If you were to run into some of these very talented individuals on the street, you may have no idea that you’ve heard their voice before. A talent for changing one’s voice can lead to a great career in voice acting, as this installment is about to prove to you. What follows is a list of some of the top known voice actors and actresses across television, film, and video game history.
Melvin Jerome Blank started his career in 1927 and quickly became known as “The Man of 1,000 Voices”. Earning such a title doesn’t come easy as Mel Blanc took his voice to many places before becoming the voice of Warner Bros. most popular cartoon show. Blanc started as a voice actor on the KGW program The Hoot Owls at the age of 19 before joining the Warner Bros-owned KFWB for The Johnny Murray Show. By 1936, Blanc joined Leon Schlesinger Productions, which had produced cartoon shorts for Warner Bros., which launched his career as the voice of many of the Looney Tunes characters. Favorites such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety, Sylvester, Yosemite Sam, and Foghorn Leghorn were all brought to life thanks to Blanc’s seemingly unending vocal talents.
In a world filled with voice actors, there can be only one Thunder Throat, a singular King of Movie Trailers. Don LaFontaine was a household name without many even realizing it. There are those that strive to sound like him, but so few can come close. He’s a legend in the voice acting industry, providing the epic voice for over 5,000 movie trailers. His work didn’t stop with trailers, as he lent his voice to video game announcements, network promotions, and television advertisements. LaFontaine started as a recording engineer and worked his way up to the top of the vocal actor totem pole, until his untimely death in 2008 from complications from a pneumothorax.
There are few people in the acting world that could portray God and have nobody bat an eyelash. Of those few, there is Morgan Freeman, a man that has perfected everything from action to comedy without much effort. With a voice as authoritative and distinct as Freeman’s, there’s no doubt why he has been featured as the vocal artist on nearly a dozen different projects. From the lives of penguins to a historic retelling of the Civil War, Freeman’s voice has told countless stories. Freeman just has one of those iconic voices that when you hear him, you know exactly who it is. Although he’s the only actor on our list who’s natural voice is the most recognizable, Freeman’s lack of range and character voices is why he’s ranked #3.
Since 1995, Seth McFarlane has been in the business with his work on several Hanna-Barbera cartoons, including Dexter’s Laboratory, I Am Weasel, and Johnny Bravo as a storyboard artist and writer launching him into the successful individual he is today. After ending his time with Hanna-Barbera, McFarlane moved on to a little animated show that some of you may know by the name of Family Guy. Airing in 1999, Family Guy jolted McFarlane’s career as both a writer and voice over artist, as he provides the voices for Peter, Stewie, and Brian Griffin, Glenn Quagmire and Tom Tucker. Seth also provided the voice for various characters on American Dad!, The Cleveland Show, and also the voice for everyones most loveable bear, Ted.
James Earl Jones
To Mark Hamill and Jonathan Taylor Thomas, he’s dad. To the rest of the world, he’s an intergalactic badass, the voice behind one of Star Wars’ most notable characters. Darth Vader may not have been Jones’ physical performance, but his voice brought the character to life in a way that David Prowse’s more countrified accent never could have. Since redeeming himself and stopping Emperor Palpatine, Jones moved on to voicing bits on The Simpsons and acting as spokesperson for Bell Atlantic and Verizon. Despite his extensive filmography, it’s difficult not to associate Jones with his iconic Darth Vader vocal work.
William Richard West
In 1980, William Richard West entered into the acting scene by performing comedic routines on Boston’s local radio station WBCN, which he left for a revival of Beany and Cecil and, later in his career, a stint on The Howard Stern show. When Warner Bros. teamed up with the NBA to create Space Jam, West received one of his most notable rolls, playing both Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, recreating the voices in an impressive fashion. After Space Jam, West is best known for his portrayals of Philip J. Fry, Dr. Zoidberg, Professor Farnsworth, and Zapp Brannigan on Futurama; Ren, Stimpy, and Mr. Horse on the original Ren and Stimpy Show; and Doug Funnie, Porkchop, and Roger Klotz on Nickelodeon’s early 90’s cartoon, Doug.
Azaria is a fabulous actor that has the presence in Hollywood, having made hilarious appearances in such movies as The Birdcage, the 1998 Godzilla, and The Smurfs live-action movie. Azaria’s vocal talents can be heard in so many different mediums, from television to theme park rides to video games, but what he may be most famous for is his long-running presence on The Simpsons. Azaria doesn’t just pop in for a one-off character – he has been on the show as a regular from the show’s inception in 1989, starting off as a recurring character in season 1 and officially joining the show the following year. Included in Azaria’s list of hilarious characters are Apu, Chief Wiggum, Dr. Nick, Duffman, Professor Frink, and Lou.
Starting in 1986 at the age of 13, Strong took her love for acting and jumped into stage productions to play in Limelight Theater’s production of The Music Man. Following this feature performance, Strong voiced Hello Kitty alongside Fred Savage in the Japanese-American-Canadian animated show Hello Kitty’s Furry Tale Theater. Though the actress has partaken in plenty of live action acting, her forte has been in voice acting, having provided her vocal skills nearly nonstop from 1987 to the present. Strong’s multi-talented voice can be heard in the animated Tales from the Cryptkeeper, King of the Hill, Extreme Ghostbusters, Teen Titans, Futurama, and the 2015 Inspector Gadget Netflix series.
James Jonah Cummings
Better known as Jim Cummings, James is another eclectic voice actor with a long list of accomplishments that spans between video games, film, and even theme parks. Yes, that’s right – if you’ve experienced the thrills of Terminator 2: 3D Battle Across Time in Universal Studios or IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth in Epcot, you’ve been privy to Jim’s expert narration. When he isn’t entertaining thousands on theme park rides, Jim also entertains as Shredder in the early 90’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon and Dr. Robotnik in the Sonic the Hedgehog animated series. Cummings is also a Disney / Pixar favorite, having been featured in several Mickey Mouse, both the voices for Tigger and Winnie the Pooh, Darkwing Duck, as well as The Princess and the Frog and Wreck-It Ralph.
It’s tough to consider impressive voices and not think of Robin Williams. It’s no secret that the late actor was an immensely popular and extremely diverse actor, having tackled comedy, drama, and romance throughout his 38 year career. One of Williams’ greatest assets was his voice, which he used to create characters such as Mrs. Doubtfire and bring to life cartoon characters like Popeye and Aladdin’s Genie. The funny man was undoubtedly known for his malleable voice, but over the course of 70 movies, only 10 were animated films that would really let his vocal talents shine.