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It’s commonly perceived that truly successful Hollywood actors have to sacrifice public anonymity in the pursuit of the best movie and television roles. After all, when is the last time you’ve seen Will Smith or Tom Cruise pushing a cart down a shopping aisle? However, there is a certain breed of thespian that can gain notoriety without ever once revealing themselves to the public—voice actors. Here are 15 of the actors behind some of the most iconic animated characters in history. You may not know all of their faces, but you certainly could recognize their voices.
Comedian Tom Kenny’s voice is unmistakable for anyone who has ever turned on Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon. He currently juggles the starring role, the French narrator, and his live-action performance of Patchy The Pirate on Spongebob Squarepants. He also voices The Ice King on Cartoon Network’s hugely popular Adventure Time with Finn and Jake. Comedy fans may also know him from his performances on the HBO sketch show Mr. Show.
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John DiMaggio’s voice is another one hard to miss, especially given the fact his two most popular characters sound identical to one another. As Finn The Dog on Adventure Time, DiMaggio has captured the imagination of children and adults alike with his glasses wearing, body stretching dog sidekick. Comedy animation fans will know him better as Bender The Robot from Futurama—another loyal sidekick, albeit one whose interests veer more toward gambling and boozing. Outside of his animation work, DiMaggio also voices the lead in the Gears of War video game series.
Nancy Cartwright, Dan Castlenella, Yeardly Smith, and Julie Kavner
These four voice actors have been the core cast of The Simpsons for all 515 episodes of the series run. Nancy Cartwright, who voices Bart, may also be recognized by children of the 90s as the voice of Chuckie Finster on Rugrats. Castlenella (Homer, Grandpa Simpson) also voiced the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin: Return of Jafar and has appeared on episodes of Arrested Development. Yeardley Smith (Lisa) has showed up in several films and nabbed a supporting role in As Good As It Gets. Julie Kavner (Marge) made a for herself in the 80s as one of Woody Allen’s supporting repertoire players.
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Though a diverse array of actors have tackled the role on the big screen, Kevin Conroy has played Batman more times than any other actor. On Batman: The Animated Series, he was the first performer to utilize two different voices when playing Batman and Bruce Wayne, a ploy Christian Bale would later implement in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Night Trilogy. Conroy has continued playing the character in both straight-to-video animated films and the wildly popular Arkham Asylum games. He’ll be reprising the role in the feature length Injustice: Gods Among us next year.
Fans of television will likely recognize Diedrich Bader as Oswald from the long-running 90s sitcom The Drew Carey Show. As such they may be surprised to know Bader also took on the role of Batman in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. His lighthearted take on the character ran from 2008 to 2011, representing a less gritty, more kid friendly version of Batman. As such, Bader brought a warmth and humor to the iconic character that hadn’t been seen since the Adam West show. Bader was last heard reprising his role of Rex on the Napoleon Dynamite animated series.
Everyone has heard Jim Cummings voice at one time or another—after all, he’s been the actor behind both Winnie the Pooh and Tigger since 1988. Cummings also filled in for actor Jeremy Irons during certain scenes of The Lion King and voiced Darkwing Duck on the Disney animated series of the same name.
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As My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic protagonist Twilight Sparkle, voice actress Tara Strong has procured a legion of fans stretching from little girls to grown men (referring to themselves “Bronies”). That may read creepier than it is, but Strong’s voice work is a major contribution to the success of The Hub animated series. Strong is also known for voicing lead roles in Rugrats, Batman: The Animated Series, and made an uncredited cameo in Ted as the titular character’s “I Love You” voice box.
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If you saw Clancy Brown on the street, you’d likely recognize him for his supporting roles in Highlander, The Shawshank Redemption, or Cowboys and Aliens. What you may not realize is the tall, gravelly voiced actor is also the man behind the greedy Mr. Krabs on Spongebob Squarepants. Along with Tom Kenny, he’s been playing the character since 1999.
Peter Cullen & Frank Welker
Peter Cullen (left) and Frank Welker (right) have long been mortal enemies—in cartoon form, anyway. The pair both lent their voices to the Transformers animated series—Cullen portrayed the heroic Optimus Prime while Welker played the insidious Megatron. The pair would reprise their iconic roles in Michael Bay’s Transformer movies, though Welker would have to step out of his iconic role of Megatron (Hugo Weaving had the part instead) in favor of other supporting characters. Don’t feel bad for him, though—Welker is currently ranked among the highest grossing actors in Hollywood thanks to the sheer volume of work he does per year.
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He may be best known for his work as the longest running DJ on America’s Top 40, but Casey Kasem’s voice is known to children around the world as that of Shaggy on Scooby Doo. He retired from Top 40 in 2004, with Ryan Seacrest seceding him. He would stick with Shaggy until 2009 before handing the role over to the next actor on our list…
Okay, this guy’s immediately recognizable for his live action work alone. Matthew Lillard gets a spot on the list because he’s one of the few actors as well known for playing a character in a live action film as he is for performing the voice in an animated series. Lillard brought Shaggy to life in the feature version of Scooby-Doo and its sequel. He would replace Casey Casem as the voice of the character in 2010 on Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated and several straight-to-video movies. Like, talk about a job that keeps on paying out, Scoob!
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Katey Saga may be best known for her work on shows like Married With Children, 8 Simple Rules or The Sons of Anarchy. Animation fans likely know her best from her role on Futurama. Since 1999, she’s voiced the straight-faced, cycloptic mutant ship captain Leela on the long running animated series.
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Everyone knows Mark Hamill as the star of the original Star Wars trilogy, but did you know the same guy who plays Luke Skywalker also redefined the role of everyone’s favorite Batman villain? Hamill reinvented both himself and the character on Batman: The Animated Series. He has voiced the character across several television series, theme park rides, and even reprised him for the Batman Arkham Asylum games (joining actor Kevin Conroy). Despite the acclaim he’s received for the role, he announced he would be retiring his take on The Joker in 2007.
Phil LaMarr was a fixture in many households as a key performer on Mad TV until 2000. Since then the actor has voiced a string of noteworthy animated characters, from Hermes on Futurama, to The Green Lantern on Justice Unlimited and even the title characters on Samurai Jack and Static Shock.
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Despite the impressive credits on this list, voice actress June Foray has the most accomplishments. Among her credits are Lucifer from Disney’s Cinderella, Rocky the Flying Squirrel from Rocky & Bullwinkle, Cindy Lou Who from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Granny from Looney Tunes. She was nominated an Emmy in 2012 for her voice work as Mrs. Cauldron on The Garfield Show, which made her the oldest thespian to ever be nominated for the award. At the age of 95, Foray shows know sign of stopping and is proof of the longevity a performer can attain in the world of voice acting.