Voice Force

Where the industry listens.

March 23, 2020

10 Animated Series with Unforgettable Voice Performances

And where to stream them!

Hunkering down and looking for some top-notch VO? Here are just a few of our recommendations for finding great performances in animated series, and where to stream them. We’ll be putting together lists of our favorites across all mediums this week, so stay tuned!

Adventure Time

John DiMaggio as Jake

Fans of Futurama will find DiMaggio’s turn as Jake the Dog most impressive. In Adventure Time, he expanded his already considerable range to include the sometimes emotional, sometimes scary, always fun adventures Jake has with his human pal and adoptive brother Finn, voiced by Jeremy Shada.

Adventure Time has the feeling of a Dungeons and Dragons game come to life, mixed in with a little Miyazaki tenderness and surreality. DiMaggio admitted he didn’t fully understand the show’s universe until his castmate Tom Kenny (playing the misunderstood Ice King among others) reassured him that it was going to be a hit: “‘This is this generation’s Yellow Submarine. Just leave it at that.’ And he was right.”

Where can I watch?

icon_hulu

Adventure Time can be found on Hulu

Archer

H. Jon Benjamin as Sterling Archer

You know his voice even if you don’t know his name. Playing the title characters in both Archer and Bob’s Burgers (also available to watch on Hulu), H. Jon Benjamin proves the age-old advice for aspiring VO actors: you don’t need a rogue’s gallery of character voices to succeed, just good acting chops. He put it this way in a chapter from his book Failure Is an Option:

There’s some modesty there, but Benjamin’s work speaks (ahem) for itself. Archer is a pompous, privileged, egotistical spy working at a highly dysfunctional espionage agency. He’s surrounded by equally flawed characters performed with equal aplomb by an excellent ensemble cast. The show is tightly written, super funny, and eminently bingeable. Step into the DANGER ZONE and watch this show!

Where can I watch?

icon_hulu

Archer can be found on Hulu

Animaniacs

Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, and Tress MacNeille as Yakko, Wakko, and Dot

Championed by Steven Spielberg and developed in the style of the original Looney Tunes shorts, Animaniacs led the Saturday morning cartoon renaissance in the ’90s. The show’s smart humor entertained children and adults alike, without condescending to either. 

Paulsen, Harnell, and MacNeille are the dream team to voice the Warner Brothers and the Warner Sister. Their characters parody classic Hollywood films, sing an operatic aria entirely in burps, and joke about everything in between. Yakko (Paulsen), modeled after Groucho Marx, sings a song which includes every country in the world. Wakko (Harnell), sounding more than a little like Ringo Starr, can pull a gigantic wooden mallet or anvil out his back pocket at a moment’s notice. And Dot (MacNeille) is cute as a button, but if you call her “Dottie”, you’re getting a stick of dynamite handed to you.

Where can I watch?

icon_netflix

Animaniacs can be found on Netflix

Bojack Horseman

Will Arnett as BoJack

BoJack is unlike most animated protagonists you’ll see. He’s a washed-up Hollywood star, lost in his own neuroses, dysfunctional relationships, and self-destructive behavior. But wait! It’s also a disarmingly moving story about finding meaning in your life and work. Also everyone’s an anthropomorphic animal.

Having recently concluded a 77-episode run, the series charts BoJack’s desires to do the right thing, hamstrung by his deep flaws, which affect his relationships with a cast of characters voiced by luminaries of the comedy world, including Amy Sedaris, Paul F. Tompkins, and Alison Brie. It’s a surreal, mature, and hilarious dive into what makes Hollywood tick.

Where can I watch?

icon_netflix

BoJack Horseman can be found on Netflix

The Simpsons

Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, and Harry Shearer as nearly everyone

What can be said about The Simpsons that hasn’t been said already? Well, it bears repeating that its ensemble cast, working together now for almost 700 episodes, deliver consistently nuanced performances of over 120 recurring and main characters. That versatility has made the show last for over 30 years and garnered it over 100 major awards.

Statistics aside, it’s clear Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge, and Maggie are household names the world over. Now that the show has found a new home on Disney+ and an extension into at least its 32nd season, you’ll have a lifetime supply of America’s favorite family.

Where can I watch?

icon_disneyplus

The Simpsons can be found on Disney+

Gravity Falls

Kristen Schall and Jason Ritter as Mabel and Dipper Pines

What’s better than summer vacation when you’re a kid? Spending it with your mysterious grunkle (great-uncle) in a small remote town in Oregon? Battling ghosts, gnomes, and scary sims? Twin siblings Mabel and Dipper Pines (Schall and Ritter) fall down a rabbit hole of conspiracy and mythology in a story that remains grounded and human in the face of the paranormal.

The show is short and sweet, with only two seasons and a graphic novel, but offers tantalizing worldbuilding and mystery, in addition to meticulously realized characters.

Where can I watch?

icon_disneyplus

Gravity Falls can be found on Disney+

Sesame Street

Over 70 puppeteers and voice actors

This legendary show remains a mainstay of homes with children even 51 years after its premiere. The humans and Muppets of Sesame Street teach important lessons in empathy, self-esteem, and creativity, in addition to providing a framework for coping with the obstacles of growing up.

To this day, the show is home to highly accomplished voice actors and puppeteers. It launched and propelled the careers of Muppeteers and puppeteers alike, including Frank Oz and Jim Henson. The show’s current home on HBO allows it to produce many more episodes per season while also giving it a greater reach, while retaining its original mission of airing for free on public access television.

Where can I watch?

icon_hbo

Sesame Street can be found on HBO Go and HBO Now

Todd McFarlane's Spawn

Keith David as Al Simmons/Spawn

Let’s take a sudden U-turn in tone, shall we? Keith David’s distinctive and powerful growl perfectly suits the murdered Vietnam vet who vows revenge against his killer and makes a deal with the devil to come back to life, only to be returned to Earth as Spawn: a rotting corpse with superhuman abilities. As a soldier in the devil’s army, he tries to resist the lure of evil while also protecting his widowed and now-remarried wife. Sound intense yet? That’s only the start! 

The show’s creator, comic book artist Todd McFarlane, said the casting of David was “perfect.” We agree. Keith David, already known for his known for strong, larger-than-life characters, busts apart the conventions of the animated medium.

Where can I watch?

icon_hbo

Todd McFarlane's Spawn can be found on HBO Go and HBO Now

SpongeBob SquarePants

Tom Kenny as SpongeBob

Despite the fanciful world of Bikini Bottom and its kooky residents, SpongeBob isn’t just for kids. It combines expertly timed slapstick, subtle satire, and an optimistic whimsy that can be appreciated by everyone. As Tom Kenny puts it, “People who were young children when it started… are still watching it and digging it and think it’s funny. That’s the loving cup for me.”

SpongeBob’s juggernaut media empire hasn’t dimmed the rosy outlook written into the show. Beyond that, show creator Stephen Hillenburg was an educator at an aquarium before the thought of a cheerful talking yellow sponge came to mind. So keep an eye for Easter eggs that only a marine biologist could have dreamed up.

Note: Only the first five seasons are available to stream on Prime.

Where can I watch?

icon_primevideo

SpongeBob SquarePants can be found on Amazon Prime Video

Undone

Rosa Salazar as Alma

What happens when the writers from BoJack Horseman combine that show’s existential angst with mind-bending visuals, rotoscoped animation, and a compelling mystery? You get Undone, Amazon Prime’s new animated series.

Rosa Salazar’s performance is rotoscoped into psychedelic scenes spanning time and space, as her character Alma attempts to understand her father’s death. She dives into the heady concept of quantum entanglement as she bends time to her will, bringing her closer to understanding the generational trauma that lead to her own departure from reality. Salazar grounds Alma’s complexity amidst a complex and fascinating narrative that hopefully will continue on into its second season soon.

Where can I watch?

icon_primevideo

Undone can be found on Amazon Prime Video