Jan Rabson voices Jan Rabson voices

You probably haven’t heard the name Jan Rabson, but you’ve no doubt heard his voice in some of the most popular animated features of all time. A versatile and prolific voice actor who appeared in blockbuster films, series, and video games, Rabson passed away on October 13 after suffering a heart attack. He was 68.

Born in East Meadow, New York, on June 14, 1954, Rabson left his home state in his 20s, moving to L.A. with dreams of becoming an actor. Over the next four decades, he realized that dream with a career that included dozens of credits in major films and tv series, both as an on-camera actor and a voice-over actor.

According to his wife Cindy, “[Rabson] was bigger than life with a laugh that came from the deepest part of his being and became infectious to all hearing it. He was a creative, out-of-the-box thinker and had a brilliant sense of humor. He kept a playful spirit throughout his 68 years of life and a childlike wonderment about virtually everything. He was one of a kind!”

Rabson in an appearnance on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson."
Rabson in an appearnance on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”

Among his most enduring roles, Rabson voiced Tetsuo in the original English-language dub of the 1988 classic Akira, distributed by Streamline Pictures, and Larry Laffer in the cult favorite adult game franchise Leisure Suit Larry.

But outside of the occasional lead credit, Rabson earned a living as a journeyman actor who performed blink-and-you’ll-miss-them voice-over roles, particularly in big-budget animated films. He worked for Pixar for decades, providing voices in their films, shorts, video games, and various other projects. For example, in Monsters, Inc., Rabson performed the Japanese sushi chef at Harryhausen’s who yells out, “There’s a kid here; a human kid!” In Cars, Rabson appears in the end credits as T.J. Hummer (“Yo, I’ve never been off-road!”)

According to various online resources, Rabson performed a town cryer in Blue Sky Studios’ Horton Hears a Who!, green army men in Toy Story 3, male gorilla #9 in Disney’s Tarzan, Lord Farquaad’s guards and hunter #6 in Shrek, evil Minions in Minions, and “additional voices” in The Iron Giant, The Lion King, Polar Express, Wall-E, Ice Age: The Meltdown, and countless more.

Across his many experiences as an actor, Rabson cited the work he did for the early Pixar films as one of his fondest memories, recalling in a recent interview:

One of the most fun things, I think, when it first started was when Pixar started with Toy Story and I got to work on Toy Story 1 and 2 and all their shorts. Working with Pixar then, it was this young, fun, new company. The first day when I came home, I said to Cindy, my wife, “I’ve just worked for the new Steamboat Willie.” What Steamboat Willie was to the twenties and thirties, this is the newest thing. It was just so crazy. And John Lasseter was so much fun. The way we worked, we were looping the film, and normally you loop a film, you do all the voices, this and that, but it was so different the way John had us do it. He really had us pick out voices and audition for voices; it was beyond fun for so many years working for Pixar. That was a great set.

Besides his feature animation credits, Rabson also appeared in animated tv series across the decades, offering supporting performances in series such as Rugrats, Animaniacs, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic, Pinky and the Brain, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Voice actor Bob Bergen, who performed alongside Rabson on many occasions throughout the years, posted on Facebook, “So sorry to hear today we lost Jan Rabson. So talented. So funny. Such a sweetheart!”

Rabson is survived by his wife, Cindy Akers Rabson; his sons, Adler Keane Rabson and Hayden Jace Rabson; and his brother, Froman Rabson.

Pictured at top: Akira, Leisure Suit Larry, green army men in Toy Story 3

Jamie Lang

Jamie Lang is the Editor-in-Chief of Cartoon Brew.