MJ LalloIs celebrity voice casting for animated films and cartoon series all it’s cracked up to be?
MJ Lallo, voice acting coach, gives her .02 on the subject in an interview with Animation World Magazine’s Karen Raugust.

Every now and then, the subject of celebrities in voice over and the effectiveness of their performances is explored by the media.
Recently, MJ Lallo, renowned Burbank-based animation voice over coach, was quoted in an article examining just that topic online at Animation World Magazine.
Here’s a snippet from the Animation World Magazine article featuring MJ Lallo:

Celebrity casting — which impacts not only the feature film business, but also TV shows, videogames, direct-to-video productions and even some webisodic series –frustrates everyday voice actors, who believe it not only has dampened their opportunities, but also often has a detrimental effect on the productions themselves. “[Celebrity casting is about] publicity, rather than a fantastic voice,” says M J Lallo, a voiceover actor, director, producer and teacher, with a studio and voiceover school in Los Angeles. “You see [the production] and you say, ‘that’s not an interesting voice, it’s just so-and-so’s voice.'”

Other voice casting directors interviewed include Cathy Kalmenson, Andrea Romano, Michael Hack, and Ginny McSwain. The focus of the article isn’t just on celebrity voice actors, however, it also sheds light on how one might be able to break into the voice acting for animation world. According to the experts interviewed, despite fierce competition, there are opportunities for talented, fresh-voiced novices to break in. The article is great and I highly recommend going over to the site to read it.

That aside, my question for you is this:
What do you think of celebrity voice casting? What percentage of these celebrities can compare to the rank and file voices (pro animation voice talent) that do this work professionally on a regular basis?
Looking forward to your reply. Please add a comment 🙂
Happy Labour Day,

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Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Voices.com. Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.


  1. Hello! Celebrity voiceovers DO have an impact on the rest of us who are not well known. Would you rather buy the audio book of THE VELVETEEN RABBIT read by Robin Rowan or by Meryl Streep? It’s a no-brainer. Have you ever noticed how many bit-part soap actors get work reading audio books? It’s the head shot on the back of the box that sells the book, and it’s the narrative that suffers.
    Case in point: Sigourney Weaver narrated the Discovery Channel’s “Planet Earth” series. Although you could listen and say, yes, that’s Sigourney Weaver, neither her voice nor her narrative style were compelling. Conversely, Pierce Brosnan narrated the latest Discovery Channel series “Blue Planet” and knocked my socks off (and not just because he’s Pierce Brosnan). He had the right combination of style, tone and balance of seriousness and fun in his read. I could have listened for hours.

  2. Stephanie,
    I enjoyed the article- thanks for posting the link!
    Celebrity sells, it always has. That will never change. I’m guessing many of these well-known actors have earned the right to pick their projects after years of hard work.
    There are lots of voice actors that have earned the same celebrity… and many more on the way up (at least I’m trying! heh!)
    What caught my attention in the article was the comment that to voice animation, one must live in LA. With ISDN, Source Connect, .mp3, phone patch, etc – I believe it is time to explore the options outside of LA. I have a studio in my home that is as capable as any studio in the world. I live in Charlotte, NC- yet I can be heard voicing children’s shows on The Cartoon Network, and PBS. It will take time to change tradition… but technology will make all things possible.
    Thanks again Stephanie!

  3. While I tend to agree with your thinking, free enterprise and freedom of choice regarding expensive ventures should forever remain with the client. Let the consumer make the rules.

  4. Here’s another opinion:
    Pixar’s “Ratatouille” Director, Brad Bird recently explained in a recent interview I stumbled across in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that going with novice voice actor Lou Romano wasn’t a difficult choice. Bird also selected lesser-known comedian Patton Oswalt (who had a supporting role in the TV show, “King of Queens”) as the talented cooking rat, Remy, and Janeane Garofalo, cast as Colette.
    They got the call because they “just sounded right”.
    Director Brad Bird states in the article that casting a celebrity for name recognition is often a sign that a filmmaker has doubts about the quality of the story. “They think audiences go to listen to these people. That is insane thinking. I don’t sit there thinking, ‘You know, what I look for in an animated film, it’s a familiar celebrity voice.’ I don’t think anyone cares. That’s not what they go for.”
    Yay. There’s hope for us non-celebs. Keep up your passion to sound “just right”.
    Thanks for listening.

  5. Interesting comments ALL. I get pretty discouraged and frankly BORED when I see a “major star” guest on Leno or Letterman, Oprah or Ellen just to plug some ANIMATED film they have a role in. First they have to TELL you which drawing they ARE and then how they never even met their fellow “stars” and how great it is to go to work without makeup and hair!! Yeah, WE know! It’s simply a matter of EASY MONEY for the actors who already have lots of on-camera income in their pockets! But…. the producers want voices they can book on talk shows for publicity. I understand, but I also call it GREED!
    Thanks for letting me rant/vent!

  6. Interesting comments on all fronts.
    I actually get a portion of my work doing impressions, so in some cases it’s good news when a Celebrity does a role. Often, they will be willing to voice the movie, but not a follow-up video game, or cartoon.
    Opportunities abound,
    Joe J Thomas

  7. Look how many jobs posted at Voices.com and other sites are looking for less expensive “sound alikes.” They can’t afford the stars. Opportunity for “the rest of us.”
    How many times have you said… “if they want James Earl Jones, why don’t they hire him?”
    It simply is astronomically above their budget.

  8. I agree that the main, if no only, reason that most celebs get cast is that they are well known. I really hate movies whose main selling point is the actors involved. Take any Pixar or Dreamworks movie promo, and you will see “Staring the voices of ____”. But I don’t watch other cartoons because it stars Jim Cummings or Frank Welker –I watch them because I love cartoons and these REAL voice actors are talented!
    But I’m biased because I HATE live action movies. I only watch cartoons, especially ones meant for “kids”. I watch so many cartoons that I can spot voice actors left and right. I can pick out Rob Paulson or Billy West in my sleep. So really, these great talents ARE famous, at least to people who love cartoons.

  9. Hello. I’m a REALLY amateur (^_^) voice actress. I am not going to hate on the celebrity voice actors. If they get the job, they get the job. Heck some of my favorite celebrity voice actors are Eddie Murphy (He does an excellent job in “Mulan” and the “Shrek” series) and Steve Carrell (He is hilarious as a squirrel in “Over the Hedge”.)
    The only thing pro voice actors can do is work hard and try to get their name out. Some people will look for popular celebrities, whether they are talented or not, just to get people to see the movie, while some people will look for talent, no matter if it’s from a pro voice actor or a celebrity. All you can do is work hard and don’t get discouraged.

  10. Great article and wonderful responses! I had the extreme pleasure of working with MJ on a recent animation project and SHE was the biggest name in the booth! A very gracious and savvy actress, she taught me what she could in a short space of time, which really allowed me to interact with the rest of the ‘unknowns’ and have a good time at work. Yes…the cast was a group of real voice actors who were professional in every way and hilarious to boot!

  11. Hey what a great read this article ha spawned–thx Septhanie!
    I loved the Brad Bird quotes. But yes everyone hang in there….I’m now cast and will be directing and doing some voices for an ani feature from Europe—and I also directed cast and did a number of voices for projects from India last year…… so there is work from Europe and the middle east starting to come in and their animation looks fabulous!
    Bona Fortuna Voice Actors!


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