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Why Mr. Gao From Turning Red Sounds So Familiar

Pixar's "Turning Red" has finally debuted on Disney+, bringing with it a heartwarming coming-of-age story about a young girl and her relationship with her mother. Directed by Domee Shi (who also directed the Pixar short film "Bao"), the film follows a young girl named Meilin (Rosalie Chiang) as she comes to grips with a curse that causes her to turn into an enormous red panda whenever she gets overly excited or emotional. This brings her into conflict with her overbearing mother (Sandra Oh), who wants Meilin to get rid of the curse rather than embrace it.

One character from "Turning Red" whose voice likely sounds familiar to audiences is that of Mr. Gao — the kind old man who performs the ritual to trap the panda spirit. That is because the character is portrayed by Hollywood legend James Hong, an actor who has been working in voiceover and live-action roles for decades. With such a lengthy list of IMDb credits to his name, now is the time to dive deep and take a look at some of the performances that fans likely will recognize Hong's voice from.

He voiced Chi Fu in Mulan

One of the earliest voiceover roles that audiences may recognize James Hong from is his work on the 1998 Disney classic, "Mulan." In the film, the actor provides the voice of Chi-Fu. Introduced early in the film, Chi-Fu is an advisor to the emperor who summons the soldiers of China to join against the impending invasion. Despite his patriotism, the character is portrayed as incredibly elitist and pompous, talking down to those around him. That said, by the end of the movie, he grows to respect Mulan as a warrior and commends her for her actions saving the emperor.

Following the release of "Mulan" in 1998, Hong went on to reprise the role of Chi-Fu once more in the "Mulan" tie-in video game. Moreover, while an analog to Chi-Fu does appear in the 2020 live-action remake of "Mulan" directed by Niki Caro, the character is not overtly referred to as Chi-Fu. That iteration of the character is portrayed by Nelson Lee.

He voiced Azmorigan in Star Wars Rebels

James Hong has appeared in numerous franchises and beloved series over the course of his career. He has even worked in what could arguably be considered the most influential sci-fi franchise of all time: "Star Wars." Specifically, Hong provided the voice of Azmorigan — a crime lord operating in the Outer Rim prior to the events of the original trilogy. The character had a three-episode arc on "Star Wars Rebels" between 2015 and 2016, and while there is no confirmation that there are plans for him to enter the live-action "Star Wars" canon anytime soon, the increasing integration of Dave Filoni characters into live-action make it very possible.

Hong's role in "Star Wars Rebels" is not the only time he provided his voice to a project in a galaxy far, far away. In fact, in 2021, the actor took on an additional voiceover role for the Disney+ series "Star Wars: Visions," which allowed different creators to put an anime-style spin on the "Star Wars" franchise. However, that role was notably smaller than his performance as Azmorigan on "Star Wars Rebels."

He has voiced numerous video game characters

Over the course of his career as a voiceover actor, James Hong has appeared in numerous video games across a wide range of genres and platforms. These roles include the role of Premier Chen in "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" as well as multiple roles in "Diablo III." More recently, he worked on characters for the 2017 video game "Prey" and the 2018 video game "Judgement."

Some of the video games that Hong has provided voiceover work for stemmed from his on-screen projects. The actor has frequently helped with voice work for tie-in video game projects to movies that he has worked on, in animation as well as live-action. One notable example of this is the fact that he reprised his role as Dr. Hannibal Chew from "Blade Runner" for the 1997 video game adaptation a full 15 years after the release of the now-iconic Ridley Scott film.

He voiced Mr. Ping in the Kung Fu Panda universe

James Hong has arguably become most well-known for his performance as Mr. Ping in the "Kung Fu Panda" franchise. The father of the series protagonist Po (Jack Black), Mr. Ping is a duck who owns a noodle shop in the Valley of Peace. Initially, he wants to see Po take over the shop and carry on the family business. However, as the franchise progresses, he becomes increasingly supportive of Po's journey as a master martial artist, especially as Po's legacy helps business.

The first "Kung Fu Panda" movie debuted in 2008, and Mr. Ping has been a consistent character in the franchise ever since. He has appeared in all of the mainline entries in the series, as well as additional "Kung Fu Panda" stories in expanded media, such as video shorts, video games, and TV series. At this point, it is unclear if "Kung Fu Panda 4" will ever materialize, but if it does, it seems likely that fans would hope for Hong to reprise his role as Mr. Ping yet again.