The best voice actors pull long hours, often playing multiple characters for multiple shows, films, commercials, and videogames in the course of a single day. The pros—as per the 2013 documentary I Know That Voice (available streaming on Netflix)—often say that each character’s vocal qualities create a unique “musicality” that applies only to that particular character. Vocal trainer Bob Bergen says, “If you can do Shakespeare as Porky Pig or Sylvester the Cat and stay in character, then you can probably handle the script for a movie.”
You might not recognize many of these real-life folks in public (a few do show up in front of the camera from time to time), but many of your favorite cartoon characters have been voiced by just a handful of talented voice actors for years. Here’s a partial list.
1. The Voice: Christine Cavanaugh
The Faces: Dexter on Dexter’s Laboratory; Chuckie Finster on Rugrats; Gosalyn Mallard on Darkwing Duck; Oblina on Aaahh!!! Real Monsters; Marty Sherman on The Critic; and she was the original Babe the pig.
2. The Voice: Elizabeth “E.G.” Daily
The Faces: Tommy Pickles on Rugrats; Louie of Huey, Dewey, and – on Quack Pack; Buttercup from The Powerpuff Girls; Bamm-Bamm Flintstone on Cave Kids. She also took over as Babe in Babe: Pig in the City.
3. The Voice: Pamela Adlon
The Faces: Bobby Hill from King of the Hill, Vidia the fairy in the Tinkerbell film franchise, and Spinelli on Recess.
4. The Voice: Charles Adler
The Faces: Starscream in the Transformers films; I.R. Baboon on I Am Weasel; Cow and Chicken on Cow and Chicken; Felix the Cat (1995); Ickis on Aaahh!!! Real Monsters; Ed and Bev Bighead and George and Grandma Wolfe on Rocko’s Modern Life; Buster Bunny on Tiny Toon Adventures; and Paddington Bear (1989).
5. The Voice: Tom Kenney
The Faces: Spongebob Squarepants and his pet snail Gary; the Narrator and Mayor from The Powerpuff Girls; Mumbo from Teen Titans; Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh; Iron Man, Captain America, and Doctor Octopus from the Marvel Super Hero Squad franchise; Eduardo from Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends; the Penguin on The Batman; Cupid from The Fairly Odd Parents; Dog from CatDog and Heffer Wolfe on Rocko’s Modern Life.
6. The Voice: Jeff Bennett
The Faces: Mr. Smee on Jake and the Neverland Pirates; Johnny Bravo; The Man with the Yellow Hat on Curious George; Kowalski from The Penguins of Madagascar and Petrie from several installments of the Land Before Time franchise.
7. The Voice: Jess Harnell
The Faces: Wakko Warner from Animaniacs; Tim the Bear of The Cleveland Show; Sewer Urchin on The Tick; Chilly the snowman from Doc McStuffins.
8. The Voice: Frank Welker
The Faces: Fred from Scooby Doo and later on, Scooby himself; Heckle and Jeckle from The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse and Heckle and Jeckle; Droopy on The New Adventures of Tom and Jerry; Stripe in Gremlins; Mohawk in Gremlins 2; Catgut and Howler from The Pound Puppies; Dr. Claw and Brain on Inspector Gadget; Torch on G.I. Joe; a whole bunch of Transformers; Slimer and Dr. Raymond Stantz from The Real Ghostbusters; Hefty Smurf, Poet Smurf and Peewit from The Smurfs, then Azrael on the Smurfs movies; Joanna the Goanna from Rescuers Down Under; Kermit, Skeeter and Beaker on Muppet Babies; Abu, the Cave of Wonders, and Rajah from Disney’s Aladdin; Bo, Booker, and Sheldon from Garfield and Friends and Garfield on The Garfield Show; George on Curious George; Barney Rubble for several projects; Goddard the robot dog on Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, and he’s made a strange array of animal noises on shows like Beavis and Butt-Head, South Park, and Johnny Bravo.
9. The Voice: Tress MacNeille
The Faces: Mom and Linda Van Schoonhoven on Futurama; Chip, Gadget and Zipper on Chip ‘N’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers; Babs Bunny on Tiny Toon Adventures; Dot Warner and Hello Nurse on Animaniacs; Daisy Duck; Arnold’s Grandma on Hey Arnold!; Agnes Skinner, Dolph, Jimbo Jones, Lunchlady Doris, and the Crazy Cat Lady on The Simpsons.
10. The Voice: Jim Cummings
The Faces: Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, too; Goofy’s nemesis neighbor, Pete; Captain Caveman on Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated; Ray from The Princess and the Frog; the Tazmanian Devil; Cat from CatDog; Fuzzy Lumpkins from The Powerpuff Girls; Kaa and Colonel Hathi in Jungle Book 2; Ed the Hyena from The Lion King; Darkwing Duck; Bonkers D. Bobcat from Bonkers; Zummi Gummi from Adventures of the Gummy Bears; Monterey Jack and Fat Cat from Chip ‘N’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers.
11. The Voice: Casey Kasem
The Faces: Shaggy from Scooby-Doo; Robin in Super Friends; Teletraan I, Cliffjumper and Bluestreak in The Transformers.
12. The Voice: Seth Green
The Faces: Chris Griffin and Neil in Family Guy; A-Bomb in Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.; Leonardo of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Jeff “Joker” Moreau of the Mass Effect video game franchise.
13. The Voice: Billy West
The Faces: Philip J. Frye, Dr. Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg and Zapp Brannigan of Futurama; Buzz the Honey Nut Cheerios honey bee; the red M & M; Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig, and Pepe Le Pew; Woody Woodpecker; both Ren and Stimpy of Ren & Stimpy; Zim of Invader Zim (pilot only); Slimer in Extreme Ghostbusters; Roger Klotz and Doug Funnie of Doug.
14. The Voice: Carlos Alazraqui
The Faces: Mr. Crocker on Fairly Odd Parents; Mr. Weed in Family Guy; Lazlo in Camp Lazlo!; Rocko and Spunky in Rocko’s Modern Life.
15. The Voice: Dan Castellaneta
The Faces: Homer Simpson, Krusty the Klown, Grandpa Simpson, Kodos, Barney Gumble, Groundskeeper Willie, Moleman, Mayor Quimby and the Rich Texan on The Simpsons; the Robot Devil on Futurama; Arnold’s Grandpa on Hey Arnold!; Earthworm Jim; Aladdin’s Genie, post Robin Williams.
16. The Voice: Nancy Cartwright
The Faces: Bart Simpson, Nelson Muntz, Ralph Wiggum, and Todd Flanders in The Simpsons; Rufus the naked mole rat in Kim Possible; Chuckie Finster in All Grown Up; Margo Sherman on The Critic; Pistol Pete from Goof Troop.
17. The Voice: Maurice LaMarche
The Faces: Mr. Freeze in Batman: Arkham Origins the video game; Morbo, Kif Kroker and Calculon in Futurama; Big Bob Pitaki on Hey Arnold!; Brain of Pinky and the Brain; Dizzy Devil on Tiny Toon Adventures; Chief Quimby on Inspector Gadget; Verminous Skumm and Duke Nukem on Captain Planet and the Planeteers; Pepe Le Pew, Yosemite Sam and the dorky detective himself, Inspector Gadget in various projects.
18. The Voice: John DiMaggio
The Faces: Bender from Futurama; Jake in Adventure Time; Niblet, Mutt and Tiny in Pound Puppies; the Joker in Batman: Under the Red Hood.
19. The Voice: Gary Owens
The Faces: Space Ghost; Powdered Toast Man from Ren & Stimpy; the announcer/narrator from Space Quest VI & IV, Garfield and Friends, and Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.
20. The Voice: Tara Strong
The Faces: Timmy Turner and baby Poof on The Fairly Odd Parents; Harley Quinn in several recent Batman video games; Raven in Teen Titans; Terrence in Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends; Bubbles of The Powerpuff Girls; Dil Pickles from Rugrats; Ben Tennyson of Ben 10.
21. The Voice: Richard Horvitz
The Faces: Billy and his dad on The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy; Zim of Invader Zim; Grey Matter from Ben 10; Daggett on The Angry Beavers; Alphas 5 and 7 from The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
22. The Voice: Hank Azaria
The Faces: Moe Szyslak, Comic Book Guy, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Cletus, Duffman, Chief Wiggum, Dr. Nick, Snake, Bumblebee Man, Kirk Van Houten, Lou, Professor Frink, Carl, Lenny, Disco Stu, and Superintendent Chalmers on The Simpsons; Harold Zoid on Futurama; Gargamel on the Smurfs movies; Venom on Spider-Man.