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
By DAVE MASON
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.