Animated and masked characters, and their iconic voices, have a knack for becoming more iconic than their live action counterparts. What these animated characters might lack in 3-dimensional shape, they make up for in boisterous, bubbly, over-the-top and sometimes in-your-face personality. But who is responsible for bringing the character, puppet or cartoon character off the screen and into everyday entertainment and lifestyle? It is of course the talented actor behind the animation who voices the legendary quips, comebacks and punch lines. While we might not know these voice actors by name, they bring life to an otherwise inanimate character and leave a lasting legacy by creating characters whose names, voices and taglines are recognized and loved by millions.
Alicyn Packard and Meyer DeLeeuw are voice actors in the new public television series, Space Racers™. Packard voices smart, savvy Robyn and DeLeeuw is the voice of the lovable and boisterous Hawk – two of the main characters in the children’s animated series. The two voice actors share their lists of iconic actors and characters who have served as inspirations during their careers:
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10. Tress MacNeille: Daisy Duck
There is no surprise that the voice of Daisy Duck was chosen by Packard, who voices the main female character in Space Racers. MacNeille has had an impressive animated career with Disney, Warner Bros. and even shares a role in The Simpsons along with two other actors featured on this list. Since 1999, MacNeille’s most recognizable role has been iconic Disney character, Daisy Duck. “Daisy Duck was one of my favorite characters. Her trademark, high-pitched girlie chuckle is easily recognizable by Disney fans of all ages! The depth and range of MacNeille’s talent is an inspiration to aspiring voice actors,” says Packard.
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9. Ed Asner: Carl Fredricksen (Up)
In contrast to the other young, energetic and comedic characters on the list, this poignant character was chosen by both Packard and DeLeeuw for his “beautiful and heart-breaking performance,” says Packard. “He’s as charming as a grumpy old man can be.” Carl sets out on a journey to fulfill is lost loves/wishes and transitions seamlessly throughout the movie from quirky, exasperated, to devastated in his display of true love. “He makes the audience feel as much as he does,” notes DeLeeuw, who sums up Asner’s voice performance perfectly by saying, “He made me cry…dang him.”
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8. June Foray: Rocky (Rocky and Bullwinkle)
As the oldest actor on the list, Foray has left a legendary impact on the radio and television industries and even earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her achievements. Foray is most famously known as Rocky the Squirrel from Rocky and Bullwinkle. “Foray is so versatile and talented that she switches from her role as small, naive squirrel protagonist to shady, slinky antagonist Natasha Fatale in the same show,” says Packard who selected the voice actress as one of her favorites. “I admire Foray as a legend, who is still hard at work even in her 90’s”
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7. James Earl Jones: Darth Vader
Known by most for heavy breathing and the famous line, “Luke, I am your father,” DeLeeuw lists the voice of “the world’s scariest villain” as a top pick. James Earl Jones only acts as the voice for Darth Vader, David Prowse wears the costume. “Even though Darth Vader’s voice was one of the most memorable parts of the whole series, Jones was not even credited for his role in the film until the third movie in the original trilogy was released,” says DeLeeuw. Although mimicked by many, even the most talented voice actors cannot capture the “deep, rich voice” of Jones’ Darth Vader.
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6. Nancy Cartwright and Dan Castenella: Bart and Homer Simpson
DOH! Another combined pick from both Packard and DeLeeuw, for the past 25 years the father son duo of Bart and Homer take the donut. Cartwright has lent her voice to “the brattiest, most entertaining and annoying kid,” and Castenella has voiced, “either the best or worst dad of all time,” says DeLeeuw. After The Simpsons aired, Bart’s devious antics quickly made him the breakout star of the animated show, and Entertainment Weekly even named him “entertainer of the year” in 1990. As for Homer, “While the quality of his parenting might be in question, audiences still love watching what kind of trouble the patriarch of the Simpsons family will get into,” says Packard. “Few other animated family characters can encompass such crude, lazy, unconventional and ignorant behaviors like Homer and Bart.”
5. Frank Oz: Miss Piggy
Miss Piggy, “otherwise known as ‘the girl of my dreams,’” according to DeLeeuw, was voiced by Frank Oz until he retired in 2002 after three decades of “bringing the most fabulous pig to life.” Although he does not lend his voice to the blunt, sassy diva pig any more, Oz’s voice talent brought Miss Piggy from a supporting role in The Muppet Show to the main star. As if Miss Piggy would have it any other way. The famous puppeteer also brought life to other Muppets characters like Fozzie Bear and Animal. “While the other Muppet characters are also iconic and loved by many, no other Muppet can own the spotlight like Oz’s Miss Piggy,” says DeLeeuw.
4. Mel Blanc: Bugs Bunny
What’s up, Doc? With one of the most lucrative careers in voice actor history, spanning over six decades, Blanc brought talent to many of the favorite Warner Bros. characters, most famously Bugs Bunny. “Countless actors continue to imitate Blanc’s characters like Bugs, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat and many more, but few can capture the infamous characters like the original,” says to DeLeeuw. “Both the voice and catchphrase are icons, you always rooted for Bugs Bunny when he was in a bind…” Like when Elmer Fudd was out hunting wabbits?
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3. Ellen DeGeneres: Dory
“Ellen DeGeneres might not be an iconic voice actor and Dory might not be a legendary name like others on this list…yet. But the blissfully clueless fish has become a lovable household name in the short 10 years since she debuted,” says DeLeeuw. “Who would have thought that a cartoon fish with short-term memory loss could be so hilariously charming?” Look for Dory’s triumphant return to the big screen in 2016 when Pixar releases Finding Dory. Fans are sure to remember DeGeneres’ quirky and hilarious character for decades to come, even if Dory can’t.
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2. Seth MacFarlane: Stewie
“With a plethora of characters all voiced and created by MacFarlane, it is extremely difficult to choose just one,” says Packard. However, both Packard and DeLeeuw came to a joint decision on their favorite, Stewie. As the voice of Peter Griffin, Brian Griffin, Quagmire, and more on Family Guy, “no character stands out as much as the wildly inappropriate, satirical and sometimes evil Stewie,” said DeLeeuw. After creating two shows similar to Family Guy, MacFarlane crossed boundaries from television to the big screen with equally inappropriate comedy, Ted. “He even hosted the Oscars! He has really paved the way for voice actors to realize that they can be A-list actors too,” says Packard.
1. Casey Kasem: Shaggy (Scooby Doo)
Scooby Doo, Where are you? The top and most loved pick by both DeLeeuw and Packard is Casey Kasem in his role of Shaggy from Scooby Doo. “This role and show enact so much nostalgia from when I was younger, and most of my favorite parts of the show revolved around Shaggy,” says DeLeeuw. In addition to many other radio, television and voice roles, Kasem spent the most time with lovable Shaggy, voicing him from 1969 until 1997. According to DeLeeuw, “Shaggy is the ultimate cool-guy, and original hippie.” Despite Kasem’s recent passing, Packard says, “Casey will continue to live in our hearts forever through his iconic, immortal characters.”
At Large Senior Editor, Arizona State University alum, coffee addict and television crime drama fan