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Voice Performances

Animated voices don’t get enough credit. I almost feel there should be an Oscar category for them. The right voice lends subtext and nuance to the character, bringing them to life, while the wrong voice makes the whole thing fall flat. I’m not saying these are the best animated characters of all time (that would be another list), but these actors did the best job. Anyway, enjoy the list. [NOTE: If we added Japanese films, by my count 6 of the top ten spots would go to performances in those movies. But most of you don’t have any knowledge of that, so I’m omitting them for now. I’ll make it up to them later with a Miyazaki film column or something.]


#10 JERRY ORBACH (Lumiere) – You hated him (or at least growled) in DIRTY DANCING, then you fell in love with him on LAW & ORDER, but did you know that Jerry Orbach used to be a Broadway performer? This is beautifully illustrated with the French rogue Lumiere, who beats the hell out of Angela Lansbury’s tea pot. (And now since I swore my mom is going to yell at me. Great. See what you people make me do?)

#9 TIM ALLEN (Buzz Lightyear) – Tom Hanks’s Woody may have had the heart, but it was Buzz Lightyear who stole the show. “To Infinity and Beyond!”

#8 ELLEN DeGENERES (Dory) – Easily the best part of FINDING NEMO, Dory just cracked me up again and again. Making her have no short-term memory was inspired, but it wouldn’t have worked without Ellen’s warmth.

#7 PAT CARROLL (Ursula) – a life-long voice actor, Carroll hit it out of the park with Ursula. She’s a very scary witch! I was creeped out. And, I loved her song.

#6 JEREMY IRONS (Scar) – The best decision Irons could have made was to underplay this part and let the sarcastic cunning of Scar show through. Scar wasn’t a big tough guy like other villains, but I appreciated his droll wit and put-upon nature.

#5 SAMUEL E. WRIGHT (Sebastian) – THE LITTLE MERMAID herself is boring (if hot). And Flounder was a moron. But the whole thing works because Sebastian is so cool. Never has nervousness been portrayed so greatly on screen. Because of him, I never eat lobsters.

#4 MIGUEL FERRER (Shan-Yu) – I just found out this is the dude from TRAFFIC and CROSSING JORDAN. Who knew? Regardless, this is the best animated bad guy of all time. No question, and about the most underrated. Shan-Yu added real menace to what could have been just a muscle-head part. I was almost rooting for him to conquer the Chinese and make Mulan his wife. How many scouts does it take to deliver a message?

#3 ANDY SERKIS (Gollum) – Since technically Gollum was an animated character I’m giving Serkis a nod. He made Gollum into the character he was. Gollum works not because he’s evil, but because he’s pathetic and sniveling, but somehow still crafty and clever. Bravo, Andy.

#2 EDDIE MURPHY (Mu Shu; Donkey) – These performances are so good they probably each deserve a spot on the list, but put together lands Murphy at #2. My Shu is the most underrated character in animated history and Donkey stole both SHREK films.

and the number one animated performance of all time…..

#1 ROBIN WILLIAMS (Genie) – I refuse to argue about this. It might be Williams’s single greatest performance. They let him go wild, and then animated around what he’d said. How cool is that? I think we can all agree that when Williams is on, there is no one funnier on the planet. When it came to genie, Robin was all the way on. And I salute him.