Sometimes it’s hard to tell if Morgan Freeman is more of a voice actor or film actor. We love him in both. His soothing baritone has become as iconic as his position as the king of voice over. He has provided his authoritative and calm narration to animations like The Lego Movie and documentaries like March of Penguins, War of the Worlds, Slavery and the Making of America, and another over two dozen films and documentaries. His role as “Red” where he both acted on screen and narrated in The Shawshank Redemption, was a breakout moment, revealing him as the actor we wanted most to tell us pretty much any story.
Ron Howard stars as the particularly intriguing narrator in Arrested Development, but he hadn’t planned on getting the gig at all. He laid a temp track down for the show and it was the highest-rated element of the show when they tested it. So his narrator role stuck. He appeared as himself in season 4, to the confusion, interest, and delight of audiences. Of his season four appearance, Ron Howard had this to say about Ron Howard, “I particularly enjoy that the narrator is oblivious to who Ron Howard is. He couldn’t care less who this Ron Howard person is. Just another specimen to be examined.”
Dubbed by the BBC as “cinema’s ultimate dad”, when Tom Hanks isn’t busy chatting to Wilson on an island or contemplating the similarities between life and boxes of chocolate, he can be found voicing animated characters like Woody in the Toy Story. His brother, Jim Hanks, does a lot of the voice work for spin-off products, like video games and talking toys. This might be because Tom Hanks has admitted to finding voice over work exhausting, noting in a New York Times article, “It’s an imaginary stretch. To the point of exhaustion. Because you’re only using your voice, you can’t go off-mic, you cannot use any of your physicality. You have to imagine that physicality. In a lot of ways that’s the antithesis of what you do as an actor.” As tired as he is, he also played five characters in the Polar Express, perhaps finding the animated film less exhausting because it utilized motion-capture technology allowing him to stretch his acting muscles. “It is actually a return to a type of acting that acting in films does not allow you to do,” said Hanks.
The voice of Ana in the wildly successful, Frozen and Frozen 2. Kristen Bell landed the role after she auditioned for Tangled and was turned down in favor of well-known actress, Mandy Moore. Kristen Bell also narrated the titular character in the hit TV series Gossip Girl, with a cameo appearance in the final episode. Bizarrely she was never named in the end credits, perhaps in 1937 Disney-esq desire to preserve the character. No one knew who Gossip Girl was, including the writers. She has also done dozens of voice overs in games like Assassin’s Creed and Marvel Super Heroes and in shows as diverse as The Simpsons to Robot Chicken.
No celebrity voice over list is complete without Mila Kunis. She’s famously the voice behind the much brow-beaten, ill-used, scapegoated, and angsty character on family guy, Meg. Mila herself calls it the “greatest job ever,” recording her lines from a “makeshift little, tiny studio,” in her closet. She has voiced Meg since season 2, and it’s currently on season 19 and counting, with no indication of ever leaving.