Mister Ed may be the best-known talking animal, but his lip-synch stinks, and frankly he’s about as funny as a set of spurs. If you want the Oliviers of the human-voiced beastie world, hearken instead unto these inspired examples:
The characters: Si and Am, the slinky Siamese cats who torment Lady in Lady and the Tramp (1955)
The vocalist: Peggy Lee — her purring rendition is the perfect mix of seductive and irksome.
Memorable line: ”We are Siamese if you please. We are Siamese you don’t please.”
The character: Shadow, an aging golden retriever traveling cross-country in Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)
The vocalist: Oscar winner Don Ameche was at the tail end of his post-Cocoon comeback when he brought poignant dignity to one of the screen’s few senior-citizen pooches.
Memorable line: ”You got a lot to learn, pup.”
The character: Stately patriarch Mufasa in The Lion King (1994)
The vocalist: James Earl Jones, who sounds as bass enhanced here as he does mechanical as the voice of Darth Vader
Memorable line: ”Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance…. We are all connected in the great circle of life.”
The character: Rodney, the guinea pig in the live-action version of Dr. Dolittle (1998)
The vocalist: Chris Rock, blistering social critic/actor/stand-up comic
Memorable line: ”I’m cute, I’m furry, and I make 500 babies a year.”
The character: Bob Bobalooba the Big Banana, a potbellied monkey about to become a father in Babe: Pig in the City (1998)
The vocalist: Steven Wright — it’s the depressive offhandedness of the readings (most dubbing actors overemote) that makes them work so well.
Memorable line: ”Fine by moi.”