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Even Oscar winners can get a boost from cartoon roles

Hard to believe, but doing voice work in animated movies used to be sign of an actor's fading career. Now it can be a steppingstone to greater stardom that live-action movies haven't provided. Just ask Mike Myers.

But celebrity voices aren't foolproof; fans of Brad Pitt (Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas) and Matt Damon (Titan A.E.) obviously prefer their idols in the flesh.

With her upcoming role as Ginormica in Monsters vs. Aliens, Reese Witherspoon joins an elite club of Academy Award winners content with not appearing in person in an animated film. George Clooney gets his membership card later this year, voicing The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Peter O'Toole (Ratatouille) deserves to join but hasn't won an Oscar after eight nominations — a record for futility among actors.

These 11 actors proved that voiceover work doesn't damage Oscar-gilded reputations anymore in Hollywood, even if the movies stinks, like The Ant Bully. In fact, working in an animated hit may boost their Oscar chances, like our first unseen celebrity:

Robin Williams, Aladdin — The comedian's manically crafted role as Genie inspired the first serious discussion of nominating an animated actor. Williams had three nominations under his turban by then, and later won for Good Will Hunting.

Tom Hanks, Toy Story — After winning consecutive Oscars (Philadelphia, Forrest Gump), Hanks lent instant credibility to an emerging computer animation style. Then he made Woody the cowboy into an iconic 'toon hero.

Woody Allen, Antz — The Woodman's nebbish persona was perfect for a neurotic insect. But why didn't the Oscar-winning screenwriter pen the movie?

Holly Hunter, The Incredibles — Hunter's performance as Helen Parr/Elastigirl is a model of emotional nuance, maternally grounded amid fantastic circumstances.

Jeremy Irons, The Lion King — Is there an animated villain more despicable than Scar? Irons made the lion who would be king as chilling as Claus von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune.

Dustin Hoffman, Kung Fu Panda — You could hear Hoffman's slow burns, barely coping with Po the clumsy panda (Jack Black). Sonic comedy gold.

Paul Newman, Cars — In his last role, the late actor/racing enthusiast combined two loves of his life into a fitting swan song.

Halle Berry, Robots — The weakest role on the list, and if any actor should be seen in the flesh, it's Ms. Berry.

Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, The Ant Bully — Don't expect any clips from this one at their career achievement award banquets.

JUST FOR FUN...

Here are eight actors doing their best movie work in cartoons:

Ellen DeGeneres, Finding Nemo.

Mike Myers, Shrek.

Jeff Bridges, Surf's Up (because he reprised "the Dude" from The Big Lebowski).

John Goodman and Billy Crystal, Monsters Inc.

Kathleen Turner, Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Robby Benson, Beauty and the Beast.

Steve Carell, Over the Hedge.

Even Oscar winners can get a boost from cartoon roles 03/25/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 10:47pm]

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