Ballymena-born star Liam Neeson will lend his voice to the role of a villainous racoon in the forthcoming animated movie The Nut Job.

The 60-year-old actor will feature alongside a star-studded cast including Katherine Heigl, Sarah Gadon, Brendan Fraser and Jeff Dunham.

The movie centres around a bad tempered squirrel called Surly (Will Arnett) who is kicked out of his park and has to make his way in the big city, where he plans to rob a nut store with his friends to keep them alive as winter approaches.

Speaking about Neeson's casting, director Peter Lepeniotis said: ''Having the distinguished Liam Neeson lend his talents as the raccoon villain is the perfect finishing touch. His contribution fulfills that dramatic need in our comedy adventure. It's an honour working with him.''

Neeson previously provided the voice of the wise lion Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe movies.

The Nut Job is currently in production with plans for a 2013 release.