The 6 Best Pixar Vocal Performances

Holly Hunter — Helen Parr, The Incredibles

A lot of acting, whether with your voice or your face, simply comes down to presence. Unfortunately, a lot of the regular celebrity voice actors don’t actually have the chops to deliver a convincing audio-only performance. Fortunately, Pixar usually goes for people who can simply deliver the goods. In the case of The Incredible’s Helen Parr, their choice of Holly Hunter for the voice is simply inspired.

Basically, she’s the ultimate mom. She’s a bit frazzled and more than a bit stressed, but she cares about her family and tries to keep up her faltering marriage. That’s a combination that many actresses have tried and failed to balance, but Holly Hunter makes it look easy.

Oh, and then she breaks out into this:


You go girl.

Albert Brooks – Marlin, Finding Nemo

Albert Brooks has made a name for himself by playing a nebbish (well, until Drive, that is). And sure, that’s one of the most endearing qualities he brings to the character of “Finding Nemo’s dad” in that movie. What’s even more important, though, is that he manages to make that character a credible movie hero as well.

It’s a fine line, to take a character who is essentially reluctant and cowardly, and act him through a journey of peril and risk without ever violating the core of the character. Brooks nails it.

It’s not hard to find a Pixar scene that jumps through more dramatic hoops than most live actors are able to, but here’s one from Finding Nemo. Brooks has to go a lot of places in these two minutes, and he has to do it while talking like a fish, too.


Craig T. Nelson – Bob Parr, The Incredibles

By the way, I love this movie. I think it’s one of the best depictions of a real family dynamic that has ever graced a children’s movie. That owes partly to the brilliant, genre-savvy script penned by the reliable Brad Bird, but it owes just as much to the rock-solid vocal cast.

And the best of these, for me at least, is Craig T. Nelson as Mr. Incredible. I’m not familiar with Mr. Nelson’s work on Coach, but he brings a level of realism, pathos, and power to this family patriarch that I’ve rarely seen in ANY movie, animated or otherwise.

Just listen to the way Nelson marries the ordinary with the extraordinary in this decidely atypical “kid’s movie” scene:


What about you? I feel bad for leaving out Kevin Spacey’s Hopper, but who are your favorites?

  • DocDoom

    No love for Patton Oswalt’s Remy the Rat?

    That is my absolute favorite by far. So great was his voice acting, the animators actually infused a lot of Patton’s mannerisms into Remy himself, to properly convey his amazing performance.

  • Iain

    How could you not mention John Ratzenberger?

  • TotesMcGotes

    Ed Asner as Carl in Up is my favorite.

  • Todd X

    What kind of list is this? Ellen was amazing in Nemo. Ben Burtt rocked Wall-E. Billy Crystal did not even turn out the best performance in Monsters Inc.

    Ellen DeGeneres nailed. there was that moment where she struggles so hard to remember, it gives me goosebumps. For anyone that has had a loved one suffer from dementia or memory loss, she evoked the frustration with the perfect amount of restraint.

    Ben Burtt. All the actors had the benefit of an amazing script, but Ben…do you think that those sounds were written into the script? He evoked emotion without saying a word. An incredible vocal performance in any voice-over role.

    Can’t really complain about the rest of the list

  • All those are memorable. I specially agree with your choices on Elastigirl and Mr Incredible. I also loved that movie. I saw that they make the characters look a little like the real-life actors who provide the voices. This helps the voice match the character somehow.
    I need to mention that I’m a Spanish speaker and the voice acting for the dubbed version is just as great-sounding. Just further proves your point that they do take their time to select the voice talent for their movies.

  • Rheyn

    How have you not seen Coach?!?

  • Cwazola

    It’s a good list, but I have to agree with adding Ellen DeGeneres to the top. Out of all the Pixar characters, she may have had the most complicated. She needed to play a combination of smart and borderline dumb, confused and innocent, fun-loving and caring. Again, agreed that her scene with Marlin where she was explaining why she didn’t want her to leave him is phenomenal. She hit all the right notes in every scene, I can’t imagine any other actor playing Dory.

    And Ratzenberger definitely needs a honorable mention!

  • Michael

    Your list does not contain Ellen Degeneres’ performance in Finding Nemo = Your list is invalid.

  • Maggy

    I liked Kelly Macdonald when she played Merida in Brave… I don’t know I just love her… also when Ellen DeGeneres played Dory.

  • Tom

    I agree. These “lists” that you call them ( at the most blogs) keep on getting shorter and shorter as if they are trying to fill some type of quota. They need to fine BETTER WRITERS to accomplish more indepth writing. There are SEVERAL more characters that could be added with out doing any research such as Dori, Wall-E, Buzz-Lightyear even. (despite tim allens lack of “range” his voice made the chracter).