Yogi Bear Has the Most Recognizable Voice in Animation
There’s no denying that the video game and animation industries are stronger now than ever. Two-thirds of Americans turned to video games in 2021 for distraction and stress relief, and researchers expect the global animation market to reach $640 billion by 2030. Animations and video games are treasured pastimes for many, some of whom spend up to 15 hours with them each week. So, after all those hours, the question is: Which character voices are the most recognizable?
Starting with a list of the most iconic video game and animation characters, we tested people to see if they could recognize them just by their voices. Survey respondents listened to voice clips (three to six seconds each) and tried to guess which character each voice belonged to. To ensure it wasn’t too easy, we avoided obvious voice lines, like “It’s-a me, Mario!” or Shaggy exclaiming, “Like, zoinks Scoob!” Read on to find out which characters have made the biggest impressions on their fans.
- Ellie from “The Last of Us” is the most recognizable voice in video games, followed closely by Mario.
- More than 55% of millennials couldn’t recognize Charlie Brown’s voice.
- Fans are most excited for the far-off video game “The Elder Scrolls VI”.
Despite his long-lived popularity, and residence at the happiest place on earth, the voice of Mickey Mouse placed only fifth on the list of the most recognizable character voices from animated TV and movies. Yogi Bear from “The Yogi Bear Show” topped the list with the most recognizable voice, clearly stealing our hearts (and our pic-a-nic baskets). But it was mostly only among older respondents; 80% of those who didn’t recognize his voice were Gen Z.
Yogi Bear wasn’t the only character Gen Z respondents had trouble identifying: More than 70% of Gen Zers also couldn’t recognize Homer Simpson’s voice. But given the years they were born (between 1997 and 2012), it’s not surprising that they’re less familiar with those characters – the Simpsons first aired in 1989, and “The Yogi Bear Show” first appeared on TV in 1961. Most of Gen Z could, however, identify the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants. According to them, his was the most iconic voice in animation.
Charlie Brown’s voice highlighted another generational difference. According to baby boomers, his was the second most iconic voice, while it was unrecognizable to more than 55% of millennials. Another classic animated character, Winnie-the-Pooh, was an anomaly; more than 50% of millennials couldn’t recognize Pooh’s voice, while the younger Gen Z respondents listed his as the third most iconic. This could be due, in part, to Disney’s reboot of the bumbling bear’s story in 2011 when they were young children.
Our survey also asked respondents which character traits they associated with each iconic voice. Simba, the main character voiced by Matthew Broderick in “The Lion King,” was assigned the longest list of positive traits: This famous young lion had the coolest, most soothing, most intelligent, and most attractive voice. Simba’s voice also ranked as the second friendliest, after Winnie-the-Pooh.
The Gaming Side of Things
When it comes to video games, you might assume that a classic character from ages past would be the best-known voice, such as Mario or Master Chief of “Halo”– but you’d be wrong! We found the voice of Ellie Williams from “The Last of Us” to be the most recognized.
Actor Ashley Johnson performed Ellie’s iconic voice and won a BAFTA award for Best Performer (twice!) for her role. We also asked survey respondents to name which traits they associated with popular video game characters, and Ellie appeared on this list as well. She ranked as having the third friendliest voice after Sonic the Hedgehog and Nathan Drake from “Uncharted.”
While Ellie topped our list as having the most recognized gaming character voice, Mario from “Super Mario Bros.” came in a close second. He received a consolation prize for having the funniest character voice, but people also thought he was among the most boring. The smartest-sounding voice was that of the female version of Commander Shepard from “Mass Effect.” She was voiced by Jennifer Hale, who has received multiple awards for her performances, although she admits she is not a gamer herself.
Overall, men generally recognized more video game voices than women, with the most extreme example being that of Master Chief: 13% of men recognized this “Halo” supersoldier’s voice, while less than 1% of women did. However, when women did recognize a particular voice more often than men, the margins were wide. We observed this in several situations, most notably with Geralt of Rivia from “The Witcher” series (identified by 11% of women and about 6% of men) and Max Payne (12% of women and 5% of men).
To cap off our look at some of the most iconic character voices in animation and video game history, we looked ahead to some of the most anticipated games and films today. Which upcoming projects are fans most excited about?
According to our survey, Americans highly anticipate the newest installment of the Spider-Man movie franchise, “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” They would also love to hear superhero stars Tom Holland or Tobey Maguire voice a new animation or video game. These findings suggest fans would love to see their favorite former Spideys return for future projects. Antonio Banderas also received some hype, which may reflect the upcoming “Puss in Boots” movie. Daniel Radcliffe, who can’t seem to outgrow his Harry Potter character, also ranked for “Hogwarts Legacy.”
Americans named “The Elder Scrolls VI” as the most anticipated video game. It’s the next installment in one of the most-loved and best-selling video game franchises of all time. Despite being three or more years away from release with very little public information available about the game, it’s still more highly anticipated than other immediately upcoming games, including Bethesda’s other major upcoming release, “Starfield.”
While respondents listed Morgan Freeman as the voice actor people would most like to hear in a video game overall, Steve Blum was Gen Z’s top choice. As the most prolific video game voice actor of all time, Blum’s popularity is certainly well-founded.
While there is a bit of a generational disconnect, Yogi Bear tops the list as the most recognized animated character voice, even after more than 60 years since his first television appearance. Just how long his voice will remain so iconic remains to be seen, but given how popular the animation industry is today, there are sure to be plenty of characters to give him a run for his money.
Exactly what makes a voice so recognizable may vary no matter what genre it appears in. But one thing is clear: When it comes to finding a way to relax for an hour or two, doing it with a character whose voice you appreciate makes it that much more enjoyable.
To determine the most iconic character voices in animation and video games, we surveyed 1,115 U.S. adults. We sourced our original lists of characters from various other lists of iconic characters across the internet, then narrowed them to two lists of 20 iconic characters using a name recognition pilot survey. Then, we quizzed our survey respondents by having them first listen to audio clips of the characters speaking, then attempt to guess the characters. Finally, we dropped the bottom five from both lists, leaving us with our final lists of the top 15 most iconic character voices in animation and video games.
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