Voice actors are among the most versatile kinds of performers. Since the characters they are playing are brought to life by computers, pencil sketches, and clay, they have to work hard to sound believable and match the movements created by the animators. Some of the best can even make themselves sound like the opposite sex.
This unique quality tends to be more common with female voice actors playing male characters, especially if they are younger, due to the scarcity of talented young male actors. Television is full of iconic male characters voiced by a female voice actor, proving that these performers deserve far more recognition for their adaptability.
First appearing in 1943’s “Private Pluto,” short, Chip and his best friend, Dale, would become one of Disney’s most recognized duos. They gained prominence as foils to Donald Duck (Clarence Nash and Tony Anselmo). While Dale is the accident-prone goofball, Chip is the brains of the operation, who comes up with the plan to get what they want.
Many voice actors have played Chip over the years, but Tress MacNeille has been his most consistent since 1988. Her voice is modulated to sound high-pitched, but this does little to dampen her performance. Depending on the situation, she can play Chip like an energetic best friend or a stern parent.
Kevin is among Ed, Edd, n Eddy‘s most memorable characters. Among the kids of a suburban Cil-de-Sac, Kevin (Kathleen Barr) is their de facto leader. He prefers to spend his time playing sports, working on his bike, or hanging out with local cool girl Nazz (Tabitha St. Germain, Erin Fitzgerlad, and Jenn Forgie). Whenever the troublemaking Eds come around, Kevin makes a point to remind them that they’re a trio of dorks.
Kevin is one of the more well-adjusted kids on the block than his peers. While he can be a jerk from time to time, most of his anger is directed at the Eds for their constant attempts to scam people. Even then, he has his standards and will stand up to bullies who inflict pain for no reason.
8 Jimmy Neutron
James Isaac Neutron (Debi Derryberry) is a child genius living in the 50s-inspired town of Retroville. His intellect allows him to invent many amazing things, such as a robotic dog, a spacecraft, and a machine that can alter the weather. His intentions tend to go wrong in some way, but Jimmy always steps up and fixes his mistakes.
Jimmy debuted in the 2001 animated film Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, one of the 21st century’s best sci-fi comedies. Highly logical and knowledgeable but with poor social skills, Jimmy is among Nickelodeon’s most memorable characters. Derryberry highlights Jimmy’s unique personality through her voice work, making him sound conceited while still keeping him sympathetic.
7 Huey Freeman
Upon moving to the primarily white suburb of Woodcrest, Huey Freeman (Regina King) is the only member of the family who dislikes the change. A young intellectual inspired by radical social justice movements, he spends his time critiquing and protesting American culture. This frequently puts him at odds with his elderly grandfather, Robert (John Witherspoon) and his younger brother, Riley (Regina King).
Huey is a complex and fascinating individual and is one of the driving forces behind The Boondocks’ biting social commentary. He wants to improve society, but his aggressive and in-your-face methods turn most people away from his causes. King captures this through a neutral tone of voice that makes him come across as both wise and harsh for his years.
6 Rocket J. Squirrel
With his best friend, Bullwinkle J. Moose (Bill Scott), Rocket J. Squirrel (June Foray) goes on many crazy adventures around the quaint town of Frostbite Falls. Many involve stopping the dastardly duo of Pottsylvanian spies, Boris Badenov (Paul Frees) and Natasha Fatale (June Foray). Regardless of their scheme, they’re no match for Rocky’s power of flight and quick wit.
Foray is one of the best female voice actors ever, and her work as Rocky is a great example of her talent. She perfectly captures Rocky’s plucky optimism and works beautifully as the straight man to Bullwinkle’s well-meaning but silly ideas. The equally iconic Tara Strong took over the role in 2018, opting for a similar approach as a homage to Foray.
5 Tommy Pickles
Klasky Csupo’s revered series Rugrats is among the all-time best Nicktoons. The show follows the adventures of several babies, including one-year-old Tommy Pickles (Elizabeth Daily), who often encourages his friends to explore the world. Driven by an inquisitive nature and a strong moral compass, he tries to make sense of the crazy world of grown-ups.
Tommy’s love for adventure and endless compassion is the perfect template for a good protagonist, but Daily’s performance is what cements him as one of Nickelodeon’s best. She relates to Tommy’s desire to see his friends safe, making it easy for her to slip into the role. The voice she uses is perfect, capturing the innocence of childhood but also being capable of slipping into more harsh and frustrated tones when needed.
4 Bobby Hill
The only child of Hank (Mike Judge) and Peggy Hill (Kathy Najimy), Robert “Bobby” Hill (Pamela Adlon) tries to live the life of your average Texan boy. He’s fairly popular at school and excels in comedy and other forms of artistic expression. Sometimes, this creates rifts between him and his more conservative father.
Bobby is among King of the Hill‘s most well-adjusted characters. He is sweet, confident, and while he sometimes screws up due to ignorance, he never means to harm anyone. Adlon’s performance goes a long way in capturing this, as she taps into Bobby’s innocence and naïveté. Her work earned her an Emmy Award in 2002, with good reason.
3 Ash Ketchum
Ash Ketchum (Rica Matsumoto, Veronica Taylor, and Sarah Natochenny) received his first Pokémon, a Pikachu (Ikue Ōtani), on his tenth birthday. Though their beginning was a little rocky, they quickly became best friends. As Ash finds more companions, both human and Pokémon, he aims to become a Pokémon Master by challenging the many Pokémon Leagues.
Ash is one of the most recognizable characters in anime, thanks to his boundless energy and never-say-die attitude. No matter the obstacle or how many times he gets knocked down, he’ll always get back up and come up with a new strategy. All three women who have voiced him capture this enthusiastic hunger perfectly; among his English actors, Sarah Natochenny has mastered it better due to having more time than Taylor.
2 Timmy Turner
The Fairly OddParents is a staple of 2000s television. The show revolves around Timmy Turner (Tara Strong), whose life is anything but average. Although his parents always leave him in the care of Vicky (Grey DeLisle), a babysitter who enjoys torture and abuse, Timmy has two fairy godparents who can grant almost any wish.
Strong is among the most talented female voice actors, and Timmy remains one of her most iconic roles. She hits all the right notes for a young boy, such as his laser-focused enthusiasm for the things he’s into, disgust for what he dislikes, and ability to alternate between selfish and selfless actions.
1 Bart Simpson
Few shows are more iconic than The Simpsons. The acclaimed series follows the adventures of the titular family, taking a satirical approach to everyday life. The eldest Simpson child, Bart (Nancy Cartwright), is Springfield’s resident troublemaker. Be it at home, school, or skateboarding through Springfield, Bart can be found pulling pranks, running scams, and disrespecting authority figures. Despite his rambunctious tendencies, he cares about his friends and family in his special way.
Bart has become one of animation’s most recognized child characters, and Cartwright’s performance has been likewise praised. Cartwright’s talents extend to other young boys in The Simpsons, like Nelson Muntz and Ralph Wiggum. Her work earned her a much-deserved Emmy Award at the 1992 ceremony for the show’s third season.