In Defense of Celebrity Voice Casting: Julia Roberts, Patrick Stewart and Mark Hamill

In Defense of Celebrity Voice Casting: Julia Roberts, Patrick Stewart and Mark Hamill

Jan 19, 2017

Julia Roberts

The approaching release of a live-action, all-star version of Beauty and Beast makes us nostalgic for the magical age of the animated original. Disney had kicked off a new era with The Little Mermaid, a wonderful musical comedy featuring a strong female character. Beauty and the Beast was the followup, another musical that was a full-blown romantic drama with comic overtones.

What both movies had in common was that their voice casts featured lesser-known stars. That started to change when Aladdin was released; even though Robin Williams only voiced a supporting role, he couldn't help but steal the picture with his hilarious antics. Slowly, the world of animated movies changed, with big stars more and more getting cast in leading roles, even those whose voices are not necessarily as recognizable as their names.

Recent casting announcements serve as examples of how studios continue to tap into star power. Two of those originate proudly from Sony Pictures Animation, which announced that Julia Roberts has joined the voice cast of Smurfs: The Lost Village.

The cast was already full-to-bursting, led by Demi Lovato, Rainn Wilson, Joe Manganiello, Jack McBreyer, Danny Pudi and Mandy Patinkin. Roberts wasn't the only star added; Michelle Rodriguez, Ellie Kemper, Ariel Winter were also announced, along with a slew of "special voice cameos" by the likes of Gordon Ramsay. With so many characters, how will Roberts stand out in her role as "SmurfWillow"? We hope her distinctive laugh will be showcased when Smurfs: The Lost Village is released on April 7.

Patrick Stewart

We don't imagine that the young children drawn to Smurfs: The Lost Village for its subject matter will much care about the starry voice casting, but it could be that their parents and/or adult guardians will be intrigued. In the case of The Emoji Movie, it appears that the company is targeting an older crowd of teenagers and young adults. The previously-announced casting of T.J. Miller, James Corden, Ilana Glazer and Steven Wright supports that theory.

That impression is strengthened with the announcement that Sir Patrick Stewart will voice the role of Poop. Allow that to sink in for a moment. The distinguished actor who became famous as Captain Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation will voice an emoji for fecal matter? Some might call it stunt casting, but the difference here is that Stewart is clearly in on the joke.

Over the years, he has lent his deep, commanding voice to movies such as The Prince of Egypt, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Chicken Little, Gnomeo & Juliet, Ice Age: Continental Drift, TV's Family Guy (as "Baby Susie") and American Dad. In addition, he has a lovely sense of humor and doesn't take himself too seriously. That combination convinces us that he'll have a good time voicing the role of Poop and makes us more interested in seeing The Emoji Movie, which is due in theaters on August 4.

Mark Hamill

Finally, we note that Mark Hamill will lead the voice cast for Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom. The animated movie is an independent production from Shout! Factory and Arcana Studios, according to Deadline, so it makes sense that the celebrity casting will bring more attention to it. Hamill is already well-experienced in voice roles in animated movies and TV shows, most notably as The Joker.

It's the second installment in a series and is based on a graphic novel by Bruce Brown and Dwight L. MacPherson. The story revolves around a young protagonist, though it explores some horrific themes that are probably best for older children. Hamill joins the voice cast along with Christopher Plummer, Jeffrey Combs and Doug Bradley. 

Watch the trailer for the first installment, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom, below.

Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom is due for release later this year.

Categories: News, In Development, Animation
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