April 2nd, 2004

Tom Lehrer is Smug


From eBert's review of Disney's new Home on the Range:
The voices are all quickly recognizable, especially Barr's; the idea of using the voices of familiar stars instead of anonymous dubbing artists has added an intriguing dimension to recent animated features.
Recent? Disney's been bringing in celebrities for cartoon roles since at least 1951; Alice in Wonderland featured Ed Wynn and Jerry Colonna, popular comedians of the time. Peggy Lee did several voices in Lady & The Tramp, Eva Gabor and Bob Newhart were in The Rescuers (Eva also played the part of Duchess in The Aristocats), Louis Prima had himself a showstopper in The Jungle Book, Peter Ustinov was the voice of Prince John in Robin Hood, and Phil Harris (known at the time as both Jack Benny's bandleader and host of his own radio show with wife Alice Faye) was all over the place.

Granted, not every Disney animated feature had to use star power and there certainly are features which use "anonymous dubbing artists" as eBert describes (well, at least, anonymous to Ebert) but the practice is nothing new. You can't even say it's experienced a resurgence in "recent" times, since every Disney feature from The Little Mermaid on has used, or even relied upon, celebrities not known for their voice work. Shall we drop names? Ok, off the top of my head: Buddy Hackett, Angela Lansbury (a perennial Disney favorite), David Ogden Stiers, Jerry Orbach, Robin Williams, James Earl Jones, Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, Mel Gibson, Kevin Kline, Demi Moore, Jason Alexander, James Woods, Hal Holbrook, Danny DeVito, Eddie Murphy, Glenn Close, Minnie Driver, Rosie O'Donnell, David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt, Michael J. Fox, James Garner, Emma Thompson, David Hyde Pierce, Ving Rhames, Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas... and that's not even counting the star-driven Pixar features.

(Hell, even The Black Cauldron used John Huston's narrative vocal talents, Oliver & Company had Billy Joel as the Artful Dodger, and Mickey Rooney, Kurt Russell and Pearl Bailey were in The Fox and the Hound.)

Recent, huh, Mr. Ebert? Well, ohhhhh-kaaayyy...