Voice Actors: the Unsung Heroes of Cartoons

When I first realized that I wanted to write for a living, I started paying closer attention to the creative teams behind the final movie product. I started noticing that many of the movies I loved were directed, written, or produced by the same people.

So I’ve been starting to pay more and more attention to how things function behind the scenes. Voice acting has recently interested me, so I’ve started paying attention to who voices characters that I like.

There are two types of people doing voice over work. The first are celebrities lending their voices to a project, usually to give it some recognition that it would otherwise not have. They are distinguished by the fact that they voice one character and use their normal voice. The original Transformers movie from the 80s had several examples: Judd Nelson voiced Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime, Robert Stack (the Unsolved Mysteries guy) voiced Ultra Magnus, Leonard Nimoy voiced Galvatron, and the inimitable Orson Welles voiced Unicron.

The second type are professional voice over artists. They usually voice a half-dozen or more characters, many with a voice that sounds nothing like their own. The original 80s Filmation He-Man and She-Ra cartoons featured a cast of thousands of characters, yet only five voice-over artists were predominate. John Erwin, Alan Oppenheimer, Linda Gary, and executive producer Lou Schiemer (credited as Erik Gunden) literally voiced all of the characters in the show.

However, those who pay careful attention to voice-over artists may notice something interesting. Occasionally, the voice-over artist resembles the character they portray!

For example, Erika Scheimer voiced the mighty Queen Angela in the She-Ra series. Compare Scheimer with Angela. They look quite a bit alike. They both have blonde hair cut to about the same length, they both have the same body type and face shape.

Personally, I think that Erika Scheimer voiced Queen Angela closest to her own voice, though my wife thinks that Queen Marlena is closer to Erika’s original voice.

Then, there’s the unquestionable resemblance between Woody and Tom Hanks. Both are thin, both have brownish hair, both have similar body language. Makes me wonder if the Pixar folks cast Tom Hanks before they had a clear conception of Woody, and then based Woody’s appearance on Tom Hanks.

Or, if they had a clear conception of Woody but modified the conception to more closely resemble Tom Hanks once the latter was cast. Either is a plausible scenario.

Finally, this literally has nothing to do with voice artists, but isn’t anyone else creeped out by the resemblance of the sitting pope to Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars? I noticed it a while ago but never said anything (save for clipping the pope’s picture out of a newspaper and adding the Force lightning from his fingertips as a joke at work). But seriously. It’s eerie.

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