Alla Nazimova, the famed Broadway star of the early 1900s, apparently once said that “sincerity and the correct use of the voice are the greatest things in the art of acting.”
So without further ado here’s our Top 10 Most Sincere Performa- oh wait, what? It’s a voice-acting piece? Sorry.
Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book, released this week, boasts a huge vocal cast. Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson and Christopher Walken are all lending their unique voices to bring Rudyard Kipling’s classic characters to life. To celebrate, One Room With A View has trawled through a huge catalogue of voice acting performances to bring you 10 of our favourites. Before we start the list though, a few ground rules:
- No TV shows. This list is for voice-acting performances in feature films only.
- They can be performances from animated films or live action films in which only the actor’s voice appeared.
- The actors have been chosen for their specific performance in one feature.
Ready to argue about the rules? Good. Let’s get started.
10. Alan Rickman as Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
One of Alan Rickman’s most distinguishing features was his rich, melodious voice. Dame Helen Mirren said after his untimely death that it was “a voice that could suggest honey or a hidden stiletto blade.” In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy it suggested neither; instead we are treated to an android with G.P.P. (Genuine People Personalities). Marvin, however, is a personality prototype, so he’s just horribly depressed and sarcastic all the time. It suits Rickman’s voice perfectly, and he remains one of the best parts about the film. Certainly the most memorable of a voice cast that boasts the likes of Stephen Fry, Richard Griffiths and Dame Helen herself.
9. Joan Cusack as Jessie in Toy Story 2
Of all the new additions to the Toy Story canon when this sequel came out – and there were some great ones – Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl is perhaps by far the most endearing. Joan Cusack provided the voice (but not the actual yodels sadly) to deliver the infectiously optimistic, but not immune to heartbreak, cowgirl doll. Cusack gives Jessie the same pep she gave Debbie in Addams Family Values, though of course with remarkably different results. This was her first voice-acting role and it proved to be a very promising debut from an already well-established ‘quirky’ character actor.
8. Kathleen Turner as Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit
We couldn’t do a list about voice acting without including Kathleen Turner’s uncredited performance as Jessica Rabbit. Thanks to this performance and that character, people worldwide were left wondering if it was OK to be attracted to a cartoon (“I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way… “). Has there ever been a better match of character and voice? Well, yes – seven more, in fact, by our reckoning – but no one does sexy and sultry like Ms Turner. We’re getting a funny feeling in our pants just thinking about it. Ahem… on to the next actor perhaps.
7. Bill Nighy as GrandSanta in Arthur Christmas
The crème de la crème of British acting talent lend their voices to this delightful and funny family Christmas film from Aardman Animations, but it is Bill Nighy who stands out as the wretched but lovable GrandSanta (choice quote: “They used to say it was impossible to teach women to read.”). Nighy is utterly unrecognisable, having altered his voice to sound more like a 136 year-old man who spent the vast majority of his life clambering down chimneys. He sounds exactly like an army drill sergeant – if that army drill sergeant had swallowed a century’s worth of soot in one sitting. Nighy won an Annie Award for Outstanding Voice Acting for his troubles.
6. The cast of Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
We really wanted to put the legendary Peter Sallis somewhere on this list, but as per our rules, we couldn’t pick a single Wallace performance that was better than any other – they’re all perfect. Then we watched The Curse of the Were-Rabbit again, which only complicated matters further because everyone in that film is spot on. Peter Sallis (naturally), Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham-Carter, Nicholas Smith and Peter Kay all help bring to life the residents of a fictionalised Wigan caught up in a terrifying series of events (“It’s arson!… someone arsin’ around!”). Like Bill Nighy, Sallis also won an Annie Award, and his fellow nominees were Smith, Bonham-Carter, and Fiennes. That’s it. Every nominee that year for Outstanding Voice Acting was in the same film. Bravo.
5. Ming-Na Wen as Mulan in Mulan
Wen is perhaps better known these days as Melinda May in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, but back in 1998 she was saving all of China as the heroic Mulan. The character is a memorable one (which is a bit of a theme on this list, unsurprisingly), and perhaps one of the more complex female protagonists of Disney’s ‘Renaissance’ period. A lot of this is down to Wen’s performance, successfully showing the audience who Mulan is and what she stands for. Fun fact: Wen replaced the original actor when it became apparent she couldn’t convincingly impersonate a man when voicing “Ping”. So, yeah, bonus points for that because we didn’t appreciate before now how difficult a skill that is.
4. Mark Hamill as the Joker in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Obviously Mark Hamill’s Joker had to be in here (though if we were including TV shows we might have gone with his dual role as himself and the bodyguard instructor in The Simpsons season ten episode ‘Mayored to the Mob’, but we digress). But which film? Well, since you can read you already know that we chose Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Similar to Bill Nighy above, and a few of the entries below, Hamill becomes someone entirely new when voicing the Joker –where does that voice come from? And the laughs! Oh God the endless variety of laughs. Mark, if you’re reading this, never stop.
3. Eartha Kitt as Yzma in The Emperor’s New Groove
We’d very much like to present this without justification but the editor won’t allow it. You can’t help but feel Kitt is having the time of her life voicing this character, and with such gems as the monologue in the video above and “A llama?! He’s supposed to be dead!”, you probably would too. There’s also something quite hilarious in casting a woman as famously glamorous as Kitt (she was Catwoman for goodness’ sake!) as a deteriorating hag. No stranger to voice acting by the time she recorded this part, Yzma will likely be the role Eartha Kitt is remembered for, at least by anyone born after 1990. Endlessly quotable, and hugely entertaining; there are a lot of parallels to be drawn with our next entry…
2. Robin Williams as the Genie in Aladdin
A voice performance like no other, the production team famously just let Williams loose in a recording studio and used the best bits from hours of improv and wild tangents. It paid off; the Genie is one of Disney’s most beloved creations, and it’s hard to believe that would have been the case if Williams had not been behind that microphone. The audience is treated to an array of impressions from Jack Nicholson to Rodney Dangerfield. He even does his own singing. To a whole generation the Genie is Williams’ greatest role, and with good reason.
1. Alan Tudyk as King Candy in Wreck-It Ralph
It was perhaps inevitable that our top three would be dominated by Disney films, such is their proliferation in the animation market, and propensity for matching incredible talent to engaging characters.
We thought long and hard about who should take the number one slot, and Tudyk won out. He’s done a lot for Disney in the past few years in films like Frozen and the recent Zootropolis (and was the voice of Sonny in I, Robot back in 2005) but his best work is without a doubt as the nefarious King Candy in Wreck-It Ralph. In his few short scenes he steals the show from under the other actors’ noses. Channeling a sort of deranged Ed Wynn, Tudyk proves that he is a man of incredible vocal skill and the perfect choice for a comic villain such as Candy.