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Who Voices Jessie In The Toy Story Franchise? The Answer Is More Complicated Than You May Think

When it comes to the world's most iconic animated franchise, Pixar's "Toy Story" likely takes the crown. Back in 1995, audiences showed up in droves to witness the story of Buzz (voiced by Tim Allen) and Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), two toys who vie for the attention of their owner, Andy (voiced by John Morris). The film became a sensation and four years after the first "Toy Story" debuted, a sequel emerged. With "Toy Story 2," Buzz, Woody, and the rest of Andy's toybox find themselves in the middle of a brand new adventure. Considered by many to be the best film in the franchise, "Toy Story 2" introduced several new characters, including Jessie. A cowgirl from the same television show as Woody, Jessie has emerged as a fan-favorite character who adds considerable complexity to the "Toy Story" universe.

As the multimedia franchise has expanded over the years, Jessie has become a key part of the main "Toy Story" roster, standing alongside Buzz and Woody as a main player. To date, Jessie has appeared in every "Toy Story" sequel, as well as a number of made-for-tv specials, including the spooky but delightful "Toy Story of Terror!" Fans of the franchise can also find the cowgirl in a number of tie-in video games and at several rides and attractions throughout the world. Head to your local superstore and chances are that the character is populating toy aisles, as well. Wherever there is "Toy Story," fans can find Jessie.

Several different individuals have voiced Jessie throughout the years, across several different mediums, meaning each iteration of the character will sound different than the last. The answer is a bit clearer when we stick to the mainline "Toy Story" films, with Joan Cusack known as the canon voice of Jessie. 

Joan Cusack loves playing Jessie

When audiences think of Jessie, they likely think of Joan Cusack occupying the role. For over two decades, audiences have associated the "Toy Story 2" character with Cusack. To date, Cusack has reprised her speaking role as Jessie in every cinematic "Toy Story" sequel. She has also reprised her role as the cowgirl in several "Toy Story" made-for-television specials. These include the Christmas-themed "Toy Story That Time Forgot" and the Halloween-focused "Toy Story of Terror!" Audiences have also heard Cusack return as Jessie in the various short films "Toy Story Toons." Cusack continues to voice Jessie in most "Toy Story"-related promotional material, such as the "Toy Story 3" Target commercial

While speaking with Radio Disney, Joan Cusack candidly opened up about her feelings surrounding Jessie and the larger "Toy Story" franchise, which continues to be a major part of her life. "It's the best. It's the brass ring. The cream of the cop. The Oscars for kids," Cusack said. She continued by praising the studio behind "Toy Story" for creating a franchise that continues to persist. "[Pixar is] so meticulous and so thoughtful ... they believe in kids, in imagination, and play ... I feel honored to be a part of it," Cusack said. 

How does Cusack step into the role of the cowgirl Jessie? "I think it's all like believing in stuff ...  And [Jessie] really believes that her feelings are important and she really learns from her feelings," Cusack continued, before discussing the importance of channeling the Jessie inside of her. "Even me, as a mom, I can exercise those muscle. You think, 'Yes! You gotta believe in the Jessie in yourself.'" 

Though Cusack is mostly associated with Jessie, the actress isn't always around for voicing the "Toy Story" character. 

Sarah McLachlan is the musical voice of Jessie

One of the best scenes in "Toy Story 2" is when audiences see Jessie reminisce about her owner Emily, who seemingly abandoned her. In the moment, audiences are treated to a heartfelt flashback where Jessie remembers when she used to spend time with Emily. In the flashback, a song from Jessie's POV begins to play, with viewers hearing how the toy felt about her owner. It's a heartbreaking song, one that candidly has Jessie discussing her connection with Emily, and how it was broken due to various circumstances. The song, titled "When She Loved Me," was composed by Randy Newman and has become a key part of the sequel's legacy. Critically well received, the ballad was nominated for Best Original Song at the Oscars. It ultimately lost the Academy Award but managed to nab the Grammy for Best Song Written for Visual Media. 

"When She Loved Me" is sung by the iconic Sarah McLachlan. During a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), McLachlan opened up about how she managed to get the "Toy Story" gig, remembering how Newman directly offered it to her via her management. "Funny story: when that song came through our office, my manager said 'you're probably not going to like this,'" McLachlan wrote. "And so I listened to it, and I started crying right away, because Randy Newman singing that song reminded me of Kermit the Frog singing 'It's not Easy Being Green.' So I instantly fell in love with it, and I got to tell Randy that story, and he loved it too." 

McLachlan may not have reprised the musical role of Jessie, but the Canadian singer continues to be a key part of the "Toy Story" character's legacy. 

Kat Cressida also voices Jessie

When it comes to a franchise as vast and storied as "Toy Story," it can be difficult to rope in voice actors from the films to voice all instances of a character. The "Toy Story" franchises continued to persist off the big screen, with several video games and theme park rides featuring the iconic characters. When it comes to miscellaneous projects involving Jessie, there's a chance audiences are hearing storied voice actor Kat Cressida. Fans most likely remember Cressida as the voice behind Dee Dee in Cartoon Network's "Dexter's Laboratory." If you've played the "Disney Infinity" video games, you're hearing Cressida as Jessie, replacing Joan Cusack. 

Cressida has also stepped into the role of Jessie for the theme park ride "Toy Story Mania!" which is currently available at Tokyo Disney, Walt Disney World in Florida, and Disneyland in California. The voice actor continues to voice Jessie for various Disney-related projects which makes sense, considering Cressida can be heard on the theme park ride "Haunted Mansion." 

Cressida sees it as a privilege to step into the shoes of Disney's iconic characters. While speaking with ResortTV1, Cressida opened up about the excitement she feels when she sees the various action figures and collectibles of the characters she's embodied. "I'm very honored ... I certainly have nothing to do with the voices I'm lucky enough to, honored to voice... But I'm seven Funko Pops! Which is really cool," Cressida shared. "I love it when [fans] bring [Funko Pops] up to fan conventions." 

When it comes to bringing Jessie to life, across several mediums, audiences have Joan Cusack, Sarah McLachlan, and Kat Cressida to thank. 

Here's hoping Jessie returns in the upcoming "Toy Story 5."