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10 of the Most Influential Voice Actors of All Time

By Lin Parkin

December 2, 2013

Comments (7)

Admit One.jpgWas there a voice actor in particular who inspired you to get into the industry?

Comedy is tough, but it's even more difficult when you don't have the benefit of expressing it through physical movement.

Breathing life into some of the most memorable family-friendly characters of all time these folks are just some of the incredibly talented voice actors who have been particularly influential for both what they've contributed to the industry and their inspiring talents.

Join us in today's VOX Daily!

Mel Blanc

One of the most imitated voice actors of all time and best known for his many Warner Bros. characters from Bugs Bunny to Porky Pig, and Daffy Duck he voiced many of the early WB characters. He also voiced Barney Rubble on the Flintstones and Mr. Spacely in The Jetsons. Mel earned the nickname "The Man of a Thousand Voices" and is widely regarded as being one of the most influential people in the voice acting industry.

June Foray

Another WB alumnus, June is best known as the voice of Tweety Bird and Granny from Looney Tunes (she has reprised the role of Granny on the new Looney Tunes episodes) and was Rocky from Rocky & Bullwinkle in the 1950s. She also did many voices for Hanna-Barbera cartoon such as; The Flintstones, Tom and Jerry, Scooby-Doo, and The Jetsons. Throughout her career June has often been referred to as "the female Mel Blanc" for her talent and the sheer number of voices she performed.

Don LaFontaine

Nicknamed "The Voice of God" the late Don LaFontaine was one of the most famous movie-trailer voice actors of our time. With a distinguishable, powerful voice he became identified with the phrase "In a world...," which was used in movie trailers so frequently that it became a bit of a cliché. Don shot to stardom when he parodied his career for a GEICO insurance commercial that finally let us put a face to the voice.

Frank Welker

Frank landed his first voice role in 1969 as Fred Jones in Scooby-Doo Where Are You! and, to this day, still performs the voice of both Fred Jones and Scooby-Doo on new episodes. During the 1980s and 1990s his career really took off. Frank voiced characters for many popular cartoon characters at the time such as Doctor Claw in Inspector Gadget, Mister Mxyzptlk, Darkseid and Kalibak in Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show, and various characters on G.I. Joe. He voiced Ray Stantz and Slimer in The Real Ghostbusters, Dr. Jeremiah Surd in The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, and Hefty Smurf in The Smurfs. He was also Mr. Plotz, Runt, Ralph the Guard and various other characters in Animaniacs and McWolf on Tom and Jerry Kids. He voiced both the verbal and non-verbal sounds of Nibbler in Futurama. He also voices some characters on The Simpsons, such as Santa's Little Helper and Snowball II.

Frank Oz

Frank worked as a puppeteer and voice actor in Jim Henson's Muppets and has been one of the primary collaborators responsible for the development of all Muppets over the last 30 years. His characters included Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, and Sam the Eagle on The Muppet Show. He played Grover, Cookie Monster and Bert on Sesame Street, among many others. Frank was also the voice of Yoda in the Star Wars films. In total, Frank has lent his voice and performed as a Muppeteer in over 75 movies.

James Earl Jones

With an acting careering spanning over 50 years James Earl Jones has become known as "one of America's most distinguished and versatile" actors and "one of the greatest actors in American history." Perhaps one of the most requested sound-alike voices of all time, the authentic deep baritone of James Earl Jones has been used in film, television, cartoons, commercials and more. His most notable voice over roles has been Darth Vader for the entire Star Wars franchise and Mufasa in Disney's The Lion King.

Hank Azaria

Hank is one of the principal voice actors on the longest running cartoon and prime-time show ever, "The Simpsons." He voices a wide range of characters on the show, most notably Moe Szyslak, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Chief Wiggum, Comic Book Guy, and Carl Carlson but voices numerous other sidelining characters as well. One of the things that makes his range so impressive is that he joined the show with little voice acting experience, but went on to become a regular in its second season. He also manages to find time to fit in live-action performances for stage, film, and television.

Dan Castellaneta

Dan, a voice actor, comedian and screenwriter, joins the list with cast member Hank Azaria. He is most noted for his role as Homer Simpson on the The Simpsons. Hank has played Homer since he first performed the voice in 1987. He was cast as a member of the The Tracey Ullman Show which included a series of animated shorts about the now famous dysfunctional family. Voices were needed, so the producers asked Dan to play the part of Homer. Since then, Dan has been honored with several awards for voicing Homer, including four Primetime Emmy Awards for "Outstanding Voice-Over Performance. He also voices many other characters on the show, including "Grampa" Simpson, Barney Gumble, Krusty the Clown, Side Show Mel, Groundskeeper Willie, Mayor Quimby and Hans Moleman.

Billy West

Billy is the voice of hundreds of well known cartoon characters including, Ren and Stimpy on The Ren & Stimpy Show, Doug Funnie, Porkchop, and Roger Klotz on Doug, and Philip J. Fry, Professor Hubert Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg and Zapp Brannigan, as well as various other incidental characters on Futurama. In fact, like many Futurama cast members, he voiced so many different characters that conversations were often held entirely between characters he voiced. He is frequently heard in commercials as well and is the current voice of the red M&M and Buzz, the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee. In addition to his original character voices, he has also voiced Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Shaggy Rogers, Popeye, and Woody Woodpecker during later renditions of the respective characters.

John DiMaggio

John is best known for his voice work as Bender from Futurama, Jake the Dog on Adventure Time, and Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness. John gets on this list for his contribution to the industry not only with his own voice-over work but as executive producer of the new documentary film "I Know That Voice" which pays tribute to the craft of voice acting, documenting over 100 of the most beloved characters and the actors behind those voices. "I Know That Voice" will likely go down as one of the most significant movies ever made about the voice-over industry.

I hope you've enjoyed this list!

This was a tough one to put together. There are many talented individuals who've helped shape or have been a source of inspiration to many in the industry, such as Nancy Cartwright, Maurice LaMarche, Rob Paulsen, Phil LaMarr, Peter Cullen, Jim Cummings, Tress MacNeille, Casey Kasem, Mark Hamill, Hal Douglas, and so many more that this list easily could have been extended to the top 50.

Please feel free to leave a comment on which voice actor most inspired you!

All the best,
Lin

©iStockphoto.com/brentmelissa

Related Topics: Billy West, Casey Kasem, Dan Castellaneta, Don LaFontaine, Frank Oz, Frank Welker, Hal Douglas, Hank Azaria, James Earl Jones, Jim Cummings, John DiMaggio, June Foray, Mark Hamill, Maurice LaMarche, Mel Blanc, Nancy Cartwright, Peter Cullen, Phil LaMarr, Rob Paulsen, Top 10, Tress MacNeille


Comments


    James Earl Jones and Frank Oz, legends and two of my heroes! Brilliant list.

    Neil

    Posted by:

      No, None of the above. I was inspired by Shari Lewis & Lambchop. I was so excited about puppeteering that my Mom helped me build a Puppet studio and made my puppets. I commenced my love for creating Character voices at 9 years of age outta Chicago. It was not feasible as a Female to get bookings so I ventured into the Production end of Film & Television. I saved up enough funds for an early retirement and now am voicing full time. It took many years but, that's just how it is, nothing worth while comes overnight. I still continue to study with various coaches & workshops in Hollywood.

      Posted by:

        Joe Cipriano continues to inspire me. Great book too! Read it!

        Posted by:

          Agreed CJ! Joe has been a mentor of sorts for me. He was even gracious enough to reply to several of my emails asking for advice on VO. He's been down to earth with his advice and perspective.

          Frank Welker has been impressive to me as well, but not for Scooby-Doo. Instead it was his work as Megatron and Soundwave on Transformers when I was a kid that really stuck him in my head. Him and Peter Cullen to me are iconic VO actors in animation.

          Posted by:
          • Derek Shoales
          • December 4, 2013 12:03 PM

            Don't forget Tom Kinney!

            Posted by:

              Did you leave out Stan Freberg because he's better known for his satirical writing and production - a one-stop shop - than his voice? I was inspired by every aspect of his work.

              Posted by:

                I agree with many of the names on third top-ten, but a few seem to be there only because of recent success and not a life-time of contributions.

                No love for Daws Butler, Don Messick, Stan Freberg, Thurl Ravenscroft, Paul Frees, Alan Reed? These were my heroes and the inspiration behind my interest in voiceover.

                Say, wouldn't it be great if somebody at one of the big studios did a series of videos highlighting the careers of these giants of our industry? A lot of people might want an education in the biographical history of voice acting. Current professionals could comment on their favorites from yesteryear, in much the same way as musicians pay homage to their early influences.

                Posted by:

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