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Thursday, June 8, 2023

The Voices of Our Childhood


How many of you loved cartoons growing up? I know that each of us had a favorite character and there was something about their voices that drew us in. Like many of you, I was introduced to various cartoon characters and always wondered who the person was behind each of them. Some characters had very distinct raspy voices, others had high-pitched annoying voices that you couldn’t wait to shut-up, and then there were those voices that truly stuck with you, ones that shaped your childhood and you will never forget. Here are a few of my favorite childhood voice actors and some of their iconic characters. 

Cree Summer

I was first introduced to Cree Summer’s voice before I actually knew who she was. Best known for her portray of Winifred “Freddie Brooks” in A Different World, Summer was equally if not more successful as a voice actor. As a child, I remember watching cartoons The Rugrats in particular and loving the raspy, unique voice of Susie Carmichael. Little did I know, she had voiced hundreds of characters from my childhood to include Penny from Inspector Gadget, Elmyra Duff from Tiny Toon Adventures, and Hyena from Gargoyles.  I’ve always been fascinated by those who could transform their voice into many different characters, or those who have a unique voice that stands out. Not only was I thrilled when I found out who voiced so many characters, but to learn that it was a black woman. While we hardly know the identity of voice actors, learning who she was gave me a greater appreciation of her as an artist. We all know that black voice actors are few and far between. Most recently, we’ve seen an influx of non-black voice actors who voice black characters on television, remove themselves in hopes that a black person would be cast in those roles. A small step forward to those deserving of it. These are just a few of the characters Cree Summer has voiced throughout her career. She has given us so many laughs, cherishable childhood memories, and continues to inspire generations with her voice over work.

Keith David

There is something about Keith David’s voice that makes you stand at attention. There’s a specific tone and texture to it that instantly reels you in. As a child, I knew of his voice, but never knew who he was until recently. Looking back, I realized that his voice was everywhere. He has that type of voice that’s perfect for an evil snare. This is probably one of the reasons he’s voiced a lot of the villains we love to hate. Recently, David did a TikTok where he shared a few of his iconic roles. I cannot lie some of them were complete surprises to me. Nevertheless, they were all incredible. Some of his roles include Goliath from Gargoyles, Spawn in the animated series, Apollo the Sun God in Hercules, Arbiter for Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 5. He also voiced Dr. Facilier in the Disney film The Princess and the Frog. He’s voiced over 75 characters as well as narrated several documentaries which earned him three Emmy awards. While I love the various characters he voices, there’s something about those villains that cannot be topped.

James Earl Jones

This list would be incomplete if I didn’t add this last actor. While his voice-over work may not be as extensive as our previous two, he definitely deserves a spot on this list. Jones’s voice has such an incredible depth and regalness to it, it’s only right that he’s voiced some of our favorite childhood characters. I’m not going to lie, his portrayal of Darth Vader deserves a top spot on the list of the greatest voice acting ever, but it doesn’t top Mufasa from the Lion King. I can still quote that movie line from line and will shed a tear when Mufasa dies. His voice was so iconic in the original that they brought him back to reprise his role for the live-action version in 2019. There isn’t anyone else who could have portrayed that role, and he sounded just as great even though he was in his late 80s during recording. Other notable roles include The Rock of Ages from Merlin, Ommadon from the Flight of Dragons, and Kibosh from Casper: A Spirited Beginning.

There you have it. These are some of my favorite voice actors. Who are some of your favorite characters from this list?

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