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Matinee Blog

Finding Dory voiceover

Why Animated Films Like Finding Dory Use A-List Celebrities for Voiceover

With the release of Finding Dory in UK theatres, we discuss the pros and cons of having well-known celebrities cross over into voice acting.

This week will mark the UK release of Finding Dory, the long-awaited sequel to Finding Nemo. Pixar has frequently used big-name actors and actresses to voice its characters, and Finding Dory will be no different. Of course, Ellen DeGeneres will reprise her role as the titular blue tang, Dory, and Albert Brooks returns as the neurotic Marlin. There are also some new names you may know, including Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, and Idris Elba, all lending their talents as voice actors for the films new characters.  You can watch a behind the scenes look at the film’s voice over recording below (but watch out for spoilers!).

This kind of big-name voice talent is fairly common in today’s animated movies, but that wasn’t always the case. What are the benefits of using well-known live actors to do voice over work? And are there any downsides?

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The character of the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin was meant to resemble the expressiveness of Robin Williams, who provided the voice acting for the character (photo via tvguide.com)

One of the first major cartoon movies to utilize celebrity voices was Disney’s 1992 hit, Aladdin. Despite the name, the real star of this show was the late, great, Robin Williams, who voiced the Genie. This was the first example of a cartoon role being written and animated specifically to fit an A-list celebrity, and the association with Robin Williams played no small part in the movie’s success. As the producers had hoped, many people went to see the movie simply because Williams was starring. Of course, at that time, having a celebrity voice in a Disney film was a novelty. Today, it’s much more common to see animated features whose marketing relies heavily on the fame of its cast, though with the right marketing it is still a solid way of boosting viewership.

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Wes Anderson’s 2009 stop-motion film Fantastic Mr. Fox advertised with a series of posters for individual characters, even promoting minor characters who had famous voices. (Photo via livingincinema.com)

One-Hit Wonder?

One major difference between using celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and Diane Keaton in voice acting, and using dedicated voice actors, is that celebrities don’t often “do voices”–that is to say, they can’t play the wide range of characters that skilled voice actors can. This makes it hard for a celebrity with a distinctive voice to star in more than one major motion picture. After all, can you really picture Ellen DeGeneres as anything other than the loveable, forgetful Dory?

Give and Take

For every decision a movie-maker must make, each option will carry pros and cons. Whether or not to use recognized celebrities or lesser known voice talent is no exception. Pixar has done both, and one thing that doesn’t seem to change is, the quality of their films always shines through. We’re sure Finding Dory will be no exception!

What do you think? Do you love hearing familiar voices in cartoons, or do you think it’s just a cheap marketing ploy? Tweet us and let us know! And if you’ve seen Finding Dory, let us know how you liked it—just no spoilers, please!