Picks' Tribute to the Simpsons

Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie Simpson … probably the most well known cartoon family of the 90s. Who could ever forget their yellow skin, enormous overbites and bulgy eyes? Yet despite their fame, the show's animated characters would be nothing without the voice actors who bring them to life.

Dan Castellaneta Dan Castellaneta plays several characters on the Simpsons, but his biggest role is as Homer J. Simpson. A native of Chicago, Castellaneta has been acting since he was six years old and began his career on stage acting in such plays as 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and 'The Taming of the Shrew'.

Through 1983 to 1987, Dan performed at Chicago's Second City. A theatrical institution, Second City was the starting point for many Hollywood stars who were then trying to make the break from stage to screen. While performing at Second City, Dan was discovered by Tracey Ullman who offered Dan a role in a TV Series called "Nothing in Common TV." Castellaneta turned down Ullman's offer but later joined Ullman in the Tracy Ullman Show.

Aside from playing Homer, Dan is also the voice for other characters on the show including Krusty the Klown, Barney Gumble, Abe Simpson, Groundskeeper Willie, Mayor Quimby, Hans Moleman, Sideshow Mel and other bit characters. Aside from his work on the Simpsons, Dan has lent his voice to hundreds of commercials. Other acting credits include roles in movies such as The Client, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, Plump Fiction and voice work for "The Return of Jafar." Simpson, Groundskeeper Willie, Mayor Quimby, Hans Moleman, Sideshow Mel and other bit characters. Aside from his work on the Simpsons, Dan has lent his voice to hundreds of commercials. Other acting credits include roles in movies such as The Client, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, Plump Fiction and voice work for "The Return of Jafar."

Julie KavnerBest known for her role as 'Brenda' on the television show, Rhoda, Julie Kavner is the voice behind the character with the big blue hair - Marge Bouvier Simpson. Of all her fellow cast members, Julie is probably the most recognizable considering her extensive and impressive list of acting credits. From 1971 to 1978, she played the role of Brenda and won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in 1978 for her work on Rhoda.

In 1987, Julie co-starred on the Tracey Ullman Show, which later led to her role on the Simpsons. Aside from Marge, Julie also provides the voice for Marge's chain smoking sisters, Selma and Patty, Jacqueline Bouvier and Aunt Gladys.

Over the years, Kavner has also had roles in several movies including Awakenings, Forget Paris, I'll Do Anything and Nora Ephron's This Is My Life. Kavner has also done a lot of work with director Woody Allen; she has been in several of Allen's movies including Hannah and Her Sisters, New York Stories, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Don't Drink the Water and a score other films. Kavner has also lent her voice to the recent video release "Dr. Doolittle" which starred Eddie Murphy.

Yeardley SmithYeardley Smith is the voice of the Simpson's middle child, Lisa. Yeardley's acting career began shortly after graduating in 1982 when she landed a role on Broadway's "The Real Thing" which also starred Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons. In fact, it was Yeardley's theatrical performances that got her noticed by the Simpson's Casting Director, Bonita Pietila. It was Yeardley's unique voice that caught Pietila's attention and later called Smith to audition for the show. Both Nancy Cartwright and Smith read for the part of Bart Simpson, but Yeardley was later cast as "Lisa."

Yeardley has had several roles in both television and movies. She played the role of "Connie" in Stephen King's "Maximum Drive" in 1986 and also had roles in such films as "The Legend of Billie Jean", "City Slickers", "As Good as it Gets" and "Toys." Yeardley has also had roles in such television series as "Herman's Head", "The Tracey Ullman Show" and of course, "The Simpsons." Yeardley has also done several guest appearances in shows like Murphy Brown, Dharma and Greg, Mama's Family and a score of others.

Nancy CartwrightBart's a girl?! For those of you who didn't know (where have you been??!), Nancy Cartwright plays the underachieving and somewhat obnoxious Bart Simpson. But before her 'gig' as Bart, Nancy had much experience with voice work and acting.

As a child, Nancy enjoyed doing imitations and performances for her classmates. In her senior high school year, Nancy traveled with a theater group and at graduation, she earned a scholarship to Ohio University. Nancy later decided to study at UCLA for a degree in Theatre Arts. She landed her first role on the animated series, "Richie Rich" as the voice of Gloria.

Nancy joined the cast of the Tracey Ullman Show in 1987 and then joined the Simpsons as Bart. Although Bart is her main role on the show, Nancy is also the voice of other popular characters including Nelson, Todd Flanders, Ralph Wiggum, Kearney and a few others.

Nancy's voice has been featured in a variety of cartoons including Snorks, Pound Puppies, My Little Pony, Glo-Friends, Fantasy Max and of course, the Simpsons. Nancy has also had roles in a variety of movies including: "Twilight Zone -- The Movie," "Flesh and Blood," and "UnderCover." She has also had roles in several of Leave It To Beaver.

Harry ShearerIn the 60s, Shearer attended UCLA and was editor of the school's humor magazine. In the late 60s and early 70s Harry and three others formed a comedy group called "The Credibility Gap." This comedy troupe toured colleges and clubs, made two LPs and several appearances on television. Harry also created "Le Show" - a 16-year-old national radio broadcast that showcases Harry's humor.

Harry was a creator and a star of the hit rockumentary, This Is Spinal Tap. He was also a writer and cast member of Saturday Night Live for two seasons. Some of his other on-screen performances include roles in the films: The Right Stuff, Godzilla, The Truman Show, The Fisher King, Wayne's World II and Pure Luck.

Harry Shearer is the voice of several Springfield residents including the powerful, yet ruthless Montgomery Burns. His voice also breathes life into such characters as Smithers, Otto, Kent Brockman, Ned Flanders, Dr. Hibbert and many more.

Hank AzariaHank Azaria is another star, like Shearer, who plays several characters on the Simpsons. Characters such as Apu, Moe, Chief Wiggum, Professor Frink, Dr. Nick, the Comic Book Guy are just a few of this actor's specialty characters.

Azaria, a native of Forest Hills in New York, began his training for acting at the prestigious America Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. At Columbia University he played the title role in the production of Shakespeare's Hamlet and later appear in such productions at the Merchant of Venice and The Dumb Waiter at Tufts University. After moving to Los Angeles, Azaria experimented in sketch comedy and improvisation at local comedy clubs.

Hank's film career has included roles in movies such as "Pretty Woman", "Heat", "The Birdcage", "Godzilla", "Mystery Alaska", "The Simpsons Movie". He has had roles in television programs including: Family Ties, Growing Pains, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Friends, Mad About You and many more.