As a parent, do you ever catch yourself thinking, “I know that voice from somewhere” as you sit back and watch your kids’ favourite cartoon on television for the 276th time in a row? You might even find yourself pulling out your smartphone and googling the cast because that familiar voice is simply driving you crazy.
Famous personalities often forgo their on-screen careers to lend their voices to animated projects. Remember Casey Kasem as Shaggy back in the day? And how about Thomas the Tank Engine? The popular kids series included voice over work from George Carlin, Alec Baldwin and Ringo Starr over the years. Adorable Michael Cera played Brother Bear on the Berenstein Bears series. But you may be surprised to discover who is voicing today’s animated favourites. Here, we put nine names to their (animated) faces.
10. Wayne Brady as Clover the Bunny
If there’s a little girl in your home, chances are you’ve watched an episode or two of Disney’s Sofia the First, a show about a young royal with the ability to speak to animals. Sophia’s best buddy is Clover, voiced by Whose Line Is It Anyway’s favourite song man, Wayne Brady. He adds some comic relief and belts out a song once in a while. The bonus for Wayne Brady was getting some respect from his young daughter and having a role in a show that they could bond over. Listen for other familiar voices, too. Tim Gunn (Project Runway) plays stuffy, uptight Baileywick and Ariel Winter (Modern Family) as Sofia herself. Eric Stonestreet cameos as Minimus, Sofia’s flying horse, and Meghan Mullally appears as evil Miss Nettle, showing off some impressive singing pipes of her own.
9. David Arquette as Skully the Parrot
The ex Mr. Courtney Cox is also a Disney Junior resident, contributing his vocal talents to Jake and the Neverland Pirates as Skully the parrot, who is part of Jake’s gang of mini adventurers. Unlike Arquette’s seemingly easygoing and quirky personality, Skully is wise, careful and often the voice of reason when it comes to battling the troublesome Captain Hook. Jake is filled with star-studded appearances, such as Sharon Osbourne, Tori Spelling, Tiffany Thiessen and even Lisa Loeb.
8. Wilmer Valderrama as Handy Manny
Gone are the days of That ’70s Show’s Fez and his ultra-tight pants. Instead, Wilmer Valderrama dons an animated tool belt and lends his voice to preschooler show Handy Manny, playing the lead title role, Manny Garcia. In it, he helps everyone in his town, coming to their rescue with talking tools and some handy know-how. The series teaches Spanish words and phrases, making each episode slightly educational. But we’re talking about a show in which a man (?) has a friendship with a talking hammer and screwdriver, so you be the judge when it comes to educational value.
7. Freddie Prinze Jr. as Kanan Jarrus
While Star Wars Rebels is technically a kids show, there’s a good chance that dads everywhere have watched while their children aren’t even home. Freddie Prinze Jr. leaves behind his typical boy-next-door characters (think She’s All That and I Know What You Did Last Summer) to take on the hero role of Jedi Kanan Jarrus. Prinze has a great time delivering the lines, but says it’s sometimes difficult to get that emotion across. His trick? He pictures his character in his head as he speaks into the microphone, trying to get the tone of the words just right. If you haven’t given this animated program a chance yet, you should give it a try.
6. Tom Hiddleston as Captain Hook
Tinkerbell and The Pirate Fairy is a favourite among little girls everywhere. The band of merry fairies are voiced by some pretty impressive actresses, including Lucy Liu, Christina Hendricks and Raven Symone. But the big surprise is the voice of a young (pre-crocodile/hook) Captain Hook– Tom Hiddleston. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, think back to the creepy Loki from Thor/Avengers. (Guess being the bad guy is his forte.) Hiddleston says he enjoys voice work because you need to stretch to express yourself without using your eyes or the rest of your body. The most surprising aspect of this project is Hiddleston’s more-than-decent voice when he sings “Frigate that Flies”, a catchy pirate anthem.
5. Mandy Moore as Sheriff Callie
Sheriff Callie’s Wild West centres on the adventures of a feline sheriff named Callie, who protects the town of Nice and Friendly Corners. Mandy Moore voices the lead character, luckily with plenty of singing, with other voiceover contributions from Mo Collins (MADtv), Lucas Grabeel (High School Musical) and Cree Summer (A Different World). Look out for guest voices, too. Even Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea made a cameo this season. Mandy Moore also voiced Rapunzel in 2010’s Tangled, as well as Mara, in the Disney XD animated show Tron: Uprising.
4. Martin Short as Cat in the Hat
This one might be a little obvious. Martin Short’s voice is pretty recognizable, even as the Cat in the Hat – but could you picture anyone more perfect for the role? His positive attitude and energy come through the screen, despite the plain-Jane animation and colours. The Cat in the Hat takes six-year-old Sally and Nick on different adventures each day, with the help of Thing One and Thing Two. And while Martin Short is clearly a talented man, this is a show and voice that is best when watched in small doses.
3. Kevin Kline as Calvin Fischoeder
His moral compass is a little lacking. He’s a little shady. He can be sneaky. But still, Mr. Fischoeder is somehow loveable as the rich landlord on Bob’s Burgers (OK, Bob’s Burgers is more of a teen/adult show than a kid’s show, but anyone who watches animated shows must have a little kid in them). Still, it’s worth mentioning in this piece based on the surprising fact that Kevin Kline lends his voice to this show, a fact that not many are aware of. Kline takes a step away from the big screen to voice the eye patch-wearing character from time to time. Kevin is currently also filming Ricki and the Flash with Meryl Streep, which should hit theatres in 2015.
2. Sean Astin as Oso
The world fell in love with Sean Astin in 1985 as Mikey, the optimistic, determined and asthmatic hero of The Goonies. Then came Rudy. And after that, The Lord of the Rings. Needless to say, he’s made a name for himself. And now, all those children watching him in the ‘80s and ‘90s can hear his voice once again on kid favourite, Special Agent Oso. Oso the panda bear is a cuddly and friendly agent who is still in training and requires the help of friends to accomplish his goals. He can be a little awkward and slow at times, but his bravery trumps all his obstacles. Kind of like a Goonie.
1. Seth Green as A-Bomb
Seth Green‘s voice isn’t saved just for Family Guy (he lends his voice mainly to Chris and Neil Goldman); he also plays A-Bomb on Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. The Hulk-like crew also includes Eliza Dushku as She-Hulk and Clancy Brown (guard from The Shawshank Redemption) as Red Hulk. Together, the agents attempt to verify their hero status and diminish their monster status. Quite a departure from the roles we’re used to seeing Green play, but at least now our kids can enjoy this bright actor’s voice without being subjected to images of Goldmember doing the splits.