So I'm snowed in at the radio station with a Thunderbirds game tonight and some free time. There's nobody in the sales department, so I have nothing to do. After hearing some discussion, I thought it was important to begin the discussion of the best acting performances in Animated movies.
I'd like to set some ground rules and early explanation. This does not have to be strictly Disney, although I am sticking to kids movies (don't give me the South Park movie). Also, understand that I'm not a movie guy.
Also important: My list is about acting performances, not necessarily the love of the character. For instance, Eddie Murphy as Donkey is one of the best animated characters ever. But really, Eddie Murphy is just acting like Eddie Murphy the whole time. Not a ton of character development there. Same goes for Gilbert Gottfried from Aladdin, whose character was awesome, but was literally just Gilbert being Gilbert. So here goes:
5. Tom Hanks - Woody, Toy Story
This one is bordering on my Eddie Murphy rule, as Tom Hanks pretty much just plays Tom Hanks. But Tom Hanks my favorite actor of all time, and when I look at the longevity of the Toy Story franchise, Tom Hanks has turned the Woody character into an all-timer in the world of Disney.
4. Rod Taylor - Pongo (narrator), 101 Dalmations
I know, this one's a little outside the box. But if you need a refresher (since it's probably been awhile), go check out the opening scene of this movie when Pongo the dog is looking out the window judging the female dogs (and their pets) as they walked by. His delivery fits the movie and the character so beautifully. A big chunk of the movie is narration from Pongo's perspective and that's a tough approach to attract ADD-riddled children. But back then (1968) guys like Rod Taylor took a lot of pride in producing killer voiceover work, and this was a phenomenal performance.
3. Ellen DeGeneres, Dory, Finding Nemo
A movie that lacks musical numbers but provides fantastic dialogue throughout and Ellen is at the center of it all. Dory became so lovably frustrating that she needed her own spin-off movie. Ellen absolutely crushes this role. I think the initial intent for this movie was the focus to be on the Nemo and Marlin, and yet Dory totally steals the spotlight. Dory is a character little ones will grow up with 20 years from now.
2. Jeremy Irons (Scar)/Whoopie Goldberg (Shenzi)/Cheech Marin (Banzai), The Lion King
It's amazing how packed The Lion King is with 90s stars; James Earl Jones, JTT, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane and Rowan Atkinson, and some of these characters are legendary. And at the same time I didn't want to separate these three because they come as a bit of a package deal. First, on Jeremy Irons - Scar was the ultimate bad guy - ferociously sarcastic, manipulative as hell, and yet beyond cool. The musical number "Be Prepared" might be the most underrated Disney number ever. Add in Whoopie, Cheech and Jim Cummings as his three hyena side kicks, and I definitely wanted to go play in the elephant graveyard.
#1: Robin Williams, Genie, Aladdin
The character himself was incredibly lovable, but Robin Williams took the role to a new level. The fact that they could create character changes to Genie based on his impressions and vocal skill set. He realistically played 150 different characters through Genie over the course of that movie and it's remarkable. "Friend Like Me" (link below) in my opinion is one of the greatest musical numbers in Disney history, a song that would be average at best if it weren't for Williams' execution.
And lest we remember how we sympathized with Genie at the end of the movie when he just wanted to be freed. Or how evil he was when he was under Jafaar's control. As he always does, Robin Williams dominated the role and in my opinion is the best animated character performance ever.
The previously brought up Gilbert Gottfried and Eddie Murphy, and of course Mike Myers as Shrek. Terry Thomas, who voiced Hiss the Sssssssssnake in the animated Robin Hood (1973). And again, the entire cast of The Lion King.