Doing an animated film must be an absolute blast for an actor. Show up in your pajamas. No time in hair and makeup. Don't shave your fu manchu. All that the film's producers need is your voice — your sweet, golden, $20-million-a-picture pipes.
For some actors, however, that's a problem. It's no one's fault; in fact, it's often a testament to their on-screen success with other endeavors. But there are a certain group of thespians whose voices are just too damn distinct to hide behind a cartoon character. They might deliver a fine performance, but it just doesn't quite work because we all know their voice so well.
In honor of the fact that I've been in the same room where the ad for "The Croods" has played five-plus times now and said, "Oh, that's clearly Nicolas Cage" long before I even turned my head to the television, here are nine attempts at vocal acting that were sadly derailed before they left the station.
Jerry Seinfeld, 'Bee Movie' (2007)
Put it this way with Seinfeld and his 2007 effort, "Bee Movie": I went to YouTube, searched "bee movie scene," clicked on the top video (embedded above), was briefly distracted for a minute by another window and for a split second my brain thought I had left open a scene from "Seinfeld" (the series, named after the person). Again, this isn't necessarily Jerry's fault — it's just that everyone and their mother and their mother's friend Diane from Book Club has an impersonation of Jerry Seinfeld, usually something about questioning what the deal is with airplane food. Sorry, Jer. "That's fine, I have 500 million dollars." Oh. Right.
George Clooney, 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' (2009)
George Clooney does not alter his voice at all for "Fantastic Mr. Fox." It becomes a problem, because it's George Clooney, and so you're watching an animated fox spout witticisms and alternating between laughing at an animated fox spout witticisms and thinking about Danny Ocean having a fox for a wife. The above clip was presumably put on the internet for laughs re: the contrast between the civilized nature of the George Clooney-fox and how voraciously he eats, but it's way more noteworthy for being equally useful for people with crushes on Clooney to close their eyes and pretend they're married to him.
Sofia Vergara, 'Happy Feet Two' (2011)
The Sofia Vergara paragraph is to be read with the following disclaimer: Sofia can and should do whatever she wants. Everyone agrees that she has a fun, happy, super hot voice. It's just ... how many Colombian-American penguins are there, exactly? Listen, maybe there are a ton. I've never been to Antarctica. Maybe it's just swarming with Colombian-American penguins. But you watch "Happy Feet Two," say "Oh, hi Sofia Vergara," head to Google Image on your phone and 15 minutes later you have no idea what's going on in the movie. (Then you watch for another minute and figure it out, because it's "Happy Feet Two.")
Ray Romano, 'Ice Age' (2002)
They've now made like 17 "Ice Age"s, and the above scene happens to be from "Ice Age: Continental Drift," which I believe was the 86th installment of the series, so it's not like Ray Romano's Ray Romano voice has negatively affected the results at the box office. (In fact, there might need to be some sort of analysis by our cult blood brothers over at Film.com about whether or not overt knowledge of the actor doing the voice of the protagonist in a cartoon positively correlates to box office success. Or, you know, maybe not.) Still, it's hard to watch the wooly mammoth and not feel like he was somehow brought up in Queens. Sorry, Ray. "That's fine, I have 500 million dollars." Oh. Right.
Woody Allen, 'Antz' (1998)
The character Woody Allen voices in "Antz" was written (per the IMDb log line) as "neurotic," and I think we can all agree that there's no better choice for straight-up neurosis than Soon-yi's husband. But I have to think the animators spent many a frustratingly late night drawing around Woody's many vocal ticks after he was in studio voicing the character of "Z." Side note: Is anyone kind of attracted to the female ant in the above clip? Does she do it for anyone else out there? No, ew, I mean me neither I was just wondering if there were any sick people reading this all of you are sick, ugh, let's move on.
Ellen DeGeneres, 'Finding Nemo' (2003)
Here's the difference between someone like Fran Drescher, and someone a little bit more subtle, like Ellen DeGeneres: Drescher makes her entire career off of her voice. She's not a particularly talented actress, she's not a supermodel, she's not an action star or anything, she just has her super obnoxious voice, and it's made her millions of dollars, which, great. DeGeneres' voice in "Finding Nemo" isn't so distinct that it takes away from the story, of course, but there are indeed some Ellen-y moments throughout the film that are at least mildly distracting, like the scene embedded above. So this list almost revolves around the apex of a bell curve, of sorts. It's not you, Ellen, it's us.
James Gandolfini, 'Where the Wild Things Are' (2009)
It's hard, because James Gandolfini is so associated with the Tony Soprano character that you're half-expecting Carol the Monster (his character in "Where the Wild Things Are") to just break at any moment and call Max a "piece of f***ing s***" or a "f***ing rat f***" or something, which kind of would have been awesome, but that's neither here nor there. Again, not his fault, and I almost feel bad for writing it, but it's the way it is. A clever fellow on YouTube even mashed up Tony Soprano lines with Carol the Monster's mouth movements, and it fits like a glove that you might wear if you're about to secretly kill a f***ing rat f***.
Owen Wilson, 'Cars' (2006)
Owen Wilson is a classic case where spending ten years charming the f**k out of moviegoers with his down-home southern accent and charisma means he couldn't just throw his everyday voice into a protagonist cartoon character in "Cars" (or anything else) without everyone naturally wondering the whereabouts of a certain shaggy blonde-haired fellow. Had he just made his voice a touch deeper or higher, or maybe added a little twang, who knows? Note the above clip: "Okay, you got me out here, where we goin'?" Owen, come on, you know exactly where you're going: into America's heart. (Aw.)
Robert De Niro, 'Shark Tale' (2004)
You can almost hear Will Smith calling De Niro during pre-production for "Shark Tale" to pitch him his character, and De Niro squinting his eyes and his mouth, maybe feeling his chin a bit and finally shrugging and replying, "Yeah, sure, okay. Okay." "Shark Tale," however, must be given credit for doing it the right way: it embraced De Niro as the mob boss shark and pretty much drew their best version of a shark if that shark were actually Robert De Niro. Note the above four-second clip: no voice, but whose face is that? Well done, "Shark Tale" producers. You done good. That four-second clip, I mean, not the movie.