Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Daws Butler Goes Home

Huckleberry Hound. Yogi Bear. Mr. Jinks. Quick Draw McGraw. What would they be without Daws Butler?

There are people out there, unfathomable as it may seem, who don’t like the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Either they think the use of limited animation isn’t creative enough or the stories and dialogue lack punch and originality or the cartoons are the spawn of the devil that took the life out of great artists. But even they respect the work of Hanna-Barbera’s mainstay at the microphone, the greatest voice artist in the history of television cartoons—Daws Butler.

Those of us who grew up in the 1960s and watched cartoons grew up with Daws Butler. There were many fine, almost legendary, voice actors in television in that era, but Daws was extra-special. He always seemed to add some funny quirkiness to the characters he created and sounded like he relished in them, enjoying them as much as the young viewer at home.

One of the remarkable things that’s happened as the years have marched on and the world pushes unknowingly into the future is I’ve had a chance, through newsgroups, forums, social media and even this blog, to talk with people who actually knew Daws Butler. If you had told me when I was a kid in a quiet Canadian town sitting on the floor watching Huckleberry Hound in black-and-white 50 years ago that I’d some day chat with those people, I never would have believed it. Even though anything can happen in a cartoon. Through them, I’ve become even more appreciative of Daws’ talent and the kind of man he was. It’s the closest I can come to knowing him myself. Watching cartoons, you can’t see Daws’ skills at writing that he demonstrated on records in the 1950s, or his talent for mimicry that he displayed on stage in his early career (and hints at in one of his first cartoons, 1949’s ‘Out Foxed’ for Tex Avery at MGM).

Oh, I forgot to mention something. Daws Butler was born on this date 94 years ago.

In honour of the natal occasion, allow me (not that you have any choice in the matter) to repost a story from the Elyria, Ohio Chronicle-Telegram, dated June 23, 1960. Daws was from Toledo and the local paper occasionally wrote about him when he returned to visit family. He may have been at his peak at Hanna-Barbera about this time. This was just before the first of the night-time H-B shows which never featured Daws in lead roles, with the exception of Elroy on The Jetsons and briefly on The Flintstones during Mel Blanc’s fight-for-life in hospital in 1961, and seem to have avoided using him a lot. Unfortunately, I don’t have viewable versions of the photos of Daws from the paper where he’s demonstrating to neighbourhood kids how he voices Yogi Bear. What a treat that must have been for them!


Series Popular With Adults, Too
‘Voice’ For Huckleberry Hound Magnet To Elyria Kids In Visit

By BILL KLUCAS
“Better than the aver-a-a-a-age type bear!”
The familiar Yogi Bear twang rolls off the lips of Daws Butler, now a resident of Beverly Hills, chief animator for America’s most popular adult cartoon show.
Butler, visiting relatives in Elyria, was entertaining every kid in the neighborhood who could walk or crawl, including one tot in a wheelchair.
A former vaudeville performer, commercial writer, and radio announcer, the Toledo-born star is the voice for Huckleberry Hound, Mr. Jinx [sic] and, of course, Yogi Bear.
Butler’s voice is not only familiar to millions as the characters in Huckleberry Hound, but it also entertains the numerous small-fry fans of Quick-Draw McGraw. Tom and Jerry and Ruff and Ready [sic].
While working for MGM on the Tom and Jerry cartoon series, producers Bill Hanna and Joseph Barbera approached him with the idea for the Ruff and Ready cartoon show. With the origination of the Huckleberry Hound series, he was hired for the animation.
His job does not stop with the animation of the cartoon, though. He helps edit the script and suggests new story angles to the writers.
Made Hit With Adults
Originally intended as a children’s cartoon series, Huckleberry Hound drew such an adult response that today much of the satire in the series is definitely planned. “It may be poking fun at some government official, popular world figure or just an incident which happened to one of the crew, but it is all in fun,” Butler said.
The 44 year-old father of four children believes that Huckleberry and company may stick around for at least five years. “It could last as long as 10 years of fresh material is poured into the series.”
The series appeals to all ages. An island in the Pacific Ocean has been named after Huckleberry, Butler said. Recently the University of Seattle held a Huckleberry Hound Day and tapes of Huckleberry Hound stories were piped over loud speakers throughout the campus.
Children “Sophisticated”
The controversial point of excessive brutality in today’s children shows does not bother Butler. “Children today are more sophisticated. They realize that the characters in Huckleberry Hound are not real.”
The producers always keep a friendly battle going between the characters and despite the fact that Mr. Jinx may hit the two little “Meces” with a broom, shove them off a cliff or drop them down an eavestrough, when the chips are down the cat will come to their aid. “If you are going to have a ‘heavy’ character in a series, it has to be a humorous type of ruffian.”
Butler’s biggest challenge, in his own opinion, is writing commercials. “It is a real challenge to tell a whole story in 20 seconds.” His commercial work includes the bouncing kangaroo in the Jif Peanut Butter Commercials.
The four Butler boys, David, 16; Donny, 13; Paul, 10, and Charles, 6, all have started in show business already. Charles recently completed the animation for a Disney produced feature, “The Little Fir Tree.”
Butler met his wife Myrtis while in the Navy during World War II. A former North Carolina resident, Mrs. Butler was working for the special services bureau in Washington, D.C. when the couple met.
The Butler family was staying with Butler’s cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Don Kirkbride, 207 Princeton Ave.

The photo you see above was, according to Keith Scott, taken at Daws’ backyard studio (note the sound tiles on the wall) in the ‘60s. It comes from a wonderful fan site for Walter Tetley, the voice of Sherman in the Mr. Peabody cartoons for the Jay Ward studio. Brian and Greg have a bunch of pages about Daws (and some about June Foray, Paul Frees, Bill Scott and even Chris Allen). Brian Kistler tells a personal story about Daws that you can read by clicking HERE.

Writer and cartoon mogul Mark Evanier was a good friend of Daws. If you haven’t read his four-part tribute, click HERE. You won’t be disappointed.

Daws has had an official web site for a number of years, the product of one of his many students, Joe Bevilacqua. You can find it HERE.

And may I humbly suggest you click on Daws’ name in Topics list to your right, and listen to some of his rare records. What better way to celebrate the birthday of someone who brought many happy hours to so many people for so many years.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the blog on Daws. Daws has and will always be my favorite voice actor. The little nuances he put into each character were so unique. Every afternoon, our local ABC affiliate ran " The Huckleberry Hound Show " in it's original form; Kellogg's sponsor tags, Screen Gems logo and all. Like Yowp, I would also get to talk with people who knew the man that brought so much joy into my life every afternoon. I too, know a voice actor who trained under Daws. This actor told me Daws knew he " Couldn't take it with him ", so he took great care in teaching and training his students. This person also told me that when Daws passed in 1988, many felt they had lost not only a true friend, but a father figure as well. Happy Birthday Daws. Twenty two years later, you are sorely missed.

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  2. Happy Birthday Daws, the best ever! I didn't know that Daws had family in Elyria, just a short drive west of my hometown, Cleveland.

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