Really, she’s another person where you think of the voice. Yes, she did some acting that was actual on-screen, you-can-see-her acting. Honestly, I can’t tell you how good she was at that, because I haven’t seen A Different World in a really long time. However, her career as a voice actress stretches back about as far as my awareness of acting as a concept. She has literally hundreds of TV credits, and almost all of them are voicework. They go back to 1983. Perhaps even more impressive is that her video game credits go back to 1996, back to the early days of voice acting in video games.
If you’re my age, you first came to know her as Penny. No shade there—Penny’s a great character, and she’s smarter and more competent than pretty much anyone else in the original Inspector Gadget show. Possibly it’s why she was eventually cast on A Different World in the first place. She’s done some guest shots on TV shows, but pretty much not since the ’90s. Wikipedia says she has “limited herself” to voice acting, but her career shows that she’s not limited at all.
For one thing, she’s a lost Disney Princess. I’ve talked before about my regret that Atlantis: The Lost Empire wasn’t a bigger hit, but part of what we lost from that is Cree Summers’ joining the Princess Pantheon. She gets a fair amount to do in that movie, and Kida’s a character that deserves more attention than she gets. But the movie did badly at the box office and still doesn’t even really have much of a cult following, so there have been few chances for Summer to come back out and do the character anymore.
Further, if you haven’t seen DC Super Hero Girls, you’re missing a great show overall. But one detail about the show that’s really noteworthy is Summer as Selina Kyle. Obviously, there are a lot of ways you can go with Catwoman. (Boy, I know who needs to get added to the schedule, huh?) Where Summer chooses to go—where the show chooses for her to go, to be fair—is the most beautifully spot-on Eartha Kitt impersonation. To the point that I had to show my kids clips of her as Catwoman so they could truly appreciate how wonderful Summer is in the role.
Not everything she’s done has been good. Maybe next month I’ll finally get around to ranting about Puppy Dog Pals, which she’s on. I merely found the Rocketeer cartoon hugely disappointed. I have Feelings about the Jaleel White take on Sonic the Hedgehog. And frankly I’ve hated Elmyra since Tiny Toons was new. But I think you’re starting to see, if you didn’t know before, how truly great Cree Summer’s career is. She’s done all sorts of wildly different characters in wildly different settings, and if the shows aren’t always worth watching, she’s never the problem.