(From left) Mike Wazowski, Dory, Edna Mode, Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear, Rhino, Rango, Sid and Olaf.
As someone who watches the Academy Awards religiously each year (and knows more about the history of the 88-year-old ceremony than he probably should), I am always stunned and disappointed every year when the Academy does not step up and add voice acting in animated features as one of the official award categories.
While awards for this type of voice acting have been given at the Annie Awards (awards for accomplishments in animation) since 1998, the Academy has yet to acknowledge the work these actors do behind the microphone. Last year alone, animated features made over $4.1 billion at box office worldwide.
Earlier this year, Stephanie Ciccarelli, co-founder and chief brand officer of Voices.com, told Upvoted.com that she thought the creation of a voice acting category was within reach.
“There’s no shortage of people who would love to see this addition,” she said. “A voice acting category is in the Academy’s hands, and their hearts need to be stirred toward that end if there is ever to be a category of this kind in the future.”
Here’s to hoping the Academy gets their hearts stirred soon and gives some love to those men and women who spend precious hours in the sound booth to make magic happen. Below are 15 voice performances in animated features that should have won an Oscar. I began with 2001 since it was the first year the Academy started giving an award for Best Animated Feature and have only included work done for animated feature films (sorry Andy Serkis and Scarlett Johansson). Baby steps.
Billy Crystal as Mike Wazowski, Monster's Inc. (2001)
While most people probably like Donkey (Eddie Murphy) in Shrek better, my vote goes to Mike Wazowski, a short, green monster who finds out laughter is much more powerful than screams. Other nominees: Murphy as Donkey in Shrek; John Goodman as Sulley and Steve Buscemi as Randall in Monster’s Inc.
John Leguizamo as Sid, Ice Age (2002)
Adding a heavy lisp to his character Sid, a simple albeit friendly ground sloth, Leguizamo created the funniest talking character in the original animated movie about a herd of misfit animals that journey to get a human baby back to its tribe. Other nominees: Daveigh Chase as Lilo in Lilo & Stitch.
Ellen DeGeneres as Dory, Finding Nemo (2003)
I’m not going to lie. I found DeGeneres’ Dory a bit irritating at times, but there’s no denying she gave a great voice to this loyal blue fish with short-term memory loss. Audiences liked her so much, she landed her own movie, Finding Dory, which opens in theaters June 17. Other nominees: Albert Brooks as Merlin in Finding Nemo.
Brad Bird as Edna Mode, The Incredibles (2004)
Director Brad Bird couldn’t find the right voice actor for the fashion designer, so he just did it himself. It turned into one of the best choices for the animated film about a family of superheroes. Other nominees: Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots in Shrek 2; Samuel L. Jackson as Lucius Best in The Incredibles.
Peter Sallis as Wallace, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
The English actor has been lending his voice to the character since 1989. Today, Sallis is 95 years old. “I realize now, though it's taken me nearly 100 years, that my voice is distinctive,” said Sallis. “I'm very lucky indeed.” Other nominees: Helena Bonham Carter as Lady Campanula, Ralph Fiennes as Victor Quartermaine and Nicholas Smith as Rev. Clement Hedges in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
Ian McKellen as The Toad, Flushed Away (2006)
Once a beloved pet of a young Prince Charles in Buckingham Palace, The Toad was flushed down into the sewers where he became a crime boss and leader of his gang of henchrats. British villains are even more menacing in designer suits. Other nominees: Maggie Gyllenhaal as Zee in Monster House.
Peter O'Toole as Anton Ego, Ratatouille (2007)
Giving voice to a tough-as-nails restaurant critic, O’Toole was exemplary in the role. Not only did he crave the finest meals, he also loved watching people recoil in fear just before he opened his mouth to say something. Other nominees: Ian Holm as Skinner, Patton Oswalt as Remy and Janeane Garofalo as Colette Tatou in Ratatouille.
Mark Walton as Rhino, Bolt (2008)
This under-appreciated animated film was lost in the remarkableness of WALL-E that year, but I still urge you to seek it out, especially for Walton’s hilarious character Rhino, a TV-obsessed hamster that spends the entire film rolling around in his hamster ball. Other nominees: Ben Burtt as WALL-E in WALL-E; Dustin Hoffman as Master Shifu, James Hong as Mr. Ping and Ian McShane as Tai Lung in Kung Fu Panda.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Max Jerry Horowitz, Mary & Max (2009)
Not many people saw this wonderful Australian stop-motion animated film back in 2009. Hoffman plays Max, a morbidly obese 44-year-old atheist diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome living in New York City who somehow becomes pen pals with an 8-year-old girl from Australia. Other nominees: Dawn French as Ms. Forcible in Coraline; George Clooney as Mr. Fox and Jason Schwartzman as Ash Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox; Jenifer Lewis as Mama Odie in The Princess and the Frog.
Ned Beatty as Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear, Toy Story 3 (2010)
Honestly, anyone in the film could be listed as giving one of the best voice performances of 2010. I picked Ned Beatty because he has the meatiest role as the villain of the film, but also shows his vulnerable side. Other nominees: Tom Hanks as Woody, Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear, Joan Cusack as Jessie and Michael Keaton as Ken from Toy Story 3; Geoffrey Rush as Ezylryb in Guardians of Ga’Hoole.
Johnny Depp as Rango, Rango (2011)
Probably the only actor on this list that didn’t actually record his voice inside a studio, Depp and the rest of the cast were actually on a set acting out the film in costume. It’s no wonder the voice work of all the characters sounds so authentic and rich. Other nominees: Bill Nighy as Rattlesnake Jake in Rango; Gary Oldman as Shen in Kung Fu Panda 2; Jim Cummings as Winnie the Pooh and Tigger in Winnie the Pooh.
Alan Tudyk as King Candy, Wreck-it-Ralph (2012)
I can’t help but think of Tudyk’s character as a mix between director Gary Marshall and the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland. The combination is sublime and the villainous King Candy is equal parts goofy and frightening as they come. Other nominees: Sarah Silverman as Vanellope von Schweet and Jack McBrayer as Fix-It Felix in Wreck-it-Ralph; Atticus Shaffer as “E” Gore in Frankenweenie; Kelly Macdonald as Merida in Brave.
Josh Gad as Olaf, Frozen (2013)
For me, Gad falls under the same category as DeGeneres’ Dory – slightly irritating in the most adorable kind of way. Nevertheless, Olaf steals all of his scenes and “In Summer” is too catchy and ironic to ignore. Other nominees: Paul Giamatti as Chet in Turbo; Kristen Wiig as Lucy in Despicable Me 2; Terry Crews as Officer Earl Devereaux in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.
Ben Kingsley as Archibald Snatcher, The Boxtrolls (2014)
Local pest exterminator makes a deal to get rid of all the Boxtrolls in town in exchange to become a member of a council of high society. Kingsley shines as the hardhearted villain, who gets a chance to do a little cross-dressing during his mischievous deeds. Other nominees: Ryan Potter as Hiro Hamada and T.J. Miller as Fred in Big Hero 6.
Phyllis Smith as Sadness, Inside Out (2015)
The entire cast is top-notch, but Smith’s Sadness is what voice casting is all about – putting the right person in the right role and not worrying about star power or name recognition. Smith is perfect. Other nominees: Amy Poehler as Joy, Lewis Black as Anger and Richard Kind as Bing Bong in Inside Out; Tom Noonan as “everyone else” in Anomalisa.