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Published on August 9th, 2011 | by Colin Ballsmonkey Hill

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Extreme Inbetweens – Top 10 Favortie Voice Actors


A Celebration of the Unsung Talents that Helped Shaped the Childhoods of Millions and Put Most of Hollywood to Shame

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My Top 10 Favorite Voice Actors

Hey there sports fans!  Wait, you guys aren’t sports fans.  HOW DARE YOU DECEIVE ME!

All kidding aside, I’m back folks, where I’ve been is too horrifying to reveal here, but here I am ready to dive back into the world of animation. For this new entry I’ve decided to take a minute to shine a light on one of the most important aspects of animation, and one of the most misunderstood…voice acting.  A lot of people, like most Hollywood studios, seems to think voice acting is nothing but rolling up to a mic and reading off a script, sometimes in a funny voice.  Those stupid, misinformed, little people.  The “acting” part of voice acting is too often forgotten.  A lot of special craft goes into creating the voice of a character.  The voice has to reflect the character’s look and personality, they have to be able to convey the characters in all sorts of emotions, it has to make the character sound unique and original, and make the character come alive.   Think back to some of the most famous cartoon characters in history, what’s the first thing that stands out about them?  Their voice.  What would Bugs, Daffy and the rest of the Looney Tunes be without Mel Blanc?  What would Popeye be without Red Pepper Sam?  Yogi Bear, Homer Simpson, and Spongebob would’nt be half as well remembered without Daws Butler, Dan Castellanetta, and Tom Kenny respectively. A strong, recognizable, and unique voice is key to an animated characters success and today I’m going to pay special tribute to my top ten favorites.

Keep in mind I said favorites, and not who I’d consider the very best.  Otherwise greats like Mel Blanc, Daws Butler, June Foray, Paul Winchell, Don Messick, and Gary Owens would dominate this list.  This is a list of voice actors who I’ve grown up listening to.  Their voices are etched into my most precious childhood memories…all those years I spent not going outside and watching non-stop cartoons.  These ten are all extremely talented and deserve to be bigger than they are, though I think most of them prefer to be low key.  A lot of great names ended up getting left of my ten, greats like Tom Kenny, Kevin Michael Richardson, Cree Summer, Frank Welker, James Arnold Taylor, Debbi Derryberry, Candi Milo, and Christina Cavanaugh, but nonetheless, I’m quite proud of this list.  So let’s begin.

10. Phil LaMarr

You may remember him from Mad TV, but Phil’s voice acting debut was in the Mr. T cartoon as Woody, but he’s ore memorable from him roles in Justice League as Green Lantern, Grim and Evil as Hector Con Carne, Virgil Hawkings/Static in Static Shock, Hermes Conrad in Futurama,, Wilt in Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and the title role in Samurai Jack.  Phil’s background in improv lends itself well to the world of voice acting. Phil has a great sense of comedic timing and is an amazing impressionist.The Weekenders was probably the first I recognized him from and I remember how much he made me laugh in the role, and it’s that same humor that makes every one of his comedic roles so great, I dare anyone not to love his Red Foxx as Blacula as Dracula in Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy.  On the flip side, Phil can do serious really well.  He’s played characters like Samurai Jack, Green Lantern, Kit Fisto, Aquaman, and Vamp in Metal Gear Solid and in each he brings a level of strength and power that puts him on par with the best of the best.  Here’s a little example of that…

 

9. Tara Strong

Tara is just awesome.  Tara Strong started her career in voice acting in the late 80’s and early 90’s on shows like Care Bears, Hello Kitty Fury Tale Theater, and the Beetlejuice animated series, but her breakout roles came in 1998 as Baby Dill Pickles in Rugrats(she also voiced the older version of the character in sequel series All Grown Up) and in Powerpuff Girls as Bubbles.  As Bubbles, Tara could be cute and, well, bubbly, but could flip into vicious and hardcore at a moments notice, and it was excellent.  From there she’s had starring roles in shows like Xiaolin Showdown as Omi, Filmore as Ingrid Third, Teen Titans as Raven, Batman the Animated Series as Batgirl(taking over the role from the late great Mary Kay Bergman), Ben on Ben 10, and of course, Fairly Oddparents as Timmy Turner.   She made a radical departure from the kid friendly roles on the Comedy Central series Drawn Together as Princess Clara and Toot Braustien, and she delivered two more phenomenal performances.  And it was just hilarious to hear all the vile,dirty, racist, sexist, homophobic, lines come out of the same mouth that voiced a rugrat.  In addition to her acting skills, she’s a great singer, and she’s even put those skills on display, like in  Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea as Ariel’s daughter Melody. 

8. Charlie Adler

Charlie Adler is hands down one of the best voice actors to ever live.  He’s been every cartoon you could think of and has voiced a wide array of characters, from the evil record executive Eric Raymond in Jem and the Holograms to heroic Chance Furlong (aka T-Bone) in Swat Kats: The Radical Squadron.  Charlie can act more with his voice than most people can with their entire bodies. Growing up in the 90’s, Charlie was a staple of that era’s cartoons.  The Bigheads in Rocko’s Modern Life, Ickis in Aaahh Real Monsters, Buster Bunny in Tiny Toon Adventures, I.R. Baboon in I.M Weasel, both the title characters in Cow and Chicken and also the “Red Guy”, Professor Monkey for a Head in Earthworm Jim, Mechanicles in Aladdin, Mad Dog in TaleSpin, it was impossible NOT to hear him.  Charlie has an amazing vocal range and isn’t afraid to go over-the-top with his performances when it calls for it.  He can be smarmy, he can be sarcastic, he can be energetic, he can be subtle, he can do it all, he’s that damn good.  He was also Starscream in all three Transformers flicks, but due to how little the robots were featured in those movies you could barely tell.  What a waste of great talent.

7. Jess Harnell

At first glance Jess looks like a aging rock star, but he’s really one of the most talented guys working today.  His breakout role is one any child of the 90’s would recognize him from, the goofy, ever-hungry, and often flatulent Wakko Warner in Animaniacs.  He hasn’t had as many lead roles as the other actors on he list, but that doesn’t make him any less amazing.  He was able to channel Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man to voice the character Sewer Urchin on the Tick, he was Hunter the leader of the Road Rovers, Captain Hero on Drawn Together, Secret Squirrel in the 90’s Super Secret Squirrel cartoons, and he portrayed the characters Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon in multiple games of their respective series, as well as roles in games like Ratchet and Clank and Kingdom Hearts.  Jess is just as funny on camera as he is off, and he proved that in Mark Hamill’s Comic Book the Movie were you can hear him do dead on impressions of Albert Brooks, Ozzy Osborne, and all four Beatles.

 6. Billy West

YOU EEEEEEDIOT!  Those two words helped make Bily West one of the most notable voice actors today.  As if you didn’t already know, he made a name for himself as Stimpy in The Ren and Stimpy Show, and later took over as the voice of Ren as well.  At same time he was doing that he was also staring in another Nicktoon, Doug as title character Doug Funnie and the bully Roger Klotz.  Since then, Billy has been all over the map doing major and supporting roles in shows like CatDog, Project GeeKeR, Queer Duck, and Mad Jack the Pirate, as well as movie rolls like Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, Joes Apartment, and Space Jam where he played Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd.  But what’s really made him a household name is is work on the hit series Futurama is Fry, Dr. Zoidberg, Prof. Farnsworth, Zapp Branigan, and multiple incidental characters.  Oh, and did I mention he’s also the Red M&M.  Yeah, he’s good.   Really good.

5. Tress MacNeille

A true icon in the voice acting world, I would call her my generation’s June Foray if June Foray still around then.  Tress has a tremendous vocal range and a tremendous amount of comedic talent.  Tress has a huge list of credits under her belt, all of witch are favorites of mine.  Dot in Animaniacs, Babs Bunny on Tiny Toon Adventures, Daisy Duck, Chip and Gadget on Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers, Angelica’s Mom on Rugrats, Dorris on the Critic, Callie Briggs on Swat Kats, Colleen on Road Rovers, as well as numerous roles on both the Simpsons(Agnes Skinner, Dolph, Crazy Cat Lady, Lindsay Neagle, Cookie Kwan) and Futurama(Mom, Crazy Old Lady, Ndnd, and Tinny Tim).  Tress’ voice can be heard in literally hundreds of cartoons and animated movies and she’s absolutely brilliant in every one of them.

4. Jeff Bennett

Jeff Bennett was a VA I never was able to recognize until much later.  As a kid the only things I knew him from were Gargoyles as Brooklyn(and as I later found out, Owen Burnett and the Magus) and Mighty Ducks as Duke L’Orange, both my favorite character on the respective series.  But as soon as I learned how many roles he’s done that I recognized, it blew my mind.  Dad in Dexter’s Laboratory,  Cowlarado Kid in Cowboys of Moo Mesa,  the title character in Johnny Bravo, Lord Bravery in Freakazoid, Blitz in Road Rovers, Bud and Stereo on Space Goofs, and 3/5 of the Gangreen Gang on Powerpuff Girls.   Nowadays I can pinpoint his voice more easily, but that doesn’t change how talented the man is.  I know I barely scratched the surface with his credits, but those are the ones that are the most special to me.  I thank you, Mr. Bennett.

3. Maurice LaMarche

Maurice LaMarche has done a voice in pretty much every cartoon you grew up with, if you grew up in the 80’s and 90’s that is.  Formerly from the world of stand-up, Maurice brings an amazing and dynamic vocal range and a knack for impressions to this field.  He’s most notably The Brain in Pinky and the Brain, but let’s not forget some of his other roles.  Squit of the Goodfeathers in Animaniacs(Best Ray Liotta impression ever), Egon in Real Ghostbusters, The Chief in Inspector Gadget(and later Inspector Gadget himself), Apache Cief, Fred Flinstone and other characters in Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, Dizzy Devil in Tiny Toon Adventures, Big Bob Pataki in Hey Arnold, not to mention his numerous roles in Futurama, including but not limited to, Kiff Kroker, Morbo, Lrr, and Calculon.  And of course, his dead on Orson Wells impersonations.  They made for some of the best moments on The Critic.

2. Jim Cummings

A true god amongst gods.  Jim Cummings is a phenom.  He can act, he can sing, he can be goofy, he can be powerful, he can do it all. It’s hard for me to encapsulate his talent in words, so it’s best to just let his credits speak for themselves…The title character in Darkwing Duck(as well as his arch nemesis Negaduck), Bonkers D. Bobcat and Lucky Piquel in Bonkers, Don Karnage and King Louie in TaleSpin, Pete in Goof Troop and Kingdom Hearts, Fat Cat and Professor Nimnul in Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers, Zummi Gummi(taking over for Paul Winchell) in Gummi Bears, Dingo in Gargoyles, Winnie the Pooh AND Tigger in New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and most of the Pooh movies, Nessus in Hercules, Ray the firefly in Princess and the Frog, Razoul in the Aladdin series, Ed the Hyena in The Lion King…and all that’s just his Disney work!  He was also Morroco Mole in Super Secret Squirrel, Taz in Taz Mania, Leatherhead in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles(as well as an alternate voice for Shredder), Mayor Manx in SWAT Kats, Dakota Dude in Cowboys of Moo Mesa, Dr. Robotnik in Sonic: SatAM,…*whew*.  Yeah, and there’s still a lot more to go.  The man is amazing.  Fun fact: During production of The Lion King, Jeremy Irons'(Scar)  vocal chords ended up blowing out while recording the song “Be Prepared”, the song where Scar explains his master plan of killing Mufasa and Simba.  He couldn’t finish the song so Jim Cummings was brought in to finish it.  Listen to the song as see if you can hear where it becomes Jim singing.

1. Rob Paulsen.

Even with greats like Charlie Adler and Jim Cummings on this list, hands down my favorite voice actor of all time in Rob Paulsen.  No other voice actor stands out the most in my mind.  No other voice actor had the most impact on my childhood.  Rob Paulsen is an immense talent.  His charm, his wit, his likability, his quickness, all through the roof.  Rob started his voice acting career in the 80’s doing minor roles,even voicing Hadji on The New Adventures of Jonny Quest, but his big break came in 1987 when he voiced the sai-wielding, quick-witted, fourth wall breaking Raphael in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles *squee*.  From there, his career took off.  Rob would go on to make a huge name for himself by voicing Yakko Warner in Animaniacs, and the dim-witted Pinky in the spin-off series Pinky and the Brain.  Those two became the signature roles of his, showing off the best of Rob’s abilities.  Rob continued to make my childhood awesome by voicing characters like Throttle in Biker Mice from Mars, Arthur in The Tick, PJ in Goof Troop. Steelbeak in Darkwing Duck, Hard Drive in SWAT Kats, Antoine in Sonic SatAM, and the title character in Mighty Max.  Rob also played Carl Weezer in Jimmy Neutron and Planet Sheen, an took over for Jim Carrey as the voice of Stanley Ipkiss/The Mask in The Mask the Animated Series, an was better at it in my opinion. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him yet, but as far as I can tell, Rob is the nicest guy in the world, he does a lot for work for charity, offers vocal coaching sessions, and always has time for his fans.  His new podcast, Talking Toons with Rob Paulsen is just a peak into the life of this amazing talent.  Rob Paulsen is an icon to me, and I can’t help but smile every time I hear his voice in a cartoon.

At the time of writing this, The Smurfs has recently come out in theaters.  It’s another example of my growing problem with animated movies and studios going for any celebrity they can get rather than actual voice actors.  Why the need for Jeff Foxworthy, Anton Yelchin, and *ugh* George Lopez in Smurf roles when Jeff Bennett can do half those voices himself.  Katy Perry is completely unnecessary when voice actresses like Grey DeLisle and Tara Strong exist.  The voice actor community is filled with extremely talented and versatile actors and actresses, and it’s long past time they be given their due.  And now to take us out, Rob Paulsen showing us why he’s one of the best, preforming live the song “Nations of the World” by his Animaniacs character Yakko Warner.  Enjoy.

 

 

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About the Author

Colin Ballsmonkey Hill

Colin loves the 3 C's: comics, cartoons, and cursing.



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