This post on famous voice actors by Voice123 Premium member Bobby Thomas is the second in a series written by actors on the platform. Members are invited to participate in Voice123 blog challenges. If you’d like to know more, please contact our client success team!
Voice acting has always fascinated me. So, before putting myself out there and joining Voice123, I researched famous voice actors from whom I could learn. Here’s a selection of voice actors who define voice acting for me. I say ‘for me’ because you might choose others. Nevertheless, these talented actors (both past and present) have had a huge impact on the voice over industry. They still do — and probably always will. I list them in no particular order.
American Melvin Jerome Blanc (May 30, 1908 – July 10, 1989) was a famous voice actor and radio personality. He began his 60+-year career in radio, and gained fame for his work during the golden age of American animation. Blanc made his debut as Bugs Bunny in ‘A Wild Hare’ (1940). While involved in countless hair-raising adventures over the years, Bugs is best remembered for munching carrots while murmuring that immortal line: “Eh — what’s up, doc?”
Mel Blanc went on to voice all the major male Warner Bros. cartoon characters. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety, Sylvester, Foghorn Leghorn, and Yosemite Sam are a few that instantly come to mind.
In 1960, after the expiration of his exclusive contract with Warner, Blanc also voiced characters on TV shows by Hanna-Barbera.
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American voice actor Donald Leroy LaFontaine (August 26, 1940 – September 1, 2008) voiced more than 5,000 film trailers. He also recorded thousands of television advertisements, network promotions, and video game trailers. He became identified with the phrase “In a world…” Used in so many movie trailers, it became a cliché!
Consequently, LaFontaine’s distinctive voice work spanned every genre from every major film studio.
For a time, LaFontaine commanded a near-monopoly on movie trailer voiceovers. Some notable trailers on his website include Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Shrek, Friday the 13th, Law & Order, and Batman Returns.
American actor Nancy Cartwright (born October 25, 1957) is famous for voicing Bart Simpson on the television series, The Simpsons.
Cartwright originally intended auditioning for the role of Bart’s elder sister, Lisa. At the venue, she discovered that Lisa was simply the middle child. The character had no personality. As a result, Cartwright auditioned for Bart. She found his role description much more appealing: “devious, underachieving, school-hating, irreverent, and clever.”
Apparently, creator Matt Groening gave her the job on the spot.
American William Richard Werstine (born April 16, 1952), goes by the name of Billy West. He’s a singer, musician, songwriter, and former radio personality as well as a voice actor.
West’s first two high-profile roles, on Doug and The Ren & Stimpy Show, came almost simultaneously. They were on two of the first original three Nicktoons on Nickelodeon (the other being Rugrats). West has voiced close to 120 different characters. These include some of the most iconic animated characters in television history (Futurama). West voiced so many characters throughout the series that he often ends up playing opposite himself!
West became one of the few voice actors able to impersonate Mel Blanc. These characterizations include Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, as well as other characters from Warner Bros.
Tara Lyn Strong (born February 12, 1973) is a Canadian-American voice actor.
Her roles include Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, The Fairly Odd Parents, Drawn Together, Ben 10, Chowder, Teen Titans, DC Super Hero Girls, and My Little Pony. She voiced characters in video games as well: Mortal Kombat, Jak and Daxter, Final Fantasy X, and the Batman: Arkham series.
Keith is actually also a Premium Voice123 member and a personal favorite of mine. I’ve been following his career for years. He has an incredible list of credits to his name. He’s the voice of the Wachovia Golf Championship, and voiced commercials for the Speed Channel, Duke football, and Lockheed/Martin. His clients include NFL Films, Doritos, Live Nation, SCI’s Expedition Safari, the NBC Sports Network, the Outdoor Channel, and NBC Sports.
James Earl Jones (born January 17, 1931) is an American actor. He has been described as one of America’s most distinguished and versatile actors.
Jones is especially famous for voicing Darth Vader in the 1977 film Star Wars: A New Hope. He again voiced the character in the sequels, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi(1983). Vader was portrayed by David Prowse, but his strong West Country accent was deemed unsuitable by director George Lucas. Jones was uncredited in the first two Star Wars films. This was rectified in the first film’s 1997 Special Edition re-release, however. Initially, he simply considered his performance ‘special effects’ and didn’t think he should be credited!
Seth Woodbury MacFarlane (born October 26, 1973) is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. He studied animation. Recruited to Hollywood, he was an animator and writer for Hanna-Barbera. His work included Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, Dexter’s Laboratory, I Am Weasel, and Larry & Steve. He won several awards for his work (creator and actor) on Family Guy. These include four Primetime Emmy Awards and an Annie Award.
While MacFarlane enjoyed working at Hanna-Barbera, he was drawn to prime-time animation that would allow edgier humor. He first pitched Family Guy to Fox during his tenure at Hanna-Barbera. A development executive for Hanna-Barbera introduced MacFarlane to the heads of the alternative comedy at Fox. The rest, as they say, is history!
Sir David Frederick Attenborough (born 8 May 1926) is a British broadcaster and natural historian.
He is perhaps best known for writing and presenting the BBC natural history documentary series The Planet Earth and Life. Together these constitute a comprehensive survey of animal and plant life on Earth.
I think his animated and enthusiastic style of presentation earns him a place among the other famous voice actors on this list. While his style of narration is often parodied, he is much admired.
James Jonah Cummings (born November 3, 1952) has voiced almost 400 roles. He is known for playing the title character from Darkwing Duck, Dr. Eggman Robotnik from Sonic the Hedgehog, and Winnie the Pooh (since 1988), Tigger, Bonkers D. Bobcat, and the Tasmanian Devil.
He’s performed in numerous Disney animated films. These include Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, Hercules, and The Princess and the Frog. He’s voiced roles for Universal/DreamWorks, MGM and Nickelodeon films. These include Balto, All Dogs Go to Heaven 2, Antz, The Road to El Dorado, Shrek and Jimmy Neutron. He’s also performed in video games. Titles such as Icewind Dale, Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, Baldur’s Gate, Mass Effect, Star Wars: The Old Republic, World of Warcraft and Splatterhouse appear on his remarkable résumé.
If you possess the drive, dedication, commitment, and ambition to pursue a voice acting career, you’re already halfway to joining the ranks of these famous voice actors, in my opinion. Constant research and practicing your craft always pays dividends. Surrounding yourself with other voice actors can serve as inspiration and motivation, too. Ask questions, and be proactive in your desire to learn more.
Finally, when you’re ready to take the next step, join Voice123!