Actors Talk About Voicing Cartoon Villains
Is there anything more delicious than an animated villain? Between the sinister laughing, the deep-voiced threats, and the elaborate evil schemes - it’s easy to why some of the biggest stars in the world take a gig where the audience can’t even see their face.
Several of Hollywood’s most beloved actors have lent their voices to animated works. Read what these actors had to say about voicing cartoon villains.
Find out which voice actor got so scared the first time she saw her villainous character on the big screen that she fell off her chair. Which Academy Award-winning actor was disappointed that his evil Lion King character looked “scrawny”? Which famous voice actor used Barry White’s bass as inspiration for the booming voice of his robotic antagonist?
Make your voice heard. Vote up the stories that make you appreciate the animated bad guys even more.
James Woods is no stranger to playing villains. The Emmy Award-winner is also a prolific voice actor with impressive credits in over 40 animated works, including Justice League Action and Kingdom Hearts.
Jack Nicholson was originally set to play the sinister Hades in the 1997 Disney animated musical feature Hercules. The writers envisioned the antagonist as a serious and deliberate-speaking character. However, Nicholson left the project after contract negotiations broke down.
Woods didn't think he was the right fit for Hades, but he took a shot anyway.
“I'm not going to get cast in this. I'm not really right for it,” said Woods. “Then I just started ad-libbing. My role model was quite frankly a CAA agent… a talent agent/used car salesman, slick Hollywood guy in the cartoon sense.”
Woods's take on the villain made producers change the way that they originally thought of Hades. His fast-paced style helped to reinvent the character and make him much more humorous.
- 282 VOTESPhoto: Buena Vista Pictures
Scar is a formidable force in Disney's 1994 animated musical The Lion King. He is ruthless, manipulative, and completely obsessed with power. The villain is actually based on the sinister Claudius from Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Acclaimed English thespian, Jeremy Irons, has certainly performed in his fair share of Shakespeare productions. The Tony and Academy Award winner is also a prolific voice actor. One of his most memorable voice performances came as the scary and cruel antagonist in The Lion King.
Irons talked about the process of creating Scar, which involved Disney filming the actor while he performed the voice work.
Apparently, Irons assumed that Scar would be much larger. “I was absolutely devastated because they've been videoing and drawing me all that time, and I see the film,” joked Irons on the first time he saw the animated version of his character. “And there is this scrawny bloody lion. I look at James Earl Jones and he's golden and big-maned… and I thought 'what's the matter with me?'”
- 384 VOTESPhoto: Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker / Warner Home Video
Most people know Mark Hamill from playing Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, one of the most beloved cinema heroes of all time. However, Hamill is also a prolific voice actor.
He has over 200 voice credits since breaking into the industry in 1974. “I have always imitated people, and I love the musical sound of the human voice,” said Hamill. "When I first began doing voice-over work, I said to my wife Marilou, 'What took me so long?' I came to doing cartoons and voice-overs via Broadway, because that is where I needed to go to be able to do comedy."
In what can be considered voice-actor casting against type, Hamill got the gig as the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995). He also voiced the Joker in The Adventures of Batman & Robin, the feature-length animated movie Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, and several other animated projects.
Hamill made sure to focus on the different types of sinister Joker laughs. He said:
What I liked about doing the Joker was his villainy. I thought, you know, I could use this laugh almost as a vocabulary. Instead of having it be one continuous laugh, I could use it like color on a canvas. There could be sinister laughs, there could be joyful, gleeful, maniacal laughs, there could be malevolent and evil laughs. There are so many different colors that you can give him, so that kids will have more than one laugh to mimic on the playground. I do have to thank the people at Batman, because this work opened up an entire new career for me.
- 452 VOTES
Mother Gothel from Disney's 2010 Tangled is certainly the villain in the story. However, she's also a mother. And, can anyone really blame her for wanting to stay young and pretty?
Compared to other Disney antagonists, Mother Gothel is at the very least relatable. The film's director Byron Howard described her complex character:
Yeah, you know she's a really subtle character. She's very, very smart and she's, like a lot of characters in films, she's made some bad choices. In order to stay young, she stole a baby and went overboard. What's great about her is, yeah, she's not much of a mustache-twisting villain, but she's got layers in her that are very hard to figure out sometimes. She had to be subtle enough with her relationship to Rapunzel that Rapunzel wasn't aware that she was a total villain. But we love that Donna [Murphy] brings that kind of charisma and intelligence to that character.
Broadway star Donna Murphy landed the gig as Mother Gothel's voice in the Rapunzel adaptation. It was the two-time Tony Award winner's first time doing voice work and singing for an animated film.
While Murphy was singing the song “Mother Knows Best,” she made notes to herself to be “lighter.” “It's much more insidious to be 'darling, mother knows best.' So I had a lot of notes to myself to be lighter, sweeter, kinder, gentler," said Murphy.
- Photo: The Emperor's New Groove / Buena Vista Pictures
Kronk from the 2000 Disney animated feature The Emperor's New Groove is one of those second-in-command villains who's not really a villain at all. He serves as the loyal but dimwitted henchman to Yzma. Also, like many seconds, Kronk takes a wealth of vitriol from Yzma. Underneath it all, the character is compassionate and kind.
Patrick Warburton possesses one of those booming voices perfect for a voice actor. He's worked as Joe from Family Guy and Professor Barkin from Kim Possible. After he landed the gig as Kronk, he examined the actual personality traits of the character in order to figure out his voice. Warburton said:
I remember thinking to myself, when I was looking at some of this dialogue, Kronk, is he an ogre, a giant, a robot, a monster? I’m not really sure. Oh, Kronk is a person. Okay. What I was able to decipher was that he was a henchman, but something of a reticent henchman, not so aggressive or nasty. He liked to cook. And I thought, “Well, okay, he’s not deep and gravelly.” As an actor, you’re always looking for different options. I went with one where I just thought … I brought his voice right down here, a little more whispery. And he’d get [voice breaks] excited about stuff. There’s something kind of sweet about that.
Kronk has become such a popular character that Disney made the standalone film in 2005 called Kronk's New Groove.
- 666 VOTESPhoto: Fox
Kelsey Grammer has the kind of Shakespearean deep voice that is made for a cartoon villain. The Cheers and Frasier star began voicing the revenge-seeking bitter antagonist Sideshow Bob when The Simpsons started its first season in 1989. The recurring character may look like a circus performer, but he is a clever evil mastermind. He has a taste for fine things like opera, classic literature, and all things Shakespeare.
He is also a psychopath who hates Bart Simpson.
Turns out that Grammer's love of casually singing around the set of Cheers landed him the role of Sideshow Bob. The sitcom star revealed during a 2016 interview on The Graham Norton Show:
Sam Simon - who created The Simpsons - was one of the writers on Cheers. As I usually do, I walk onto the set sometimes and I would usually sing “The Good Life,” kind of in my best Tony Bennett derivative.
[Sam] called me one afternoon and said, “Hey, do you still sing? Could you sing a Cole Porter song - 'Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye'?” Of course I could! I love that song.
He said, “We've got this character, who's never actually said anything on the show. He's Krusty the Clown's sideshow, and we call him Sideshow Bob. We want him to speak, finally. We thought you should do it!”
I said I could certainly do that, and then I read the script and it was actually really funny and wonderful… I had logged away a voice years ago when I worked for a man named Ellis Rabb - who had started a theatre company in New York City and had great success.
It all worked out wonderfully. Sideshow Bob has gone on to be a villain The Simpsons fans love to hate. Additionally, Grammer won the Emmy Award in 2006 for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for his work in the episode “The Italian Bob.”
Grammer also provided the voice for Stinky Pete the Prospector in Toy Story 2 and Vladimir in the Fox animated movie Anastasia.