*This is a user-submitted post by Casey Oswald*
A popular trend in animated shorts is to let the visuals do the storytelling. Many shorts today contain no dialogue whatsoever. That works in a seven-minute format, but when you’re talking about a feature length film, people want to hear words. And those words need voices.
The very first sound cartoon, Steamboat Willie, was the story of Mickey Mouse serving as a worker on a steamboat. Walt Disney took the honor of voicing that character himself (Minnie too!). Walt voiced Mickey out of convenience and later gave the voice up to other actors. The voices coming from the animated characters on-screen become linked with those characters forever. Sometimes feature films cast unknowns in the lead roles, and sometimes they cast known Hollywood actors.
But is using a recognizable voice worth it?
Snow White was voiced by Adriana Caselotti, an unknown, while the dwarves were voice by popular character actors Walt knew from vaudeville. Jumping ahead to more modern times, we have movies like Shrek using Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow. Well-known actors whose names appeared in extremely large print on the poster for the movie.
More and more we see A-list celebrities lending their voices to animated characters. This has to be a huge additional cost to the film. But why? I might see a movie that one of these people is in, but I don’t go see an animated film based on the sound of their voice. Brad Pitt and Will Ferrell lent their voices to Megamind, but that movie still tanked. Steve Carell and Sandra Bullock are used in the Despicable Me franchise, and those movies do really well. But is that more due to the unrecognizably-voiced minions than their celebrity counterparts?
If an unknown actor is used, most animated films would be just as good. Auli’I Cravalho did a terrific job as the title character in Moana, but I wouldn’t have noticed if Maui had been voiced by “Bob,” the director’s plumber, instead of Dwayne Johnson. The Rock did a fine job, but is his voice alone enough to draw movie-goers to the theater?
I also realize that casting a good actor in a role is a good way of getting a really creative performance and adding some credibility to the film.
The best example of an A-lister truly making a movie successful would be using Robin Williams as the voice of the Genie in Aladdin. When they cast Dan Castellanetta as the Genie in The Return of Jafar, the character was not as beloved, so they made sure they got Williams back for Aladdin and the King of Thieves. He absolutely made that character the success that it was. However, no one was zipping out to theater to catch Williams when he played Batty in FernGully: The Last Rainforest.
So, now I turn it to you. Would you go to an animated movie based solely on the voice casting? Are there any other examples of celebrity voice actors that made a movie successful?
Edited by: Kelly Conley