For much of Walt Disney Pictures’ animated history, voice actors were meant to be forgotten. Big name stars were not usually cast to perform in Disney movies and for good reason. Voice actors weren’t supposed to be recognizable. If you could tell Humphrey Bogart was behind the microphone, it took you out of the movie a little bit. Instead, animated characters were supposed to have their own unique identities, including their voices. The actors behind them were just the invisible heroes who brought them to life.
Sometime in the last 30 years or so, that distinction changed. Unable to compete head-to-head with Disney, other studios used celebrity star power to attract audiences to their animated films. As this tactic began to work with films like Shrek and Madagascar, Disney themselves followed suit. These days, everyone knows that Kristen Bell is the voice behind Frozen‘s Anna. Any adult watching Wreck-It Ralph will instantly recognize the voice of John C. Reilly.
All the same, there are a few famous actors that stepped behind the mic for a Disney film and have mostly been forgotten. The actors themselves haven’t been forgotten, that it — just the fact that they were voices in a Disney animated film.
So here’s a look at 5 famous actors whose Disney performances have been forgotten:
John Travolta – Bolt
These days, all major theatrical animated films are made with CGI. That wasn’t always the case, though. Walt Disney Pictures struggled with the change, releasing a string of CGI flops before hitting a home run with Tangled.
Bolt was released in 2008. It did well at the box office and with critics but is already mostly forgotten only eight years later. John Travolta provided the voice of the titular Bolt, a dog who thinks he has superpowers. Miley Cyrus and Malcolm McDowell co-starred in the film.
Bob Newhart – The Rescuers/The Rescuers Down Under
Bob Newhart has had a long career as a stand-up comedian and actor. He’s best known for two popular sitcoms in two different decades. The Bob Newhart Show made him a household name in the 1970s. He returned again for the popular show Newhart in the 1980s.
Bob Newhart also provided the voice of Bernard the mouse in 1977’s The Rescuers. He co-starred with Eva Gabor as the elegant Miss Bianca. In 1990, Newhart and Gabor returned for a sequel. The Rescuers Down Under was the first theatrically released sequel to a Disney animated movie.
Vincent Price – The Great Mouse Detective
In 1986, Disney was in desperate need of a hit. Their last animated film, The Black Cauldron, was a critical and financial disappointment. Thankfully, their new film, The Great Mouse Detective, was a success. It was responsible for convincing executives that there was still a future in animated films.
Most of the voice cast consisted of virtual unknowns. (Except for the late Basil Rathbone, whose voice was sampled for the role of Sherlock Holmes.) Horror icon Vincent Price, however, appeared as the film’s villain. Professor Ratigan is based on Holme’s own long-running nemesis, Professor Moriarty.
Billy Joel – Oliver & Company
1988’s Oliver & Company is a bit of a Disney hidden gem. The Oliver Twist adaptation doesn’t get as much attention as other classics. Nonetheless, Oliver & Company was a hit at the box office and is fondly remembered by fans to this day.
For those that do recall the film, it’s no secret that singer Billy Joel had a hit song on the soundtrack. Titled “Why Should I Worry?,” it’s as widely remembered as Huey’s Lewis’ “Once Upon a Time in New York City.” What some people forget, though, is that Joel also provided the voice of Dodger in the film.
John Candy – The Rescuers Down Under
In the 1980s, comedian John Candy was everywhere. He’s widely remembered for his starring roles in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and Uncle Buck. He also voiced a character in the 1981 adult animated film, Heavy Metal.
Most people forget that Candy also lent his voice to a Disney animated character. In 1977’s The Rescuers, actor Jim Jordan played the role of Orville the albatross. Unfortunately, Jordan had died before the sequel went into production. So instead, John Candy came aboard to play Orville’s brother, Wilbur. (Both characters were obviously named after the Wright Brothers.)
Ironically, Candy was set to voice another character in Disney’s 1995 film, Pocahontas. Candy passed away before the film was completed, so the role of Redfeather the turkey was written out of the movie.