You may be expecting us to list Morgan Freeman ten times and call it a day, but we’re not talking about simple, soothing narration here. For this feature, we examine some of the toughest, most impressive voice acting in the history of iconic film and television, not just some overpaid actor reading lines in the same voice he orders his morning coffee.
Frank Welker – Megatron in “Transformers” (original animated series), Slimer in “The Real Ghostbusters,” Fred Jones in "Scooby-Doo"
If these characters don’t give you an idea of the range and talent of Frank Welker, one of the most impressive (and highest paid) voice actors around, consider the sound and character trait differences. Megatron is the dark voice of the “Transformers” villain, while Slimer is the lovable cartoon character of the popular '80s TV series, “The Real Ghostbusters.” Welker has served as voices to all sorts of iconic characters since 1969, beginning with the early “Scooby Doo” series on up to present day live-action voices, including the latest “Transformers” film franchise.
Peter Cullen – Optimus Prime in “Transformers,” Eeyore in "Winnie-the-Pooh"
Another longstanding, still current voice actor to do both early Transformers characters and the latest “Transformers” film franchise, along with “The Real Ghostbusters” cartoons is Peter Cullen, only he’s doing the voices for the good guys, including Optimus Prime since 1984 all the way up to present day. Dating back to 1967, it’s safe to say Cullen and Frank Welker got into voice acting at the same time and have been successful at it ever since.
Don Messick – Scooby-Doo, Bamm-Bamm in "The Flintstones," Astro in "The Jetsons"
Don Messick passed away in 1997 after more than 40 years of voice-over work. His most famous role was as the lovable cartoon dog, Scooby-Doo, starting in 1969. Messick was nearly three decades alive and well as the mystery-solving pooch in TV series, film and video games, and also voiced several more characters for Hanna-Barbera. Interestingly, the role of Scooby has been played by Frank Welker and Scott Innes since Messick's death.
Andy Serkis - Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy
The creepy voice that haunts the streets every time a Peter Jackson film is released in the past decade is thanks to Andy Serkis. Famed for his portrayal of the Jekyll and Hyde-esque characters, Gollum and Smeagol, in “The Lord of the Rings,” Serkis is also the new voice of Caesar, the pimp chimp to start the “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” revolution. Doing voices since 1989, Serkis got his big break as Gollum in 2001’s “The Fellowship of the Ring.”
Frank Oz - Yoda in “Stars Wars”
Getting his start in the ‘60s — thanks to “Sesame Street” — Frank Oz has developed voices for many of most regurgitated characters of our lifetime, including Yoda, Cookie Monster and surprisingly, The Muppets' Miss Piggy. Having worked for “Sesame Street” for nearly 50 years, Oz continues the roles of Cookie Monster, Grover and Bert today. The iconic voice actor and master puppeteer performed as Yoda in all six "Star Wars" films.
Mark Hamill - The Joker in “Batman: The Animated Series”
Everyone knows what Mark Hamill is most famous for, and there is an impressive rumor that he may play Luke Skywalker once again in the upcoming 2015 “Stars Wars: Episode VII.” What you may not know, however, is that he’s also the iconic voice behind The Joker in “Batman: The Animated Series” from the early ‘90s and many later spin-offs, video games and films. If you ask us, Hamill is one sexy beast of a voice actor.
Nancy Cartwright – Bart Simpson in "The Simpsons"
One of the most iconic male cartoon characters ever is voiced by a woman, Nancy Cartwright, who has done an impressive job disguising her estrogen as Bart on “The Simpsons" since the show's premiere in 1989. However, this spot could go to any of the talented voice actors of "The Simpsons," as Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Hank Azaria (Moe), Harry Shearer (Ned) and others all voice multiple characters on the longest running sitcom ever, and have been doing it since day one.
Mel Blanc – So Many "Looney Tunes" Characters
Dating all the way back to 1937 in the earliest cartoon voiceovers, Mel Blanc voiced Porky Pig in a short called “Porky’s Road Race,” along with many of the popular voices in the “Looney Tunes” franchise, like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat and Yosemite Sam. He would later voice Barney Rubble on "The Flintstones" and several "The Jetsons" characters. He passed in 1989, but he was credited for voiceover work in “Jetsons: The Movie” in 1990, and it was dedicated to him in memory.
Billy West - Ren & Stimpy, Doug Funnie on "Doug" and Philip J. Fry on "Futurama"
Fans of the '90s will appreciate West's work as Ren and Stimpy and Doug, which happened almost simultaneously on Nickelodeon's Nicktoons. Over his career he has been the voice provider for 120 different characters, and as one of the few actors who can impersonate Mel Blanc, he voiced Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in 1996's "Space Jam." West is also the famous voice of Fry and other popular characters on the recently ended TV series "Futurama."
Ivan Reitman – Slimer in “Ghostbusters” and "Ghostbusters II"
Aside from being one of the most clever film directors, Ivan Reitman is — little known fact — also the voice of Slimer in both of the live action “Ghostbusters” films of the ‘80s and the voice of Zuul in the first film. Although Frank Welker took the reigns when the paranormal phenomenon took to the TV set, Reitman — with his long list of cult classic directing credits — voiced Slimer by recording his voice and manipulating it with sound effects.
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James Earl Jones – Darth Vader in "Star Wars"
Although actor David Prowse physically played Vader in the original "Star Wars” trilogy, James Earl Jones provided his voice, although he was uncredited in the first two of George Lucas’s films. He continued to do the voice up to 2005’s “Revenge of the Sith,” along with the mighty voice of Mufasa from Disney’s 1994 animated film, “The Lion King.”