Let’s face it. Disney isn’t normally knocking on musicians’ doors, asking them to join the cast of their next animated masterpiece. Yet through the years, artists such as Lou Reed, Marilyn Manson, Tom Petty, and the lovable Donny Osmond (he was a little bit rock and roll, lest we forget!) have lent their voices and talents to a few lesser-known animated films, and cartoon series as well. Whether making an animated cameo, contributing to the soundtrack, or even taking on a completely different character, you’ll find that these ten rock and roll artists have certainly left their mark on the industry. Who did we leave out?
Debbie Harry, Lou Reed, and Iggy Pop – Rock & Rule
This 1983 rock and roll-themed animated film hails from the Canadian animation studio Nelvana — which spent a whopping $8 million to crank out Rock & Rule as their feature film debut. It has received a cult following throughout the years, marketed to an adult audience for its references to drug use and some sexuality. The film takes place in a post-apocalyptic US where we find struggling band members Angel and Omar — humanoid rat people — trying to make a name for themselves in the music industry. Playing around the nightclub circuit, Angel finally wants to give her softer love ballad a chance, despite Omar’s jealousy-laden protests. Her song (which Deborah Harry performs here) catches the attention of aging rock superstar Mok — whose vocals were provided by Lou Reed — who plans on kidnapping Angel to use her voice as a means of unleashing a demon from another dimension (who was voiced by Iggy Pop). Omar and the rest of the bandmates embark on a whirlwind cat-and-mouse game, trying to reach Nuke York City (har har) in time to save Angel from Mok’s clutches. In the end, Angel learns that if her voice is powerful enough to unleash a demon, she can also use it to defeat a demon, with the help of Omar, of course. Once all has been said and done, the group proves that, together, they are the greatest rock band around.
Donny Osmond – Johnny Bravo
Johnny Bravo proved its popularity on Cartoon Network not just with its staying power, but also with special guests like Adam West (aka Batman), and much more randomly, Donny Osmond. Donny appeared more than once actually, but it was his first appearance as Johnny’s nanny in the episode “Johnny Meets Donny Osmond” — written by Seth MacFarlane — that’s worth a mention. In it, Johnny’s mother fears leaving her only full-grown son home alone without adult supervision. Enter: Donny Osmond, Mary Poppins-style (decked in ’70s attire), with some good clean fun in tow, as well as his trademark positivity — which is totally indestructible in the face of Johnny’s put-downs. Naturally, laughter ensues.
Slash – Kid Notorious
A canceled cartoon series that appeared on Comedy Central, Kid Notorious followed the adventures of film producer Robert Evans and his Hollywood friends, including his cat Puss Puss and sassy maid Tallie Mae. Keeping the cartoon to as close to real life as possible, one of Evan’s best friends and next door neighbors was Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash, who made plenty of appearances during the series’ twelve episode run. In the episode “F-You Soup,” Evans and Slash journey to the mountains of Nepal to retrieve some precious golden yak’s milk to make Slash’s famous F-You soup — which Evans deems so good that he sees it as a potential restaurant/film venture. The comedy is a bit obvious with the pop culture references, but Slash’s whisper of a voice and matter-of-fact delivery made the show all the more enjoyable.
Michael Stipe – Olive the Other Reindeer
This might bring some happiness to R.E.M. fans out there who are still crying over the band’s break-up. Michael Stipe provided some Christmas cheer as the grumpy, realistic reindeer Schnitzel in Matt Groening’s animated film adaptation of the book Olive, The Other Reindeer, written by Vivian Walsh. Now try to get Drew Barrymore’s droning dog barks and talk-singing out of your head for a second and let’s leap to the part where Schnitzel sings. Just to get you up to speed, Olive overhears on the radio that Santa will not be pulling his sleigh due to a wounded reindeer; she misinterprets Santa’s “We’ll make due with all of the other reindeer…” for “Olive the other reindeer.” Typical. Trying to get to Santa and save Christmas, Olive runs into the flightless Schnitzel and his ruffians at a bar. After a misunderstanding and reevaluation of the true meaning of Christmas, Stipe sings his side of the story with the upbeat “We’re Not So Bad.” What it really comes down to is a bad economy and no jobs available for a reindeer Stipe that can’t fly.
Marilyn Manson – Clone High
This short-lived Canadian-animated series only lived to see one season on MTV, but still managed to have some interesting special guests, including Marilyn Manson. Clone High centered around the idea of a bunch of clones created from the DNA of famous historical figures, including John F. Kennedy, Mohandas Gandhi, Cleopatra, Abe Lincoln, and Joan of Arc. Their existence is part of an elaborate military project meant to harness their strengths, while the principal at their school has ulterior motives: to make a theme park based on their cloned alter egos called “Cloney Island.” While you wrap your head around that plot, watch Marilyn Manson dance and teach us about proper nutrition! During the Clone High student body presidential debates, Abe becomes blinded by glory and decides to sell out his ideals to an energy drink company that comes to his school to fund and help win his campaign. The big debate is judged by celebrity judges, including Manson (and a wide-foreheaded Mena Suvari). In the end, Manson demonstrates his medical prowess when Gandhi falls ill from glutting on the energy drink. Who would’ve known that Manson was such a health nut?
David Bowie – Spongebob Squarepants
Who else could get a rock legend to be the voice of a cartoon character, but Bowie’s own daughter? MSNBC reported back in 2006 that his daughter Alexandria Zahra was a big fan of the show, and the two often watched the animated series together. In Bowie’s appearance on the episode “Atlantis Squarepantis,” (which you can watch here) he plays Lord Royal Highness, the Atlantian King. Spongebob, Patrick, and the gang stumble upon him on their journey to find the lost city of Atlantis. He invites them to have a look around the city, but Spongebob is much more interested in Atlantis’ world’s oldest living bubble. They try to snap a picture of it… but it pops. Lord Royal Highness assures them that it was only a decoy, and shows them the real one… which they, too, ultimately destroy, inciting the wrath of Lord Royal Highness. Unlike most celebrity guests, Bowie managed to alter his voice and make his character sound completely different. The episode reeled in over 8 million viewers when it aired on Nickelodeon.
Glenn Danzig – AquaTeen Hunger Force
Danzig’s cameo as a shirtless, brooding, younger version of himself appears in one of the most hilarious episodes Aqua Teen Hunger Force. In “Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future,” Cybernetic Ghost drives Carl crazy with his incessant stories of the holiday’s true prehistoric origins, and explains that his house is built on an elf graveyard, all while filling his pool full of elf blood. Fed up with the ghost and his random, inconsistent rambling, Carl decides not to comply with the Cybernetic Ghost’s demand — to have sex with the Great Red Ape in Space — and instead puts his house up for sale… to whom? Why, The Misfits’ Glenn Danzig, of course! Danzig not only digs the house, but envisions a more demonic atmosphere with some gargoyles placed here and there, and elf blood covering the walls. Master Shake grows jealous of the quick and easy sale of Carl’s house and soon tries to sway Danzig into purchasing their very own “haunted” house — which involved Meatwad wearing a sheet and flicking the light switch on and off.
Tom Petty – King of the Hill
When a musical artist is asked to be a part of an animated series, they usually play themselves. But when it came to Tom Petty and his recurring role on King of the Hill, he opted to play the not-too-bright, but lovable, Elroy “Lucky” Kleinschmidt — the father of Luanne’s child, who lives off of a lawsuit settlement he got after slipping on urine in a Costco. He was forced into marriage, by request, when Hank and Peggy found out that he was the father of Luanne’s baby; he also found an outlet for his musical talents by playing guitar in Johnny Redcorn’s band, Big Mountain Fudgecake.