A Film with your Favorite Actor Day 10: 30 Days of Animation

(As always, these posts are just my opinions and don’t reflect anyone else’s)

Filmmaking – and I think especially animation – is a pretty weird endeavor.

Even the most auteurist film is inevitably a product of many people working together, which makes the whole process one of collaborative art. Everyone from set dressers to sound editors have an impact on the final film up on the big screen.

This is equally true of acting – an actor’s portrayal on screen is equal parts performance and contrivance. A large part of the dialog even in a live-action film is re-recorded over the original performance later, in a process so common that it has a name – automated dialog replacement, or ADR. Any time an actor’s lips aren’t on screen, you can be pretty sure that their dialog has been heavily edited. In animation, it’s not unusual for a sound editor to splice together multiple takes to hit the right rhythm for a particular shot or scene.

So whenever you hear people talk about a film actor’s performance, it’s about more than just how an actor delivers their lines – there’s a larger mechanism behind their work.

All the same, a great performance is a great performance, and with the right sound designers and editors behind them, a great actor’s voice can shine through. So here’s the question for today:

What animated film has the best voice performance?

Some Runners-Up from Pixar

To start, here’s a clip of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen recording for Woody in Toy Story 3:


Both Hanks and Allen delivered unforgettable, wonderful performances in the Toy Story films, but they’re an odd pairing at first glance. I have a hard time imagining a live-action movie where these two actors would be cast as co-leads. In a way I think that’s why they work so well. Tom Hanks is instantly believable in the role of Woody, and his iconic exasperated yell fit the character perfectly. Tim Allen provides a surprisingly dead-pan (but hilarious) turn as Buzz, which provides a lovely counterpoint.

Elsewhere in Pixar, I have to give credit to the cast of The Incredibles, who had to walk a pretty fine line with their performances. The family had to be funny, for sure, but also believable in order for us to be invested. For the most part, they ended up playing it straight, which lends the film a lot of weight. You can really believe the serious parts of the film because the performances let you believe they’re real people.


I mean, seriously.

And of course, I’ve already mentioned how much I love Brad Bird’s Edna Mode. I tried to find a clip of Bird recording her dialog, but sadly couldn’t.


Honestly, there are a lot of great performances that I won’t get around to here. Ellen DeGeneres as Dory, Ed Asner as Carl, the ubiquitous John Ratzinberger… But going outside of Pixar, there’s one more performance I’d like to highlight.

Runner Up: Andy Serkis

I’m a big fan of Herge’s Tintin books – I first picked them up at an elementary school library, and was instantly hooked. When I found out that Steven Spielberg and Weta were going to make an animated feature of my favorite Tintin story, I couldn’t wait.

My favorite character from the series is Captain Haddock, whose wine-and-whiskey-besotted antics were immensely amusing to my eight-year-old self. I’ve always had a pretty distinct voice for Haddock in my head, so he was the character most likely to disappoint. While Serkis’s Haddock isn’t quite the one from my imagination, it’s an excellent portrayal.


I have some serious problems with Andy Serkis – he has a habit of taking credit for the work of dozens of animators and other artists who craft his performances on screen, which is infuriating to people who work in this industry. All the same, I have a lot of respect for Andy Serkis as an actor when he’s actually acting, and his Haddock is just right.

And the Winner Is…

There’s a reason why I went on about the collaborative nature of an actor’s performance up at the top, because my choice for the number one spot here isn’t actually an actor so much as sound-man Ben Burtt whose voice and imagination brought to life the silent protagonist of Wall-E.


Wall-E is essentially R2-D2: The Movie, which is appropriate because Burtt created the iconic bleeps-and-whistles language of the three-wheeled droid as well. R2 was a more strong-willed character than Wall-E, with pretty clear goals and a no-nonsense attitude. Wall-E, on the other hand, is curious and naive. Of course a large part of his performance is provided by the excellent animation team at Pixar, but somehow his various bleeps and bloops give Wall-E a larger-than-life personality all his own. The same goes for EVE and MO, whose distinct personalities come across in their voices more than anything else.

This is as close to a proper conversation as the two robots ever get, which has about six words:


The fact that Ben Burtt did not win the Academy Award for sound editing in 2008 is criminal.

What do you think?

That’s my take, but I want to know what you think! Drop by facebook or twitter to leave your thoughts, or add a comment down below.

Later: A film with your least favorite actor or actress

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