Have you ever been watching a Disney film and thought to yourself, “Hey, that voice sounds familiar”? While it’s easy to second guess your assumption that that voice you are hearing belongs to a Hollywood bigwig, it is far more common than most people realize for a Walt Disney Production to recruit a big-name actor or actress to voice one of its many characters. And it’s been a long played-out scenario spanning many years, many decades. From silver screen greats of old to some of today’s most trending celebrities, here’s a list of some of the most famous stars to lend their voices to Disney film characters throughout the decades.
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32. A “Maddening” Voice of Distinction—Alice in Wonderland, 1951
Comedic actor, Ed Wynn, was among one of the Walt Disney Company’s favorite picks for several film and television productions throughout the 1950s and 60s. And among his impressive resume is the role he played in providing the voice for the Mad Hatter character featured in Disney’s 1951 animated take on Alice in Wonderland. He was also the partial inspiration for the character’s physical appearance as well. Other renowned actors voiced characters for the film in addition, including another known Disney great—Verna Felton, who provided the voice of the Red Queen.
Related: Hats off to Mad Hatter Day!
31. Rodents to the “Rescue”—The Rescuers franchise (1977 and 1990)
If you have ever watched Disney’s The Rescuers or Rescuers Down Under, then you may have considered the familiarity of the voices of both films’ rodent leads. They belong to none other than legendary acting greats Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor. The sequel also featured the voice of John Candy as Wilbur the albatross and Georg C. Scott as the antagonistic Percival C. McLeach.
30. Mousey Detective Work—The Great Mouse Detective, 1986
You wouldn’t be wrong if you thought Professor Ratigan’s smooth and sinisterly distinguished voice sounded familiar. It was provided by the one and only legendary Vincent Price, after all. On a side note, another great actor of classic cinema, Basil Rathbone, also leant his voice to a character in the film as well. His role was that of Sherlock Holmes. His voice was taken from a 1966 Caedmon Records recording of the reading of a known Sherlock Holmes story.
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29. A Purrrfect Voice Ensemble—Oliver & Company, 1988
The big-name voice dominating the presence in this animated film is very obviously Billy Joel, who plays the Artful Dodger and leads in the film’s soundtrack with original music. But there are a few other big names on this project as well, including Bette Midler, Cheech Marin, and even a very young Joey Lawrence, who provided the voice of little orphan kitten Oliver.
28. Raising Voice Recognition—Up, 2009
The voice of the old man protagonist, Carl Frederickson, from Up was provided by the one and only late great Ed Asner. Other voices you may recognize in the film belong to Christopher Plummer and John Ratzenberger. The latter has leant his voice to a host of other Disney animated productions we will get to later on.
27. A Kingly Cast of Cats—The Lion King (1994 and 2019)
One of the most interesting facts about Disney’s The Lion King is that world-renowned actor James Earl Jones, famed for having one of the most recognized voices of all time, leant his tenor to the role of Mufasa not once, but twice. He did so in the animated 1994 version and then reprised his role for the 2016 live-action adaption. While he was the only returning voice in the latter, the adapted take did welcome in a couple of other well-known names today, including singer Beyonce, who portrayed adult Nala, and actor/comedian/singer Donald Glover as Simba. When we revisit the 1994 animated work, however, there is an impressive compilation of famed voices here worth noting, including Rowan Atkinson as Zazu the bird, Nathan Lane as Timon, Jeremy Irons as Scar, Whoopi Goldberg as Shenzi the hyena, and Mathew Broderick as adult Simba. A young Jonathan Taylor Thomas, most famed in those days for his presence on the ABC show Home Improvement, provided the voice of Simba as a cub.
Related: The “Purrfect” List of Disney’s Coolest Cats
26. Something to Play Around With—Toy Story franchise (1995, 1999, 2010, 2019)
There was another famed alum from Home Improvement to make it big in a number of Disney films and entertainment. We’re talking about the one and only Tim Allen who, aside from playing Scott Calvin in The Santa Clause films also supplied the voice for Disney-Pixar’s most iconic toy astronauts—Buzz Lightyear, in the popular Toy Story franchise. But he wasn’t the only Hollywood great to “play around” in the whole voicing of toys things; the series has showcased a number of other established actors and actresses, including Tom Hanks as the dual protagonist cowboy Woody, the recognizable Sean Wallace as Rex, John Ratzenberger again getting in on voices—this time as Hamm, Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head, Joan Cusack as Jessie and Annie Potts as Bo Peep.
25. Beautiful Voicework—Beauty and the Beast, 1991
Speaking of “Potts,” we now turn our attention to the 1991 animated release of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. And while various well-known names pop up here as various character voices, including Robby Benson, Jerry Orbach, and David Ogden Stiers, it’s worth noting that the one and only iconic and long-time actress and singer, Angela Lansbury, is the one who got the kettle whistling on the Mrs. Potts character.
24. Being Brave—Brave, 2012
When the 2017 live-action version of Beauty and the Beast was released it was Emma Thompson who slipped into the role of Mrs. Potts, both voicing the character in her teapot form and appearing as her human presence. And it’s worth noting that Emma Thompson has made her presence in a number of other Disney films in recent years as well. If you listen closely past the Scottish brogue in Queen Elinor’s voice in Disney-Pixar’s Brave, for instance, you may just be able to recognize her familiarity. The film also stars another known actress, Kelly MacDonald, in the role of Merida. Other famous voices include Kevin McKidd as Lord MacGuffin and, in a Harry Potter sort of reunion along with Thompson, Julie Walters, and Robbie Coltrane.
23. Colorful Voices of the Wind—Pocahontas, 1995
When you look back to Disney’s Pocahontas from 1995 there are several recognizable voices to listen for. You may again recognize the talents of David Ogden Stiers who, when not serving as a talking clock, can be heard as the voice of Governor Ratcliffe. Christian Bale fans may be surprised to hear his voice come through in the character of Thomas. Those familiar with the roles Linda Hunt has played throughout her acting tenure may be able to spot her presence in Grandmother Willow. But listen closely to John Smith. Doesn’t he sound exactly like Mel Gibson?
Related: Fascinating Facts About Disney’s Pocahontas
22. Wildly Recognizable Voices—Tarzan, 1999
Another wild collaborative voice bundle can be heard when watching Disney’s Tarzan from 1999. The Loudest and most dominating of all has to be that of Rosie O’Donnell, who brings an unexplainable New York accent to the character of Terk the Ape. Minnie Driver’s more traditional British accent comes through in the presence of the character of Jane. Other voice talents highlighted in the film include those of Tony Goldwyn, Glenn Close, Nigel Hawthorne, and even a young Lily Collins playing a baby ape.
21. Hidden Vocals—The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1996
It is perhaps the voice Esmeralda the Gypsy, supplied by the one and only Demi Moore that dominates the screen presence in The Hunchback of Notre Dame from 1996. Other voices you may be familiar with include those of Jason Alexander as Hugo and Kevin Kline as Phoebus.
20. Some Grooving Vocals—The Emperor’s New Groove, 2000
While Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove was not among one of Disney’s more popular film releases, it did showcase a number of famous voice provisions. Actor and comedian David Spade, for example, stars as the character of Kuzco. John Goodman, who has made several other voice contributions throughout other Disney films, is Pacha. But when you listen to the smooth tenor of the movie’s antagonist Yzma you will find the famed familiarity of the one and only legendary great Eartha Kitt.
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19. Herculean Voice Efforts—Hercules, 1997
The recognizable voice of Danny DeVito is what comes through most dominantly upon viewing Disney’s Hercules from 1997. But DeVito’s contribution to the role of Phil the satyr isn’t the only familiar voice you’ll hear in this work. The voice of James Woods comes out in the character of Hades while Tate Donovan supplies that of the title hero himself.
18. Familiar Family Voices—Meet the Robinsons, 2007
While Meet the Robinsons wasn’t as widely recognized as it should have been, it did feature a pretty big Hollywood name in its lineup—Tom Selleck. The actor is even referenced in the film prior to his “cameo” appearance of sorts. Another name worth mentioning is that of actress Laurie Metcalf, who provided the voice of Lucille. She’s leant her voice to a few other Disney productions as well, most notably filling the role as Andy’s mother in the Toy Story series.
17. Battling Voices—Mulan, 1998
When Disney’s animated adaptation of the film Mulan was released in 1998, most fans could instantly peg the voice of Mushu the dragon as belonging to the one and only Eddie Murphy. But one Hollywood great that often goes unnoticed for his role in the film is Pat Morita, better known as “Mr. Miyagi” in The Karate Kid films. He can be heard voicing to the Emperor.
16. Wishful Voices—Aladdin, 1992
Actor/comedian, Robin Williams, all but led Disney’s 1992 release of Aladdin in his role as the Genie. And his presence remains the most highly recognized in the film to this day. But fans of the hit series Full House may also recognize the starring character’s familiar voice as belonging to actor Scott Weinger. Another famously “annoying” bird voice to be featured in the film belongs to none other than Gilbert Gottfried.
Related: A Tribute to Robin Williams – The Voice Behind the Genie in Aladdin
15. Baring Bear Voices—Brother Bear, 2003
Another almost hardly acknowledged Disney film today is Brother Bear, which was released in 2003. And while the film is virtually unknown today, it did recruit a couple of well-known actors to lend their voices to roles within the story. Most notably, you will hear Joaquin Phoenix as Kenai. Actor Rick Moranis was also part of the film, supplying the voice of Rutt.
14. A Mixed Menagerie—Zootopia, 2016
The cast of character voice compilations to be featured in Disney’s Zootopia is almost unending. To start, in bringing personality to the two protagonist roles in the film are known acting greats Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman, playing as Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde. You will also hear the familiar voice of Octavia Spencer as Mrs. Otterton. Other famous voices come through from Bonnie Hunt, Tommy Chong, Jenny Slate, J.K. Simmons, Idris Elba, and singer Shakira, among many others.
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13. Roaring Jungle Voices—The Jungle Book (2016)
While we just mentioned Idris Elba for his familiar voicing in Zootopia, if you listen closely to Shere Kahn’s smooth and distinctive tenor you’ll realize he provided his voice here as well. And he isn’t alone, as the film also includes well-known personalities like Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, Christopher Walken as King Louie, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, and Bill Murray as Baloo.
12. Scary Voices–Monsters, Inc. franchise (2001, 2013)
On a side note to the previous Jungle Book highlight, we should mention briefly that in 2003 Disney released a direct-to-video sequel to its original animated production of the same name. In it, they called to the forefront actors John Goodman and Haley Joel Osmond to lend their voices to the roles of Baloo and Mowgli. Phil Collins was also a part of that film. While not one of John Goodman’s most famous roles in Disney, it was arguably his voicing Sulley in the Monsters, Inc. franchise that he is best known for. Billy Crystal also starred in the film as Mike Wazowski. Other big names featured here include Steve Buscemi, Bonnie Hunt, and John Ratzenberger, among others.
11. Voices to Cause Nightmares—The Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993
Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is another interesting film to feature the voices of several well-known names in acting. It was none other than Chris Sarandon, who provided the voice of Jack Skellington, after all. And it was Catherine O’Hara, who portrayed Sally. Paul Reubens can also be heard here, along with Tim Burton himself as well as Danny Elfman getting in on the act.
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10. Tuning the Fish—Finding Nemo/Finding Dory (2003 and 2016)
In both Finding Nemo as well as its Finding Dory sequel many years later, the voice of Ellen DeGeneres as Dory is probably the one most fans are familiar with. But did you know the great Willem Dafoe can be heard in the first film as Gill? With the sequel, many other well-knowns were added to the franchise family, including Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Ty Burrell, Ed O’Neill, and others.
9. Finding Home—Homeward Bound franchise, (1993 and 1996)
While we’re no longer talking about finding fish, we are taking a look at finding the voice talents behind one of Disney’s most beloved live-action animal film franchises of the 1990s—Homeward Bound. And this one too features several renowned acting greats. Michael J. Fox and Sally Fields were in both films as the voices of Chance and Sassy. The legendary Don Ameche portrayed the old dog Shadow in the first film. Due to the actor’s death, however, another known actor, Ralph Waite, replaced him in the sequel.
8. Wrecking Vocal Cords—Wreck-It-Ralph franchise (2012 and 2018)
In comparative playfulness to the Toy Story franchise, the Wreck-It-Ralph films feature a wide range of well-known actors and actresses, using their voices to bring together one of the most diverse character ensembles. Actor John C. Reilly lends his voice to the title character with Sarah Silverman providing the presence of his best friend Vanellope. The film also recruited the talents of Jane Lynch, Jack McBrayer, Dennis Haysbert, and many others, including Alan Tudyk, who has leant his vocals to many versatile roles throughout Disney film and entertainment. The second installment also enlisted actress Gal Gadot in a new character portrayal—Shank.
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7. Bolted Voice Talents—Bolt, 2008
Fans of 2008’s hit Bolt may remember that the title dog character’s voice was provided by John Travolta himself. Another popular presence is that of Miley Cyrus, delivering on the role of Penny. Listen closely to Penny’s younger character portrayal though. Did you ever realize it was a young Chloe Grace Moretz?
6. No Frogs in the Throat Here!—The Princess and the Frog, 2009
When you watch Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, you may come to the realization that Tiana’s mother sounds like she could have been a talk show host. That’s possibly because it was the one and only, world-renowned Oprah Winfrey lending her voice to the role here. Fans may also pick up on Jim Cummings as Ray—another actor is known for versatile voice provisions among varying Disney works.
5. Tangled Up Talents—Tangled, 2010
Longtime singer-turned-actress Mandy Moore is probably the most well-known voice you will hear leading in Disney’s Tangled as the film’s main protagonist, Rapunzel. But fans of the actor Zachary Levi will also, no doubt, recognize his familiar voice as that of Flynn Rider. Actor and comedian Brad Garrett is another easy-to-spot contributor, with his deliverance as the thug with the hook.
4. Icy Vocals—Frozen franchise (2013 and 2019)
Disney’s Frozen franchise is another diverse ensemble of widely recognizable talents. Actress/singer Idina Menzel, with a long line of accolades to her name, is none other than the voice behind Elsa. Actress Kristen Bell provides her voice talent to the character of Anna. Josh Gad fills the role of the summer-loving snowman, Olaf, and Jonathan Groff’s distinguished voice comes through in the presence of Kristoff. You will find many other formerly mentioned actor voices from other Disney works here as well, including Alan Tudyk. Actress Evan Rachel Wood also joins the cast in Frozen II, with Elsa and Anna’s mother getting more character focus.
3. Incredible Voice Recognitions—The Incredibles franchise (2004 and 2018)
Disney’s The Incredibles and Incredibles II both feature their own famous voice talents as well. It is perhaps Samuel L. Jackson in his deliverance as Frozone that is most distinguishable though. In listening closer to the voice of Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible, however, you can hear the presence of actor Craig T. Nelson coming through as well. And let’s not forget Holly Hunter voicing the one and only Elastigirl.
2. Hawaiian Harmonies—Moana, 2016
In Disney’s Moana, it is the onscreen presence and voice talents by Dwayne Johnson “The Rock” himself that are the easiest to recognize. While there are other notable voice provisions at work in this film as well, Johnson’s is undeniably the one most viewers can spot instantly.
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1. Mickey’s Modest Beginning—Mickey Mouse (various)
Did you know that Walt Disney himself, the creator behind all the magic, actually helped to bring voice to the magic he created? It was he who first provided the voice of the Mickey Mouse character in various productions between the years of 1929 through 1947. This is something that not even many of the most adamant Disney fans realize, but it is perhaps the most significant one of all. That’s because Walt Disney, the man and founder of it all, is the uncontested, most popular presence behind the Disney name.
Related: Facts About the Life and Legacy of Walter Elias Disney
We could go on naming literally hundreds of other well-known actors and famous people who have voiced various Disney characters throughout the years. And with Disney forever emerging with new works and developments, this number will continue to grow. Working on a Disney Production remains a Hollywood hailed rite of passage of sorts. So, is it any wonder why so many big names want to be a part of the magic?