Animated voice-over roles used to go almost exclusively to performers like the great June Foray, who voiced Rocky the Squirrel and gajillions of other characters in film and TV cartoons over the years. But the success of 'Shrek' suddenly meant that you couldn't sell an animated feature without filling your movie with A-listers like Jack Black and Angelina Jolie, who play two of the key roles in this weekend's new release 'Kung Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom of Doom.'
And while those actors -- as well as co-stars like Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross and Michelle Yeoh -- do exceptional work in the film, casting well-known stars isn't a guarantee that they're going to do justice to talking-animal characters. (Note to producers: The animal characters in 'Tangled' were the best thing in the movie. And they didn't speak.)
Here's a look at some of our favorite -- and least favorite -- anthropomorphic work from celebrities in the recording booth.
Ellen DeGeneres in 'Finding Nemo'
No one has yet received an Oscar nomination for voice-over work, but if anyone deserved one, it was DeGeneres. As a Blue Tang fish named Dory, who has serious short-term memory issues, the comedian made us not only laugh but also empathize with and root for this hilarious sidekick. Her exasperating forgetfulness and goofy energy meshed perfectly with Albert Brooks' slow burn as Marlin.
George Sanders in 'The Jungle Book'
One of the first Disney movies to employ well-known actors for its voice cast, the 1967 adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling stories was full of unforgettable performances, from Phil Harris's friendly Baloo to Sebastian Cabot's stern but loving Bagheera to Louis Prima's off-the-wall ape king. But it's Sanders who steals the show, putting his condescending, autocratic purr to perfect use as the sinister tiger Shere Khan.
Julia Roberts in 'Charlotte's Web'
The original, 2D animated version of the beloved E.B. White novel gave us an overly unctuous Debbie Reynolds as Charlotte -- although Paul Lynde nailed it as Templeton the rat -- but the 2006 CGI remake gets the title character just right, with Roberts giving the spider just the right maternal mix of no-nonsense taskmaster and warm, loving kindness.
Jesse Eisenberg in 'Rio'
Eisenberg's a fine actor, and in his relatively brief career to date he's played an interesting mix of roles, from a drug-smuggling Hasidic Jew ('Holy Rollers') to an Internet-controlling supernerd ('The Social Network'). But while his uniquely neurotic style of delivery lends itself to an eclectic mix of live-action characters, it's all wrong for an animated blue macaw. There's never a moment where you stop thinking, That's Jesse Eisenberg's voice, and lose yourself in the performance. (See also: Ben Stiller in 'Madagascar.')
Queen Latifah in the 'Ice Age' movies
Again, she's a terrific performer in live-action films, but her work in this dreadful-but-somehow-popular franchise feels like she's phoning it in. When she records the voice of Ellie the mammoth, it feels like she's looking at a note card that reads "WARM AND MATERNAL." The result is a gooey, simpering performance that sounds like she's narrating a commercial for a chain of family-style restaurants.
Robert De Niro in 'Shark Tale'
OK, so the idea of casting De Niro as a mobster who's literally a shark could have been an opportunity for some hilarious self-parody, but the acclaimed actor lazily spoofs himself in a turn so uninspired that it makes 'Analyze That' look like a nugget of comedic genius. Fuhgeddaboutit.
Check out reviews for 'Kung Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom of Doom'