Thursday, 1 August 2013

Don Messick and the Wolf (Boy)

Don Messick entertained countless kids on screen for years so it’s pleasing to see he could entertain kids off-screen as well.

Here’s a neat story from the
Oxnard Press-Courier of January 7, 1993. It sounds like a fun show.

Scooby’s voice takes stage
Entertainment Editor

SANTA BARBARA—The real Scooby Doo made kids laugh as “Peter and the Wolf” hit the Lobero Theatre stage Sunday.
Don Messick of Montecito slipped effortlessly into his cartoon voices as he narrated the ballet Sunday with the Montecito School of Ballet and the West Coast Symphony, conducted by Christopher Story VI. The orchestra and dancers also performed “A Gypsy Fantasy” in the one-time only performance.
On “Peter and the Wolf,” Messick used the voices of Boo Boo Bear for Peter, Ranger Smith for the Duck, Papa Smurf for Grandpa, Azrial the Smurf for the Cat, Pixie Mouse for the Bird and Scooby Doo for the Wolf. Messick created all these voices for Hanna-Barbera animation studios.
The voices work well for “Peter and the Wolf,” although young children were asking parents where the cartoon characters were. They heard Scooby Doo but didn’t see him.
Serge Prokofiev’s music and fairy tale tells about a young boy, Peter, who tries to save a bird, duck and cat from a wolf. Different instruments express themes for each character, and the ballet is often used to introduce children to orchestras. Cherie Moraga of Oxnard, the principal oboist, played the duck’s theme.
Messick’s cartoon voices Sunday added wit to a fun, smooth performance.
“Scooby, Scooby, Doo—er, I mean, Wolfy, Wolfy Wolf,” Messick said in his famous Scooby Doo voice as the wolf danced onto stage.
The adults and kids roared.
Messick, in his mid 50s, has created the voices for the West Coast Symphony production for six years.
During an interview at intermission, Messick casually joked around in his Droopy Dog voice. His cheeks puffed up when he spoke backstage like Scooby Doo in front of a visitor, Sarah Sanchez. The young Ventura girl laughed.
His career started early. At age 15 in 1941, he hosted the Don Messick Show on a local radio station in Maryland.
“I gravitated to it (voices in animation) after starting out as a ventriloquist,” Messick said.
“I could do a lot of different voices.”
As television animation began in 1957, it was natural for him to do cartoon voices, Messick said.
Animation has improved greatly since the 1960s, Messick said. “It’s got to be much, much better.”
The 1960s showed a rough transition from the high-quality animation of movie studios to assembly-line, less fluid television animation. Messick first provided a voice for the Ruff ‘n’ Reddy Show.
He went on to create voices such as Boo Boo Bear and Scooby Doo.
Scooby Doo is the oldest animated character in continuous run on television, Messick said.
More recently, Messick has performed the voice of Hamton Pig in Tiny Toon Adventures, a young generation version of classic Warner Brothers characters. He also has revived a classic character, Droopy Dog, in a new Droopy and Drippy series.
Messick said he creates an original voice for each character after seeing several sketches. Animators then finish drawing the character to match Messick’s voice.
Not everyone creates original voices from scratch like Messick. As the Genie in Walt Disney’s “Aladdin,” Robin Williams relied on impersonations. “I never try to do impersonations,” Messick said. “I always do original voices.”

Don appeared in the very first Hanna-Barbera cartoon as Ruff and the narrator in “Planet Pirates.” There doesn’t appear to have been much written about his work there, but I found this squib in the March 15, 1958 edition Knickerbocker News of Albany, New York. “Ruff ‘n’ Ready” would have been on the air three months at that point. There’s no byline, so it may have come from a press handout from NBC or series bank-roller Screen Gems.

2 Actors Provide Voices for Cartoons
All the voices for the television cartoon series, Ruff and Reddy, are provided by talented actors Daws Butler and Don Messick. They record up to six cartoons at one session, playing a dozen characters each, moving quickly from one trick voice to another. Toughest voice, admits Messick, was that of a mother elephant.

The elephant falsetto voice was first heard in “The Gloom of Doom,” the 25th instalment of the show. You might recognise it as the mother eagle in the Yogi Bear cartoon “High Fly Guy.”

Don M.’s cartoon work wasn’t restricted to Hanna-Barbera. You may recall he provided dialogue for “Spunky and Tadpole” (1958). But what must be his most bizarre cartoon work was looping dialogue for “Ken the Wolf Boy.” It was produced around 1963 in Japan as “Okami Shonen Ken.” I have no idea if it ever aired in North America; I’ve found listings for it on Australian television in 1968. Watch a clip of it below. It almost defies description. I suspect Don prided himself on his performance as a wolf and tried to forget his performance as a wolf-boy.

And, yes, that is Daws Butler, too.


  1. I actually wrote about "Ken the Wolf Boy" for Cartoon Research. It should be up in about couple weeks. It was a Toei production, their first for television. Most notable, though, is that it was a training ground for some of the biggest names in anime.

    That pause in the 40 second mark was where the episode title was superimposed in the Japanese airing.

  2. I couldn't watch the cartoon without thinking, "There's Elroy Jetson...that's Arnold the newsboy from The Flintstones...okay, that's Yahooey from the Three Goofy Guards...."

  3. I thought the writing credit was a pseudonym but it turns out Sloan Nebley worked on one of the Magoo series at UPA and a later incarnation of Yogi Bear.

  4. My god, Daws Butler as that dark wolf character.
    "It ain't for no good, I'LL bet."

  5. Don's Scooby Doo to the kids mentioned BUT TO US..He'll always be 100s OTHER characters, all established back to 1957 (though I admit that characters like Ruff, Boo Boo,etc.may not be as well known now...)Steve (Scooby's voice was funny,though..)

    Thanks for the article....

  6. Too bad someone didn't have a video camera at the Santa Barbara show to record Don's performance.

    The Wolf Boy video kind of reminded me of recognizing Winston Sharples' music on the opening and closing of "8th Man". Something's just not right with the world...

  7. Would have loved to have been there to hear Don read along with the orchestra. Quite a treat! Couldn't watch " Ken The Wolf Boy " without thinking of " Quisp " cereal. Good Ol Daws.

  8. "So...I remember this kid who used to post on this blog anonymously. His name was...Ryan, I believe. Whatever happened to him?"

    Howdy Yowp! Just letting you know that I'm far from dead; I've simply moved on with other interests.

    Anyways, a very nice little article. Who knew Don Messick could entertain kids on-screen as well as off? Being a teen who is learning voices, I eventually want to be that same kind of person as well.



  9. Hi, Ryan. Nice to hear you're around. Good luck with your voice stuff.

  10. Don Messick also provided incidental voices in the original 1961-62 ALVIN SHOW, as did H-B co-worker Doug Young. But neither appeared in the credits; they probably didn't want to appear as if they were 'moonlighting'.

    While he wasn't as well-traveled around all the various Hollywood animation studios as Butler, June Foray or Paul Frees, Messick also appeared frequently beginning in the late 1960s in Filmation, DFE, and Ruby-Spears productions. And as various clay/marionette characters in a 1967 GUMBY revival and couple of Rankin-Bass holiday specials.