The first animated movie I went to see in theaters because a celebrity was doing one of the voices was 'The Lion King.' The celebrity voice was Jonathan Taylor Thomas as young Simba. I was 6 years old.
An animated movie rarely gets made today if there isn't some big-name star attached to voice a character. The trend has certainly put exclusively-voice actors out of a job.
The argument against using celebrity voices is that stars come in to the studio, do their own voices and don't act the parts in the way a talented voice actor could. The titular characters in the classics 'Beauty and the Beast' (Paige O'Hara and Robby Benson), 'The Little Mermaid' (Jodi Benson) and 'Snow White' (Adriana Caselotti) were unknowns. To a kid, it doesn't matter if Tom Hanks voices Woody in 'Toy Story,' only that Woody is a great character.
So, is it wrong that a big reason I see animated movies is for celebrity voice actors?
Does it get better than these: Ed Asner as the old man in 'Up'; Patton Oswalt as the foodie rat in 'Ratatouille'; Billy Crystal as Mike in 'Monsters, Inc.'; Ellen DeGeneres as Dory in 'Finding Nemo'; Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts in 'Beauty and the Beast'; and Robin Williams as Genie in 'Aladdin.' I love recognizing the voices of my favorite actors in animated movies.
For instance, 'Rio,' which comes out this week, wasn't a personal must-see until I learned that the adorable Jesse Eisenberg voices the parrot. Similarly, last summer's 'Despicable Me' was perfect because it had the voices of talented comedians like Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Mindy Kaling, Jack McBrayer, Kristen Wiig and Will Arnett. The amount of funny names attached hinted that 'Despicable Me' must have had a great script.
I'm certainly not against using solely voice actors. Pixar is a good example of a studio that does a great job mixing up their casts with celebrity voices, seasoned voice actors and the occasional random animator doing a character's voice. Maybe I'm just one of those suckers that studios know they can market to using big-name stars.
In the end, a fantastic animated movie is a fantastic animated movie. ('Toy Story 3,' anyone?) Even a celebrity voice isn't going to save a sinking ship; for example, check out Justin Long in 2010's cringe-worthy 'Alpha and Omega.'
A celebrity voice won't turn a bad movie into a good movie, but it can make animated features more fun for grown-up fans.
Do you agree that celebrity voices matter in an animated movie? Tell us in the comments!