Toeing the Line: It's about their voices, not their faces

November 08, 2013|By Ray Richmond

You have heard Jess Harnell, Carlos Alazraqui and Gary Anthony Williams before, even if you've probably never heard of them.

Maybe you've heard Harnell in one of the three "Toy Story" movies, or "Finding Nemo," or one of the other Disney-Pixar films in which his voice has appeared. You no doubt heard Alazraqui as the famed voice of the Taco Bell commercial Chihuahua intoning "Yo quiero Taco Bell!" And perhaps you heard Williams in the acclaimed animated series, "The Boondocks," giving voice to Uncle Ruckus.

The bottom line is that while all three men have enjoyed more than their share of live-action acting moments in film and TV, their vocal chords are more renowned than their names and faces. And they're OK with that, as making your primarily living doing voice-overs — much of it for the kiddie animation world — is a pretty nice deal.

"There's rarely a day where I feel like I have to go to work," said Williams. "I consider what I do an absolute joy."


Added Harnell, "It's the greatest job I could ever hope to have. I get to use my animation and creativity. And unlike on-camera acting, it isn't limited to what I look like. I've played old women. I've played little kids. I've played animals. And trust me when I say I am actually none of those."

Alazraqui noted, "I get to create a make-believe world for kids. How great is that?"

All three men are entrenched these days in the Disney world in Burbank. Harnell plays the voice of Cedric, the royal sorcerer, in the Disney Junior animated series "Sofia the First," which premieres its first primetime special "Sofia the First: The Floating Palace" on Nov. 24 on the Disney Channel (Nov. 28 on Disney Junior).

Alazraqui and Williams, meanwhile, can be heard in the new animated series "Sheriff Callie's Wild West" — described as the "first western for preschoolers." It rolls out exclusively online at and as a Disney Junior app beginning Nov. 24.

In the latter, Alazraqui portrays the wise old desert tortoise Tio Tortuga, while Williams voices the joint roles of Dirty Dan and his brother, Dusty, a couple of Old West miners who like to stir up trouble.

Few would argue that voice-over work is a pretty sweet gig. You can show up for work unshaven in torn jeans and a ratty T-shirt and it doesn't much matter. But for that reason, the job is highly coveted — and a legendarily difficult fraternity to bust into.

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