Leading a career as an actor is no easy task, and one specific brand of acting that often goes overlooked by the masses is voice acting. You don’t see award shows like the Oscars or the Golden Globes dedicate an entire category to them. In reality, voice acting work is quite the difficult task. It’s not easy for a voice actor to not only manipulate their voice to suit the needs of their character, but give audiences to suspend enough belief that it is a character’s voice they are listening to, and not an actors’. This kind of unique tasks often arises surprising results. Surprising in that the voice actors who play these characters often never end up looking like the characters they play.
This does make the work they put into their job all the more impressive, but nonetheless shocking when we do happen to catch a glimpse of the real life voices who provide the voices to such unique characters. To emphasize just how often this happens in the voice acting world and why it is such an impressive feat that deserves to be heralded by the masses, here is a list of cartoon voice actors who look nothing like the characters they provide voice work to.
15. HANK AZARIA AS APU
In more recent years, there has been some controversy regarding The Simpsons casting Jewish American Hank Azaria in the role of Apu, despite the actor voicing him for almost 30 years now. People take offense to the fact that a non-POC (person of color) actor is lending his voice to a stereotypical Indian character. Although, it seems that the point of the character is to be a stereotype; a parody per say.
Azaria addressed this in a 2007 interview where he noted that while in the writer’s room during the inception of the character, he was asked “Can you do an Indian accent and how offensive can you make it?” His response was that his impression was “not tremendously accurate. It’s a little, uh, stereotype.” They told him “Eh, that’s all right.”
14. PAMELA ADLON AS BOBBY HILL
When viewers listen to Bobby Hill’s nasally and prepubescent voice on King of the Hill, they never would have expected it to belong to Pamela Adlon. The voters behind the Emmy Awards must have been shocked as well because they awarded her a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Voice Over Performance for the work she put into Bobby Hill back in 2002. She has also received Emmy nominations for acting and writing for the FX Louis C.K. vehicle, Louie.
Most recently, Adlon was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her own FX show, Better Things. While she failed to win the Emmy, she did receive a Peabody Award for Area of Excellence for the work she put into her semi-autobiographical story.
13. MIKE JUDGE – BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD
Mike Judge is often praised for creating some of the greatest shows and movies in the comedic genre — including Beavis and Butt-Head, King of the Hill, and Office Space — but he is seldom given credit for his contributions as a voice actor. Some of his biggest fans don’t even know that he provided the voices for the characters of Beavis and Butt-Head.
Maybe it’s because his real life matured and soothing voice is in sharp contrast to the dim-witted and practically screech worthy voices of both Beavis and Butt-Head. Few would hear Judge’s voice and come to the conclusion that he was also the voice of such nonsensical characters. It really attests to how good of a voice actor that Mike Judge actually was back then.
12. CHARLIE MURPHY & SAMUEL L. JACKSON- RUMMY AND ED
On The Boondocks, Gin Rummy and Ed Wuncler III are portrayed as two trigger happy former Iraq soldiers and two wannabe gangsters. Attributing to the gangster ambitions, they both feel compelled to act and talk like how African Americans are usually stereotyped. Since these two white characters favor unlawful and inaccurate African American stereotypes, it seems only fitting that the characters are voiced by African Americans Samuel L. Jackson and Charlie Murphy.
Both Jackson and the late Murphy have also been tremendous at their craft and the voice work they did for Rummy and Ed are arguably their funniest contributions to the comedy genre. While The Boondocks have since left the airwaves, Jackson remains successful as ever, but Murphy sadly passed away in April 2017.
11. H. JON BENJAMIN – ARCHER
The character of Sterling Archer was conceived to look like the atypical good looking, dashing, and dapper gent that was in the same vain of James Bond. Not to be harsh on the actor who lends his voice to the character, but we don’t exactly think “good looking,” or “dashing” or “dapper” whenever we see H. Jon Benjamin. Physical aesthetics aside, H. Jon Benjamin is quite the talented voice actor.
The same voice behind the title character of Archer is also the same voice behind such beloved cartoon characters as Bob Belcher of Bob’s Burgers, Dr. Katz, and Coach McGurk from Home Movies. He was even the can of vegetables from the film Wet Hot American Summer, reprising the role in the Netflix series follow-up.
10. LINDA LARKIN – JASMINE
Disney is currently preparing to remake Aladdin as a live action film. While the film itself remains in the earliest stages of development, the production has already seen some controversy as in the summer of 2017, fans were in an uproar to the see the production cast a white actor in the cast, albeit a white actor in an original role.
There was also controversy surrounding the casting Jasmine as Naomi Scott, who is of Indian descent instead of Middle Eastern like the character. We wonder if we would have seen the same outrage in 1992 if fans knew that the Middle Eastern characters of Aladdin were voiced by white people. Aladdin himself was voiced by Scott Weinger of Full House fame and Jasmine by Linda Larkin.
9. SCOTT MENVILLE – ROBIN
When people take one look at Scott Menville, the profession of voice actor does not immediately spring to mind. Something about his size and stature screams that he’d be more suited for a bodyguard. However, his voice talents help him fit right in the voice acting world. He is able to manipulate his voice to lend it to some surprising characters, namely Robin from both the original Teen Titans cartoon.
Menville may lack the hair or youth to pull off playing a teenager in real life, but he’s done such a swell job in the role that he was brought back years after Teen Titans‘ cancellation to play Robin again in Teen Titans Go! For many viewers, young and older, Menville’s voice may just be the most quintessential Robin to date.
8. SETH MACFARLANE – PETER GRIFFIN
Seth MacFarlane has a voice that doesn’t really match his own body, yet alone his characters. One can take a gander at the man and be shocked at the thunderous, commanding tone that leaves his lips. Even more shocking to find out that is the same voice that has been lent to Family Guy characters like Peter Griffin, Stewie Griffin, Glenn Quagmire and Brian the Dog.
He was also the voice of Emperor Palpatine from Robot Chicken, Tim the Bear from The Cleveland Show, and Ted from the Ted movies. Perhaps in an effort to separate himself from his Family Guy franchise and maybe even the rest of his animated credits, MacFarlane now dedicates his time to creating, writing, directing, producing, and starring in his own Star Trek spoof, The Orville.
7. PHIL LAMARR – SAMURAI JACK
While most of his live action performances are remembered via his small appearance in Pulp Fiction and his stint on MadTV, Phil Lamarr has a long and extensive voice acting career that supersedes anything he did in the live action format. He has provided voice work to various characters like Ollie Jackson from Family Guy, the title role of Static Shock, Osmosis Jones on Ozzy & Drix, and Jon Stewart’s Green Lantern.
Perhaps the most surprising credit to his name is when he provided the voice of the title character on Samurai Jack. He voiced the character from the very beginning of the show’s inception in 2001 right up until the show’s cancellation in 2003. He reprised the role for the recent revival of the series in 2017.
6. DAN MINTZ – TINA BELCHER
Tina Belcher has quickly become everyone’s favorite character of the Bob’s Burgers alumni and, in many ways, a vehicle that millennials who use Tumblr can relate to. Many viewers are shocked when they learn that her low, raspy, and monotone voice can be attributed to a man, Dan Mintz. The voice that he provides for the Belcher family’s eldest daughter is actually not all that different from the deadpan delivery that Mintz contributes to his usual stand-up comedy routine.
He even has the deadpan stare down pat, staring straight ahead and refusing to look at the audience or the camera while he’s performing on stage. When he isn’t voicing a teenage girl on Bob’s Burgers, he is among the writing staff for HBO’s highly successful Veep.
5. JEFF BENNETT – JOHNNY BRAVO
Johnny Bravo has always been portrayed as a mama’s boy who was always far too handsome for his own good and his cocksure attitude has gotten him in countless strange situations during the tenure of the Cartoon Network series of the same name. While he may not share Johnny Bravo’s devilish good looks, Jeff Bennett does have an endless charm which he injects into all of the cartoon characters who he provides voice work to.
Other such characters include Jonathan Long on American Dragon: Jake Long, Killer Moth from The Batman, Clay on Xiaolin Showdown, both The Creeper and The Scarecrow from The New Batman Adventures, and several voices on Clerks: The Animated Series. Needless to say, Bennett has had quite the career as a voice actor.
4. JONATHAN FREEMAN – JAFAR
We covered earlier how most of the heroes of Aladdin — specifically the lead actress voicing Jasmine — lack the same kind of melanin that matches the characters who they lend their voices to. The villain of Aladdin is no different. The antagonist of the film, Jafar, was voiced by Jonathan Freeman. In addition to voicing Jafar for most Aladdin spin off media — such as the sequels, Mickey’s House of Villains, House of Mouse, and the Kingdom Hearts video games –Freeman also brought the character to Broadway for an early stage production of Aladdin in 2011.
3. BILLY WEST – PROFESSOR FARNSWORTH
Billy West has a long, impressive, and illustrious history in the world of voice acting. His resume is not only impressive because he has contributed to a slew of different characters, but he does not look like any of the characters he voices. He does not exhibit the frail oldness of Professor Farnsworth, nor the bright eyed youth of Philip J. Fry.
He is not nearly as roundly robust as Dr. Zoidberg, nor slender as Stimpy. He has yet to lose all of his hair like Doug Funnie, but he doesn’t have hair all over his body like The Monkey King from Jackie Chan Adventures. All of these unique aspects to each of his characters really says a lot about the diverse nature of West’s filmography and the diverse characters he chose to play.
2. S. SCOTT BULLOCK – DASH
Living up to the name, Dash Baxter is the dashing star quarterback of the Casper High School football team. He also acts as a popular bully to the title character on Danny Phantom. While the character himself is the bleach blond, handsome, stereotypical high school bully, the voice actor who plays him is quite the opposite. S. Scott Bullock is actually the short, balding old guy behind the voice.
With a voice acting career spanning over 30 years in this business, Dash Baxter is far from the most famous character among his repertoire. He has also done voice work for characters like Eddy in the Barnyard franchise, King Goobot from The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron (originally played by Patrick Stewart in the movie), and Professor Dharman on Afro Samurai.
1. OLIVIA OLSON – MARCELINE
Marceline the Vampire Queen’s role on Adventure Time plays out originally as an antagonist before the morally ambiguous pale skinned trickster decides to embark on a much fulfilled road to redemption for her actions and actually manages to befriend the protagonists, Finn and Jake, along the way. The voice actress who plays her, Olivia Olson, happens to be a sharp contrast to Marceline in both personality and appearance.
Audiences first caught a glimpse of what Olson looks like in real life 15 years ago when she appeared in the film Love Actually. In recent memory, Olson has stuck mostly to voice appearances opposed to live action ones. In addition to providing the voice of Marceline, she has also done voice work for Phineas and Ferb.
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