Top 20 Child Voice Acting Performances in Movies
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Best Child Voice-Acting Performances in Movies.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most remarkable voiceover work pulled off by actors under the age of 16.
Which of these performances did you find the most impressive? Let us know in the comments!
#20: Jeremy Suarez as Koda
“Brother Bear” (2003)
“Brother Bear” is one of Disney’s more underrated movies. One of the many reasons it deserves more love is because of the supporting performance from Jeremy Suraez. During the movie, he plays an orphaned bear named Koda. After his mom is slain by a young man named Kenai, the human is transformed into a bear. The newly turned animal must rely on the lively Koda to survive and find a way back. When the young Jeremy Suarez voiced the cub, he more than held his own against Joaquin Phoenix’s Kenai. It’s a fun and upbeat performance that perfectly matches the character’s energy. More importantly, Suarez grabs viewers with his performance. By the end, you’ll care for Koda just as much as Kenai does.
#19: Hayden Panettiere as Dot
“A Bug’s Life” (1998)
Before Hayden Panettiere was a big film and TV star or even a teenager, she voiced Dot in “A Bug’s Life.” As the younger sister of Princess Atta, Dot is the only one who believes in perpetual screw-up Flik at the beginning of the movie. The character was already written to be a bright spot in Flik’s life. But Panettiere helps solidify that the ant is as an adorable yet fierce companion. She also has great chemistry with anyone she shares a scene with. Panettiere’s strong performance made us believe there was a ton of bravery within her miniscule frame. By delivering each line with determination, the actress proved that Dot deserved a ton of respect.
#18: Judith Barsi as Anne-Marie
“All Dogs Go to Heaven” (1989)
Director Don Bluth once praised Judith Barsi’s ability to understand complex verbal directions at such a young age. This can clearly be seen through her performance as Ducky in “The Land Before Time." However, we’d like to single out Barsi’s last role before her tragic death in 1988. In “All Dogs Go to Heaven,” Barsi played Anne-Marie, a young orphan who could talk to animals. Anne-Marie was consistently a shining beacon of hope in a plot that consists of a surprising amount of double crosses and schemes. Her voice is so sweet, it’s bound to make at least a few ‘aws’ come out. The preteen Barsi made the kind-hearted nature into an incredibly easy character to root for.
#17: Eli Marienthal as Hogarth Hughes
“The Iron Giant” (1999)
Essentially every element of “The Iron Giant” is incredible, and Eli Marienthal’s performance is no different. At the beginning of his teenage years, Marienthal voiced lead character Hogarth Hughes. He plays a young boy who makes a new friend in the form of a massive robot during the Cold War. With a paranoid agent on their tail, Hogarth must hide the giant while coming to terms with the violence it was built to inflict. In each moment, Marienthal taps into our childlike sense of wonder and adventure. He also makes our heart ache during the more caring and emotional moments. Thanks to Marienthal’s moving performance, the relationship between Hogarth and the robot is the beating heart and soul of this cult classic.
#16: Gregory Mann as Pinocchio
“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” (2022)
“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” retold the familiar tale with the auteur’s distinct sense of style and gorgeous stop-motion animation. There was a lot about it to love, including the wonderful voice acting of lead actor Gregory Mann. He made a character that has been voiced countless times before into his own with a nuanced performance. Not only does Mann capture Pinnochio’s innocence, but he gives the character a tougher edge when the wooden boy stands up for himself. Whether the scene is grim or uplifting, the puppet’s optimism shines through his lines. Despite being relatively unknown, Mann was cast before he turned 13 due to his impressive vocal range. His work effortlessly brought the wooden boy to life.
#15: Mary Gibbs as Boo
“Monsters, Inc.” (2001)
Since she was just 5 years old by the time “Monsters, Inc.” released, Mary Gibbs is definitely the youngest performer on our list. She was born to Pixar animator Rob Gibbs. While every parent thinks their child is the cutest, Rob ensured his daughter’s supreme levels of adorable would be immortalized. Gibbs voiced Boo, the toddler who unexpectedly enters the world of monsters and forms an unbreakable bond with Sulley. The actress later admitted that animators had to “follow her sound with a microphone because she wouldn't sit still”. Their work was clearly worth the effort. Boo’s sweet performance has a lot of range, especially in scenes with Sulley. And we have pitch-perfect casting to thank for it.
#14: Kaitlyn Dias as Riley Andersen
“Inside Out” (2015)
While the majority of “Inside Out” follows the emotions inside her head, Riley is obviously a vital character to the story. Since she’s incredibly relatable and empathetic, it only takes us a few scenes before we’re completely invested in her journey. Riley’s a standout in an already amazing cast thanks to actress Kaitlyn Dias. While in her early teens, the performer confidently portrayed every emotional state you could think of. The central message that it’s okay to feel sadness is expertly conveyed through Dias’ performance. We dare anyone to watch the scene where she confesses her unhappiness to her parents without getting choked up.
#13: Jordan Nagai as Russell
After his wife passes, Carl Fredricksen honors her by going on the trip they never got to while she was alive. Unfortunately for him and very fortunately for us, his trip is hijacked by an energetic wilderness explorer named Russsell. The preteen Jordan Nagai beat out hundreds of others to win the role. His spirited and energetic performance ensured every one of Russell’s jokes landed. Nagai also makes the overly talkative, curious and ambitious character into a great comedic foil to the gruff Carl without ever getting too obnoxious. Since this is a Pixar movie, there are also moments where Russell shows true emotion. Nagai was incredibly capable of selling those tender scenes too.
#12: Kathryn Beaumont as Alice
“Alice in Wonderland” (1951)
Like the novel before it, Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” is chock full of zany, memorable characters. The one element holding all the wild elements together is the fish out of water herself, Alice. The legendary Kathryn Beaumont was brought onto the project when she was around 12 years old. While we all remember the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, and the murderous Queen of Hearts, the story simply wouldn’t work without her take on Alice. Her sincere and playful performance instantly made us root for the charming lead. After Beaumont’s tremendous take, she made our hearts soar again when she played Wendy Darling in 1953’s “Peter Pan.”
#11: Phillip Glasser as Fievel Mousekewitz
“An American Tail” (1986)
Phillip Glasser made his Hollywood debut in “An American Tail” while he was under the age of 10. But upon hearing his performance, you’d expect he’d already worked with director Don Bluth for decades. He plays the Russian-born Fievel. During his journey to America, he gets separated from his family. Phillip Glasser’s voice pulls at your heartstrings as he strives to reunite with his loved ones. Everything about it makes us want to pull the underdog, or rather undermouse, in for a great big hug. But it isn't all doom and gloom. Fievel’s immense interest in all things new is believable and admirable thanks to the excitement and wonder Glasser brings to the role.
#10: Corey Feldman as Young Copper
“The Fox and the Hound” (1981)
Throughout the 1980s, Corey Feldman would prove himself to be a talented child actor through a variety of roles. We like to think it all started with Disney’s “The Fox and the Hound.” The pup is curious and playful as he should be. But there’s also a shyness underneath as he comes to terms with what’s expected of him as a hunting dog. In just a handful of scenes. Feldman captures all of the pup’s nuanced emotions. And we can’t deny how precious his little howl is. Before Kurt Russell took over as the older version of the hound dog, Feldman impressed us with his performance.
#9: Noah Schnapp as Charlie Brown
“The Peanuts Movie” (2015)
Playing an iconic character like Charlie Brown has got to be intimidating. But Noah Schnapp of “Stranger Things” fame proved he was more than up to the challenge. Since Charlie doesn’t have the best luck, the actor leaned into the character’s pessimism when it was called for. But Schnapp also injected a bit more humor and light-heartedness to the classic character. His multidimensional portrayal made us see the character in a whole new light. In Schnapp’s hands, Charlie was hopeful and sweet while maintaining traditional characteristics. It’s even more impressive to consider that he was only around 10 years old during filming.
#8: Gabriel Damon as Littlefoot
“The Land Before Time” (1988)
“The Land Before Time” follows a group of young dinosaurs as they search for the fabled Great Valley during the midst of a large-scale famine. Leading them is Littlefoot, voiced by a young Gabriel Damon. The group’s journey is really kicked into gear after the death of Littlefoot’s mother. This tragic scene is expertly handled by Damon with all the grace of a seasoned actor. Throughout the film, Littlefoot grows from being a scared and lost child to becoming the formidable leader his friends need him to be. All the while, Damon’s performance grows with him. He flawlessly showcased Littlefoot’s strength and compassion during the solid beginning to a long running franchise.
#7: Auli'i Cravalho as Moana
With her home island under threat of a mysterious blight, the young Moana leaves for the first time to ask for the demi-god Maui’s aid. Auli'i Cravalho incredibly had no acting credits to her name when she was cast at the age of 14. But honestly, she really didn’t need any. Throughout the film, Cravalho’s banter with co-star Dwayne Johnson sounds entirely natural. Her desire to explore the wider world inspires us to go on our own adventures too. Moana’s moments of vulnerability and doubt are also handled with skill as well. Oh, and we haven’t even gotten to her immaculate voice. Whenever Cravalho starts to sing, we want to belt out every lyric alongside her.
#6: Dakota Fanning as Coraline Jones
Dakota Fanning quickly rose as a go-to child actor throughout the 2000s. When looking back at her resume, Coraline Jones remains one of her best performances. After moving to a new town, the character discovers an entrance to a unique and disturbing world. Fanning makes the odd and somewhat irritable Coraline relatable and engaging. Even when she’s doing something she shouldn’t, we root for her because she’s just so driven. Coraline also hits serious roadblocks along the way. Through Dakota’s nuanced delivery, our heart breaks along with the character’s whenever things get dark. The actress began voicing the role when she was just around the age of 12. Over a decade later, Fanning’s work on “Coraline” stands as an early demonstration of her immense talent.
#5: Alexander Gould as Nemo
“Finding Nemo” (2003)
While we adore revisiting Marlin and Dory’s strained friendship, let’s not forget who the movie is named after. At age 7, Alexander Gould swam to the top of the cast list and was chosen to voice the titular lost fish in “Finding Nemo.” And his performance deserves just as much credit as those of his older co-stars. At first, Nemo is headstrong, excitable, and yearns to be rid of his training wheels. But over the course of the film, Nemo begins to realize the value of caution and patience. He becomes incredibly sympathetic as he matures into a thoughtful and determined young fish. Gould’s ability to convey Nemo’s growth makes us want to just keep swimming back to watch this movie again and again.
#4: Bradley Pierce as Chip
“Beauty and the Beast” (1991)
While we love several supporting characters in this Disney classic, the young Chip stands out thanks to a terrific performance. When the conceited prince was cursed by an enchantress, a boy turned into a small teacup with a noticeable feature. Chip was only intended to have one line of dialogue. But after the young Bradley Pierce stepped up to the mic, the filmmakers gave him more time to shine. There’s something about the innocence in his voice that instantly made us want to protect the teacup from getting another chip. If anyone but Pierce had come along, the character might not have been as vital to the plot. It’s now impossible for us to imagine the movie without the young actor’s pure and charming vocals.
#3: Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Young Simba
“The Lion King” (1994)
After proving himself on “Home Improvement,” a young Jonathan Taylor Thomas earned every child actor’s dream job: a role in a Disney movie. But there’s no way he could’ve known how iconic and celebrated his character would go on to be. As a cub, Simba is carefree, bold, and confident in his place in the world. The actor’s natural charisma seeps through every line and charms us. But whenever the plot veers towards heavier subject matter, you can feel the weight of the world in Thomas’ delivery. Mufasa’s death scene definitely hits hard thanks to the actor’s heartbreaking performance. The tremendous performance Thomas delivered is likely to be cherished for generations to come.
#2: Anthony Gonzalez as Miguel
Although “Coco” boasts gorgeous animation, an emotional story, and incredible music, everything hinges on the lead character, Miguel. Thankfully, Pixar could not have asked for a better fit than Anthony Gonzalez. He officially joined the cast at just 11 years old. Throughout his adventure in the Land of the Dead, Miguel follows his dream to become a musician. His passion is so tangible that we cheer for every win and try not to cry during every painful setback. It’s the mark of a great performer who can make our hearts ache and soar along with theirs. And if that wasn’t enough, Gonzalez blew us away with his singing talents. There’s nothing we wouldn’t have given to lift Miguel’s spirits and see him succeed.
#1: Daveigh Chase as Lilo
“Lilo & Stitch” (2002)
Not every child actor can carry both a Disney movie AND a Studio Ghibli masterpiece (Xref). While we love Daveigh Chase as Chihiro, it’s her work as Lilo that we really had to highlight. Her lead character is an unapologetically quirky young girl who always follows her heart. At the same time, Lilo also carries the pain that came with losing her parents. Chase hits both the highs and lows of the lead’s emotions so well that it feels like the animated character is a fully formed person. It was also incredibly endearing to hear how determined she was to make Stitch part of her family. Before Chase had become a teenager, she brought us a wonderful character that we would never leave behind or forget.