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Wednesday, November 9, 2011



Years ago, the voices in cartoons were all relatively unknown actors.  Some, notably Mel Blanc, became famous, but most remained unknown.  The people behind these voices probably did not make a great deal of money, but it was work, and it is hard for actors to find work.  Even cartoons that portrayed famous people, used impressionists to do the voices.  Today voices in everything from toothpaste ads to animated features use famous actors and their voices.

Last year there was a very good TV nature series on all the different birds, insects and animals of the world, “Life.”  This series was narrated by Oprah Winfrey.  The series was produced by The Discovery Channel; couldn’t they discover a narrator?  Why did they pick Oprah who has no narrating experience whatsoever?   Oprah is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, did she really need this gig?  There are probably 1000 actors with voice training who could read the narration much better than Oprah, but no….Oprah had to narrate.  Oprah who is very liberal, who pushes for help to the down trodden and those in need, has to take a nice paying job from a struggling actor, someone who could do the job far better than she, Oprah had to narrate this fine show.

I enjoyed “Life”, but the narration was second rate.  Oprah is great on her show, but she does not read well, her voice is not the best, and knowing it was Oprah reading, distracted from the incredible wildlife footage.

Did more people tune in to this show because Oprah was the narrator?  I cannot see why.  Did anyone criticize her for taking a good job from someone else when she needed neither the acclaim, nor the money?  Not anyone who wants to work in the industry. 

At my recent trip to Disney World, I went to a show, “The Hall of the Presidents.”  This was a very entertaining, educational show.  It was narrated by Morgan Freeman.  Morgan Freeman reads very well and has a wonderful voice for narration, but….couldn’t someone else narrate just as well and cost Disney way less money?  I know I didn’t pass this display and say, “Look, Morgan Freeman is narrating, I’ve got to see this.”  I did not know Morgan Freeman was involved until my ass was in the seat.  Why do we need a celebrity for these shows?

Ray Romano is the voice of a mastodon in the “Ice Age” animation series.  He is very good.  Could someone else, not a famous celebrity, be just as good for one third the salary?  YES!  Do nine year old kids love this series because they see Ray Romano is going to be the voice of the mastodon?  NO!  They don’t know Ray Romano from Adam.

Why is Eddie Murphy the voice of a donkey in “Shrek?” 

Why is Ellen Degeneres the voice of Dora the fish in “Finding Nemo?”

Who buys tickets to these animated features because of the actors who do the voices?

If I was an out of work Shakespearian trained actor with a kick ass voice but a giant wart on my face, or a comedian who had lousy jokes but could do great voices, I would be just a bit ticked off that these wealthy entertainers were taking the few paying jobs that I could do and do really well.

Does anyone watch a cartoon because there was a famous voice involved?  Do you watch specials and nature programs because the narrator is famous?  Does it only bother me that these rich Hollywood elitists, many of whom put down capitalism and rich greedy Wall Street bankers and brokers, feel the need to take jobs at exorbitant salaries from more qualified unemployed actors?

Maybe it’s Just Me!         


  1. Eddie Murphy made that donkey! Otherwise I agree. :)

  2. I could list off a number of the famous actors and their cartoon characters- Tom Hanks as Woody and Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story...

    And because I would be corrected by the wee ones, her name is Dory in Nemo...

    Some of them make the characters and the characters are drawn from them, but yeah, give the no-names a shot. These guys have enough money already.

  3. Just found your blog through 'and then there were 4'. Loved it. You have gained a reader!

  4. Yes, I HAVE wondered about this before...but not from an economic stand-point. Hmmm...

  5. This actually is something that I've thought about. :-) Everytime I hear a commercial narrated by someone really famous, see an animated movie with voices by really famous actors, or see a TV show that has falling ratings and is trying to save it by introducing a character who is played by a really famous actor... It sort of drives me crazy actually. Besides the whole money aspect of it, why aren't the production companies trying to find new actors? I don't understand.

    As an example - right now I'm watching CSI, which I've loved right from the beginning, but ever since they added Ted Dansen (and last year Lawerence Fishbourne) I just don't like the show as much.

    So yep - I like this post. See you around.


  6. Good point. But....

    I just LOVE the famous voices for the animated cartoons. Eddie Murphy as Donkey...well, I just can't imagine anyone else doing it.

    I think kids won't care at all. But they make these cartoons and their humor for us adults, too. And they know that we would recognize our favorite actors' voices. They know we will love the cartoons as much as the kids do IF we recognize a famous voice.

    And some of the comedians in these cartoons (Jerry Seinfeld as Barry the Bee, Ellen as Dory, Billy Crystal as Mike Wazowski in Monsters, INC ) really DO make the movie. They deliver the lines like pros....because, well...they ARE pros.

    Just my two cents.

    But yea, I never did look at it from an economic point of view. You do have a good point. I didn't see the "Life" series, but I did think it odd that Oprah was the narrator.

  7. The rich getting richer.....sadly, that's life!
    Signed - Globetrotter (speaking for the other 99%!)

  8. I've always wondered this as well - it makes no sense to me - the kids don't care at all who's talking, I could get up there and read it and my kids still wouldn't care - for me, it's more distracting in the movies since I keep imagining the real actors saying the words in a studio