Who is your favorite Mom voice? (Apart from the woman who gave birth to you, of course) As a female voice over artist, I am always interested in everything audio performed by women and whether for animation or commercial mom voices are one of our biggest roles.. Animated moms and the women (and occasional men) who have voiced them are the feature of this blog post. Here’s the low-down of 10 of the most beloved.
1. Lois Patrice Griffin, née Pewterschmidt (Family Guy)
Created by Seth McFarlane, Lois is voiced by Alex Borstein, a sketch comic working at MADtv when she was cast, who has been with the show from the start and voices several other characters as well. Borstein based Lois’s mom voice on a cousin from Long Island. Though often portrayed as a stereotypical housewife and mother and “voice of reason” to Peter’s mishegas, Lois has quite the dark side to her character – including being a recovering methamphetamine addict and a kleptomaniac with a gambling problem. Lois has also had several affairs, one of which allegedly resulted in the conception of Meg.
2. Marjorie Jacqueline Simpson, née Bouvier (The Simpsons)
Created by Matt Groenig, Marge is voiced by Julie Kavner and originally appeared in a short on The Tracy Ullman Show in 1987 (Kavner also voices Marge’s sisters and mother). As the matriarch of the dysfunctional family that’s been entertaining TV audiences longer than any other animated sitcom in history, Marge is the stereotypical sitcom mom and long-suffering wife of Homer. She generally regards herself as having higher morals than her family members, or for that matter, her fellow townsfolk, and she encourages and often forces church attendance. She is much closer to her children than to her husband, often bordering on “hovering.”
3. Kanga (Winnie the Pooh)
Kanga is a female kangaroo and the doting mother of Roo in Winne-the-Pooh. She is the idealized mother role – kind-hearted, calm, patient and docile, she keeps things clean and organized, and offers motherly advice and food to anyone who asks her. She is also the only female character to appear in the books and in most Winnie the Pooh media, and in the Disney adaptations, Kanga’s personality is more sensible and down to earth, though she appears much less often. She has been voiced by Barbara Luddy (1965–1977), Robie Lester (Disneyland Records), Julie McWhirter (1983), Patricia Parris (1988–1991), Tress MacNeille (1994–1999), Kath Soucie (2000–2010), Kristen Anderson-Lopez (2011–present), and in the film Christopher Robin (2018), she was voiced by Sophie Okonedo, the first person of color to portray her.
4. Jane Jetson (the Jetsons)
Jane Jetson has been voiced by a variety of actresses including Penny Singleton B. J. Baker (singing voice), Lauri Fraser, Diane Michelle and Grey DeLisle. She is George’s 33-year-old wife, mother of their two children, and the homemaker role in the series. An interesting note – because she is so much younger than George she would have been only 17 at the time of Judy’s birth. Jane is obsessed with fashion and new gadgetry. Her favorite store is Mooning Dales. She gets a bit of life outside of the home – she is a member of the Galaxy Women Historical Society and is a fan of Leonardo de Venus and Picasso Pia, and out of the cartoon – Jane appears, with Wilma Flintstone and Velma Dinkley, in a commercial for Dove shampoo and in a music video for Kanye West. She was included in Yahoo!’s Top 10 TV Moms from Six Decades of Television.
5. Wilma and Betty (The Flintstones)
Another pair of iconic moms are Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble, level-headed wives to the often bumbling pair of Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble. Wilma, voiced by Jean Vander Pyl until her death in 1999 and since then Tress MacNeille, is based on Alice Kramden, wife of Ralph Kramden from the 50’s TV series the honeymooners. She is often critical of Fred’s schemes and is the quintessential homemaker taking care of cooking/cleaning/children with relative ease and extra time for entrepreneurship. Betty, voiced by a number of actresses including June Foray, Bea Benaderet, Gerry Johnson, Gay Auterson and others, is based on the 1950’s trope of “wife’s best friend”, happy to follow Wilma’s lead and bail her hapless husband out of trouble.
6. Linda Belcher (Bob’s Burgers)
This mom is not actually voiced by a woman, but rather, John Roberts provides the mom voice in the role of Linda, Bob’s happy-go-lucky and supportive wife and the mother of Tina, Gene, and Louise. A big fan of moustaches, Linda is extroverted, has a thick New Jersey accent, and is frequently over-optimistic. She tends to be scatter-brained. She has a tendency to spontaneously burst into song, and many of the songs she is known for are improvised by Roberts, including her “Thanksgiving Song”, “Dish-a-Dee-Doo”, and a song about braiding hair that references the late Harry Truman. Crazily enough, her songs are frequently remade and set to music for the episode’s end credits.
7. Sheila Broflovski (South Park)
Originally voiced by Mary Kay Bergman and currently voiced by Mona Marshall, Sheila is often considered the “typical” Jewish mother with a heavy New Jersey accent, hair in a beehive and a weight problem. A little hard of hearing (regularly exclaiming “what, what, WHAT”?), Sheila is an activist with a decided fervour that has been backed off over the years with newer episodes toning down her more radical aspects.
8. Helen Parr, née Truax (The Incredibles, The Incredibles 2)
Mrs. Incredible, or Elastigirl as she is also known, is perhaps the most empowered mom in this list. Voiced by Holly Hunter, Helen is an actual superhero struggling with the responsibilities of wife and mother while balancing the call to don her mask and save the world. By the sequel, not only is this her primary calling, but she is the star of the movie, though she does end up needing to be rescued by her family the way she rescued Mr. Incredible in the 1st movie. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that with all her empowerment in Incredibles 2, there was still conversation surrounding the “sexualization” of her character with comments focused on the ratio of hips to waist and comparisons to Fifty Shades of Grey. Sigh.
9. Charlotte Pickles (Rugrats)
Though perhaps not considered a “main” role in Rugrats, Charlotte, voiced by Tress MacNeille (who, remember, also voices Wilma Flintstone), is another workaholic mother. She does try to be a good mother, but is regularly sidetracked by her business interests as a CEO of her own company. She is a bit of a wimp when dealing with her mean-spirited daughter Angelica, showering her with toys and admiration, likely to make up for the fact that she is largely absent from her day-to-day life.
10. Duchess (Aristocats)
As the last film project to be approved by Walt Disney before he died in 1966, The Aristocats was originally designed to be a two-part live-action episode for World of Color. Eva Gabor was cast to voice Duchess – an interesting choice for the voice of a mom – but given the French setting and the ensuing romance with Thomas O’Malley the alleycat, her portrayal was quite fitting. For a character who straddles the sophisticated world of “animal companion to opera diva”, mother of rambunctious kittens and love interest to a street cat, Gabor was able to find the right balance of class and attractive appeal with a mother’s love for her children and a clever intelligence that helps rescue them all from their evil butler in the end.
While there are more moms than just these 10, compared with other roles, there aren’t a lot of them. Moms are noticeably absent in the majority of animated movies and a few series too. A couple interesting theories of why Disney often avoids mother roles was offered up by Don Hahn, a long-time Disney producer who commented in an interview with E! that “In shorthand, it’s much quicker to have characters grow up when you bump off their parents”. He also floated the hypothesis that Walt Disney felt responsible for his own mother’s demise (from a furnace leak) and therefore avoided mother characters whenever possible.
The less grim reason has to do with kids themselves. Moms are ever present in our kid-lives and (hopefully) come to the rescue and help us out of jams. With Moms not in the animated picture, the hero of the story rises to the occasion and solves issues on their own – which is what growing up (a kid’s biggest challenge) is all about.
Royal Jaye says
That was an interesting statement about Disney. Thanks for sharing Kim. See you next month.