If you grew up on cartoons and animated shows like I did, then voice actors likely had a large impact on your childhood.
You probably never saw them—and you probably don’t even know what they look like to this day—but voice actors are the unsung heroes who have the ability to bring life and energy to drawn characters.
Voice actors have the ability to shift their voices to fit all kinds of characters, and they deserve more recognition for the skill involved. And one side effect of this is that you’ve probably heard the same voice actor in multiple shows without even realizing it!
Even for people like me—who obsess over voice actor performances—there are times when an IMDb scan turns up unexpected names. So unexpected, in fact, that you may think it’s a typo.
Here are some of the most famous and versatile voice actors who have gone beyond their usual roles and voiced all kinds of surprising yet iconic characters.
Clancy Brown is best known for playing villains. He played the unstable Sergeant Zim in Starship Troopers as well as the best version of Lex Luthor in the DC Animated Universe. His intimidating voice even brought the Asgard-destroying Surtur to life in Thor: Ragnorok.
The man brings a level of menace to every role he steps into. Well, almost every role! Because in addition to lending his voice to some of the scariest figures in animation…
…Clancy Brown has also provided the iconic voice of Mr. Krabs on SpongeBob SquarePants starting with the very first episode in 1999. That’s more than two decades of playing the money-obsessed owner of the Krusty Krab.
Despite it being such a departure from his usual roles, Clancy Brown has described the role with fondness, stating that there’s nothing in live-action acting that’s quite as satisfying or comparable to playing a crab at the bottom of the sea.
No list of voice actors is complete without mentioning Frank Welker. Nearly every childhood generation of the past many decades knows at least one iconic character that was voiced by him.
Welker has played Fred Jones and Scooby-Doo in nearly every iteration of Scooby-Doo since time began. He was also the original voice of Megatron (and most of the other Decepticons) in Transformers. He was even both voices for Nibbler in Futurama.
But what many people don’t realize is that any time they hear a cute animal making vaguely human sounds, they’re probably listening to Frank Welker in a studio—mainly because it’s easier to just pay him to make the sounds rather than train an animal to talk.
For example, Welker has voiced Snowball II and Santa’s Little Helper on The Simpsons, Ace the Bathound in Batman Beyond, and Abu in Aladdin. Did you think Disney recorded actual lions for the roars in The Lion King? That was just Frank Welker in a studio with a trash can.
There’s no one in Hollywood who can portray an animal quite as convincingly as Frank Welker can.
Cree Summer is one of the most prolific voice actors on the planet, with a list of credits spanning from 1983 to today. She started out playing Penny in Inspector Gadget at the age of 14, and has worked consistently ever since.
Summer played Elmyra in Tiny Toon Adventures, Susie in Rugrats, and Kida in Atlantis: The Lost Empire. She’s capable of playing almost any character of any age, and that practice has certainly helped contribute to her impressively growing range of voices over the years.
One role that stands out among Cree Summer’s list of credits: Foxxy Love in Drawn Together. The show itself was a parody of different animation and video game styles, so it makes sense that they would bring in someone with Summer’s history and range.
Still, finding out that Penny from Inspector Gadget was also the lewd and sexual Foxxy Love is jarring yet impressive at the same time.
We all know Mark Hamill as the iconic actor behind Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars original trilogy and sequel trilogy. You probably know that he’s the iconic voice of The Joker in Batman: The Animated Series all the way through the Arkham video games.
And if you’re really on the ball, you might even recognize Mark Hamill as the voice of Fire Lord Ozai in Avatar: The Last Airbender. No one can deny that Hamill is capable of bringing many heroes and villains to life, having done so on both the big screen and small screen.
One of Mark Hamill’s voice acting roles that might surprise you, though, is that of Larry 3000 in the short-lived Time Squad.
The show featured a group tasked with maintaining the correct flow of time, including traveling back in time to visit significant historical figures (like Julius Caesar, Leonardo da Vinci, and George W. Bush).
Larry 3000 is a dramatic and snarky character who often talks down to the more overbearing members of the team. There’s an over-the-top element to the character that isn’t Hamill’s norm, making this role a pleasant departure from his usual performances.