Animated films are, in most cases, a fairly easy way for stars to make money: Leaving aside the Andy Serkis-level animations that capture one’s movements as well as one’s voice, most modern animated films require little more than an expressive voice.
It’s no surprise, then, that so many pop stars have cashed in on their vocal charisma with turns in kids’ films; after all, they’re accustomed to the recording studio. Here are a few stars who appeared in films, many of which made a bit less impact than the stars’ hit records. No matter: Each film opened the stars up to a new, younger audience.
Rihanna — Gratuity "Tip" Tucci, Home
In the new movie Home, Rihanna plays a young girl searching for her mother amid an alien invasion; the animated-film newcomer also contributed songs to the movie's soundtrack.
Jennifer Lopez — Lucy Tucci, Home
Home also marks a return to CGI for Lopez, who played a saber-tooth tiger in 2012’s Ice Age: Continental Drift. Lopez performs a song in the film, too, making it the rare two-fer in the animated-pop-star catalog. Most animated movies don't force their moonlighting music stars to share the spotlight.
Nicki Minaj — Steffie, Ice Age: Continental Drift
In Continental Drift, the fourth installment in the Ice Age series, Lopez played opposite Minaj, who inhabited the role of Steffie, a wooly mammoth. It clearly agreed with Minaj, who went on to make a guest appearance on the animated series Steven Universe.
Taylor Swift — Audrey, The Lorax
Swift’s acting career has been about to fully happen for years, with live-action roles in Valentine’s Day and The Giver and several Saturday Night Live cameos indicating that once the promotion cycle for her album 1989 winds down, she may just dive into acting more fully. But her most commercially successful film is one in which she doesn’t appear onscreen; Swift played the environmentalist love interest to the protagonist in this adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s 2012 green parable The Lorax.
Justin Timberlake — Boo-Boo Bear, Yogi Bear
Timberlake is by now as known for his acting as for his musicianship, but there are a few roles that are better left unremarked-upon than his animated turn as little Boo Boo in the Hanna-Barbera adaptation Yogi Bear. The 2010 film, in which animated bears played opposite real human actors, hit $100 million domestically but was critically pilloried. Timberlake was in the midst of promoting his turn in The Social Network, and managed to get away more or less unscathed.
Bruno Mars — Roberto, Rio 2
Anne Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg reprised their roles as macaws in this 2014 sequel, joined by fellow feathered friend Bruno Mars. The “Locked Out of Heaven” artist also recorded a song for the soundtrack, as did co-star Janelle Monáe.
Katy Perry — Smurfette, The Smurfs
The singer, known for her preference for bold, eye-catching colors, worked blue in the two Smurfs films, in 2011 and 2013. Perry, unlike other pop stars, generally avoids acting, making her stint as Smurfette all the more notable.
Madonna — Princess Selenia, Arthur and the Invisibles
After The Fifth Element but before Lucy, French director Luc Besson’s strange career took a turn towards entertaining kids with this 2006 CGI/live-action hybrid about a race of tiny people living in a child’s garden. Madonna was along for the ride as one “Princess Selenia,” though her role was dubbed by other nations’ pop stars for international releases of the film.
Beyoncé — Queen Tara, Epic
If not quite her Achilles’ heel, film has never been Beyoncé’s strongest suit. Though Epic, an animated fantasy adventure in which Beyoncé played the benevolent queen of the forest, was a financial hit, it was quickly overshadowed after its 2013 release by rumors of a new Beyoncé album, which came to fruition in December. She hasn’t made another movie since.
Pink — Gloria, Happy Feet Two
So what? She’s still a penguin! The singer (credited as Alecia Moore on the film’s poster) replaced the late Brittany Murphy in this 2011 Arctic-set sequel; her co-stars included fellow musician-turned-actor Common.