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Vibrant voices ; Some famous names voice the characters in 'Toy Story 3'

The animated toys Jessie, Mrs. Potato Head, Hamm and Barbie face a new adventure with "Toy Story 3," opening today in area theaters, and have brought along some friends: Ken, Buttercup the Unicorn and Trixie the Triceratops. The new 3-D animated release sends the odd collection of toys on an adventure when their owner, Andy, packs for college.

Equally as diverse as the toys are the actors who give them their voices. Here's a quick look at some of the talent behind "Toy Story 3."

*Joan Cusack

Voices: The cowgirl Jessie

Previous credits: Starred in "Addams Family Values" and on "Saturday Night Live."

Favorite toy as a child: Barbie Makeup Head.

It's been more than a decade since Cusack first spoke for Jessie, but she had no trouble slipping back into the voice.

"Some of her voice is just inherent in that cowboy genre. There's a certain feeling -- a wide-eyed, can-do attitude, Americana thing," Cusack says. "Some of doing her voice is just being a kid. Kids are so alive and so feeling. There's a lot of emotion in the way children are and it's fun to get to that."

*Michael Keaton

Voices: The clothes-crazy Ken.

Previous credits: Played the crazed "Beetlejuice" in 1988 and helped issue in the comic book/movie genre in 1989 with "Batman."

Favorite toy as a child: Lincoln Logs.

Keaton's worked as a voice talent on a few projects, including Pixar's "Cars" as Chick Hicks. Because Keaton's so expressive with his face, hands and body, he found voice work challenging.

"When John Lassiter directed me in 'Cars,' he had to bring me up to speed as to how this all works," says Keaton. "This was easier, but it was still difficult because I felt like several of the tools I use were taken away from me."

*Jodi Benson

Voices: The opportunistic Barbie.

Previous credits: The voice of Ariel in all of "The Little Mermaid" projects.

Favorite toy as a child: Barbie.

When Benson, who looks like a live version of Barbie, isn't working as an animated project voice talent, she can be found on stage. The singer made her Broadway debut in "Marilyn: An American Fable" and continues to tour the country performing Disney and Broadway tunes.

"I approach each the same way," says Benson. "I treat voice work like getting a role in a Broadway show. I just get behind the microphone and begin to act out the character. The physical part helps me better understand the character."

*John Ratzenberger

Voices: The piggy bank Hamm.

Previous credits: Played the beloved Cliff Clavin on "Cheers" and has voiced characters in 11 Pixar movies.

Favorite toy as a child: Old radios he could rebuild.

Ratzenberger, who jokingly accepts being called the company's good luck charm, considers it an honor he's been able to work on so many Pixar movies because of the high-quality production.

His theory of why the "Toy Story" franchise has been so popular: The films remind adults of the special bond they had with toys.

*Estelle Harris

Voices: The feisty Mrs. Potato Head.

Previous credits: George Costanza's mom on "Seinfeld."

Favorite toy as a child: Monopoly.

Harris has worked as a voice talent on "Hercules," "The Wild Thornberrys," "Family Guy" and "Brother Bear." She says her work on the "Toy Story" movies has been a joy.

"You can laugh and cry and enter their world," Harris says. "It's got everything."

*Jeff Garlin

Voices: The colorful unicorn Buttercup.

Previous credits: Plays Larry David's agent in the TV comedy "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

Favorite toy as a child: Captain America doll.

The burly Garlin wasn't surprised when he was approached to voice a cute unicorn rather than a more manly toy. He says that kind of surprise voice casting is an example of the creative thinking at Pixar.

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