Ever since Robin Williams was cast as the voice of the Genie in Aladdin, it's become standard operating procedure for major animated films to cast big name actors in important voice roles, rather than the professional voice actors that was the standard previously. Thanks to Williams, we have the likes of Tom Hanks in the Toy Story films and Dwayne Johnson voicing Maui in Moana, but it turns out that it's not just in English that some major names you know voiced characters in popular Disney and Pixar films.
In many cases, this work was done "before they were stars," as it were. In other cases, we see celebrity cameos pop for small roles in nations where the cameo will mean a little something more than it might in the USA. And sometimes it seems the role was given celebrity casting in other nations for the same reason it was done here: because adding a star can help attract the audience. Here are 10 times that celebrities voices Disney and Pixar characters in other languages.
Mads Mikkelsen - Chick Hicks and Randall Boggs (Danish)
Mads Mikkelsen had been working in his native Denmark for several years before he came to prominence in Hollywood as the villain in 2006's Casino Royale, but the same year he was a James Bond villain, he was also the antagonist for Lightning McQueen, as Mikkelsen voiced Chick Hicks in the Danish version of Cars. However, that wasn't even Mikkelsen's fist gig with Pixar, as the actor was also the voice of another animated bad guy a few years prior, when he voiced Randall Boggs in Monsters Inc. Apparently even back then Mikkelsen was especially good at playing the bad guy. Mads Mikkelsen did reprise the role of Chick Hicks for Cars 3, which Michael Keaton did not do in English (Bob Peterson performed the role in that language instead).
Jean Reno - Mufasa (French)
Of all the celebrity voices who have appeared in Disney movies throughout the years, one of the most iconic has to be James Earl Jones' performance as Mufasa in The Lion King. Any other actor was going to have big shoes to fill when trying to follow that. However, in France, they found a very fitting choice in The Professional himself, Jean Reno. The French clearly loved Reno's performance as Mufasa just as much as we loved James Earl Jones, because like Jones, when it came time to voice the character of Mufasa for the Lion King remake, Jean Reno returned to do to the job again.
Daniel Brühl - Lightning McQueen (German)
Most people know Daniel Brühl as Zemo in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and while American audiences could have been introduced to the actor earlier in his career, back in 2006, he was still very much working in his native Germany. It was here where he was tapped to provide the voice for Lightning McQueen in the German dub of Cars. So in English, Lightning sounds like Owen Wilson, but in German, he sounds like Daniel Bruhl. Who got the better Lightning? Unfortunately the German dub of Cars is not currently available on Disney+ in the U.S., so we can't be quite sure right now.
Ricky Martin - Hercules (Spanish - Latin America)
When 1997's Hercules came out, the voice actor playing the title role likely wouldn't have raised many eyebrows in the English-speaking world, as Ricky Martin was still two years away from his first English language pop hit. But in Latin America, he was already a pretty big star, so getting chosen to voice Hercules in Spanish was probably a pretty big deal to that audience. Also, since Martin could actually sing, it means there's a Ricky Martin version of the underrated Disney song "Go the Distance," in case the English language Michael Bolton version doesn't do it for you.
Sophia Loren - Mama Topolino (Italian)
Sometimes when a big name star is brought in to voice an animated character, it's for one of the key roles. But sometimes you'll see, or in this case hear, a major celebrity show up in little cameo roles, where you might not even realize the voice you're getting is somebody super famous. This was done in Cars 2 when six-time Oscar nominee Vanessa Redgrave played the small role of Mama Topolino in English. However, it was also done in Italian, as for that dub of the film, the character was voiced by another Oscar winner, the great Sophia Loren.
Max Von Sydow - Zeus (Swedish)
It was just last year that the world lost a great talent in the incomparable Max Von Sydow. The two-time Academy Award nominee will probably be known, first and foremost, either for his role as Ming in Flash Gordon or as Father Merrin in The Exorcist. He put together an incredible filmography over his career, but one role that most likely don't know about was that he voiced Hercules' father Zeus, or at least he did if you heard the audio track in Swedish. Considering that the role was played by Rip Torn in English, who was a very different sort of actor, I can only imagine how this changed the character.
Giancarlo Giannini - Carl Friedriksson (Italian)
Ok, so Giancarlo Giannini maybe isn't a household name that every movie fan is going to recognize. However, anybody who has seen the Daniel Craig-era James Bond movies, especially Casino Royale, will recognize him in the role of René Mathis. However, Italian audiences know his voice quite well, as Giannini built a strong career dubbing American movies for Italian audiences. He's the Italian Jack Nicholson, as he dubbed for the actor in both The Shining and Batman. But he's also the Italian Carl Fredrickson, as he performed the voice of the lead in Pixar's Up for Italian audiences.
Demián Bichir - Aladdin (Spanish - Latin America)
Fans probably most recently saw Demián Bichir on the big screen (or on HBO Max) in Godzilla vs. Kong, or they remember him from recent films like Alien: Covenant or The Hateful Eight. However, before he was making his mark on Hollywood, he was part of Disney Character Voices International, the side of the company responsible for dubbing movies. Through this system, many of the same voice actors ended up voicing many different Disney characters over a period of years. Demián Bichir was the voice of both Prince Eric and Chef Louis in The Little Mermaid, but his biggest Disney voice role was when he created the Spanish language lead in Aladdin.
Catherine Deneuve - Abigail Hardscrabble (French)
As with Vanessa Redgrave and Sofia Loren before them, another pair of grand dames of cinema tag-teamed across an ocean to bring a character to life for a Pixar sequel in Monsters University. The voice of Dean Abigail Hardscrabble was performed by Helen Mirren for the English language version of the film, but in France, the role was given to the great Catherine Deneuve.
Omar Sy - Joe Gardner (French)
Omar Sy is one of the youngest names on this list, but the actor is well on his way to putting together a filmography to rival everybody else here. Following getting noticed in The Intouchables, Omar Sy appeared as Bishop in X-Men: Days of Future Past and as the voice of Hot Rod in Transformers: The Last Knight. He'll be seen next year in Jurassic World: Dominion, but he was very recently heard in Pixar's Soul, if you listen in French, as he voiced the role of lead character Joe Gardner in France. This wasn't his first Disney voice acting experience though, as he also voiced one of the rams in Brother Bear and a couple of different animals in Bolt.
English is certainly seen as the definitive performance when it comes to Disney or Pixar voice acting, but we're not the only ones that get major celebrities to voice characters. Unfortunately, while some of these audio dubs are available on Disney+, others are not, so we can't actually hear what these performances sound like, but maybe they'll get added at some point down the road, because who doesn't want to hear Mads Mikkelsen in Monsters Inc?
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CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis. Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.