In this day and age, actors and other celebrities are keen to do voice work, the cool comfort of the studio is a happy change of pace from even the simplest of live action work, and the paycheck is often ample, especially for people who are already established.
Animated features aren’t the only projects nabbing celebs for their smooth pipes. Car companies love a famous, male voice. Ever wonder where you’ve heard that low yet lucid voice in Mercedez-Benz commercials? It’s Jon Hamm. The macho hum in the Dodge Ram commercials? Michael C. Hall or Sam Elliott, depending on the ad. Acura? James Spader. GMC? Will Arnett. Ford Trucks? Denis Leary.
However, this cash-laden victory lap of sorts is only the most kushy of voice gigs, especially for actors who have the versatility to crossover. For many of the most recognizable faces in film and T.V. today, the voice coming out of that face was key for paying the bills, and breaking in the 90s. So, your favorite peice of 90s nostalgia was a proving ground for a then unknown star of today. Let the discovery begin!
1. Bryan Cranston
Wednesday on Reddit, Cranston, the star of Breaking Bad and Malcom in the Middle, spilled about his work on that most classic children’s action show of 90’s, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. If your only memory of the color coded warriors are their toys and that time you tried a dragon kick from your parent’s bed and bruised your ribs, the show is almost completely dubbed and voiced-over. Cranston played two monsters including Snizard, sampled below. They even named the Blue Ranger after him, Billy Cranston.
2. Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert
This set of comedic geniuses got their live action fame as correspondents on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and have since moved on to ever bigger and better gigs. You already know Carrell is part of the Judd Apatow mafia, and you definitely know Colbert is Colbert, but did you know that together, they are the voices of “The Ambiguously Gay Duo?” Crazy, right?
Colbert and Carell play Ace and Gary, the tight spandex clad, bottom slapping, phallic supercar driving, cartoon superheroes from Robert Smigel’s animated Saturday Night Live segment, T.V. Funhouse. The Duo rocked the middle portion of the sketch comedy juggernaut from ’96 to ’99, and then ad hoc all the way up until last year, where they were portrayed in live action by Jon Hamm and Jimmy Fallon. Colbert and Carell played mainstay villains, Dr. Brainio and Bighead.
Carell is continuing his voice work in the Despicable Me franchise, Colbert however, is saving his voice work for narrating his field reports on The Colbert Report.
3. Jerry Orbach
Jerry Orbach was able to retire for his many years as one TV’s most recognizable law enforcement officials, Detective Lenny Briscoe, a primary protagonist on the original Law and Order. Given, Orbach has been a staple on Broadway for decades, and a lesser known screen actor since the fifties, his second most famous role is almost certainly Lumiere, the candelabra from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
4. Vin Diesel
This macho man is a mainstay in three franchises, including the seemingly unstoppable Fast and Furious series. He is lesser known for his more "legitimate" turns in films like Saving Private Ryan and Find Me Guilty. Even more obscure is the knowledge that he is also the voice of eponymous character in The Iron Giant.
This film is most famous for being an underrated masterpiece that was a major flop for Warner Brothers. It is also the full length feature debut for director Brad Bird, who had previously been a mainstay on The Simpsons, and later took over the helm of Ratatouille and even Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol.
The Coup De Grace must be Flea, the world renowned bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and legendary wild man. When the producers of the Wild Thornberrys needed a firecracker to play Donnie, the feral child and black sheep of the adventurous cartoon family, they looked no further than this original member of rock and roll's funkiest band. At a show once, I tried to explain this to the guy next to me, and right when he expressed his surprise, Flea jumped over to his mic and screamed "YABBITY BIBBITY BOP!". Point Proven.