James Earl Jones

Black History Month Spotlight: Legendary Handprints – James Earl Jones

With nearly 200 credits in film and television, and countless more on the Broadway stage, it’s hard to imagine a more recognizable voice than the rich and commanding basso profundo tones of James Earl Jones.

In 1977, as the voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars: A New Hope, Jones helped create perhaps the most indelible screen villain in decades, a role which he has continued to portray in subsequent films in the Star Wars franchise, including Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), and the Disney XD TV series Star Wars Rebels (2014–2018).

In stark contrast to his vocalization as Darth Vader, he also voiced the majestic Mufasa in Disney’s The Lion King (1994). “Doing a voice for animation is acting in its purest form. It’s a bit like the ancient Greek form where the actors would wear masks. In our case, the masks are the animators’ drawings and we just simply supply all the behaviors, emotions, and feelings behind that mask,” the actor recalled. His Mufasa would be heard again in The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1998) and The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar (2015).

Other Disney credits include Three Fugitives (1989), ABC’s Recess (1998), as the voice of Santa Claus, True Identity (1991), Jefferson in Paris (1995), segment host for Fantasia/2000 (2000), and narrator for the Disneynature film Earth (2009). His voice has been heard in Disney Parks around the globe, including recurring vocal performances as the menacing Darth Vader for Star Tours: The Adventures Continue and as a past celebrity narrator for the Candlelight Ceremony and Processional at Disneyland Park.

In 2019, Jones reprised his role as the voice of Mufasa in The Walt Disney Studios’ photo-realistic re-imagining of The Lion King, and proudly was inducted as a Disney Legend that same year.