Voice actors typically don’t reach the same level of fame as screen actors despite the fact that voice acting takes just as much talent as, if not more than, screen acting does. The chances are high that you have heard some of the most famous voice actors out there but have no idea of their names or who they are.
Unless it’s a big name actor who typically doesn’t do voice work, like Scarlett Johansson voicing Samantha in Spike Jonze’s Her, it’s very likely that the voice talent is going to get properly recognized as an actor. There have even been many attempts to get voice acting included as a category at the Academy awards, but so far nothing has come of this. Thankfully, voice actors do get recognized for their astounding work at the Emmy Awards, but the trophies are presented during the technical portion of the awards ceremony, which is not televised, rather than during the main ceremony. Before the days of film and television, voice actors received more recognition thanks to the abundance or radio plays. In Japan, because of the extreme popularity of anime and video games, voice actors are more recognized than in North America and often have more prolific careers.
Voice actors in Hollywood today typically play multiple roles; the only real exception to this is the main voice actors on The Simpsons who are so established and whose voices are so recognized that they rarely venture outside of their day job. Some of the voice actors on this list are pioneers; others are fairly new to the field, but they have made such memorable work in numerous iconic roles that that they deserve recognition. The following are the often underappreciated and sometimes surprising top ten most influential voice actors of all time.
10. Pamela Adlon
You might recognize her for her roles in both of Louis C.K’s sitcoms, but you probably don’t know that Adlon was the voice of Bobby Hill on King of the Hill; she won an Emmy for her portrayal of Bobby in 2002. Aldon has voiced numerous other characters in shows like Rugrats, Recess, and Uncle Grandpa.
9. Frank Oz
Frank Oz has not only voiced and was a puppeteer for numerous Muppet characters like Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, but he helped create the characters as well. He both voiced and controlled the Yoda puppet in 1981’s Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. He is also a prolific director; Oz directed Little Shop of Horrors and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
8. John Dimaggio
He is an extremely versatile and talented voice actor, but the roles Dimaggio is best known for are essentially slight variations of his normal speaking voice. As Bender in Futurama he speaks in a very animated way, and as Jake the Dog in Adventure Time he’s a little more understated. But when listening to both characters speak, John Dimaggio’s voice and talent are clearly recgonizable, as are his acting chops. Dimaggio will reprise his role of Bender in the upcoming Futurama/Simpsons crossover episode.
7. Hank Azaria
Hank Azaria has won four Emmys for his work as a voice actor on The Simpsons, and he has even won an Emmy for his on screen work thanks to his portrayal of Mitch Albom in the television film adaptation of Tuesdays with Morrie, which starred Jack Lemmon. Azaria currently earns $300,000 per episode for his work on The Simpsons where he portrays Moe Szyslak, Apu, Chief Wiggum, Professor Frink, Disco Stu, Comic Book Guy, Dr. Nick and many other characters.
6. Mark Hamill
This is perhaps one of the only actors on this list you’ll recognize by his face as much as his voice. Hamill first came to prominence for his portrayal of Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy, a role he will reprise in Star Wars Episode VII, but now he is almost as well known as the voice of the Joker in various Batman TV shows and video games. He first played the voice of the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series from 1992 to 1995 after her replaced Tim Curry in the pilot episode. He later played the Joker in The New Batman Adventures, Justice League, Static Shock, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, and even Robot Chicken. He was the voice of Joker in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, which was the only animated Batman film ever released in theatres. He most recently voiced the Joker in the videogame Batman: Arkham City, and it is said to be the last time he will portray the character, but many speculate he will return for the upcoming Batman: Arkham Knight video game. He voiced himself on The Simpsons and played various other characters on cartoons like Spider-man, Futurama and Gravity Falls.
5. Tom Kenny
Tom Kenny’s most famous role is that of a porous yellow character who lives in a pineapple under the sea. He has voiced Spongebob Squarepants since the character’s television debut in 1999, and he also played the character in the 2004 film adaptation of the show: The Spongebob Squarepants Movie. Kenny has won two Annie Awards. He won one award for Spongebob Squarepants and another for Adventure Time, in which he voices the Ice King. Kenny got his start in sketch comedy and was a cast member on the cult hit Mr. Show with Bob and David.
4. Billy West
Billy West is perhaps best known as the voice of Stimpy on Ren and Stimpy; he voiced Ren after Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi, the original voice of Ren, left the show. Billy West was the voice of most of the main characters on the recently cancelled Futurama including Zoidberg, Professor Farnsworth and Phillip J. Fry. Today he voices many classic cartoon characters such as Woody Woodpecker, Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd since the original voice actors of these characters have passed away. West most recently portrayed Guardians of the Galaxy character Rocket Raccoon on an episode of Ultimate Spider-man, and he will reprise his role of Fry from Futurama on an episode of The Simpsons later this year.
3. Frank Welker
Perhaps best known as the voice of Scooby Doo, Frank Welker is a legend who is still working today. He was also the voice of Fred in the Scooby Doo cartoons. From 1980 up until 2011, the total box office of films he starred in was higher than that of any other actor in Hollywood. He has been a part of over 100 films, which have grossed over $6.5 billion. Other iconic roles by Welker include numerous villains from 80s cartoons such as Megatron from Transformers and Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget. Many of his voice acting roles contain no dialogue and he is well known for his mimicry of animals.
2. June Foray
Even at 96 years old, June Foray is still doing voice work. This legendary voice actress came to prominence as the voice of Rocky the Squirrel in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. She was the voice of Cindy Lou Who in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Looney Tunes character Granny. She has voiced Granny for almost 60 years and most recently portrayed the character in the currently running The Looney Tunes Show. She received her first Emmy in 2012 and received the Governor’s Award (lifetime achievement award) at last year’s Emmy Awards ceremony.
1. Mel Blanc
Known as the man of a thousand voices, Mel Blanc is best known for voicing numerous Looney Tunes characters including his most famous role – Bugs Bunny. In fact, he was the original voice of the vast majority of Looney Tunes characters. He also voiced Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Pepe Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester and Tweety, Wile E. Coyote, and the Tasmanian Devil. After his exclusive contract with Warner Bros. ended, Blanc began working for Hanna-Barbera and voiced characters such as Barney Rubble and Mr. Spacely from The Jetsons. He was the first voice actor to be given an on-screen credit for his work.