Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Daws Bone’s Connected to the...

Daws Butler and Don Messick were the backbone of the body of voice artists in the first Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Actually, the first year that H-B Enterprises was in operation, they were the whole body, handling all the characters in Ruff and Reddy, though Lucille Bliss has revealed she was up for the role of Ruff and got screwed out of it.

When The Huckleberry Hound Show debuted in 1958, Daws and Don provided just about all the voices. Comedian Red Coffey was brought in to do his duck voice in a few. June Foray makes on appearance in a Yogi Bear cartoon. Ginny Tyler, who worked for Disney on children’s records, provides an annoyed housewife camper’s voice in a couple of other Yogis (at least it sounds like her). And a French accent is being faked in the Pixie and Dixie cartoon ‘The Mark of the Mouse’ by someone whose identity has escaped experts like Mark Evanier and Earl Kress.

The reasons for such a small stable would seem obvious. Theatricals didn’t employ more than a few actors in a short. And Daws and Don were terrific. Joe Barbera put it this way: “ was like a gold mine with those two guys. Between them, they could do almost every voice you could think of.” Who needs anyone else, right?

Well, apparently there was another reason. One that Barbera outlined in a story to the United Press International wire service; this ran in a newspaper dated July 13, 1959.

Want To Crash Hollywood?
Use Your Head—And Voice

HOLLYWOOD (UPI)—A tip to those who want to crash Hollywood: The art of voice characterization offers a much better chance in the movie capital these days than the body beautiful.
Some of the most prosperous and highly-rated actors have hit the jackpot through their vocal impersonations. Most of these specialists, with the notable exception of Jim Backus (“Mr. Magoo,” etc.) live in a delightful world of almost complete anonymity, yet earn salaries that dwarf those of many glamorized personalities.
Artists like Daws Butler, Don Messick, June Foray and Patty Chapman [sic] can name their terms—the demand for their services is so acute.
According to Joseph Barbera, of the TV cartoon-producing company of Hanna and Barbera, there is a dearth of voice actors in Hollywood. The reason for the demand stems from a new surge in television cartoon production, not only in TV cartoon shows, but also for cartoon commercials.
For such TV cartoon shows as “Ruff and Ready” [sic] and “Huckleberry Hound,” there are more than 110 speaking characters. The voice specialist sounds off as many as 10 to 15 different characters for these cartoons.
Hanna and Barbera says it is always on the lookout for potential stars who have a repertoire of voices completely unlike anyone else’s. And, it won’t make any difference if you’re not pretty.

A dearth of voice actors? Like the hundreds, many of whom were amazingly versatile, who populated network radio only a few years before this news story was written? Call me Yowp the Sceptic, but it seems unlikely there was a “dearth of voice actors” in 1959. I say it ain’t so, Joe. Especially since Hanna-Barbera soon hired top radio character actors Alan Reed, Bill Thompson, Bea Benaderet, Janet Waldo and Penny Singleton. Oh, and some fellow named Blanc. Can’t remember the first name.

One thing is clear—the studio added artists as it added cartoons and voice artists were no exception, dearth or not. When The Quick Draw McGraw Show aired in 1959, several new actors came on board. Some lasted longer than others.

Peter Leeds, best known for narration and foil duties with Stan Freberg, narrated ‘Scat, Scout, Scat’ and vanished for good.
Los Angeles children’s TV star Vance Colvig appeared on ‘Bad Guys Disguise’ and disappeared until the following year when Barbera needed someone to say “Ain’t that cute” about a duck. Neither displayed much vocal flexiblity, surprising given Colvig’s pedigree.
Elliot Field, a disc jockey who had arrived in Los Angeles from a radio station in Texas, was the original voice of Blabber Mouse before Butler took the role after four cartoons. He later came back to do guest voices on ‘The Flintstones’ before his radio career took him to Detroit.

Barbera lucked out with several other actors.

Hal Smith, pre-Otis Campbell (the town drunk on Andy Griffith), lent his voice to a bunch of incidental characters for both the Quick Draw and Huckleberry Hound shows, then stayed with Hanna-Barbera through the ‘60s. Warners used him as Elmer Fudd after Arthur Q. Bryan died and he seems willing to accept work on the lamest of cartoons (like Filmation’s ‘Rod Rocket’ and Ken Snyder’s ‘Funny Company’ educationals).
Julie Bennett, who also worked briefly for Warner Bros. and Jay Ward, made a couple of appearances as Sagebrush Sal on Quick Draw before claiming the role of Cindy Bear a year later.
Jean Vander Pyl, the radio voice of Margaret Anderson on ‘Father Knows Best’, got most of the female roles, with some accents that would become familiar to viewers of Hanna-Barbera through the ‘60s.

But the only new regular voice actor on the Quick Draw show was a radio announcer and actor named Doug Young, who managed an amazing feat—he mimicked Jimmy Durante, keeping Durante’s humour but not overpowering you with the impression. You could watch Doggie Daddy and think of him as Doggie Daddy, not someone doing Durante. He added relaxed warmth to the voice and the role.

The surprising thing that you may not realise is when you watch the earliest cartoons on The Quick Draw McGraw Show, Don Messick is nowhere to be found. Why? That’s a mystery. Certainly no one at Hanna-Barbera could have been dissatisfied with him. It could be Don was busy with—CRINGE ALERT—the egregious ‘Bucky and Pepito’. Or maybe Barbara wanted to go with a bit of a different sound; certainly he did with the background music on the Quick Draw series. Whatever the reason, things seems to have changed about mid-season as Don’s familiar narration and incidental voices returned to add to his body of work as he and Daws Butler played off each other to delight cartoon lovers.

Good thing, too. After all, a body does need a backbone.

Yowp note: If you’ve never heard of Pattee Chapman in the wire story she, among other things, worked with Stan Freberg on the radio show ‘That’s Rich.’ Isn’t there always a Freberg connection?


  1. Yowp, wasn't "Mark of the Mouse" Don Messick himself?

  2. Great post. I have two of the albums that Freenberg did over at Capitol with June Foray, Daws, and Peter Leeds. Most of these voice actors are gone, and sorely missed. These days, we are given "Movie Stars", well known comedians, singers, entertainment personalities, and television actors to voice all the computer animated features. Putting a great deal of today's voice actors into the dreaded " Additional Voices " catagory. I actually had a conversation with one of Daw's students, Bob Bergen, about that. Hats off to the originals.

  3. Wow...this is why I enjoy your blog so much. You not only share with us obscure vintage articles about H-B, but also answer questions that we H-B aficionados have had for years. I never knew that it was Jerry Hausner who was doing Blabber in those early shorts. Thanks for clearing up that "mystery" for me.

  4. The faked french accent at the top of "Mark of the Mouse" sounds a lot like Doggie Daddy, ergo it must be Doug Young.

  5. Very true; Doug Young received very little recognition in the groundbreaking success of the early H-B TV product. He provided many incidentals in the Loopy DeLoop theatricals Seasons 4 and 5 of THE FLINTSTONES, some very effective dramatic work in JONNY QUEST, and various TV shorts all the way through 1966. Yet, his only regular characters are Doggie Daddy, Ding-a-Ling Wolf (in what some say is a Buddy Hackett imitation), and the much-less remembered Yippee, biggest of the Three Goofy Guards.

    Jerry Hausner, would reappear to provide incidentals for ONE Season 4 FLINTSTONES episode, "Dino Disappears". He's pretty easy to pick out. At that time Messick, Young, John Stephenson or Howard Morris were the usual male guest voices. Apparently none of them were available at the time.

  6. Mark, I can't take credit for the Hausner revelation. Mark Evanier mentioned it on a message board. I am just a lowly scavenger of information.

    Y.P. Doug, I would have guessed Doug Young; it sounds like him in the first lines. But M. Evanier sent me an e-mail saying he and Earl Kress wondered, too, and couldn't reach a conclusion. I suspect Earl's acquainted with Mr. Young personally.

    It's odd H-B would bring in someone just to do what is really a generic French imitation, and a third actor in a cartoon to boot. Daws would have been able to have done the role quite easily. But it could be since Daws was doing a fake French voice already, he could have said "Joe, listen, I know someone..."

    Errol, producers would hire Justin Bieber to play Homer Simpson for a big-money movie and not think about it twice. Studios don't care about the voice; they're buying a name because they've got some ridiculous research saying audiences care more about names than voices. And the popularity of a whole bunch of CGI features would back it up.

  7. Re: "Warners used [Hal Smith] as Elmer Fudd after Arthur Q. Bryan died and he seems willing to accept work on the lamest of cartoons (like ... and Ken Mundie’s ‘Funny Company’ educationals)." I wasn't aware Ken Mundie was involved in this. WikiPedia and IMDB agree. Ken "Snyder" perhaps?

  8. It all goes back to the most egregious casting mistake of all time: Tiffany as Judy Jetson, just to sell tickets. I think the knife wounds in Janet Waldo's back still haven't healed.

  9. Yes, Anon, it was Ken Snyder, the guy involved with the '60s Popeye cartoons. Thanks for catching that. I'll fix it.

  10. And most of today's animation voice actors to me have no warmth like the 60s or eatlier. They're all trying to sound like Buster Bunny, Angelica Pickes,etc. And too many [Billy West, Jim Cummings], did the same thing that Tiffany did: Take over a living person's voice-Billy West with John Kricfalusi as Stimpy, Jim Cummins as Tigger when Paul Winchell as still kickin', and of course as Dave said, Tiffany in lieu of Janet Waldo as Judy Jetson. The only difference is celebrity replacement of a fregular voice actor, and those as mentioned don't even get the chance that a current specialist acotr gets [forget the star voices]. And of course we know about Lucille Bliss vs GeGe Pearson as Crusader Rabbit, back in 1957, and neither were celebs. But both were in a fortunate time before the annoying Tiny Toons era. Yowp, I know you and other respect Tress McNeille aka Babs but outside Simpsons she and most other modern voices don't do anymore than the celebs to me, but then again that's also in tune with my aforecited preference for the pre-67 cartoons and earlier.

    Personally, going beyond the voices, Tiny Toons can';t hold a candle in class and style to the older shorts, and the smug voices have a lot to do with it.

  11. In other words, annoying characters, always a subjective matter, aren't just limited to those voiced by celebrities [Yakky, Scooby]..ironically Arnold Stang [profiled here] was a kind of odd duck, a radio actor, voice actor and known comic who had an impeccable sense of timing, much like other older character actors [Jim Backus, Edward E.Horton, Hans Conreid, Sterling Holloway.].

    [After all, regardless of who did the voices, who can watch Daffy hunting Bugs or Speedy, and not everyone can sit thru Spunky and Tadpole, Luno, or others. On the other hand, Pixar did a good job at doing this but with WELL done characters, CGI or not. Incidentally, the one they've used, Ed Asner, was born in the 20s and did radio..and their more recent have less celebrity types. Ratatouille had Patton Oswalt who isn't a "Name."]

    Yowp, Dan Casteletta [s][?] and the rest of the SIMPSONS already did a blockbustert 2007 box office Simposons hit. After seeing this Bieber guy who cite, on YouTube, he's too YOUNG to do the SIMPSONS voices.]

    But that is my last comment on today's cartoons, or any made after around 1966 either way.

    Back to the topic, I'm still wondering who Mark of the Mouse is played by, the hammy "bad guy" cat under Mr.Jinks MST like comment's just Daws Butler doing his Huckleberrry "Highway Patrol" spoof badguy there. Don Messick is the narrator.

    Jerry Mann was brought in for the Flinstones, but not for any Top Cat apparently, or any shorts at HB. You mention Red Coffee and Vance Colvig. Of course after Red did a certain little ducklet [I like that term you sued in place of duckling] Jimmy Weldon madde him only less "Cutesey". I wonder who the earliest Baba Looey was if not Daws.

    Anyway, I'll comment on the next post..hope the Jack Shaindlin entry gets put up there. Since that wasn't a Hi Q part but a distributed "stepchild" as it were, the introduction to the entry for that ought to be interesting. And that was an unnanounced title, the Daws topic, and I like the title, based on Dry bones.

    Finally there is with Pattee Chapman another HB conection, a school bus driver episode of the Flintstones when Fred tries to keep up his schedule [remember back when Fred and others on the show were in fear of losing their job; even a cop in the "letter to Mr.Slate" was reduced to pleading on his knees.Herb Vigran there..and J.Stephenson. Ah, the peak days of the Flinstones,same as the early, and Sandra Gould, Frank Nelson,etc.,etc., Yul Brynner once said.]

    Also the evolution of HB sound effects might be a suggestion for another topic..

  12. I hated the fact that Tiffany was brought in for The Jetsons film, too. Unfortunately, that decision was forced upon Joe Barbera by Universal, who had their hands so deep into the production of that film, that Joe Barbera eventually threw in the towel. I'm sure it's not the film he wanted released. Janet did voice the film, though so her tracks are somewhere, unless WB threw them away after their acquisition of HB. It wouldn't surprise me. I wish they would replace her track and remove Tiffany and release the DVD again, but that's not going to happen. :-(

  13. Erroll, how many of today's voice actors, Erroll, are asd good as the originals? [See my comments above about voice actors replacinbg older ones.] Janet Waldo is not even used when voice actors as such are required-forget Tiffany--today's voice actors, who don't thrill me as much [don't thye ALL sound like Lola Bunny or Rugrats to me] would be just as well cast. Waldo, Dick Beals, and others, get second billing when even non-celebrity voice actors are credited. And as I've said, I hate the idea that younger actors replaced older ones still living---as with Tigger..then there was the case of Billy West trying to claim credit for John Kricfalusi's voice of Ren, and there wasn't even a generation gap. Equitably, Janet Waldo and June Foray's peers like Dinah Shore and Doris Day were also rejected, as being "ready to put out to pasturew". [Only all four of those ladies worked in radio and ANY of them can outdo ANY celebrity vboice or the Rugrats etc.voices!]


  14. LOL! On Golden AGe Cartoon Forums, "Smurf Justice for June Foray" [whether she shou;d have accepted the Smurfs role back in 1981 for reasons besides money] mentions how younger voice and celebrity performers, famous or not, are being hired--whether it's E.G.Daily or Katy Perry...Paul Winchell, had he not died in 2005 and John Kricfalusi wou;ld tell you stories about today's voice specialists replacing them [I won't even get into the totally seperate issues of the ethics of today's voice only actors imitating celebrities. Yowp, we don't have to worry about Justin Beiber playing the doh-0nut eating Homer [I didn't really know who Justin was till recently..our luck we guess musically LOL].

    Not a fan of most 1990s cartoons or cartoons made in last 45 years despite who's voicing them, as said.:)

    But getting away from that, and to a happier aspect of this, it's odd looking at the voices at the startof this page--JerryHausner and Peter Leeds, and similiar to my above statement, they don't even have the prominece of a Mel Blanc or June Foray, due to 1) being support voices and 2) voicing characters not as famous as a Bugs or even as a Yogi [Jerry was Mr.Magoo's teenage 1920s stlye nephew Waldo].

    Flip Flopping my limited fondness for post-radio voice specialist voice actors, Ed Wynn and [as in Frosty the Snowman and that Marlo Thomas all star Free to be You and Me] Billy De Wolfe had unqiue voices..Frosty producer Arthur Rankin Jr. mentioned [1997] "His voice is [like Charles Nelson Reilly] perfect for animaiton". Too bad Billy passed toosoon..Paul Lynde made some appearances but in the start of the dark ages of HB.