“Animal Crackers”, debuting on Netflix July 24th, has one of the most star-studded voice casts of any animated movie in recent years. Real-life wife and husband Emily Blunt & John Krasinski lead the ensemble. They recorded their dialogue together before filming 2018’s “A Quiet Place”. And you can tell how natural their chemistry is just listening to them as animated characters Zoe and Owen. That was one of the pleasant surprises of making “Animal Crackers” for directors Tony Bancroft and Scott Christian Sava. They discuss that and much more on a new LCJ Q&A Podcast episode coming July 20th.
Joining Blunt & Krasinski in “AC” are Danny DeVito, Ian McKellen, Sylvester Stallone, Raven-Symone, Patrick Warburton, Wallace Shawn, Tara Strong, Harvey Fierstein and Gilbert Gottfried. It’s extremely common to pack a major animated feature with as many big-time celebrities as possible. In some cases, the casting is simply to put names on a poster and earn hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office. But more often than not, some of the most talented stars of live-action dramas and comedies also allow their voices to shine in G, PG or even PG-13 animated fare.
The Annie Awards, which annually honors the finest achievements in animation, has a Voice Acting in a Feature Production category. This year, Josh Gad became the first person to win this TWICE… and for the same character, Olaf in “Frozen” and “Frozen II”. Past recipients include McKellen for “Flushed Away”, Bryan Cranston (“Isle of Dogs”), Sir Ben Kingsley (“The Boxtrolls”), Bill Nighy (“Arthur Christmas”), Jay Baruchel (“How to Train Your Dragon”), Dustin Hoffman (“Kung Fu Panda”) and the late Ian Holm (“Ratatouille”).
Some truly iconic voice performances have also been rewarded: Eddie Murphy as Donkey in the first “Shrek”, Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear and Joan Cusack as Jessie in “Toy Story 2”, Peter Sallis as Wallace in “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit”, Ellen DeGeneres as Dory in “Finding Nemo” and even director Brad Bird as Edna Mode in the original “Incredibles”. And The Mouse House even got a duo of wins in one night, as Jason Bateman (“Zootopia”) and Auli’i Cravalho (“Moana”) TIED a few years ago.
In April, I asked former DreamWorks Animation head honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg whether he thinks it’s time for a Voice Performance Oscars category. His response: “Listen… you’re preaching to the choir here having spent many, many decades in animation and probably as much as anybody appreciating how incredible, how invaluable the voice talent is – how much they bring to it. I’ve always felt that our voice actors, in many ways, were almost unsung heroes. Although, when we brought stars in, I think people started to recognize how unique those performances are.
You can look back over the years. Whether it was Jeremy Irons doing Scar or Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy doing Shrek and Donkey or Jack Black doing [Po in] “Kung Fu Panda”. And I can go on and on… Robin Williams playing the Genie in “Aladdin”. These are some of the greatest performances by any actor in any medium. You see the impact that they had on those films and how much creativity they brought. They were not just reading lines. They made characters three-dimensional. They made them real. They gave them heart.”