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Talkin' Toons

Legendary Voice Actor Rob Paulsen’s Most Iconic Roles

I still remember the first moment I put together that one voice I heard on a cartoon sounded like a different voice I heard in another cartoon. Not just that they were similar, but that they were probably done by the same person. I was nine years old and I realized that the voice of the lead of my new favorite show, Mighty Max, was the same as that of Raphael from my old favorite show, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The actor behind both characters was Rob Paulsen, whose work was and remains incredibly important to kids of my age.

To celebrate Mr. Paulsen’s new show on Alpha, Talkin’ Toons, I’ve gone through his extensive and impressive list of roles, picking out my very favorites (in no particular order). And perhaps you will agree that they are indeed some of the most iconic of his or any voice actor’s career.

Raphael (and Donatello) – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I already mentioned it, so let’s get into it! Every kid growing up in the late ’80s and early ’90s had their favorite of the Ninja Turtles, often dependent on personality or mask color. And while Michelangelo surely had the highest number of fans, it was the cool-but-rude Raphael that was always my favorite. It’s because of Raphael that a generation of kids understood what sarcasm was, and for that we’ll forever be grateful. When TMNT returned in 2012, so did Rob Paulsen, though this time playing the sensitive tech brother, Donatello. And you know what? It’s great casting too!

Max – Mighty Max

Mighty Max
If you’d have told me a cartoon series based on the boys-toy version of the Polly Pocket was going to be one of the coolest sci-fi/horror/adventure series of the ’90s, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. Although I was a kid, so I’d have believed anything. Max was the teenage protagonist who was destined to wear the cosmic cap and travel through portals with his fowl mentor and ancient warrior bodyguard. Paulsen brought a modernism to the part, and again some much needed sarcasm. It’s a great show; you should watch it.

Yakko – Animaniacs

Still arguably the role Paulsen is most closely associated, the eldest and mouthiest member of the water-tower-escapees known as the Warner Brothers and the Warner Sister was the Groucho Marx of the trio, quick with the quip and always ready to sing a song. “Yakko’s World” is still the only reason I know the names of half the countries in the world (even though several of them have since accrued different names) and the “Wheel of Morality” is the way every day should end, regardless of it being a TV show or not.

Pinky – Animaniacs/Pinky and the Brain

The OTHER character Paulsen is most closely associated, Pinky has perhaps more staying power, being the naive and happy-go-lucky half of the pair of mice who try nightly to take over the world. The sort of doofy Cockney voice that Paulsen gave the character ensured people would always find him endearing opposite Maurice LaMarche’s megalomaniacal Brain. And without this character, we’d never know what a “Narf” or a “Zort” was, and that would truly be a shame for all of us.

Carl Wheezer – The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius

Carl Wheezer
I confess to being too old to have watched this show, but I remember my cousins being obsessed with it, and with Paulsen’s portrayal of Jimmy’s best friend Carl being a big reason for that. Again, Paulsen shows his innate ability to portray endlessly sympathetic characters, especially ones with weird quirks like being allergic to everything–including lettuce and plastic–and having an almost unhealthy love of llamas. What boy genius wouldn’t want Carl at his side?

PJ – Goof Troop

It’s definitely not easy having a father who is pretty much the meanest jerk in the whole wide world, but that’s what Pete Jr, a.k.a. PJ, had to contend with on the Disney Afternoon series Goof Troop. It also isn’t easy if your dad has an intense hatred of your best friend’s dad, the way Pete did with Goofy, the father of Max. Luckily PJ and Max were best buds regardless. Also, sidebar: I am just now realizing that the patriarchs’ full names were Goofy Goof and Pete Pete. I mean, Disney…what are you doing?

Throttle – Biker Mice from Mars

A total just-for-me choice, Biker Mice from Mars was one of the weirdest cartoons of the mid ’90s, following a trio of six-foot-tall mice who had ’50s B-movie antennae coming out of their heads and rode around on motorcycles, fighting mutants and aliens and stuff. Such a strange premise. Throttle was the by-the-book leader of the team and had the coolest bike and was constantly wearing shades. Paulsen did a bang-up job doing a gruff and badass voice and definitely showed his range by having almost no hints of sarcasm or insecurity at all. Versatility!

Stanley Ipkiss/the Mask – The Mask

Yes, they made a Saturday morning cartoon version of the Jim Carrey movie, and who better than Rob Paulsen to voice both Stanley, the mildest of mild-mannered bank clerks, and his alter-ego, the Tex Avery-inspired super-trickster? While the cartoon wasn’t as dark as the movie, which in turn wasn’t nearly as dark as the comics, it did have some pretty crazy animation and allowed for Paulsen to stretch his auditory muscles…and sing his own theme song, which is pretty much the dream.

Snuffles/Snowball (and also Regular Legs) – Rick and Morty

“Lawnmower Dog” was a terrific early episode of Rick and Morty and Paulsen got to play a cybernetically-enhanced dog who comes very close to taking over the world. Snuffles was the Smith family dog before rick gave him a intelligence-boosting collar, then he realized his lot in life and decided he didn’t want to go by his pet name of Snuffles…he was now and forever Snowball! Also, because I never fail to laugh at it, Paulsen also did a few voices throughout the rest of the series, including Regular Legs, the completely average cop partner of the slow-running but self-assured Baby Legs.

And there we have it! Surely you’d call these some of the finest voice performances of our times, yes? And if you like Mr. Paulsen and listening to people talk about voice acting and cartoons, then tune in to Talkin’ Toons every Friday on Alpha! Rob’s first guest is none other than the Brain himself, Maurice LaMarche. It’s a good time.

And share your picks for favorite Rob Paulsen characters in the comments below!

Images: Warner Bros/Disney/Nickelodeon/CBS/Adult Swim/Film Roman/Marvel

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. He’s written the animation retrospectives Batman: Reanimated, X-Men: Reanimated, Cowboy Rebop, and Samurai reJacked. Follow him on Twitter!

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