The voices are not the stars of animated films


the gripe


When did it become so all-fired important that big-name movie stars provide the voices for animated features?

Trailers for the coming Open Season, the story of a domesticated bear who suddenly finds himself living in the wild, proudly proclaim that it stars Martin Lawrence, Ashton Kutcher, Debra Messing, Billy Connolly and Gary Sinise. But does it really?

Doesn't it really star the talents of the film's animators, the men and women who designed the characters, anthropomorphized them and mapped out their actions? True, computers do much of the work nowadays, but some human has to tell them what to do. Those people are the real stars of animation, not the big names who provide the voices.

Just how important is the reputation of those voice actors anyway? Is Bambi any less of a movie because few people can name the boy who provided the little guy with his voice? (The 8-year-old's name was Donnie Dunagan.)

It's hard to avoid the feeling that big names are often hired to help gloss over the films' deficiencies, the idea being that Julia Roberts' fans will flock to see The Ant Bully (she's the voice of motherly ant Hova) regardless of the movie's qualities.

There's nothing wrong with having big-name talent do voices, but let's not overdo things. Loudly proclaiming that an animated feature stars anyone seems, at the very least, an overstatement.

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