Saturday, 18 January 2014

Saturday Morning Cartoons - The Voice Of Neeson

I'm not sure why, but I've always had a weird affinity for Liam Neeson.

My favourite movie of all time is Sam Raimi's Darkman (1990), which starred a young Liam Neeson as the title hero. It wasn't based on a comic book, but I still consider it to be the best comic book movie ever made. (although there was a Marvel comic series that followed)  I think that may have set off my obsession. In it, he gives a completely insane, over-the-top performance. Laughable at times, but he stays the course - delivering the voice of the bandaged and badly burnt Darkman with such ferocious instability, you can practically hear his Irish spittle splattering all over the microphone.

It's the voice, man! That voice coupled with the gruff, no nonsense exterior is what has turned Liam Neeson into the 1980's version of Clint Eastwood. In movies anyway. But this persona has also turned him into an unintentional comedy star as well. That no-nonsense gruffness is what makes material like his guest turn in Life's Too Short so fall-down hilarious. And that unexpected comedy is now transcending into cartoons.

Liam Neeson could become the next Mel Blanc. Except Liam Neeson only has 1 voice - Liam Neeson. Maybe it's a forced interest that all actors consider as they get older and the crow's feet start to spread out over the screen in unforgiving hi-def. But I'd like to think that he takes these roles because his friends and family keep urging him to do weird and unexpected things. Because he's Liam Neeson. Whatever the case, I was surprised to learn that he did voice work in The Nut Job, which just hit theatres yesterday. In it, he portrays a raccoon. Because why not? He's Liam Neeson.

I only hope the movie is as funny as this b-roll is.

Three weeks later, Liam Neeson will be heard as Good Cop, Bad Cop in The LEGO Movie, directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. I have high hopes for this film based on the fact that Phil Lord and Chris Miller were responsible for making one of the most entertaining CG animated films in recent memory, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs. (which you may recall me gushing about last year

Just try to suppress your laughter when Liam Neeson pops up at the 1:43 mark in the below trailer.

When did Liam Neeson suddenly become The King of Cartoons? Well, it looks to have started in 2005, when he did a guest spot on an episode of The Simpsons called 'The Father, The Son and The Holy Guest Star'. Neeson, appropriate to his Northern Ireland roots, played Father Sean.

Liam Neeson then did an English voice overdub for Fujimoto, in Disney's 2008 North American release of Ponyo, directed by animation legend, Hayao Miyazaki. (who also directed such classics as My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away)  Neeson seems to be a fan.

In 2011, Neeson reprised his role (in animated form) as Qui-Gonn Jinn in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Neeson appeared in 2 episodes, 'Ghosts of Mortis' and 'Overlords'. (PS: That is NOT Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan Kenobi)

Last year, Neeson could be heard in select theatres in Khumba, a South African film about a zebra who goes out into the world to, literally, earn his stripes. Neeson portrayed Phango, a vicious leopard who terrorizes the other animals of the Great Karoo. 

Next up for Neeson is The Prophet, an animated film by Roger Allers (The Lion King) based on a classic 1923 book of poetic essays by Kahlil Gibran. The movie will be comprised of various shorts done by animation directors from around the world, including Tomm Moore (The Secret of Kells), Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville), Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis) and Bill Plympton (I Married A Strange Person!) - just to name a few.

I love that Liam Neeson's voice is interchangeable, regardless of whether or not he's playing a good guy or a bad guy. He's just Liam Neeson. That said, I think that's why most people don't really know what to make of him. Maybe that's why it took me so long to release this next clip was a joke.

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