Famous Voice Actors
Who Helped Shape
You probably don’t know their faces, but millions of people know their voices better than they do the voices of their own family. For nearly the past century, these performers brought life to iconic cartoon characters and excited audiences about upcoming films and shows, all without having to spend any time in the hair and makeup department.
Just to clarify the content, we’re restricting the content to people that haven’t had a major role where they are best known as a writer, creator, or performer in front of the camera. That’s why there are no performers like Orson Welles, Mark Hamill, Parker and Stone, Seth MacFarlane, and so forth.
10. Don LaFontaine
There’s not a particular role that general audiences knew him for, but all Don LaFontaine needed were the three words that became his trademark: “In a world.” Although he began working tech jobs, like editing, and also some creative gigs like writing, his true calling was doing voice overs for trailers and other ads, a number of which he wrote himself. By some estimates, over the course of his career, he did hundreds of thousands of these, sometimes as many as 25 in a day.
His personal favorite was when he did the trailer for The Elephant Man, which was kind of a shame because it was 28 years before the end of his career. If that sounds at all like something trivial, bear in mind that at the time of his passing in 2008, he had an estimated net worth of roughly eighty million. He’d also connected with audiences enough that his catchphrase was used as the title for the 2013 hit indie movie In a World.
9. Nancy Cartwright
In the early ’90s, it surprised the world over and over again to learn that cartoon child megastar Bart Simpson was played by a grown woman. Indeed, during the 1991 season premiere for the show, she got to leave attendees feeling a bit odd when she announced, in Bart Simpson’s famous voice, that she was nine months pregnant and on the verge of delivery. In 2000, she was still milking that joke really effectively by publishing her bestselling autobiography, My Life as a Ten Year-Old boy, and then performing her book as a one-woman show.
Cartwright’s success got her future jobs, such as Chuckie Finster on Rugrats and supporting character/naked mole-rat Rufus on Kim Possible, but it’s very unlikely she’ll ever escape The Simpsons anymore. As Al Jean pointed out on a commentary for an episode of the show, it makes one of her earliest roles, a bit part in The Twilight Zonemovie, all the more appropriate: she played a woman who gets trapped in a cartoon world.
8. John DiMaggio
Modern cartoon fans know may know John DiMaggio best from Adventure Time as Jake the Dog, a transforming companion to the protagonist, Finn, who’s in his late twenties in “magical dog years.” His bits of down-to-earth philosophy, like “Sucking at something is the first step to being sort of good at something,” have certainly become widespread online. Others are likely to know him from the long running (as in, seven seasons with four movies) science fiction cartoon Futurama as the breakout character Bender, the lovable, emotionally vulnerable, drunken robot. More than a few may know him from the DC movie Batman: Under the Red Hood, where he did a very creepy rendition of the Joker. If we have any gamers in the audience, he was also Marcus Fenix through the Gears of War series.
Such is John DiMaggio’s commitment to his career that he wasn’t content with just starring in a number of popular cartoons. He also cowrote, coproduced, and narrated a 2013 documentary on voice acting called I Know that Voice, which includes interviews with numerous performers featured in this article. Anyone with any interest in the subject matter can’t afford to miss it.
7. Tara Strong
A generation of kids grew up hearing her as Timmy Turner on Fairly Odd Parents, which has been running for sixteen years. During that time she was also characters like the dark, serious teen Raven on Teen Titans, and protagonist Ben Tennyson onBen 10. For fans of more adult cartoons, there’re the years she spent as Princess Clara on the raunchy reality show parody Drawn Together. For those who like stuff that’s halfway between being mostly targeted to younger children and being sort of edgy and violent, there were the seven years she spent as the cute and cuddly Bubbles in The Powerpuff Girls. She’s also voiced one of the most beloved Batman villains, Harley Quinn, in the Arkham video game series.
But undoubtedly her largest and most loyal following are fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, where she plays the bookish protagonist, Twilight Sparkle. Although she had no idea that she would get a bunch of adult fans from doing that particular show, she has decided to embrace this particular group, including in one on one, online chat sessions with people who’d been heavily bullied. Presumably, she didn’t feel any need to do that for her fans from Drawn Together.