Coming soon to Disney+ is a new hybrid of CGI animals with a live action setting inspired by an acclaimed book for children. No, I am not talking about a sequel to Dolittle. I am, however, talking about The One and Only Ivan, a new film on the streaming platform as of Friday, August 21, 2020, that boasts an impressive voice cast behind its non-human characters.
Based on a true story that inspired the 2012, award-winning novel from Katherine Applegate with illustrations by Patricia Castelao, The One and Only Ivan depicts a show gorilla’s plan to break a baby elephant out from the shopping mall in which they are both held captive. It stars Academy Award nominee Bryan Cranston as Mack, the owner of Big Top Shopping Mall who raises the title character, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen star Ramon Rodriguez as a custodian named George, and playing his daughter, Julia, is Ariana Greenblatt, a former Disney Channel star whom you may also recognize as a young Gamora in Avengers: Infinity War.
But, for now, enough about the humans. For this piece, we want to focus on the talented names who lend their voices to the real stars of The One and Only Ivan: the animals. From a few Academy Award winners to one of the most popular recording artists in history, here are the nine notable people you can look forward to hearing in this wild heartwarming Disney flick perfect for the whole family.
Sam Rockwell (Ivan)
In his first CGI animal role in a Disney movie since playing a gerbil spy in 2009's G-Force, Sam Rockwell stars as the titular silver back gorilla with a knack for finger painting, but without much memory of his youth in the African wild before Mack (Bryan Cranston) bought him from a group of poachers, took him to the United States, and made him the star of his show. It is not until Ivan meets a baby elephant named Ruby (more on her soon) when he realizes that living in confinement backstage at a shopping mall circus is not an ideal environment for a jungle creature's early years. The One and Only Ivan is the Academy Award-winning actor's second voice role in 2020 after Trolls World Tour, in which he played Hickory, a bounty hunter.
Angelina Jolie (Stella)
Prior to her role in The One and Only Ivan, Angelina Jolie has provided the voice of multiple animal characters, most notably Lola in Shark Tale and the fierce warrior Tigress in the Kung Fu Panda movies, one of which also starred Bryan Cranston. This time, the Academy Award winner, who also has a producing credit on the new Disney film, plays Stella, an elderly, but sharp, elephant with a long history in the circus before a leg injury led her to become part of Mack's show, according to the original novel. In her later years at the Big Top Shopping Mall, Stella becomes a mentor in performing arts and motherly figure to a young animal of her species recently added to the show named Ruby.
Brooklynn Prince (Ruby)
Speaking of which, the driving force of The One and Only Ivan is the young elephant named Ruby, whom the star gorilla is determined to find a more suitable home for following her recent addition to the Big Top Shopping Mall. Voicing the character is Brooklynn Prince, who, at just 10, has quickly proven herself as one of Hollywood's most promising talents, from breaking out in the Oscar-nominated drama The Florida Project in 2017, directing the 12-minute short Colours in 2019, and landing the lead of the Apple TV+ mystery series Home Before Dark in 2020. Ruby is also the second animated animal Prince has provided the voice for after playing pinkish hatchling Zoe in The Angry Birds Movie 2.
Danny DeVito (Bob)
In his last movie with Disney, Tim Burton's live action take on Dumbo, Danny DeVito played the guy who ran the circus, but in The One and Only Ivan, he does not even play one of the circus acts. The beloved, 75-year-old Golden Globe winner is the voice of Bob, a stray dog who makes himself Ivan's roommate and, in some cases, his "hype man," so to speak. Not only is this the It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia star's second time playing a dog after 1993's Look Who's Talking Now, but voice acting has practically become one of DeVito's many specialties, bringing his signature growl to the an alien theme park owner threatening the Looney Tunes in Space Jam, Philoctetes in Hercules, the title role of 2012 Dr. Seuss adaptation The Lorax, and, more recently, a yeti named Dorgle in Smallfoot.
Helen Mirren (Snickers)
In 1995, Helen Mirren made her animated voice acting debut as the title character of The Snow Queen (which is, indeed, an earlier version of the same story that would inspire Disney's Frozen) and, most recently, played Nyra in Zack Snyder's Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole. The Academy Award-winning actress plays a fuzzy, white poodle named Snickers who, unlike fellow canine Bob, does have a role in Mack's circus show (primarily riding on Stella the elephant's back) and takes performing very seriously. Well, it is certainly hard to imagine a more fitting voice than the Dame Mirren's post British accent playing a four-legged diva such as this in The One and Only Ivan.
Chaka Khan (Henrietta)
Speaking of divas (and I mean that in the positive sense of the word), perhaps the most surprising name to show up in The One and Only Ivan's cast of animals is Chaka Khan, who plays a chicken named Henrietta. This is not only the voice acting debut of the legendary, Grammy-winning musician, who recently made a cameo as herself on Fox's Empire in 2019, but also her first appearance in a mainstream movie in 40 years, the first time being her small role in 1980's The Blues Brothers as a church choir singer. However, it is, technically, not her first time playing a non-human character after her stint as "Miss Monster" on Season 3 of The Masked Singer.
Ron Funches (Murphy)
In, arguably, the most fun role out of all the film's animal characters is Ron Funches, who plays Murphy, a bunny rabbit whose performance in Mack's show involves him riding around the ring in a miniature fire truck with working water hose. Despite an onscreen career that dates back only nine years, the comedian is probably the most experienced voice acting veteran out of the entire cast, with Murphy being his fourth voice role in 2020 alone, along with his reprisal of Cooper in Trolls World Tour. Previously, the former Undateable star has played characters on animated TV shows such as Adventure Time, Bojack Horseman, Apple TV+'s musical Central Park, and even Netflix's Trolls spin-off series, Trolls: The Beat Goes On!, yet The One and Only Ivan does mark Funches' first role in a "cinematic" hybrid of live action with animation.
Phillipa Soo (Thelma)
Making her voice acting debut in The One and Only Ivan, however, is Phillipa Soo, who first broke out in 2012 on NBC's short-lived tribute to Broadway, Smash, and rose greatly in popularity a few years later with the Broadway production of Hamilton, in which she originated the role of Eliza Hamilton. In the Disney movie, she plays a parrot named Thelma, but we can more than likely assume that, given her Tony Award nomination for Lin-Manuel Miranda's aforementioned musical, she probably speaks in a more soothing manner than squawking sort of way that the tropical bird is often known for. Soo also lends her voice to the role of a princess from folk legend whom an ambitious girl is determined to prove is real in the animated musical fantasy Over the Moon, which is due to premiere on Netflix in the Fall of 2020.
Mike White (Frankie)
You may be more likely to recognize Mike White from the films he has written than the ones he has acted in, even though there is, acutally, quite a bit of of overlap in that category. Among his more memorable supporting roles from films he conceived are as Jack Black's substitute teacher roommate Ned Schneebly in School of Rock, a security guard and devout Christian named Corny in The Good Girl, and as Frankie, the Big Top Shopping Mall's star seal, in The One and Only Ivan. Indeed, White is both part of the voice cast of the film, his first time in such a role, and the same person who adapted the screenplay from Katherine Applegate's book.
Which celebrity voice are you most excited to hear breathing life into the animal cast of The One and Only Ivan? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check back for additional information and updates on the Disney+ exclusive film, as well as even more inside looks at the cast members of your favorite movies and TV shows, here on CinemaBlend.
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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