We love cartoons because they let us escape from reality. Whether they’re designed for kids to devour on Saturday mornings, or more appropriate for an adult’s late-night viewing habits, animated series give us a chance to kick back, relax, and laugh for a little while. Over the years, there have been countless memorable cartoon series.
From Looney Tunes to BoJack Horseman, Tom and Jerry to Ren and Stimpy, many have become indelible parts of our TV-watching experience. And the voices of our favorite characters become forever ingrained in our minds, on par with our favorite actors and live-action characters. But we usually don’t stop to wonder what the people who play these characters look like -- sometimes we don’t even know their names.
Are you curious about the actors who bring some of the best animated series to life? This Is What Your Favorite Voice Actors Look Like IRL.
12 Marceline the Vampire Queen – Adventure Time
Mysterious, radical, fearless and kind -- Marceline Abadeer is one of the most fascinating characters ever to populate the Land of Ooo. Though she first appeared as a foil to Adventure Time’s protagonists Jake and Finn, she’s grown to become one of their closest friends. She’s beloved by Adventure Time fans for her complex personality, adventurous spirit, and ability to express herself through some pretty awesome songs.
Three actresses split time bringing Marceline to life, since we see her at various points during her 1,000 year-long incarnation. Ava Acres plays her as a child. Cloris Leachman voices her when she appears as an old lady. But Olivia Olson plays the part-human, part-demon vampire most of the time, and provides her singing voice. Before she was cast as Marceline, Olson appeared as the “All I Want For Christmas is You”-crooning pre-teen in Love, Actually. She’s also had voiceover roles in Phineas and Ferb and Steven Universe.
11 Mordecai – Regular Show
Mordecai is probably the dude-iest blue jay in cartoon history, which is a pretty awesome distinction to have. He spends most of his time on Regular Show at work as a park ranger, maintaining a low key personality, even in the face of his best friend Rigby’s irresponsible and erratic nature. For an animated bird, he’s incredibly relatable, especially when it comes to his lack of cool where girls are concerned.
J.G. Quintel, one of Regular Show’s creators, has brought Mordecai to life since the 2006 animated short 2 in the AM PM. A writer, storyboard artist and actor, he’s worked on more than a half dozen series since the early 2000s, including Adventure Time, Camp Lazlo and The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. Quintel also voices Regular Show’s High Five Ghost.
10 Tina Belcher – Bob’s Burgers
The eldest of the Belcher children, Tina is a reminder to us all that we can find a great deal of enjoyment in the mundane. Her endless eccentricities, not to mention her love of horses, friend fiction and butts, consistently lead to some of the most entertaining moments in Bob’s Burgers. And these qualities have easily made her into one of the funniest cartoon characters on TV today.
Tina’s girlish qualities are most certainly offset by her lower-pitched voice. So it may not come as a surprise that she’s voiced by Dan Mintz. His deadpan delivery has become a staple of his work on film and TV, from standup comedy to guest appearances on series like Mulaney, The Awesomes and Adventure Time. Mintz has also forged a successful career as a TV writer, contributing to Crank Yankers, Lucky Louie and Nathan For You.
9 Sterling Archer – Archer
He’s like James Bond on warp speed; a talented special agent with an insatiable hunger for women (and thirst for booze). Sterling Archer, the main character in FX’s bawdy series Archer, has become one of the most memorable cartoon characters of the 21st century, thanks to his hilariously over-the-top narcissism and no-holds-barred approach to communicating with women.
Archer is a hit with critics as well as fans, thanks in large part to H. Jon Benjamin’s hilariously dry portrayal of the series’ hero. Benjamin has had plenty of practice nailing down a wide array of characters of the years. He’s appeared or done voiceover work for more than two dozen series since the mid-1990s, including Venture Brothers, Last Week with John Oliver and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. He’s also performed double duty for the Wet Hot American Summer franchise, playing both camp director Mitch and the truth-seeking can of vegetables that encourages Gene to embrace his fridge-loving, mud-rubbing true nature.
And, as many people know, he's also the voice of restaurateur Bob Belcher on Bob's Burgers.
8 Mabel – Gravity Falls
For the two glorious seasons that Gravity Falls was on the air, Mabel Pines served as a force of relentless energy and optimism in the face of mysterious and supernatural encounters. With her brightly-colored wardrobe and even sunnier disposition, she was always happy to be by her brother Dipper’s side as he sought out Gravity Falls’ most unexplained scenarios.
Mabel was played by Kristen Schaal, a versatile comedian who’s been a staple for fans of both cartoons and more adult television comedy. She gained serious indie cred with her supporting role on HBO’s Flight of the Conchords before snagging a stellar gig as a Daily Show special commentator in 2008. Since 2015, she’s co-starred as Carol in The Last Man on Earth. Kristen Schaal also has plenty of other voiceover work under her belt. She played Trixie in the Toy Story franchise, and has lent her talents to a range of series, including Bob’s Burgers, Archer, and The Simpsons.
7 Rick Sanchez and Mortimer Smith – Rick and Morty
A high strung teenager and an unpredictable mad scientist might not be the most trustworthy duo imaginable. But when they team up on spectacular and horrific adventures across multiple dimensions, they become the stuff of cartoon legend. Rick and Morty is the brainchild of Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland. And Roiland voices both the eccentric Rick, who can’t be bothered to tolerate societal norms like marriage, education, or drinking in moderation and his nervous and reluctant companion of a grandson, Morty.
Roiland got his start as a producer before creating his first animated series, House of Cosbys in 2005. Since then, he appeared as Blonde Craig on The Sarah Silverman Project in addition to numerous voice over roles. He’s portrayed characters on Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Adventure Time, Gravity Falls and Animals, just to name a few.
6 Hera Syndulla – Star Wars Rebels
Strong-willed and passionately protective, Star Wars Rebels’ Hera Syndulla is exactly the type of Twi’lek you want on your side in a fight. As the pilot of the Ghost and later captain of the Phoenix Squadron, she’s proven herself to be an essential ally to the Rebel forces. As a friend and mentor to her fellow Rebels, she’s proven to be a source of guidance and a uniting force.
Hera gets her voice from Vanessa Marshall, a performer every bit as seasoned as the character she plays. She’s played Mary Jane in The Spectacular Spider-Man, Natasha in The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Dinah Lance in Young Justice. She currently voices Gamora in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Meagan McLaren in Marvel’s Avengers Assemble. You can also hear her in more than 50 games, including Mass Effect, Forgotten Realms and Diablo III. Basically, if you’ve enjoyed anything that utilizes animation in the past decade, there’s a chance Vanessa Marshall has been a part of it.
5 Bender – Futurama
There are anti-heroes, and then there’s Bender, the futuristic metalworking machine who relished in his sociopathic tendencies. The fun-loving Futurama robot feels zero remorse for his obscene, lying, hard-drinking, and self-absorbed ways, which sets him apart from his roommate Fry and makes him a perfect foil for the highly competent Leela.
Bender was brought to life in all his glory by John DiMaggio, whose gruff delivery has made him a must-have performer for many of television’s most celebrated series. To date, he has 300 movie, TV and video game credits to his name, from Kim Possible and Star Wars: Clone Wars to Sanjay and Craig and Guardians of the Galaxy. Aside from Futurama, DiMaggio is probably best known for playing Jake the Dog on Adventure Time and Marcus Fenix in Gears of War.
4 Wendy Testaburger – South Park
As Stan’s girlfriend (sometimes) and the most fearless fourth grade girl at South Park Elementary (always), Wendy Testaburger has had no problem standing her ground on more than one occasion. South Park’s resident junior community activist has made herself a leader amongst her peers and held her own against Cartman, taken on numerous causes, and proved herself to just generally be a force to be reckoned with.
Four women have given Wendy her voice over the course of South Park’s run on Comedy Central; Mary Kay Bergman, Eliza Schneider, Mona Marshall and April Stewart, who currently plays Wendy, as well as many of the series’ other female characters. She’s worked on several popular cartoon series for children and adults, including The Legend of Korra, Phineas and Ferb and American Dad! Stewart also frequently does voiceover work for video games, most notably Guild Wars, BioShock Infinite and Mass Effect.
3 Mr. Burns – The Simpsons
Springfield’s most notorious evil overlord has been around since the very first episode of The Simpsons. As Homer’s boss, and the big kahuna of the local nuclear power plant, Charles Montgomery Burns has built a legacy on underhanded schemes and nihilism throughout the Fox series’ 27 seasons. And with his evil laugh and strangely codependent stranglehold on Smithers, he’s become an irreplaceable part of the longest-running cartoon in television history.
When Mr. Burns first appeared in The Simpsons’ first episode, he was initially voiced by actor Christopher Collins. But Harry Shearer has portrayed both the villainous tycoon and Smithers since early in the series’ run. He also voices the Simpsons’ do-gooder neighbor Ned Flanders, as well as a handful of other characters. His performance as Mr. Burns has been so impressive, he earned an Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance in 2014.
Shearer has had a successful career outside of The Simpsons as well. He’s a member of Spinal Tap and the Folksmen, the parody bands at the center of This is Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind. He wrote for and appeared in Saturday Night Live, and currently runs his own radio series, Le Show. He’s also focused on more serious endeavors, directing the Hurricane Katrina documentary The Big Uneasy and serving as an artist in residence at Loyola University Chicago.
2 SpongeBob – SpongeBob SquarePants
He lives in a pineapple under the sea. He’s the best fry cook the Krusty Krab has ever seen. He’s spectacularly idealistic no matter what he encounters in Bikini Bottom. Since SpongeBob SquarePants first debuted on Nickelodeon in 1999, it’s titular character has become one of the most recognizable cartoon characters in the world. And that’s thanks, in large part, to Tom Kenny’s unforgettable stylings as the cheerful and perpetually enthused yellow sea sponge.
SpongeBob wasn’t Kenny’s first foray into voice acting, though. Though he appeared in TV shows like Mr. Show and The Edge early in his career, he’s mostly been focused on animated series. Kenny has lent his voice to dozens of memorable cartoon characters over the years, from Heffer Wolfe on Rocko’s Modern Life to the Mayor and Narrator in this year’s Powerpuff Girls reboot. When he’s not providing various voices for Adventure Time, Ultimate Spider-Man, Gravity Falls and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, he’ll still occasionally show up as SpongeBob’s biggest fan, Patchy the Pirate.
1 Stewie Griffin – Family Guy
Since the very first episode of Family Guy, Stewie has raised the bar for precocious children everywhere. Foul-mouthed and obsessed with power and influence, his prodigious intelligence and vocal disdain for most of what he encounters in the world have made him an irreplaceable part of one of Fox’s most popular cartoons ever.
Stewie is played by Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane, who also lends his voice to patriarch Peter, family pet Brian and Peter’s pervy friend Quagmire. Undoubtedly one of the most successful cartoon creators of all time, McFarlane has managed to carve out a relatively successful career outside of The Family Guy universe. He’s created two other animated series for Fox, American Dad! And The Cleveland Show, a Family Guy spinoff. He’s voiced characters on each of his series, and also guest-starred on a bunch of series, most notably The Simpsons, Robot Chicken, and Futurama. Also, there’s the live-action movies Ted and Ted 2, which he directed, wrote and stars in as the foul-mouthed teddy bear best friend of Mark Wahlberg.
Hey, it’s not a bad gig if you can get it.
Are there any other cartoon actors you'd like to know more about? Tell us about them in the comments!