'Isle of Dogs': Meet the Voices Behind Each Animated Character

7:00 AM 3/23/2018

by Deirdre Durkan

Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Scarlett Johansson voice roles in Wes Anderson's animated adventure about a boy out to save his dog from canine genocide.

From the director of the Oscar-nominated film Fantastic Mr. Fox comes Isle of Dogs. The animated film is set in Japan 20 years in the future after a canine flu outbreak, which prompts the relocation of all dogs to a garbage dump known as Trash Island.

The movie opens with a prologue that shows how wild dogs became domesticated over time to serve as household pets. But when the cat-loving Kobayashi dynasty sets off a citywide alarm about an outbreak of "snout fever," or dog flu, all pooches are ordered to be quarantined before the disease can infect humans.

Trash Island is later invaded by Atari (Koyu Rankin), a 12-year-old boy who crash-lands his aircraft at the dump in search of his dog, Spots. While Spots is initially presumed dead, rumors surface that he may have joined a pack of cannibal canines inhabiting an abandoned experimental plant at the far tip of the island.

Atari joins Rex (Edward Norton) and gang to solve the mystery of his missing dog. The star-studded pack is voiced by Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Bob Balaban.

Ahead of the movie's theatrical release Friday, read more about the cast and their characters below.

  • Bryan Cranston as Chief

    Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images; Fox Searchlight Pictures

    The Breaking Bad star plays the film’s alpha dog, Chief. The leader of the dogs reassures the others, "Nobody’s giving up around here."

    As he unfastens a trash bag full of maggots, he exclaims he can’t stomach any more garbage. Cranston's character also has moments of existential introspection, which cause him to wonder, "I'm not a violent dog, I don't know why I bite."

    The island's disparity can be seen in his decisions, such as brawling with other dogs over food. In one scene, in a fight over rotting fruits and vegetables, a dog from a rival pack ends up losing an ear.

    Chief also feels an instant attraction to former show dog Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson), envying her pedigree. 

    Cranston has a history of voice acting, which has previously included the English dubbing of Japanese anime and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. 

  • Bill Murray as Boss

    John Lamparski/WireImage; Fox Searchlight Pictures

    Bill Murray, who also voiced Garfield in two feature films, plays one of the dogs in Anderson's film. His character is a former baseball mascot named Boss. 

    Alongside Rex (Norton), one-time Doggy Chop pet food spokespooch King (Balaban) and gossipy Duke (Goldblum), the dogs form a pack on the refugee island, where packs of dogs now ravaged with illness scavenge for scraps to stay alive.

    Murray has also voiced Baloo in The Jungle Book and Clive Badger in Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox. 

  • Koyu Rankin as Atari

    Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images; Fox Searchlight Pictures

    Atari is a 12-year-old adventurer and pilot is gunning to find his banished dog, Spots. In his attempt, he crashes and lands his plane on the dog-ridden island, where he decides to team up with some of the canines. 

    Isle of Dogs is Rankin's first role in a film. Previously, he acted in a local short film and appeared in a music video. 

  • Scarlett Johansson as Nutmeg

    James Devaney/Getty Images; Fox Searchlight Pictures

    The actress voices a high-pedigree pup named Nutmeg. She is a poodle-King Charles cross who can juggle flaming Skittles with her paws. Nutmeg instantly attracts the attention of Chief (Cranston) while the two adapt to the polluted island.

    Johansson has also voiced roles including Kaa in The Jungle Book and Ash in Sing

  • Greta Gerwig as Tracy Walker

    Karwai Tang/WireImage; Fox Searchlight Pictures

    Greta Gerwig plays Tracy Walker, an American exchange student who challenges the dictatorial mayor and succeeds in revealing that his regime is suppressing the serum that can cure canine flu.

    She is on the frontline of a student-led protest in Megasaki City, which dispenses fake news via a propaganda TV channel.

    Gerwig recently made history by becoming only the fifth woman nominated for a best director Oscar, for Lady Bird. She also was up for best original screenplay.

  • Jeff Goldblum as Duke

    Dominique Charriau/WireImage; Fox Searchlight Pictures

    The Oscar- and Emmy-nominated actor plays one of the gossip-loving pooch protagonists, Duke. Like the rest of the pack, Duke hates the trash-ridden island and is eager to assist Atari in his search.

    Goldblum has also been the voices of Perry Van Moon in Allen Gregory, the White Rabbit in Robbie the Reindeer in Legend of the Lost Tribe, Jeff in Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist and Verminous Skumm in Captain Planet and the Planeteer. 

  • Edward Norton as Rex

    Taylor Hill/Getty Images; Fox Searchlight Pictures

    With three Academy Awards nominations, Norton has played a variety of memorable roles, from Bridman to Primal Fear.

    Over the past few years, he’s branched out into voice roles in TV shows and animated films, most recently as Sammy Bagel Jr. in Sausage Party.