Moviegoers love underdog stories because it is easier to relate to an otherwise extraordinary situation when it is told from the perspective of an average person much like them. The animated film, Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank is, very literally, an underdog tale about a meek canine who wants to be a samurai and seeks training from a wise, old feline in a town entirely populated by cats.
Originally titled Blazing Samurai, this new movie from The Lion King director Rob Minkoff looks like it could be the most entertaining animated feature inspired by classic Japanese action films and featuring anthropomorphic animals since Kung Fu Panda. Check out the stars behind these charming, funny characters in our following guide to see who plays whom in the Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank voice cast - starting with the unlikely main hero.
Michael Cera (Hank)
Voicing Hank - the titular Beagle and aspiring samurai - is Michael Cera, whose last time playing a “dog” in an animated film was in 2016’s Sausage Party as a frankfurter named Barry. For a while, the Canadian actor’s main gig was playing non-literal underdogs - such as on Arrested Development as George-Michael Bluth, in 2007’s one-two-punch of hit coming-of-age comedies Juno and Superbad, and in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (also in the title role) to name a few.
Cera, who also voiced Robin in 2017’s The LEGO Batman Movie, has also played characters that defy this reputation - such as a creepy, young sadist in 2013’s Magic Magic, Player X in Molly’s Game, and an extremely crude version of himself in This is the End. More recently, he acted alongside creator and star Amy Schumer on Hulu’s Life & Beth and has joined Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie cast in an undisclosed role.
Samuel L. Jackson (Jimbo)
As Hank’s mentor, a cat samurai named Jimbo, we have Samuel L. Jackson, who has played the mentor to several heroes (such as Nick Fury in the MCU or Mace Windu in the Star Wars universe). He has also played many straight-up heroes (like Frozone in The Incredibles and its sequel), some villains (like Elijah Price in Unbreakable and its 2019 sequel), some guys in between (like in The Hitman's Bodyguard and its sequel) and even another animated samurai (in the 2007 miniseries, Afro Samurai, and its sequel).
The Academy Award nominee’s lengthy filmography also includes countless cinematic classics like Coming to America, Goodfellas, Die Hard with a Vengeance, or Jurassic Park, and, also, more recent favorites like Black Snake Moan, Snakes on a Plane, or Kong: Skull Island. Also, you could name almost any one of Quentin Tarantino’s movies or any one of Spike Lee’s movies and there is a good chance that Jackson is in it.
Ricky Gervais (Ika Chu)
As Ika Chu - a greedy feline who wants to destroy the film’s central village setting - we have Ricky Gervais, who previously voiced a pigeon in Valiant, an invasive dolphin on Family Guy, a hedgehog on Bojack Horseman, himself on a few notable occasions (such as on Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?), and another cat in The Willoughbys cast for Netflix. He has also starred in a few live-action family-friendly films like 2014’s Muppets: Most Wanted and the Night of the Museum movies (which actually have an animated follow-up in the works).
Of course, the British comedian and host of some memorable Golden Globes ceremonies is even better known for less-family-friendly movies like For Your Consideration, The Invention of Lying (which he also co-wrote and co-directed), or Ghost Town. Yet, Gervais is even more famous for the TV shows he has created and starred in, like the original UK version of The Office, HBO’s Extras, or, most recently, the Netflix-original dramedy, After Life.
George Takei (Ohga)
Playing Ika Chu’s chief guard, Ohga, is George Takei, who is nothing short of a legend in the world of acting. His first screen credit was actually a Godzilla movie (1955’s Godzilla Raids Again), which led to roles in other films like The Green Berets and, of course, his best known role as Sulu in the original Star Trek cast in the 1960s and in many subsequent Star Trek movies, too.
The LGBTQ+ activist has several notable recent TV roles, such as on AMC's horror anthology The Terror, and also makes many appearances as himself, such as on The Big Bang Theory. Takei has a large number of voice acting credits to his name, from First Ancestor in 1998’s Mulan, Hosato in 2016’s Kubo and the Two Strings, and Shinji Yokohama on Hulu’s animated Marvel series, Hit-Monkey.
Kylie Kuoika (Emiko)
Playing Emiko - an adorable, young cat with her own heroic aspirations - is Kylie Kuoika, a Hawaiian-born actor who is not only making her voice acting debut, but also her theatrically released feature film debut with Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank. Her official feature-length movie debut was the Disney+ exclusive Better Nate Than Ever earlier in 2022.
The young Broadway performer's first real screen acting debut was in the 2021 short horror movie, Harom. In 2022, she also starred in a more grounded and dramatic short film called Removable.
Michelle Yeoh (Yuki)
Emiko’s mother, Yuki, is voiced by Michelle Yeoh, whose last animated kung-fu movie was the 2011 sequel to the aforementioned Kung Fu Panda. She first tore up the screen in live-action alongside Jackie Chan in 1992’s Supercop before teaming up with Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies and defying gravity in Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000 - which are only some of Yeoh's best movies.
The Malaysian-born actor is almost more popular than ever these days, having appeared in two Marvel movies (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and in the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings cast), a few hit rom-coms (the Crazy Rich Asians cast and Last Christmas), and leading the highly acclaimed, indescribably unique crowd-pleaser, Everything Everywhere All At Once, in 2022. Yeoh also has a recurring role on Star Trek: Discovery and her most recent animated film before Paws of Fury is Minions: The Rise of Gru.
Gabriel Iglesias (Chuck)
As a fluffy cat name Chuck, we have the self-proclaimed “fluffy” stand-up star Gabriel Iglesias, who has many, many other notable voice acting credits under his belt. He played both Ned and Zed in Pixar’s Planes, Pepe Rodriguez in The Book of Life, Jimmy in both of The Nut Job movies, an afterlife clerk in Coco, Cuatro in Ferdinand, and Speedy Gonzales in Space Jam: A New Legacy - which, seriously, barely scratches the surface of that particular list.
You may have seen the Latino comedian in live-action near the end of All That’s original run on Nickelodeon, playing Tobias in the Magic Mike cast, and in A Haunted House 2 with Marlon Wayans. Iglesias also had a major role on Cristela Alonso’s self-titled sitcom before landing his own self-titled sitcom on Netflix with Mr. Iglesias.
Aasif Mandvi (Ichiro)
As another feline villager named Ichiro, we have Aasif Mandvi, who actually made his film debut opposite co-star Samuel L. Jackson with a brief appearance as a cab driver in Die Hard with a Vengeance and reunited with him in 2006 in the crime thriller Freedomland. He was also in Ghost Town with Ricky Gervais, when his best known movie role at the time might have been Mr. Aziz in Spider-Man 2.
The former Daily Show correspondent would later land considerably larger parts in movies like The Proposal, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender as Commander Zhao, The Internship with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, and Million Dollar Arm with Jon Hamm. Mandvi’s most notable TV roles include Rafiq Massoud in HBO’s short-lived satire, The Brink, Uncle Monty on Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Ben Shakir in Paramount+’s Evil cast, most recently.
Djimon Hounsou (Sumo)
Voicing the intimidatingly large cat aptly named Sumo is Djimon Hounsou - who is, like co-star Samuel L. Jackson, an MCU star (he appeared in two Marvel movies and lent his voice to the What If…? cast as Korath). However, he also has a few DC movies under his belt - namely 2005’s Constantine and DCEU movies Aquaman and Shazam!
The former model received his first Academy Award nomination for Steven Spielberg’s Amistad before going on to star in more classics like the Best Picture Oscar winner, Gladiator, and later earning his second nod in 2007 for Blood Diamond. In addition to joining other big franchises like the Fast and Furious movies and 2021's A Quiet Place sequel, the King’s Man cast member has also previously leant his voce to How to Train Your Dragon 2 and an animated miniseries adaptation of Black Panther from 2010 as T’Challa.
Cathy Shim (Little Mama)
As the Grand Dame of the town being fought over, Kakamucho, Little Mama, we have Cathy Shim, who made her uncredited feature film debut alongside co-star Michelle Yeoh in 2005’s Memoirs of a Geisha. By then, she had already made some of her first appearances with the Reno 911! cast as various characters - such as Miss Junior, whom she would reprise in the Emmy-nominated, feature-length Paramount+ exclusive, Reno 911!: The Hunt for QAnon, in 2021.
She also had a small role in 2007’s Balls of Fury (which has absolutely no relation to this new animated film), was in the 2009 horror-comedy, The Revenant (which has absolutely nothing to do with the 2015 Leonardo DiCaprio film), and also had a few small roles in comedies like 2012’s The Watch and Hell Baby from 2013. Shim also had a recurring spot on L.A.’s Finest and was in the 2019 romantic drama, The Sun is Also a Star.
Mel Brooks (Shogun)
Last, but certainly no least, we have Mel Brooks as The Shogun - the latest voice acting role of the 96-year-old comedy legend. He previously played Bigweld in 2005’s Blue Sky movie, Robots, Albert Einstein in 2014’s Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Vlad in the Hotel Transylvania movies, and Melephant Brooks in Toy Story 4.
Of course, Brooks is just as famous for his acting as he is for writing, producing, and directing - such as his 1967 directorial debut, The Producers, which earned him his sole Oscar and was later adapted into a Tony-winning stage musical. Other classics of his include B-movie parody, Young Frankenstein, Star Wars parody, Spaceballs, medieval adventure parody, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and western parody, Blazing Saddles.
Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank is actually loosely inspired by Blazing Saddles, so it must be quite an honor for the creators to have gotten the man behind the comedy classic to star in the film. Then again, it would be an honor to work with every member of this talented voice cast.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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