique performance as Gru in
    Despicable Me
    adds heart and humor to the character, making him instantly recognizable and beloved.
  • Robin Williams’ iconic portrayal of the Genie in
    Aladdin
    is a shining example of a Hollywood star elevating an animated film with his chaotic energy, comedic timing, and improvisation.

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It has become common practice for American animated films to hire celebrities to voice their characters, and while this choice can sometimes be frustrating, it has also led to some incredible voice performances by Hollywood stars. Voice acting and film acting are two different skills, and just because someone has a compelling screen presence does not mean their voice will fit into an animated family film. It has to be the right actor with the right character to justify not hiring a talented voice-over artist.

A studio will often hire a big name to give a film more publicity and attract older audiences, but this can lead to an awkward performance. Still, projects like 2023’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie and 2019’s The Lion King attempt to capitalize on having an all-star cast. In some instances, this approach results in an ensemble that’s ill-equipped to emote using only their voices. However, in other cases, an actor’s comedic or dramatic persona perfectly translates into the world of animation, making it hard to imagine any other voice coming from the character.

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10 Alec Baldwin As The Boss Baby

Boss Baby

Boss Baby

Release Date
March 31, 2017

Director
Tom McGrath

Cast
Eric Bell Jr., Steve Buscemi, Lisa Kudrow, ViviAnn Yee, Tobey Maguire, Miles Christopher Bakshi, Alec Baldwin, Jimmy Kimmel

Rating
PG

Runtime
97minutes

Genres
Family, Animation, Comedy

While the Boss Baby movies may not be the most acclaimed children’s films, they are carried by Alec Balwin’s central performance as the title character. Riffing on his roles as powerful men in 30 Rock and Glengarry Glen Ross, Baldwin makes the titular baby sound like a real executive. It’s this that makes Boss Baby as funny as it is. Baldwin’s performance is central to the film’s concept, and despite the actor not having a background in voice acting, it wouldn’t be the same with anyone else in the role.

9 Steve Carell As Gru

Despicable Me

Gru looking angrily to the side in Despicable Me 2

Illumination has dominated American animation over the last decade, and much of its success can be attributed to the Despicable Me/Minions franchise. The minions may have become the mascot for the animation company, but it is Steve Carell’s performance as supervillain Gru that serves as the heart of the movies. Carell’s undefinable accent and strange tone of voice have made Gru an instantly recognizable character —one it’s hard to imagine anyone else voicing. Gru could easily have been a one-note lead, with humor happening around him. However, Carell threads the needle, giving Gru real pathos.

8 Billy Crystal As Mike Wazowski

Monsters, Inc.

Mike Wazowski sitting at a table and smiling in Monsters, Inc.

Monsters, Inc.

Release Date
November 2, 2001

Director
Pete Docter

Cast
John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly, Mary Gibbs

Rating
PG

Runtime
92 Minutes

Genres
Adventure, Animation, Comedy

Pixar is no stranger to using celebrities and comedians for voice-over work, but in comparison to other animation studios, it’s are less likely to go after the biggest name, looking instead for someone who fits the character. Billy Crystal is an icon in film and comedy, but by the time Monsters, Inc. came out in 2001, he had been in the industry for decades and wasn’t necessarily the biggest draw for younger audiences. However, he is the definitive Mike Wazowski. Crystal’s anxiety-ridden voice coming out of a one-eyed green eyeball is a bizarre development, but it is impossible to look at the character and not hear his voice.

7 Will Arnett As Lego Batman

The Lego Movie

Lego Batman uses his grapple gun in The Lego Movie

The LEGO Movie

Release Date
February 7, 2014

Director
Phil Lord, Chris Miller

Cast
Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Channing Tatum, Nick Offerman, Liam Neeson, Will Ferrell, Cobie Smulders, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Charlie Day, Jonah Hill

Rating
PG

Runtime
100 Minutes

Genres
Animation, Action, Adventure

Several actors have taken on the role of the caped crusader, including many talented voice-over artists, but there is something undeniably hilarious about Will Arnett’s take on Lego Batman. First appearing in The Lego Movie before receiving a spinoff, Arnett’s Batman is a more arrogant and selfish take on the character. He serves as a parody of the iconic hero while still being a mostly faithful adaptation. There have been so many great Batmen in both live-action and animation, so it’s a testament to Arnett that his take on the character stood out in a movie where he wasn’t the central focus.

6 Tom Hanks As Woody

Toy Story

Toy Story

Release Date
November 22, 1995

Director
John Lasseter

Cast
Tom Hanks, Don Rickles, Annie Potts, Tim Allen, Jim Varney

Rating
G

Runtime
81 minutes

Genres
Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy

Tom Hanks has been voicing the toy cowboy Woody for nearly 30 years, and with the upcoming Toy Story 5 in the works, it looks like he will still be the character for years to come. For an actor with a filmography as long and praised as Hanks’, it is pretty incredible that a CG toy still stands as one of his best roles. It takes a real movie star to pull off the snarky yet inherently likable aspects of Woody, and Hanks’ performance is a huge reason the franchise has lasted so long and meant so much to generations of fans.

5 Christian Bale As Howl

Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl Jenkins Pendragon lying down and looking upset in Howl's Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle

Release Date
November 20, 2004

Director
Hayao Miyazaki

Cast
Christian Bale

Rating
8-12 years

Runtime
119minutes

Genres
Fantasy, Family

Even more controversial than casting a Hollywood star as an animated voice is the dubbing of foreign animation with American stars. There is a purity to watching the original versions with subtitles. However, most of the Studio Ghibli dubs done by Disney are pretty spectacular, and Christian Bale’s performance as Howl makes the Howl’s Moving Castle dub worth watching. Using a tone similar to the one he later used for Batman, Bale embodies the grief, pain, and solitude of the character, making it feel like Howl was designed around his star persona when that couldn’t be further from the truth.

4 Albert Brooks As Marlin

Finding Nemo

Marlin and Nemo smiling and slapping fins in Finding Nemo

Comedian, actor, and filmmaker Albert Brooks has one of the most underrated careers in Hollywood. From directing timeless comedies like Real Life and Lost in America to his dramatic turns in movies like Drive, Brooks has done almost everything. However, his voice work is still a standout part of his career. While Brooks’ appearances on The Simpsons are fantastic, his performance as the clownfish Marlin in Finding Nemo will forever stand the test of time. He has incredible chemistry with Ellen DeGeneres as Dory but also brings a sense of urgency and heart that makes Finding Nemo one of Pixar’s strongest films.

3 Eddie Murphy As Donkey

Shrek

Donkey smiling in Shrek

Shrek

Release Date
May 18, 2001

Director
Vicky Jenson, Andrew Adamson

Cast
Cameron Diaz, Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, John Lithgow

Rating
PG

Runtime
90 minutes

Genres
Animation, Adventure, Fantasy, Comedy, Family

Shrek was one of the first animated movies to not just have one or two big names but to instead have a full all-star cast. While the precedent this set for animated films, especially those from DreamWorks, had downsides, the decision worked for the film. Eddie Murphy gives a fantastic performance as Donkey. Murphy is one of the greatest comedy leading men of all time, but Donkey is a side character that plays to his strengths and lets him shine. Donkey’s fast talking could easily get annoying in the hands of another actor, but Murphy makes it seem fresh and funny throughout several movies.

2 Jack Black As Po

Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu Panda

Release Date
June 6, 2008

Director
John Stevenson, Mark Osborne

Cast
Ian McShane, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, Angelina Jolie, Michael Clarke Duncan, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Jack Black, James Hong

Rating
PG

Runtime
92 minutes

Genres
Adventure, Comedy, Family, Action, Animation

Much like Boss Baby, it is clear that the character Po was built around the star voicing him, making the celebrity casting not only excusable but necessary. Jack Black has his own specific brand of humor, and because of that, the character and story naturally flow from Black’s skills and styling as an actor. Kung Fu Panda is a Jack Black vehicle in all the right ways, using his plucky attitude and heartfelt riffing to craft a genuinely exciting and emotional animated film.

1 Robin Williams As Genie

Aladdin

Genie grinning in Aladdin

Aladdin (1992)

Release Date
November 11, 1992

Director
Ron Clements, John Musker

Cast
Scott Weinger, Robin Williams, Linda Larkin, Jonathan Freeman, Frank Welker, Gilbert Gottfried

Rating
G

Runtime
90 Minutes

Genres
Adventure, Comedy, Animation

Still the greatest example of a Hollywood star lending their voice to an animated film, Robin Williams’ iconic performance as the Genie in Aladdin is one of the best voice performances of all time. Improving much of the dialogue and having the animators draw around it, Williams’ chaotic energy and brilliant comedic timing make Aladdin stand out in the Disney catalog. Often copied, but never duplicated, Williams’ talents will live on for generations.

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