‘Once Upon a Studio’ Reunites Original Disney Cast Members

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Genie in Once Upon a Studio

Credit: Josh Gad Instagram

The amount of talent behind Once Upon a Studio is the most ambitious project thus far for Disney’s 100th anniversary, but it’s really incredible to know who came back for one more performance.

Once Upon a Studio reunites hundreds of characters
Credit: Disney

Walt Disney Picture’s cavalcade of cherished animated characters has been with most fans since infancy, and the legacy of beloved films is what keeps the studio’s status as a household name. However, Once Upon a Studio did much more than the standard Disney fan service far beyond just Mickey Mouse.

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Not only did Once Upon a Studio bring legions of Disney’s best characters to life, but it also pulled some of the studio’s most dedicated voice actors together to reprise their roles one more time. That might sound pretty standard in some circles, but it’s honestly remarkable seeing the big names Disney called back to the booth.

All the Classic Disney Characters Return for Once Upon a Studio

@waltdisneyworldparks

A behind the scenes look at Disney’s Once Upon A Studio. Bringing together 100 years of voices with a familiar face or two #disney100 #mickeymouse #onceuponastudio #waltdisney

♬ original sound – DisneyWorldTom

Chances are that Disney undoubtedly had no trouble getting more current performers such as Josh Gad (Olaf), Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman (as Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde, respectively), and Ariana Debose brings Disney’s newest princess to life as Asha. However, what many longtime fans might not have expected was how many surviving original cast members came back for the  Disney short film.

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Once Upon a Studio relies tremendously on its voice cast, and although most of its cast of hundreds was brought to life through archival and reconstructed recordings, several performers came out of the woodwork to lend their voices once more. Even this dedicated Disney fan wasn’t expecting such an enormous turnout.

Original Voices Reunited for Once Upon a Studio

Once Upon a Studio reunites Disney animated characters
Credit: Disney Studios

While the previously mentioned names have been working with the Walt Disney Company for some time now, many of the surviving performers listed in the cast list date as far back as before the Disney Renaissance. Take a look at this gathering of Disney greats and see how much of your childhood has returned for an unforgettable family photo.

Tony Anselmo (Donald Duck)

Donald as he appeared in DuckTales
Photo credit: Disney

Next to contemporaries like the late Ray Allwine and Russi Taylor, Tony Anselmo is one of the original voice actors for Disney’s Fab Five (Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto) who have been with the company since Eisner was in office. Replacing Donald Duck’s original voice actor, Clarence Nash, Anselmo has maintained the role for nearly every Donald appearance since the ’80s.

From DuckTales to Kingdom Hearts, Anselmo has kept Donald continuously quacking since he first assumed the role. Naturally, his distinctly duckish performance has stuck with the Disney studio since he first landed on the scene. Of course he’d reprise his role for something as monumental as Once Upon a Studio

Jodi Benson (Ariel)

ariel smiles at a dinglehopper little mermaid
Credit: Disney

Jodi Benson has one of the longest careers out of any Disney voice actor, and she’s definitely made a name for herself since first stepping behind the mic. Although she’s since had other roles with the studio, she will forever be known as the studio’s favorite redhead, Ariel.

Benson established her animated immortality early when she landed the role of the titular little mermaid. Being the star of the film that launched the Disney Renaissance is definitely a great way to kickstart your stardom, and she’s been Ariel’s enchanted voice ever since.

Paige O’Hara (Belle)

Belle (Paige O'Hara) and Beast (Robby Benson) in 'Beauty and the Beast'
Credit: Disney

Like Jodi Benson, Paige O’hara is another Disney royal that has reprised her role on multiple occasions. Originating the role of Belle in 1991’s Beauty and the Beast, the actress practically redefined what a Disney princess could be.

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O’Hara’s performance as the bookish and brainy Belle is definitely one of the studio’s most recognizable and iconic characters. Easily a step above studio regulars like Snow White and Aurora, Belle’s presence and personality wouldn’t be possible without the performance behind the mic.

Robby Benson (The Beast)

Image of the Beast covered in birds
Credit: Disney

Of course, what would a Beauty and the Beast reunion be without the titular Beast. Robby Benson might be known to some audiences for his performance in Ode to Billy Joe (1976), but most will undoubtedly remember him for being the soul of a Beast who finally understood what it means to love.

Like his princess counterpart, the actor helped reinvent the Disney fairytale. By making audiences fall in love with a large, hairy monster, he redefined character norms. Although Benson has since branched out beyond the medium of animation, becoming a writer, novelist, activist, and much more, he will always be known as the heart of the Beast.

Richard White (Gaston)

Gaston strokes his chin and stares at his reflection in the mirror
Credit: Disney

In any other film, Gaston would have been the conquering hero who gets the girl, the gold, and the glory, but that was not the case for Beauty and the Beast. Gaston is a comical and over-the-top embodiment of toxic masculinity, but he wouldn’t have had nearly the impact he had if it wasn’t for Richard White.

Like so many Disney actors, White is a prominent performer of both stage and screen, but Gaston is undoubtedly his most famous role. The actor even reprised his role in the recent Disney Princess special, once more proving his villainous chops.

Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh)

Pooh and his honey jars
Credit: Disney

Jim Cummings is a voice actor that truly deserves some sort of major award, as his list of roles (with and without Disney) is a mile long. While he’s technically not the original voice for his iconic Disney character, he’s perhaps held the role the longest out of anyone.

If you were born between 1988 and 2023, Cummings’ portrayal of Winnie the Pooh (and likely Tigger as well) is likely the one you’ve grown up with all your life. Having maintained the role for nearly all his core performances, the veteran voice actor has practically established cinematic immortality for his work as the willy-nilly, silly, old bear.

Bill Farmer (Goofy)

Goofy making a silly face in A Goofy Movie
Credit: Disney

Like Tony Anselmo, Bill Farmer has been the man behind the Goof for decades, and his performance is likely the one most Disney fans have known from a very young age. As one of the original voice actors from the Eisner days, his longevity with the studio has earned him more than enough acclaim.

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Along with voicing Mickey Mouse’s faithful dog, Pluto, Farmer has brought Goofy to life since replacing Hal Smith and Will Ryan in 1987. Since then, he’s been hyucking things up for every major Goofy appearance from the Disney Parks to the big and small screens. Simply put, it’s the role that has lasted him a lifetime.

Tom Hulce (Quasimodo)

Quasimodo in 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' (1996)
Credit: Disney

Easily one of the most underrated performances in Disney history, Tom Hulce was cast in the titular role of Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) after the success of such hits as the iconic Amadeus (1984) and his work on the Broadway stage. One of the undoubtedly many unexpected performances in the special, Hulce lent his vocal prowess to Quasimodo once again. 

What makes Hulce’s performance so special is the amount of character he brings back to the role. Using the same energy as his emotional “Out There” from Hunchback, Hulce delivers a segment of “When You Wish Upon a Star” that could move the brass of the cathedral’s belfry.

Jeremy Irons (Scar)

simba and scar the lion king
Credit: Disney

Like Hulce, Jeremy Irons reprising his Disney role for such a short time was definitely unexpected. Irons was a major name in the realms of theatre, movies, and television before he got involved with the Walt Disney Company, so seeing him actually return just to deliver his iconic line as Scar was a delightful surprise.

If fans aren’t familiar with his previous work, they definitely know his delectably devious performance as Scar in The Lion King (1994). Even though his appearance was brief, the studio’s rogues gallery of villains wouldn’t be complete without him.

Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas)

Pocahontas holds John Smith's hand as he lays down.
Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios

Disney’s adaptation of Pocahontas (1995) might not have aged the greatest, but that doesn’t mean its performances weren’t memorable. Although Irene Bedard was the original voice of the film’s lead character, Judy Kuhn provided the singing voice for Pocahontas and came back to reprise her role for the short.

Since Pocahontas is primarily known for the film’s song, “Colors of the Wind,” it makes sense that Disney would want to bring her voice to the chorus of hundreds for the grand finale. Needless to say, she certainly came back with a triumphant performance.

Nathan Lane (Timon)

timon and pumbaa running at the viewer
Credit: Disney

When it comes to Disney sidekicks, Nathan Lane has one of the longest amongst the rest of his peers. Where modern audiences might immediately conjure images of Frozen’s Olaf, longtime Disney fans are still rooting for the animal antics of Timon and Pumbaa from The Lion King (1994).

Alongside his fellow performer, Ernie Sabella (Pumbaa), Lane has portrayed Timon consistently for years. Although veteran voice actors like Quinton Flynn and Kevin Shaun have assumed the role in TV Shows and video games, Lane has reprised the role in the core Lion King films, video games, and specials like Once Upon a Studio. 

James Woods (Hades)

Hades used as an alt pic for Once Upon a Studio
Credit: Disney

It’s no secret, the role of Hades was practically tailor-made for James Woods. Wood’s slick and smarmy persona makes him a great villain actor, and Disney definitely made the right choice casting him as the Lord of the Dead for Hercules (1997).

Since then, Woods has completely made Hades his own, reprising him in nearly every appearance since the original movie, and the character wouldn’t be the same without his smooth and shady delivery. Next to characters like Maleficent and Jafar, he’s easily one of the quintessential Disney villains, of course he’d come back for one more round.

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Walt Disney Animation has brought magic to the lives of multiple generations, and the performances that gave these characters their distinct voices, personalities, and souls are beyond iconic. Without them, the characters might not be the beloved childhood figures we know and love. Once Upon a Studio definitely went above and beyond the call of duty to bring that magic back to the forefront.

Did your favorite character make a comeback? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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