One of the greatest things about voice acting is its flexibility. A single character can be portrayed by multiple actors without a major disruption to the show. Those kind of roles are known as legacy characters.
Voiceover allows actors to completely unchain themselves from their physical appearance and abilities. Actors can play anything from a godlike entity to, well, themselves.
A side effect is that multiple actors can play the same character in different entries in a franchise. We went deep exploring this with the Joker, who has had over a dozen actors play him.
Sometimes it even happens from one episode to another. This was a lot more common 20 or 30 years ago, when animation was a good deal less respected as an art form.
It occasionally happens in live action too, of course, as any Game of Thrones fan can attest, but the difference with legacy characters cartoons and other voice acted productions is that the actors can change without the viewer even realizing it.
According to John DiMaggio’s great documentary I Know That Voice, the term “legacy characters” is an industry term that’s been in use for decades. We’ve assembled a list of some of the most influential.
Property of: Disney
No cartoon character is better known than Mickey Mouse. He’s an icon of the industry, and his popularity paved the way for everything else to come.
Mickey’s first appearance was in 1928, nearly a century ago. At that time, he was voiced by none other than Walt Disney himself! The fact that he’s still in heavy use today is a testament to the incredible staying power of Disney properties.
It also means that, by necessity, several actors have played him over the years. Contrasting with many legacy characters, actors who play the role of Mickey Mouse are asked not to put their own spin on the character. Instead, they’re instructed to sound as much like the original Mickey as possible.
Disney strives for a unified aesthetic in all things, and that extends to voice acting.
Voice Actors who have Played Mickey Mouse (chronological order)
- Walt Disney
- Jimmy MacDonald
- Carl W. Stalling
- Clarence Nash
- Stan Freberg
- Alan Young
- Wayne Allwine
- Peter Renaday
- Bret Iwan
- Chris Diamantopoulos