Back in the day -- when you'd wake your parents up at seven in the morning by fighting with your older brother and throwing Chuck Norris action figures at his guinea pig -- the panoply of cartoons like ‘G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero,’ ‘Transformers,’ and ‘Darkwing Duck’ made being up that early much more tolerable.
As you watched those classic 'toons, you never questioned the identity of the voice behind the cartoon lips. As far as you were concerned, Scott Trakker on ‘M.A.S.K.’ was just a guy in real life named Scott Trakker.
We went back and peeked under the hood of some of the best 1980s and 1990s cartoons to see who was providing the voices of those characters. Sure, there were a lot of nobodies, but there were a few voices that were much more well known than their cartoon counterpart.
Brennan ThickeVoice of Scott Trakker on ‘M.A.S.K.’ (1985-86)
If the last name rings a bell, it’s because Brennan Thicke is the son of ‘Growing Pains’ actor Alan and older brother of ‘Blurred Lines’ pop sensation Robin. Among the voices the elder Thicke sibling has acted for over the years is Scott Trakker from 1980s animated series ‘M.A.S.K.’ (also a Transformers-esque Kenner toy line). Somebody’s got to do a video of head villain Miles Mayhem singing, “You’re a good girl … you know you want it.”
Britta Phillips Singing voice of Jem on ‘Jem’ (1985-88)
For years, we’d be doing Google searches for punk band the Misfits news and this crap about ‘Jem’ would pop up. Apparently, one of the opposing pop bands in the short-lived ‘80s cartoon series shares the same name. The star of the show, Jem, and her band the Holograms, go around and play and fix problems. That’s basically the premise of the show. Her singing voice was voiced by a young Britta Phillips -- she of ‘90s alt-rock band Luna; and Dean and Britta fame. Connections between rock music and terrible ‘80s cartoons make us vibrate with pleasure.
Earle Hyman Voice of Panthro on ‘ThunderCats’ (1985-89)
One of our favorite 1980’s cartoons of all time, ‘ThunderCats,’ was like little-kid crack on Saturday mornings. One of Lion-O’s comrades in arms, Panthro, was voiced by Earle Hyman, better known as Cliff Huxtable’s father, Russell, on ‘The Cosby Show.’ Had there been a ‘Cosby’ crossover, we would’ve sent Theo out with Panthro for the day to figure out what life as a working superhero is really like. THEOOOOOO!
Brad Garrett Voice of Hulk Hogan on ‘Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n Wrestling’ (1985-87)
Well before hitting it big as Raymond’s dolt-y older brother on ‘Everybody Loves Raymond,’ baritoned Brad Garrett was a voice actor in cartoons like ‘The Transformers’ (Trypticon), ‘Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n Wrestling’ (Hulk Hogan), and ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ (Goliath). We wonder whether Brad also did the voiceover in that fantastic video of Hulk banging that cougar.
Scatman Crothers Voice of Jazz on ‘The Transformers: the Movie’ (1986)
Scatman Crothers is probably best known as the axe-murdered chef Dick Hallorann in Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ (he also appeared in three other movies with pal Jack Nicholson, including Oscar-winning ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’). But the dude with the best name in showbiz also has a cartoon past: He voiced Transformer Jazz in the 1986 cartoon movie. Interestingly, the movie is set in the year 2005 -- i.e. eight years ago. We want our money back, dammit; our 1997 Honda Accord just swallows a bunch of gas and doesn’t defend itself when the neighborhood skaters key it.
Sgt. Slaughter Voice of himself on ‘G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero’ (1983-86)
Say the name Robert Remus and people will send you a blank stare. Say his stage name, ‘Sgt. Slaughter,’ and fist-bumps and memories of the glory years of the WWF abound. Slaughter gets the award for being the first non-Joe to ever have a crossover action figure. So, of course, he had to voice himself in the cartoon -- first appearing in laughably bad G.I. Joe cartoon miniseries ‘Arise Serpentor Arise!’ (1986). (You can watch it in full on YouTube.) We wish Slaughter’s lifelong opponent, the Iron Sheik, had phoned up the Hasbro people and gotten his own Cobra figure and cartoon version. Now that would’ve been pretty dope.
Tim Curry Voice of villain Taurus Bulba on ‘Darkwing Duck’ (1991-95)
‘Darkwing Duck’ may be one of the cheesiest cartoons of all time, but it’s got a soft place in our heart (those were the formative years, man, come on). No doubt a striking-when-the-iron-is-hot moment -- with ‘DuckTales’ kicking much ass from 1987-90 -- ‘Darkwing Duck’ was must-see TV for little kids who grew up in the era. Tim Curry -- of ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ and Pennywise the Clown in ‘It’ fame -- voiced one of Darkwing’s first villains, Taurus Bulba, an evil bull. It might’ve been cooler had the bull lived in a sewer and extracted arms from little boys.
Jeffrey Tambor Voice of Hardrock on ‘The New Adventures of Jonny Quest’ (1986-87)
Best known as George Bluth, Sr. on cancelled-then-resurrected-on-Netflix series ‘Arrested Development,’ Jeffrey Tambor had a voicing past -- that of Hardrock, sort of a modern-era stone man -- i.e. a knockoff of The Thing from ‘The Fantastic 4.’ Remember when George Bluth “converts” to Judaism on ‘Arrested Development’? He’s the first screen/voice actor in the history of cinema to have ever played both a goyim and a golem.
Phil HartmanVoice of Henry Mitchell on ‘Dennis the Menace’ (1986-87)
Ah yes, we love it when listicle actors collide. The glory years of ‘Saturday Night Live’ would not have been the same without the late Phil Hartman doing his spot-on impression of Bill Clinton -- as well as a host of other characters. On ‘Dennis the Menace,’ he voiced Dennis’ father, Henry in Season 1. Who voiced the star of the show? None other than Brennan Thicke. (Hartman would also snag a recurring voice role on that other cartoon, ‘The Simpsons.’)
Mark Hamill Voice of the Joker on ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ (1992-95)
Yes, you read that right. Mark Hamill -- a.k.a. ‘Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker -- voiced ‘Batman: The Animated Series’’s version of Darth Vader (the Joker) for the popular ’90s cartoon’s entire run. He reprised the role several times in other, related superhero shows, too. He also notably voiced pumpkin-throwing Spider-man villain the Hobgoblin in ‘Spider-man: The Animated Series’ (1994-98). The man’s so good, he’s bad.