|Robin Williams as the Genie in "Aladdin" - Whoopi Goldberg also did this character, but Robin Williams is the gold standard. He re-ignited the trend of getting A-List figures in Hollywood to voice animated characters during Disney's Renaissance of the 1990s.|
Off the top of our head, did you know that Bing Crosby ("The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad"), Jerry Seinfield ("Bee Movie"), Vincent Price ("The Great Mouse Detective"), Bob Newhart ("The Rescuers" and "The Rescuers Down Under"), James Woods ("Hercules") and Walt Disney himself (he did Mickey Mouse for many years and even appeared as himself in "Saludos Amigos") voiced popular animated characters? And many, many more famous names, way too many to list.
Because there is no point in honoring only the top celebrities - they get enough homage as it is anyway - we will include some of the lesser-known characters and the actors who brought them to life.
So, without slighting anybody, and all omissions being without malice, let's go through a few.
Snow White - Adriana CaselottiSnow White and the Seven Dwarfs." She came down and wowed Walt, who loved her voice and style and quickly cast her. Adriana suffered from the system at the time - that essentially was her only role of any note - but she goes down in history as the first true voice star of animation.
Aurora - Mary Costa
|Mary Costa was already a successful opera singer when she auditioned for the role of Aurora for Sleeping Beauty in 1952. Hours later Walt called her personally to offer her the role. To this day she continues to do promotional appearances for Disney.|
Maleficent and Lady Tremaine - Eleanor Audley
|Eleanor Audley as Maleficent.|
Alice in Wonderland and Wendy Darling - Kathryn BeaumontAlice in Wonderland," in their "Legends of Voice-overs" list needs to be sent down the rabbit hole! Kathryn Beaumont has one of the most incredible stories in Hollywood history. She had a slight British accent because she was a native of Great Britain, and Walt Disney loved that fact - along with her girlish ten-year-old personality and bright, blue eyes She was the Honey Boo Boo of her day! Kathryn was still kind of hanging around the studio afterward completing "Alice," so Walt decided to use her again - in the little role of Wendy Darling in "Peter Pan."
That doesn't happen too often in Hollywood.
The best part about Kathryn's story, though, is that she successfully evaded the curse of child actors that struck down so many of her peers. Never one to get airs, she voiced two of the most famous characters in the film - not just animation - history, and then just casually went back to school after her intern job at Disney completed when summer vacation was over one year. That is precisely how it went down, no more acting and no more voice work. She studied hard and became a schoolteacher, never looking back at former fame or riches. This girl was raised right. Many, many years later Kathryn came back to Disney and voiced her old characters again, long after everyone had forgotten who she was, recapturing the magic and no doubt making her former pupils honored to know they had had a brush with true Disney greatness.
That is an awesome, magical story all in itself.
Baloo the Bear, O'Malley and Little John - Phil Harris
He began his string with Baloo the Bear in "The Jungle Book," one of the most memorable Disney films of all time (and one that is being re-made as a live-action film at the time of this writing, too). It was the last animated feature film that Walt Disney himself oversaw, and he bestowed his blessing on Harris as Baloo, a role that helped turn "The Jungle Book" into the most successful Disney animated feature film since "Peter Pan."
Harris then voiced O'Malley in "Aristocats" a couple of years later. In the advertising for this second film, Disney even slipped in images of Harris' character Baloo from "The Jungle Book" - despite the fact that Baloo was not in "Aristocats"! If that isn't the ultimate accolade for an unknown voice actor making an impression on audiences, well, there can't be too many better ones.
The third character was as "Little John" in "Robin Hood" a few years later. By that time, Disney was falling on hard times in its animation department, and Harris had done his thing. He was a game trooper, though, and came back to try and voice Baloo again some twenty years later for a television series, but by that time his voice was gone and it just wasn't right.
Harris remains virtually alone at the top of the heap by voicing key voices in three separate and unrelated Disney animated feature film classics.
King of the Apes - Louis Prima
King Richard and Prince John - Terry-Thomas
And let's not forget Peter Ustinov, esteemed Academy Award winner who pitched in to voice two characters in Robin Hood!
Jessica Rabbit - Kathleen TurnerThe Smurfs." Kathleen Turner had a sultry voice that fit the voluptuous character of the Hollywood starlet. The character has become a staple of women's Halloween costumes ever since.
Ariel the Little Mermaid - Jodi BensonThe Little Mermaid," a role she reprised to great effect in the sequels.
Lumiere - Jerry Orbach
|Jerry Orbach, famous for his roles as Lennie Briscoe in Law & Order and Baby’s father in Dirty Dancing, provided the voice of the enchanted candelabra, Lumiere, in Beauty and the Beast.|
Mrs. Potts - Angela Lansbury
|Angela Lansbury, so well known for appearing as Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote, was the voice of charming teapot Mrs Potts in Beauty and the Beast.|
Angela Lansbury was one of show business' legends when she took on the role of Mrs. Potts in "Beauty and the Beast," but she stepped up to the plate one more time and created a legendary character in one of Disney's most successful films of the Disney Renaissance.
The Mad Hatter and Uncle Albert - Ed WynnMary Poppins," a fantastic fantasy role for which he was ideally suited. He also was The Mad Hatter in "Alice in Wonderland." That is perhaps the best combination of roles for a character actor in all of animation history.
Kaa - Sterling Holloway
Simba - Matthew BroderickThe Lion King," perhaps the most popular animated feature film before "Frozen" - and possibly after "Frozen," too.
Uncle Scar - Jeremy Irons
Cinderella - Illene Woods
The Fairy Godmother - Verna Felton
|Comedian Verna Felton was one of the true stars of Disney. She was already a regular film, television and radio actress when she was cast in her first Disney film as Mrs. Jumbo in Dumbo (top right). She went on to play the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland (bottom right), Flora in Sleeping Beauty (top left), Winifred the Elephant in The Jungle Book and mean Siamese cat-owning Aunt Sarah in Lady and the Tramp (bottom left). Late on December 14, 1966, she died of a stroke, aged 76. Just hours later Walt Disney himself passed away.|
The Evil Queen - Lucille La Verne
The Evil Queen in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" may have been evil, but she remains one of the enduring figures in animated film history. She was voiced by Lucille La Verne, who was cool with not getting any official credit and used her fifteen minutes of fame to leave the business entirely and open a nightclub. It may have been the smartest career choice of anyone on this list.
Too Many Role to List - Mel Blanc
|Mel Blanc, active until his untimely passing in 1989|
There's nothing I can add to that. It speaks for itself. Nothing I could possibly write would do this bonafide legend justice.
Mickey Mouse - Walt Disney
|The character that is still, to this day, synonymous with Disney. Mickey Mouse’s high falsetto voice was provided by Walt Disney himself for almost 20 years, including classic "Fantasia." However by 1946, he had become too busy to continue – and rumor has it his smoker’s voice was no longer up to hitting the high notes – so the role passed to Jimmy MacDonald.|