Monday, March 19, 2012

Hottest Animated Voice Cast Ever?

Ever since Uncle Phil recorded his first growl as The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Shredder, animation buffs have been lamenting Hollywood's insistence on putting celebrity voices in their capital-c Cartoons. It's been decried as a total dick-move, a slap in the un-photogenic faces of those folks who'd spent years honing their vocal chords, devoting their lives to becoming the pitch-perfect mouthpieces for anamorphic animals. Still, Hollywood persists. Sometimes the results are magical. Other times...well, not so much.

Where you stand on this niche-within-a-niche debate probably depends a lot on your age. If you came of age post-Pocahontas, this is no doubt a non-issue. Nearly every cartoon projected onto the silver screen since then has had at least one Saturday Night Live alumnus or Top 10 pop princess in the vocal cast. It's become par for the cartoon course, sorta like 3D is for today's tots. But if you're in your 30s or 40s or (gasp!) 50s, you may have a slightly different take. Mel Blanc, Billy West, Daws Butler - these dudes dedicated their careers to tweaking the tones of their funny voices, mining the nuance in their naturally nutty enunciations. EFF FIREMEN! THESE ARE THE REAL HEROES. To see these uniquely talented artists being cast aside simply so that the $tudios could have a recognizable face at their red carpet premieres seemed to many of my unidentified generation to be short-sighted at best, totally stupid and disrespectful to the art form at worst.

But now there's a new breed of animation voice talent being cast. Not content to just rest on 'recognizable,' the creators of The Croods seem to have cast their leads' larynxs based on something more...libidinal. Emma Stone, Nicholas Cage, Catherine Keener, Ryan Reynolds: These are not the sort of faces one normally blocks with a huge microphone and one of those large circles swathed in nylon. They're the Hollywood hunks and hotties one shoots in an unobstructed wide shot, usually while wet.

That said, I've got faith that this is more than just some simple, cynical cash-in based on our baser instincts and buying habits. The director of The Croods, Chris Sanders, did direct Lilo & Stitch after all. That film had enduring 80s eye-candy Tia Carrere as the voice of its second female lead, Nani, and Carrere did an AMAZING job imbuing her character with a wide range of surprisingly subtle emotions and wit. If Sanders and co-director Kirk De Micco can shepherd similarly stunning vocal performances out of their crush-worthy Croods cast, they could create a truly fantastic film. Still, succeeding with such a sexy assemblage might inspire the $tudios to re-think their cartoon casting criteria once more. No longer would 'recognizability' be the gauge. No, it may soon be all about hotness.

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