Jonathan Winters Rumored to Voice Papa Smurf

02.11.2010

UGO.com is reporting that Jonathan Winters will voice Papa Smurf in The Smurfs computer-animated feature expected to release in theaters on July 29, 2011.

IMDb.com and Wikipedia.org both state that John Lithgow and Julia Sweeney are rumored to be involved with the film as well, and IMDb adds that Wallace Shawn is rumored to voice the villain Gargamel, but bear in mind that no cast members have been officially announced or confirmed to date…and neither has Winters either, for that matter. UGO credits a “well placed source,” so take that for what it’s worth.

And speaking of Winters…

Over the course of 2009 I featured individuals here who were very influential in sparking my lifelong interest in character voice acting, like comedy legends Bill Cosby, Rich Little and Stan Freberg.

Jonathan Winters is another early influence, whose amazing skill for improv, quick wit and flair for comedic characters (and character voices) has always fascinated and entertained me. And he’s had a fair amount of animation credits to date, with such memorable guest roles on Animaniacs, Tiny Toon Adventures, The New Scooby-Doo Movies (1972), and Pogo for President (1980).

But Winters is a man of many talents and a wearer of many hats (quite literally, from his repertoire of hat-wearing characters): comedian, actor, voice talent, artist and author. He’s also recently released an audio production: Jonathan Winters: A Very Special Time, a collection of “soliloquies and psalms” narrated by Winters.

Visit his official website — JonathanWinters.com — to learn more about this marvelous talent and an entertainment legend.

And if you have about 2 hours to watch the Archive of American Television‘s a 5-part comprehensive interview with Winters, it’s well worth viewing:


Event: Voice Acting Community Helps Haiti Victims

02.05.2010

For immediate release:

Voice Acting Community Helps Haiti Victims

Two of the country’s leading Voice Acting educators, Voice Coaches and Edge Studio, are teaming up to offer some assistance after the unimaginable events in Haiti.

Schenectady, NY, February 05, 2010 –(PR.com)– The Voice Acting community will come together for a large-scale group tele-conference focusing on the growing audiobook section of the industry. A minimum donation of $25.00 (larger donations are encouraged) will grant the listener access to this first-of-its-kind fundraiser that will feature many of the top names in the audiobook narration business. All money collected for the tele-conference will go to the Red Cross’s Haiti relief effort, and everyone involved has kindly donated his or her time.

The event is scheduled for Wednesday, February 10 from 8:00 to 10:00 PM EST. The last 30 minutes of the tele-conference will be opened up to audience questions. In addition, all participants will be able to download the audio after the session for playback at anytime.

Co-hosting the event are David Bourgeois, president and creative director of Voice Coaches and David Goldberg, founder of Edge Studios. Scheduled to participate on the panel are Barbara Rosenblat, a New York actress/singer and six-time Audie Award winner with more than 400 audiobook titles to her credit; Voice over veteran Alan Sklar, who has narrated more than 100 audiobooks, including “A Civil Action” and “Black Hawk Down”; Carol Monda, a two-time Audie Award-winning audio book narrator; Grover Gardner, who has narrated more than 650 commercial audiobook titles and has been named as one of the “Best Voices of the Century” by AudioFile magazine; and accent specialist Robin Miles, another award-winning narrator with more than 200 audiobook titles under her belt.

For more information or to register for this unique tele-conference, visit www.voicecoaches.com/hearmyvoice

Added 2.07.2010 — From Voice Over Xtra: Voice Actors Rush to Create Video PSAs for Haiti Relief


Featured Voices: Charlie Williams

01.16.2010

Charlie Williams: The Noise Guy (Image courtesy NoiseGuy.com)

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle has an interview with Charlie Williams, aka “The Noise Guy” (or “Onomatopoet”), who has an incredible gift for vocal sound effects.

Williams is also an author, DJ, cartoonist, educator, kids comedian and performer, and has released 8 recordings showcasing his vocal SFX and stories for children. And he performs a routine he calls “Star Wars in three minutes.”

His most recent recording, “Sugar Frosted Noisy Tales,” features “naturally sweetened kids stories” and is described as being full of “crazy kid comedy, parody, imagination [and] silliness.”

Williams’ site — noiseguy.com — is a Flash-animated cartoony playground featuring his repertoire as a “vocal sound impressionist.”

He also has a YouTube Channel with video of his performances and TV interviews such as this one:


Update: 1.18.2010
YumaSun.com has a recent interview with Charlie as well, which I found through Charlie’s Noise Guy/Sound Safari fan page on Facebook.

On a related note, I’ve been developing a feature article on vocal sound effects, featuring some of the top vocal noisemakers in the industry: Fred Newman, Frank Welker, Dee Bradley Baker, Michael Winslow, Marsha Crenshaw, beatbox (aka “vocal percussion”) master Rahzel and the late-great Victor Borge. (Charlie Williams will, of course, be included, and I hope to have interviews with a few of these individuals as well to accompany the article.)

But I’ve hit a snag in the article. There’s one performer that stands out in my memory whom I believe was one of the original “pioneers” of vocal SFX. But for the life of me, I can’t remember his name.*

[* Now identified as Wes Harrison. See 1.17.2010 update below.]

When I was a kid (back in the late 70s), my grandparents had in their vinyl record collection a recording (possibly from the 50s or 60s) which featured live and studio-recorded performances by a Grand Master of vocal sound effects. The live portions resembled a sort of stand-up comedy performance, and he performed using a bullhorn (which I recall he said he kept in his car to pull pranks on other drivers and pedestrians).

He also performed live the most complex vocal sound effect I’ve ever heard: a train going from start to stop, and even moving between cars in the middle.

It was simply one of the most astounding things I’ve ever heard and I’ve spent a lifetime trying to replicate the performance.

If anyone could help me track down this performer’s name, I would be incredibly grateful. And once I find out the guy’s name, I can try tracking down a copy of the LP which I’ve been wanting to own…well, for nearly my entire life.

Also, if you notice any names I didn’t mention in my list above that you feel should be included in my article, please post them via the comment box below.

Update: 1.17.2010 — A very special thanks to voice talent Lee Gordon (LeeGordonProductions.com) for helping to I.D. the voice of Wes Harrison (via the VO-BB.com message board).

Thanks to Lee, I was thrilled to discover that Wes Harrison is not only still alive (and still performing at the age of 84), but he also has an official website: MrSoundEffects.com.

And here’s a video of Harrison performing live the famous steam train bit (which I described earlier):

Also thanks to voice talent Liz de Nesnera (hireliz.com) for the suggestion to include Victor Borge.


Children’s Audio Publisher Attempts to Avoid Bankruptcy

12.20.2009

CNN.com reports:

Trudy Corporation announced today that it had entered into a definitive Asset Purchase Agreement whereby Trudy would sell substantially all of its assets to MMAC, LLC, which also would assume certain liabilities of Trudy. Trudy Corporation is a publisher of children’s educational story and novelty books, audiobooks and plush toys, doing business as Soundprints, Studio Mouse and Music for Little People.com and located in Norwalk, Connecticut.

About Trudy Corporation

Founded in 1947 as a stuffed toy manufacturer, Trudy Corporation today is a prominent publisher of educational story books, read along audiobooks and plush toy manipulatives under licenses with the Smithsonian Institution, American Veterinary Medical Association and the African Wildlife Foundation. It also holds “edutainment” novelty book and audiobook licenses with Disney Publishing Worldwide, Inc, and Sesame Workshop. The Company’s Soundprints products may be found in school libraries, museums, zoos and aquaria flagged by their many Teacher’s Choice, Parents Choice and Benjamin Franklin Awards. Studio Mouse is the leading publisher of book and audio novelty books distributed in warehouse clubs and the mass market. Over 35% of Studio Mouse and Soundprints products are sold internationally in 35 countries. The Company holds a Disney license in the Spanish language for Spain. Believing that educational manipulatives and an audio component to books are critical to developing reading skills and fostering literacy in schools and home, the Company bought MusicForLittlePeople.Com and the companion direct mail catalog in 2008 to build the Company’s direct to consumer and library business.

MusicforLittlePeople.com is also a distributor for popular children’s singer-songwriter Raffi.

Related post: 12.18.2009 — Library Journal Picks Best Audiobooks, and Workshop Event


Library Journal Picks Best Audiobooks, and Workshop Event

12.18.2009

LibraryJournal.com has released their selections for the Best Audiobooks of 2009, as nominated by a “distinguished roster” of 65 individuals.

In the Non-Fiction category is the audio presentation of Street Gang, an in-depth look into the history of Sesame Street by Michael Davis and narrated by Muppeteer Caroll Spinney (Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch performer).

Also of note under Fiction is the audio dramatization of Crisis on Infinite Earths, produced by Graphic Audio, which LibraryJournal describes thusly:

Voice artist Christopher Graybill, Audie Award winner Richard Rohan, and 30 other readers embody DC Comics’ superheroes/supervillains in this exhilarating, sound effects–laden production.

Narrators for some of the other nominees have been interviewed in the past by LibraryJournal: Audie winners Dion Graham, Simon Vance, Scott Brick and Alan Sklar.

In related news, voice coach and veteran cartoon voice actor Pat Fraley has announced The Patrick Scott Smokin’ Mysteries Event: an audiobook workshop/recording event to take place January 16, 2009 in Los Angeles, CA. The event is hosted by Audie Award-winners Fraley, Scott Brick and Stefan Rudnicki, and there are only 12 spaces available. Please visit Pat’s website — PatFraley.com — for more details.


Daws Butler News Round-Up

11.15.2009

Catching up on some recent news items related to the late-great Daws Butler:

- From Sun-Times Media:

The Geneva History Center this month hosted a World War II USO dance, reminiscent of the days when young servicemen and women would find respite from the war with a night of entertainment.

“The beauty of this event is that people decided to stay with the theme and they are all so proud, as they should be,” said Margaret Selakovich, an educator at the Geneva History Center.

People came in 1940s-era attire and danced to wartime favorites.

The History Center’s executive director, David Oberg, carried a golf club in homage to Bob Hope and read a letter published in a Geneva newspaper from Daws Butler, who served in the Navy in World War II.

“[Daws] was hilarious and his one-line comments were something you would hear at a Bob Hope USO Show,” Oberg said.

- Daws’ vocal protegé Joe Bevilacqua (aka Joe Bev) will be hosting a live taping of his Cartoon Carnival radio show on Monday, November 16th from 7-9PM at the Glendale Library Auditorium in Glendale, CA.

Here are the details from Joe’s site — JOEBEV.com:

MONDAY, Nov. 16th, 7 – 9pm
Cartoon Carnival Live Event
Come be part of a live taping of Joe Bev’s radio show, meet in-person: Joe Bev, June Foray (the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel); Bill Marx (son of Harpo); writer-historian [and voice director] Mark Evanier; writer-voice actor Earl Kress; voice-actor Gregg Berger; TV personality Bob Mills, and buy an autographed copy of Joe’s Uncle Dunkle book, and June and Bill’s autobiographies. 10% percentage of the book sales go to ASIFA Hollywood.
Glendale Library Auditorium
222 E. Harvard St. Glendale, CA 91205
Admission is FREE. No reservations are required.

I have some friends planning to be there, so I hope to have links to share afterwards with photos and video of the event.

Joe Bev also recently published Unkle Dunkle and Donnie — “a collection of imaginative, never-before-released cartoon scripts by Butler, who also worked on the classic 1960s Jay Ward ‘Fractured Fairy Tales’ and ‘Aesop and Sons’ animated cartoons.”

Unkle Dunkle can be purchased through Bear Manor Media, and according to JoeBev.com an audio companion (featuring Joe performing nearly 100 character voices!) was scheduled to be released November 15th, but as of this writing the ordering details are not yet available on the site.

However, BearManorMedia.com does have a list of their upcoming audio book releases which includes a few other titles narrated by voice actors Joe Bev and Lorie Kellogg.

Joe’s Cartoon Carnival radio show can be heard Sunday-Saturday on Shokus Internet Radio from 6-7 PM (ET).

And if you don’t own it already, you should order Daws Butler: Characters Actor from Bear Manor Media, written by Ben Ohmart and Joe Bev with foreward by Nancy Cartwright (voice of Bart Simpson).

- Warner Archive will release Yogi’s First Christmas on Tuesday, Nov. 17th exclusively through their website at wbshop.com. It features the voices of Daws Butler (as Yogi Bear, Snagglepuss, Huckleberry Hound, Augie Doggie), Don Messick (as Boo Boo, Ranger Smith, Herman the Hermit), John Stephenson (as Doggie Daddy, Mr. Dingwell), Janet Waldo (as Cindy Bear, Mrs. Sophie Throckmorton), Marilyn Schreffler (as Snively) and Hal Smith (as Otto the Chef, Santa Claus).

- TVShowsOnDVD.com reports that Warner Home Video will release Scooby’s All-Star Laff-A-Lympics: Volume 1 on January 19th, 2010. The DVD will include four episodes featuring the voices of Daws Butler, Don Messick, Alan Reed, Mel Blanc, Casey Kasem, Gary Owens, Bob Holt, Scatman Crothers, Marylin Schreffler, John Stephenson, and Frank Welker.

A bonus episode of Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get A Clue will also be included.


Press Release: Andy Serkis Stars in ‘Screwtape’ Audio Drama

10.09.2009

For Immediate Release

The Screwtape Letters Stars Lord of the Rings’ Andy Serkis
Focus on the Family Radio Theatre® Introduces
First-Ever Full-Cast Dramatization of the C.S. Lewis Classic

Colorado Springs, CO – The Devil is back in time for Halloween in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, an audio production from Peabody-award-winning Focus on the Family Radio Theatre®. The full-cast dramatization of the diabolical classic debuted worldwide October 5th, 2009.

Hosted by C.S. Lewis’ stepson, Douglas Gresham, and starring Andy Serkis (Gollum, Lord of the Rings) as the voice of Screwtape, The Screwtape Letters was recorded in London by world-class actors with an original score and motion picture quality sound design, and includes a “making of” DVD that features footage from C.S. Lewis’ home, church and other frequented locations. Also included are a bonus CD of ten original songs and a collector’s booklet.

The Screwtape story centers around correspondence shared between Screwtape, a senior demon, and Wormwood, his apprentice, as Screwtape mentors Wormwood in the skills necessary to entrap, dominate and torture humans. Most of the 31 letters lead into dramatic scenes set either in Hell or World War II-era London. In writing this masterpiece, Lewis re-imagined Hell as a gruesome bureaucracy with demons laboring in a vast enterprise. Avoiding their own painful torment, as well as a desire for control, is what drives demons to persecute their “patients.”

Anticipation for the release of Screwtape has been building among audio enthusiasts as well as Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis fans. An entire website (www.screwtape.com) was built to support the production’s debut, providing downloadable ringtones, avatars and wallpaper. Guests can follow conversations between Screwtape and Wormwood on Twitter, and utilize available social media to join in the discussion.

“Bringing The Screwtape Letters to the world of audio drama has been a career dream,” said Screwtape director Paul McCusker. “To work with this caliber of cast and crew on such a beloved classic is an unparalleled experience. And the themes are timeless. The struggles, fears and failures addressed in this work still plague humanity today. In our culture, we’re hesitant to talk about evil. Here, in the character of Screwtape, evil speaks for itself.”

The Screwtape Letters was produced by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre® and is distributed by Tyndale, with full authorization from the C.S. Lewis estate.

Previous report: 8.20.2009 — Andy Serkis Starring in ‘Screwtape Letters’ Radio Drama


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