Wednesday, 30 April 2014

How Daws Butler Played Snagglepuss

“If we hadn’t have had Daws, there may not even have been a Hanna-Barbera,” said a man who should know. The statement was made by Bill Hanna.

Hanna’s right. Who else could have brought all those wonderful early Hanna-Barbera characters to life other than Daws Butler? And made them friendly and fun? There were still plenty of great radio actors around in the 1950s but I can’t picture any of them doing it.

Daws was interviewed by newspapers over the years—especially when the TV cartoons started reeking of nostalgia—but was finally given his due with a TV special in 1987 called “Daws Butler—Voice Magician.” As of this writing, someone has uploaded it on a video sharing site and we hope it’s still there. But we’ve managed to clip his comments about the main Hanna-Barbera TV characters he voiced and you can listen to them below.


DAWS ON HUCKLEBERRY HOUND








DAWS ON YOGI BEAR








DAWS ON QUICK DRAW McGRAW AND BABA LOOEY








DAWS ON HIS KID VOICES








DAWS ON SNOOPER AND MR. JINKS








DAWS ON WALLY GATOR








DAWS ON HOKEY WOLF AND SNAGGLEPUSS

In the interview portion, Daws speaks about Tex Avery giving him a job in cartoons at MGM. His first cartoon for Avery was “Out-Foxed,” released on November 5, 1949. Daily Variety of December 15, 1947 mentions it as one of 14 Metro cartoons in various stages of production, so it’s safe to assume Daws recorded the voice track for it around that time (he uses a Ronald Colman-style voice for the fox). Whether that was his first cartoon is unclear. Keith Scott has identified Daws’ voice in Columbia’s “Short Snorts on Sports,” released June 3, 1948. Daily Variety reported on November 16, 1946 the studio was about to close (the building was empty by the following August), so that gives you an idea when his first cartoon work was. Anything you read on-line (especially in make-up-the-information-yourself data sites) claiming he worked in cartoons any earlier is pure misinformation. Daws was in the Navy during the war and never stepped foot in California until after he got out of the service and got married.

A couple of other notes about Daws’ early voices:

● Mr. Jinks sounds very much like a voice that Stan Freberg used on records and radio. As Daws and Freberg worked on many projects together in the ‘50s, it’s conceivable Daws lifted the voice from him.
● Baba Looey’s register was lower and delivery a little flatter in the first few Quick Draw McGraw cartoons. Either Joe Barbera (who voice directed the early cartoons) or Daws decided to raise the voice and make him sound younger (and, therefore, cuter and more attractive).
● Blabber Mouse may have had a “toothy” sound, but that was courtesy of Elliot Field, the Los Angeles afternoon radio disc jockey who originated the voice. Daws took over the character after four cartoons when Mr. Field left the studio.
Radio-TV Daily reported in 1963 on a $500,000 lawsuit by Bert Lahr against Kellogg’s, Screen Gems and Hanna-Barbera because the Daws’ Lahr-inspired Snagglepuss was appearing in commercials for Cocoa Krispies. Lahr’s litigiousness actually predates any cartoon mountain lions. The Spokane Spokesman-Review of June 12, 1962 reveals Lahr brought suit in federal court in late 1958 because voices like his were being used in commercials. After being sent to a lower court for jury trial and then to appeal court, Lahr was told in 1962 he could sue for damages. The cartoon character, in that case, was a duck hawking Lestoil. (Daws likely didn’t voice the character as the spot was produced by Robert Lawrence in New York).

Joe Barbera once said that Daws Butler was more than a voice actor, he helped develop the studio’s characters. There may have been a Hanna-Barbera without him, but it wouldn’t have been the same.

5 comments:

  1. Yogi Bear's voice reminded me of Art Carney's Norton character even the hat Yogi wore resembled Norton.
    - jez

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  2. Thanks for posting this. Daws' staggering genius really is obvious here.

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  3. Agreed. Thanks for the post on Daws. He was my all time favorite voice actor. One voice actor I used to email frequently was a student at his workshop. He told me Daws' classes were both fun and amazing. Daws would give the same sentence to 15 students, then go down the line having them each read and inflect it differently. No one student was allowed to read it the same. Daws really had voice acting down to a science..he just made it look, or should I say, sound easy.

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  4. Thanks so much for posting these. My two favorite voice characterizers (is that a real word? Is now) are Mel Blank and Daws. Their work inspired me to talk in funny voices way back in grade school (late 50s), and I still do...but not up to the caliber of Mel and Daws. Just for fun.

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  5. Get the audio version! http://www.downpour.com/daws-butler-voice-magician-1

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