What Forbes Considers The ‘Animation A-List’

Via: Forbes.com

This managed to slip by me back in March. What is the ‘Animation A-List‘? Sadly it isn’t what I thought it was, which means it probably isn’t what you thought it was either. Nope, sadly it is a rather subjective list of the top “voice-actors” in the business. Did I mention that only celebrities, a.k.a. non-professionals were included? Well they’re not.

How was the list calculated? As follows:

To compile our list of the 10 actors whose animated films have earned the most at the box office over the last 10 years, we looked at the top-grossing animated films from the past decade using numbers from Box Office Mojo. We gave each star all of the money from each of his or her films.

So in effect, it’s the celebrities with the highest grosses that get the top spot, not necessarily the one who’s the most famous or the most talented.

Why use celebrities? Dorothy Pomerantz speculates that

Big names can definitely help a film at the box office. Just look at the Shrek movies. They starred Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy, actors who over the past few years have earned big salaries for their live-action work. Who knows how the films would have fared at the box office if they had been cast with unknowns?

O…K…So it was all to do with the voice-acting and not the animation, story or even plot itself? If memory serves me correctly, Disney did some very tidy sums at the box office with their movies before they brought in Robin Williams for the Genie, and they did that because Williams is such a unique performer, not because he was a celebrity.

I’ve written before about celebrity voice actors and while there are a few who are genuinely good, there are a lot who just do it for the paycheque. In reality, an actor’s voice is incredibly boring comapred to the whole. A professional voice-actor is exactly the opposite; they might not have the looks, but they can knock your socks off with their voices.

Posturing over, here is the actual list:

  1. Cameron Diaz
  2. Eddie Murphy
  3. Mike Myers
  4. Ray Romano (WTF?)
  5. Tim Allen
  6. Tom Hanks
  7. Ben Stiller
  8. Jack Black
  9. Albert Brooks
  10. Ellen DeGeneres
  11. Ed Asner


Celebrity Voice Acting Part Deaux

This morning I was watching CBS Sunday morning. It’s a show I particularly like because, quite frankly, there aren’t many shows like it being broadcast, at least not in the US anyway. Long story short, they had a quick segment on voice-acting, focusing initially on Dora the Explorer followed by the world of commercials, etc.

During the course of the report, I learned even more about celebrity voice-acting than I knew when I previously wrote about it, surprisingly enough, in April 2009. As it turns out, celebrities do all sorts of voice-acting nowadays, not just for animation shows or films.

Just some examples from this morning include:

  • Morgan Freeman: CBS Nightly News
  • Michael Douglas (!): NBC Nightly News
  • Gene Hackman: Lowe’s Home Improvement

With the likes of Wanda Sykes, George Clooney, Tom Selleck (!!) and so forth doing various TV spots. What I find fascinating is that at least for a TV show or film, the producers can at least broadcast or notify the public as to who is in the production in question. For advertisements, there’s nothing of the sort!

If I hadn’t been told this morning, I would have no idea that it was such well known celebrities doing such voice-overs. Why on earth would you, as a company allow your advertising agency to engage in such behaviour?

For one, celebrities are expensive (hey, I’m sure George Clooney, as damn fine a voice as he has, doesn’t rent it for nothing), and unless it is clearly obvious that the person in question is in the advertisement, your basically wasting money.

As I mentioned in the previous post, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of professional voice-actors out there that are more than capable of conveying the fact that Boniva isn’t for people with a heart condition or whatever.

Recently I’ve been reading the excellent book, Ogilvy on Advertising. Witten by David Ogilvy, a Scotsman who went from being a farmer in the Pennsylvania Amish country to the head of one of the most successful advertising agencies on Madison Avenue, it offers many lessons he has learned on the basics of advertising.

One thing he points out numerous times is that celebrities don’t improve your sales. Imagine that! People normally believe (and most of the time they are right) that when a celebrity appears in an ad, they are getting paid to do so, not just because head & Shoulders really does leave them dandruff free.

Ogilvy points out data that he believes proves that normal, unknown actors are more effective at selling stuff than celebrities. More so when it comes to voice-acting, which is a profession with a lot of skill. Any eejit can stand in front of a microphone, but to put emotion into a voice takes work and sadly, I think celebrities aren’t the best people to do that, real voice-actors are.