Thursday, 10 June 2010

Call it “Manna”-Barbera

It’s an understatement to say Daws Butler was part of the success of the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Since the animation wasn’t—and couldn’t be—as intricate as the old theatricals airing on TV in the late ‘50s, Bill and Joe had to rely on design and, especially, the soundtrack. They were fortunate enough to hire the best TV cartoon voice in history (Daws) and the two of the best writers in cartoon history (Mike Maltese and Warren Foster) to put words in Daws’ mouth.

Up to the time of Jonny Quest, there was no end of eagerly-worded publicity about each new Hanna-Barbera show (it’s significant that when the cartoons went downhill, the publicity started vanishing). TV animation was still a new field and the H-B shows, starting with Huckleberry Hound, got plenty of ink. And when the wire service writers ran out of things to say about the shows, they profiled the chief voice artist on them.

The writings of Hal Humphrey of the Associated Press have been featured on these pages before. Humphrey seems to have become more jaded about Hanna-Barbera as time went on, but here’s an uncynical column he banged off about Daws. This is from newspapers of January 25, 1961. What’s interesting to me is how Daws prepared for his roles, and his candour about how much he was being paid.

If You Hear Voices, Chances Are They'll All Belong To Daws Butler

It was only a matter of time before Yogi Bear got his own TV show. The kid has a barrel of talent, and his work on the Huckleberry Hound Show was bound to set him up for the big break.
The Yogi Bear Show begins next week on 160 of the country’s TV stations, replacing Woody Woodpecker and, as some nut once said, “That’s show biz.”
I went to the Hanna-Barbera studios to interview Yogi before he gets all wrapped up in his new starring vehicle. When talking to Yogi, one discovers himself talking also to Huck Hound, Mr. Jinks, Quick-Draw McGraw, Baba Looey, Super Snooper, Blabbermouse, Augie Doggie, Snagglepuss and Sniffles [sic].
A short, modest fellow by the name of Daws Butler not only does the voices for the above-mentioned stars, but has a repertoire of assorted “extra” voices which numbers around 300.
It is a routine day for Daws to sit closeted in a sound studio recording dialogue tracks for three or four hours. These tracks are then played by the animators, who draw the characters and action to match the voices.
DAWS WILL READ and record the dialogue of as many as six or seven characters in one seven-minute cartoon. As he takes on the voice of each, he assumes many of the physical gyrations and movements which he mentally attributes to each “actor.”
When doing Yogi, for example, Daws throws out his chest and gesticulates like any normal cartoon bear.
“I’m not really a Method actor,” says Daws with a sly grin, “but Yogi speaks with a kind of elongation of the vowels, and this calls for diaphragm control. I do it better by standing up and making like a guy with a big chest expansion.”
When Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who head up Hollywood’s most successful cartoon factory, dream up a new character for any of their TV properties, Daws will go home, set up his own tape machine and record a series of voices.
BARBERA WILL listen to these the next day.
“I want this bulldog dumb, but not that dumb,” he may say, and Daws changes his vocal range to boost the dog’s IQ.
Besides Daws, the studio has Don Messick (Boo Boo Bear), Doug Young (Doggie Daddy) and Jean Van der Pyle [sic] (feminine characters) doing voices. Daws, however, carries the big load, and last year he animal-talked his way into about $150,000 with the Hanna-Barbara enterprises.
In addition to that income, Daws earns several other little nest eggs by doing voices for such TV commercials as the “Snowdrift” man and others.
He doesn’t consider himself an actor, and although he lives well in Beverly Hills with his wife and four boys, Daws is not the ostentatious or Hollywood type. He never has hired a press agent to trumpet his accomplishments;
“IN MY NAIVE way,” says Daws, “I always believed that publicity would come naturally as a sort of reward for honest work performed. Needless to say, I’ve bought the Brooklyn Bridge three times and am dickering for it again right now.”
When he comes home at night to the wife and four sons, Daws says he feels like any carpenter (“Better say ‘a good carpenter,’ huh?”).
His earnings will go up now that Yogi Bear is hosting his own show, because Daws also works like a carpenter—by the day. He prefers not to be under contract He can be more independent, he says, and can pick his work wherever he likes.
LIKE HIS ex-partner, Stan Freberg, who used to work with him on TV’s old Time for Beany puppet show, Daws is a clever creator of commercials for TV and radio. He gets a fancy fee from ad agencies for just sitting in a two-hour session while they pick his brains.
The session is taped, so if they want anything else from Daws the flag on the meter goes down again.
How does Daws get this way?
He graduated from cartooning in his home town, Chicago, then tried night clubs with comedy and impersonations. When he hit Hollywood, radio discovered Daws and his assortment of voices and dialects. It was just a short leap from there to cartoon voices and a home in Beverly Hills.

Figure in your head how much Daws’ fees would be in today’s dollars. “Manna”-Barbera, indeed! He was worth every penny.


  1. Stan Freberg had once said, if you want to hear some of the greatest voice acting and story telling in the world, turn away from the television and just listen to the audio of any early Huck or Yogi cartoon. You are right. Daws was worth every penny and more. Great feature, Jim!!

  2. I Think that Fireman Yogi picture was Done By Lewis Marshall.

    -Fred Flintstone

  3. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    Besides Hanna-Barbera, Daws Butler was present in other studios, such as: MGM, Warner, Universal/Walter Lantz, Jay Ward Productions, UPA, DePatie-Freleng, Ruby-Spears, Filmation, Chuck Jones Productions, Children's Television Workshop (from the Sesame Street fame) and many, many others.