Top 10 Most Surprising Voice Acting Performances
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Jonathan Alexander
These voice acting performances caught us all off guard. For this list, we'll be looking at the most notable animated characters that were brought to life by shockingly high-profile talent behind the mic. Our countdown includes "Rugrats Go Wild," "Happy Feet," "Shark Tale," and more!
Top 10 Most Surprising Voice Acting Performances
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Surprising Voice Acting Performances.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most notable animated characters that were brought to life by shockingly high-profile talent behind the mic.
Which of these surprised you the most? Let us know in the comments!
#10: Bruce Willis as Spike
“Rugrats Go Wild” (2003)
After making a name for himself with massive explosions and lots of gunfire, this action star proved he was anything but a one trick pony. He went to animation, and was cast as man’s best friend. Yeah, that lovable canine is actually Bruce Willis. As you can imagine, his gruff voice is a hilarious match to the adorable Spike. Despite the pup’s name, he’s anything but prickly. In fact, he’s basically the only reason these kids make it out of the jungle in one piece. The fact that it’s Willis singing, quipping, and laughing along the way just makes it all the sweeter.
#9: Tom Hiddleston as James Hook
“The Pirate Fairy” (2014)
It takes faith, trust, and pixie dust to reinvent a classic animated character. Of course, in the capable vocal chords of someone like Tom Hiddleston, that’s basically a given. The actor is as charming and suave as they come. Yet he delivered a genuinely intimidating turn as one of Disney’s all time greatest villains – or, at least, a younger version of him. Hiddleston completely nails the character’s wacky menace, which is all the more impressive since he has to sing, too. In fact, he does such a good job that it’s hard to notice it’s even him at all until the credits roll.
#8: Kirsten Dunst as Young Anastasia
Before she was kissing Spider-Man and leading cheer squads, this teen heartthrob was transporting us to Russia. It’s easy to remember the adult cast and show-stopping songs of “Anastasia,” but Dunst more than held her own as the young version of the titular princess. She was just a teenager when the film was released, which explains why it’s hard to recognize her pitch at first. Combined with Meg Ryan’s portrayal and the different singing voices, Dunst ended up sharing Anastasia with no less than three other actresses in the English version. Yet despite the stiff competition, she still easily stands out.
#7: Nicole Kidman as Norma Jean
“Happy Feet” (2006)
This 2006 feature is more remembered for its rhythm and moves than its characters, but that doesn’t mean its cast list was lacking – far from it. Amid all the funky fun, it’s easy to miss that Mumble’s Mom is played by the inimitable Nicole Kidman. In hindsight, it’s easy to spot, since she has a natural warmth to her voice that conveys a deep motherly love even though her screen time is limited. Of course, it helps that she’s paired with the always-appreciated Hugh Jackman as Memphis, and their chemistry is completely through the igloo. Talk about a power couple.
#6: Michael Keaton as Ken
“Toy Story 3” (2010)
It takes a special kind of actor to turn a plastic action figure into a living, breathing character. But, if anyone could do it, it’s totally Michael Keaton. He has some experience in the sound booth, after all! Remember his scene-stealing turn as Chick Hicks in the original “Cars” film? It all likely prepared him for “Toy Story 3,” where he put his unmatched comic timing to work in some of the film’s best moments. Given that Ken’s the epitome of a dumb jock, and is, you know, also initially evil in the film, it’s arguably a bit out of Keaton’s usual wheelhouse. But he does an excellent job, showing off some impressive vocal range in the role.
#5: Vin Diesel as the Iron Giant
“The Iron Giant” (1999)
Upon first watch, it’s tragically easy to miss that this titular character has a voice actor at all. It’s even easier to miss the fact that it’s one of the most recognizable movie stars of his generation. While the initial idea was to use a digitally modulated voice for the Giant, the filmmakers changed course. It’s a good thing, because Diesel gave a warm, beating heart to the machine. Even though the Giant doesn’t have many actual lines, that doesn’t mean he has nothing to say. In fact, it makes it all the more noteworthy that Diesel managed to convey so much character with such little dialogue. It’s truly a feat of a performance, and our only complaint is that it’s not talked about enough.
#4: Martin Scorsese as Sykes
“Shark Tale” (2004)
This Academy Award-winning director became a household name through gritty dramas and emotionally stirring projects. That’s exactly why it’s such a surprising delight to hear him take his talents under the sea. On paper alone, a literal loan shark pufferfish is hilarious, but it’s all the better since you can tell Scorsese is having a great time with it. It takes a while to place him since it’s so far removed from his usual fare, but that’s not a knock on the performance at all. The expert comedic timing he brings to the script creates a performance that’s memorable because of its differences, not in spite of them.
#3: Keanu Reeves as Duke Caboom
“Toy Story 4” (2019)
Woody, Buzz, and the others already have plenty of friends populating the toy chest. But still, we wouldn’t mind if they made some room for this guy. Duke has some clear self-esteem issues, but Reeves’ can feel confident in his voicework. Not only is the character a perfect, zany addition to the plastic cast, but Reeves doesn’t waste so much as a single line. Each quip crackles with a fun energy that’s almost impossible to replicate. Given how big the “Toy Story” cast is, it’d be easy to miss Duke’s fashionably late arrival to the series. But, once he starts, there’s nothing that can stop him from showing off in style – for Rejean!
#2: Joaquin Phoenix as Kenai
“Brother Bear” (2003)
Apparently, even acclaimed dramatic actors dream of being in a Disney film. Phoenix was reportedly over the moon to be a part of this project, and that enthusiasm shows in his layered, emotional voicework. It’s no small role, either. The entirety of the film hinges upon his ability to convey Kenai’s change of heart. As expected, he delivers that and more with an absolute roar of a performance. Admittedly, Phoenix has no shortage of iconic roles to choose from, but that doesn’t excuse how overlooked his contributions to “Brother Bear” are. It’s a deeply underrated part in an even more underrated film, and that deserves to change ASAP.
#1: Christian Bale as Howl
“Howl’s Moving Castle” (2004)
Celebrities lending their voices to animated projects is nothing new. As a matter of fact, Bale himself is no stranger to the craft, portraying Thomas in Disney’s classic “Pocahontas”. On the flip side, it’s not quite as common for the same actors to tackle the beast of English dubbing. Yet the A-lister did just that, taking on the complex titular role in Hayao Miyazaki’s 2004 anime masterpiece. Even though Japanese animation isn’t traditionally as mainstream in the United States, Bale treated the material with the deep respect it deserves. Suffice it to say, though it’s not one of his most well-known roles, it’s easily among his best.