Frank Welker Cameo on ‘Futurama’

09.01.2010

The head of cartoon voice acting legend Frank Welker has been immortalized in a cameo appearance on Futurama.

Below is a screen capture from “Lrrreconcilable Ndndifferences” (Season 6, episode 11 – production number 6ACV11) in a scene where Fry, Leela and Lrrr visit Orson Welles in the Head Museum. You can see Frank’s head in a jar on the upper shelf:

Frank Welker cameo on 'Futurama' along with (L to R, top shelf) Raquel Welch, Lawrence Welk, Paul Weller, (L to R, bottom shelf) Peter Weller, Orson Welles, Dawn Wells and H.G. Wells. Image courtesy of FOX and is used here for the purpose of commentary. 'Futurama TM and copyright FOX, its related entities and the Curiosity Company. All rights reserved.

Futurama‘s Season 6 finale airs Thursday, September 2nd at 10 pm (EST) on Comedy Central.

ComedyCentral.com also has web exclusive video interviews with Futurama cast members Maurice LaMarche, Phil LaMarr, John DiMaggio, Lauren Tom, David Herman, and two videos featuring Billy West here and here.

There is also a video clip from the San Diego Comic-Con 2010 Futurama panel with a teaser on the season finale which includes guest voices Coolio and Al Gore, and special musical guests Devo (<–click for a preview).

A very special thanks to Futurama fan “Bend-err” for posting this image at my request to the Planet Express Employee Lounge – The Futurama Message Board.

~ Craig “Voiceroy” Crumpton
Publisher: Voice Actors in the News


Michael Bell To Appear at 2010 NY Comic-Con

05.04.2010

The news item originally published here on 5.04 has been removed at the request of Hasbro.

Image courtesy of Michael Bell


Michael Bell has given Voice Actors in the News permission to be the first to announce that he will be a guest at the New York Comic-Con October 8-10, 2010. And he adds that he will be a guest for the UK’s Auto Assembly Transformers convention in 2011.

Bell revealed in December 2009 that he had auditioned for both the new Transformers and G.I. Joe series (previously reported here) being produced by the new Hasbro/Discovery joint cable network “The Hub” (previously reported here).

ForcesofGeek reported 5.01 that Hasbro officially announced the title of the series at JoeCon 2010 as G.I. Joe Renegades which Hasbro confirmed will also premiere will the new network launch on October 10, 2010.

FOG’s coverage of Hasbro’s JoeCon presentation also offers details on what fans can expect in the first season of Renegades:

- A 2-part pilot with a total of 26 episodes.
– Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow focus for episodes 7-8.
– Animation in traditional 2D, hand-drawn style “with extensive focus on light and shadow [and the] backgrounds appear to have a watercolor look.”

It was also announced that the new series is a relaunch with a “Year One” approach and “no continuity with prior classic series, Resolute or the film series.”

Ginny McSwain is serving as Renegades‘ voice director.

As as for an update on Bell being cast in any roles on The Hub’s new Transformers series (now officially confirmed as Transformers: Prime, he says, “So far no bites.”

Bell is also an avid supporter of animal rights, and would like to ask fans to spread the word and share their support for the following websites and organizations:

FoodIsPower.org
VeganMexicanFood.com
Girard-LifeSaver.org
PETA.org

Special thanks to Michael Bell for giving “Voice Actors in the News” the opportunity to share this news with the fans. And thanks to The Huntsman for the heads-up on the new TF series title via toonzone’s forums.

Related post: 12.11.2009 — Michael Bell Talks New Transformers, G.I. Joe Animated Series


May 2010 VAs on TV Highlights

05.01.2010

“VAs on TV” has long been a feature in this blog’s history, but I normally highlight more notable ones as individual posts.

I’ve been wanting to introduce this as a monthly, comprehensive feature rather than just the occasional post, but with the time and effort involved in maintaining it I make no promises about keeping it updated regularly.

All times listed are EST (Eastern Standard Time). Please be sure to check your local listings for showtimes in your area. And I will continue updating this page throughout the month of May, which will be posted via Facebook and Twitter.

Additionally, as new info on upcoming on-camera and voice “appearances” is released but the scheduled airing is not yet known, they will be added at the close of this article.

5.01William Shatner interviews Weird Al Yankovic on Shatner’s Raw Nerve at 9:30 AM (EST) on the Biography Channel.

5.02 — Guest voices on the 8:30 PM episode of The Cleveland Show (FOX):

- Jason Sudeikis as Holt and Terry
– Jamie Kennedy as Federline
– Kanye West as Kenny West
– Taraji P. Henson as Chanel
– Jason Alexander as Saul Friedman
– Bebe Neuwirth as Sarah Friedman
– Al Thompson as Walt
Also listen for Kevin Michael Richardson as Bea Arthur.

(Previously reported here.)

: On Adult Swim, The Boondocks returns with the season three premiere at 11:30 PM. It features the voice talents of Regina King (Southland) as Huey and Riley Freeman; John Witherspoon (Friday After Next) as Granddad; Gary Anthony Williams (Boston Legal) as Uncle Ruckus; Cedric Yarbrough (Reno 911) as Tom Dubois; Jill Talley (American Dad) as Sarah; and Gabby Soleil (Johnson Family Vacation) as Jazmine.

5.03 — The JEOPARDY! Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational airs May 3-7 and features Harry Shearer, Neil Patrick Harris, Michael McKean and Cheech Marin competing in a trivia match for their favorite charities. More details and video on this event are available in my previous report. [Update 5.03 @ 10:00 PM: Unfortunately, Shearer lost to Jane Curtin in the first round of the tournament.]

: At 9:30 PM (EST) on CBS, Yeardley Smith (voice of Lisa Simpson) guest stars on a repeat of The Big Bang Theory. [Thanks to Jon B. for the heads-up.]

: Discover why so many recent voiceover auditions ask for a “Morgan Freeman type” as Freeman guests on CBS’ Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson.

5.04Brad Garrett (voices in Ratatouille, A Bug’s Life, Eek! The Cat, Schnookums & Meat Funny Cartoon Show) guest stars as “Doug” in a rerun of Rosanne (ep. # 3.25 “The Pied Piper of Lanford” @ 12:30 AM on TVLand. Repeats @ 11:30 PM).

: The Biography Channel profiles Adam West (voices on Family Guy, The Fairly Odd Parents, Meet the Robinsons) at 9:00 AM (EST). Includes interviews with Burt (“Robin”) Ward, Frank (“The Riddler”) Gorshin, and Julie (“Catwoman”) Newmar. Repeats at 3:00 PM; 5.05 @ 4:00 AM.

: Michael McKean (voices on Harvey Birdman, Justice League, Family Guy) competes on the second round of JEOPARDY! Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational. More details and video on this event are available in my previous report. [Update: 5.04 @ 11:00 PM -- Winner: Michael McKean!]

: A new episode of WordGirl airs on PBS at 4:00 PM (EST) with guest stars John C. McGinley (Scrubs) as Whammer, animation voice actor Grey DeLisle (Scooby-Doo, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Wow Wow Wubzy) as Ms. Question and comedian/impressionist James Adomian as Joe the Guard.

It’s followed by another new episode at 4:30 PM (EST) guest starring Daran Norris (The Fairly OddParents) as Seymour Orlando Smooth and Grey DeLisle as Beatrice Bixby/Lady Redundant Woman.

: Samuel L. Jackson (Afro Samurai, The Boondocks) guests on The Ellen Degeneres Show (in syndication, check local listings).

: On Comedy Central at 10:00 PM (EST), the former FOX animated show Sit Down, Shut Up makes its cable network debut. It features the voices of Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, Kristin Chenoweth, Will Forte, Nick Kroll, Kenan Thompson, Cheri Oteri and Henry Winkler.

: Impressionist Frank Caliendo (MAD TV) guests on NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

5.05 — Look for Tom Kenny (voice of SpongeBob SquarePants) as Persky in a repeat episode of Just Shoot Me (ep. 2.13 “Pass the Salt”) on TBS @ 11:00 AM.

: Neil Patrick Harris (voices on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Penguins of Madagascar, Robot Chicken, Family Guy, Spider-Man) competes on the third round of JEOPARDY! Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational. More details and video on this event are available in my previous report.

: “Pixar Movie Mission,” a repeat episode of Dinner Impossible (FOOD TV) airs @ 10:00 PM (EST) and features Pixar founder John Lasseter, director/writer/animator Brad Bird (voice of The Incredibles‘ Edna Mode), and Lou Romano (voice of Linguini in Ratatouille). Repeats: 5.06 @ 1:00 AM; 5.08 @ 4:00 PM.

: Dana Delaney (Superman: The Animated Series) guests on PBS’ Tavis Smiley.

: Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, American Dad, The Cleveland Show) guests on CBS’ Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson.

: Samuel L. Jackson guests on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

5.06Mike Judge (King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead) has a cameo on Spy Kids (2001) airing on Showtime @ 8:00 AM. Repeats: 5.12 @ 9:30 AM; 5.16 @ 12:05 PM.

: John DiMaggio (Futurama, Gears of War series, Chowder) has a brief role as “Officer Ross” in a rerun of My Name is Earl (ep. 1.23 “BB”) @ 8:00 AM on MyNetworkTV.

: Tim Daly (Superman: The Animated Series) guests on ABC’s The View.

: Samuel L. Jackson (a busy man on the talk show circuit this month) guests on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

5.07 — On the 8:00 PM (EST) episode of Smallville (The CW), Michael McKean (voices on Harvey Birdman, Justice League, Family Guy) guest stars as Perry White.

: Comedian Steven Wright (voices in Babe: Pig in the City, Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist, The Swan Princess) guests on CBS’ Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson.

5.08Jeff Dunham: Spark of Insanity airs on Comedy Central at 9:00 PM (EST).

5.09 — The Biography Channel profiles Bill Cosby at 12:00 PM (EST), followed by the two-hour special The Cosby Show… A Look Back at 1:00 PM.

: Phil LaMarr guest stars as “Kurt” on a rerun of According to Jim (ep. 6.17 “Any Man of Mine”) @ 1:00 PM on The CW.

: Guest voices on the 8:30 PM episode of The Cleveland Show (FOX):

- Jason Sudeikis as Holt
– Jamie Kennedy as Federline
– Connor Rayburn as Dylan
– Aseem Batra as Kendra
– Glenn Howerton as Ernie
– Alec Sulkin as Angus
– Alex Borstein as Mrs. Lowenstein
– John Viener as Gordy
Also listen for Kevin Michael Richardson as Uncle Thomas the Tank Engine and Flava Flav.

(Previously reported here.)

5.10Judy Greer (voices on Archer, Glen Martin DDS) guest stars on a repeat of The Big Bang Theory at 9:30 PM (EST) on CBS.

5.11William Shatner interviews Tim Allen (Toy Story series, Home Improvement) on Shatner’s Raw Nerve at 11:00 AM on the Biography Channel, followed by Shatner’s interview with Jason Alexander (Duckman, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) at 12:00 PM. (Repeats between 5-6 PM.) You can also watch Tim Allen’s interview online at Biography.com.

5.12
Johnny Depp narrates “The Doors” documentary When You’re Strange on American Masters @ 9:00 PM (EST) on PBS. A preview of the film is available on PBS.org.

: The SimpsonsHank Azaria and Matt Groening are guest judges on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters @ 10:00 PM.

5.14George Takei (Oh, my!) guest stars on a scifi fantasy episode (“Starship Tipton”) of The Suite Life on Deck @ 8:00 PM (EST) on the Disney Channel. Although famous for his role as Sulu in the Star Trek franchise, Takei has voiced many animated productions: Disney’s Mulan film series, The Super Hero Squad Show, Chowder, Transformers: Animated, Kim Possible, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

5.16Wilmer Valderama (voice of Handy Manny) and Handy himself team up for ABC’s season finale of Extreme Makeover Home Edition at 8:00 PM (EST).

And stay tuned to ABC at 9:00 PM for a guest appearance by Dan Gilvezan (original voice of Bumblebee on Transformers) on the season finale of Desperate Housewives. [Thanks to the official Dan Gilvezan Fan Page for the news!]

: On FOX at 8:00 PM (EST), Kelsey Grammer reprises his role as Sideshow Bob in an all-new episode of The Simpsons.

Immediately following @ 8:30 PM (EST) is a new episode of The Cleveland Show (FOX) guest starring Arianna Huffington, Aseem Batra and Ted Lange (The Love Boat).

Adult Swim premieres the first episode of Squidbillies‘ sixth season @ 12:00 AM guest starring rockers Widespread Panic and featuring the voices of Unknown Hinson as Early Cuyler, Daniel McDevitt as Rusty, Dana Snyder as Granny, Todd Hanson as Dan Halen, Patricia French as Aunt Lil, Scott Hilley as Reverend, Mary Kraft as Krystal, and Bobby F. Ellerbee as Sheriff.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes video from 2008 featuring Unknown Hinson and Dana Snyder:

5.20 — On the 8:00 PM (EST) two-hour season finale of Smallville (The CW), Phil Morris (The Secret Saturdays, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Batman: The Brave and the Bold) guest stars as John Jones, and Britt Irvin (George of the Jungle, X-Men: Evolution, Sabrina: The Animated Series) as Star Girl.

: Lenoard Nimoy (Star Trek, Transformers: The Movie, Atlantis: The Lost Empire) guest stars on FOX’s Fringe at 9:00 PM (EST).

5.21James Arnold Taylor (Star Wars: The Clone Wars says (via his official Facebook fan page) that he will be singing both The National Anthem and “God Bless America” for “Clone Wars Day” at the Los Angeles Dodgers’ home game against the Detroit Tigers and adds that “it will be televised.”

5.23 — The 8:00 PM (EST) season finale of The Simpsons (FOX) features American Idol judges Simon Cowell, Ellen DeGeneres, Kara DioGuardi and Randy Jackson.

And stay tuned to FOX for the 8:30 PM episode of The Cleveland Show (FOX) with the following guest stars:

- Jason Sudeikis as Holt
– David Lynch as Gus
– Frances Callier as Cookie
– Craig Robinson as Freight Train
– Corey Holcomb as Robert
This episode also features a “special musical number by Earth, Wind & Fire” as well as cameos by Family Guy‘s Peter Griffin and Quagmire (voiced by Seth MacFarlane).

(Previously reported here.)

Additional notes and upcoming appearances:

- John Goodman (voices in The Princess and the Frog, Monsters, Inc., The Emperor’s New Groove film and TV series, The Jungle Book 2, Bee Movie, and the upcoming animated feature film Bunyan and Babe) is narrating the TLC series Best Food Ever. It premiered May 3rd and currently airs in regular rotation on the network. Visit TLC.Discover.com for the schedule.

- I’ve updated my feature article on Nick’s Big Time Rush with appearances by Tara Strong, Dee Bradley Baker, James Arnold Taylor, Phil LaMarr, Daran Norris, Carlos Alazraqui and Ahmed Best. Because these episodes are broadcast in regular rotation on Nick, I’ve decided not to list them in this feature. But if you’d like to see when they air, check Nick.com’s TV Schedule page. Some episodes from the first season are also available online @ Nick.com.

- NickandMore.com shares via Twitter that Tom Kenny has appeared twice on Nick’s True Jackson, VP in the episodes “Saving Snackleberry” and “True Royalty.” Check this page on IMDb.com for future airings.

- Phil LaMarr posted via his official Facebook fan page on 5.03 that he “Spent the AM @ Cartoon Network working on the very fun GENERATOR REX” and added later that he recorded with Grey Delisle, Carlos Alazraqui and Marion Ross (Happy Days).

Since making its debut on Cartoon Network, Generator Rex now airs regularly on the schedule and features the voices of Daryl Sabara as Rex, John DiMaggio as Bobo Haha and Skalamander, Fred Savage as Noah, Tara Strong as Alan, Grey DeLisle as Dr. Holiday, Wally Kurth as Agent Six, Troy Baker as Van Kleiss and Biowulf, J.K. Simmons as White Knight, Tom Kenny as Scorpio, and Hynden Walch as Breach.

Sources: TVGuide.com, Interbridge.com, TheFutonCritic.com, IMDb.com


Voice Cast Cavalcade: The Cleveland Show

04.26.2010

Next in my series of “Voice Cast Cavalcade” features…

I’ve noticed that I’m getting search hits almost daily from fans looking for “cleveland voice actor” or similar search terms.

I’m always willing to oblige my readers by providing more info on popular blog searches, but I’ve previously profiled Mike Henry, voice of Cleveland Brown and co-creator of The Cleveland Show. And I mentioned some of the celebrity guest voices in my February coverage.

Without getting into the debate over the show being “too derivative” of Family Guy (a common criticism which is also said of American Dad), as an animation fan (and critic) I have to say I am enjoying it much more than I ever did Family Guy. I didn’t think Cleveland was a strong enough character to carry the series as the lead, and wow was I proven wrong.

I feel The Cleveland Show also is better written and has stronger characterizations than Family Guy, mainly because Peter Griffin is the most inconsistent character in animated history (and one of the most obnoxious as well). Cleveland’s like the polar opposite of Peter, and he’s actually likable.

And supporting the solid writing are entertaining performances by the voice cast. But since I’ve mentioned the cast here previously, I thought I’d bypass the commentary and offer you the chance to see the cast in action.

So, following a little news on upcoming episodes of the show, you’ll find a series of behind-the-scenes videos and interviews I’ve been collecting in my backlogged bookmarks.

That said, TheFutonCritic.com has details (via FOX press release) on the guest voices for new episodes of The Cleveland Show airing May 2nd and 9th:

+ “Brotherly Love”, airing 5.02 at 8:30 PM (EST) on FOX:

Voice Cast:
– Mike Henry as Cleveland Brown and Rallo Tubbs
– Sanaa Lathan as Donna Tubbs
– Kevin Michael Richardson as Cleveland Jr., Lester, Julius and Bea Arthur
– Reagan Gomez as Roberta Tubbs
– Seth MacFarlane as Tim

Guest Voice Cast:
– Jason Sudeikis as Holt and Terry
– Jamie Kennedy as Federline
– Kanye West as Kenny West
– Taraji P. Henson as Chanel
– Jason Alexander as Saul Friedman
– Bebe Neuwirth as Sarah Friedman
– Al Thompson as Walt

+ “Brown History Month”, airing 5.09 at 8:30 PM (EST) on FOX:

Voice Cast:
– Mike Henry as Cleveland Brown and Rallo Tubbs
– Sanaa Lathan as Donna Tubbs
– Kevin Michael Richardson as Cleveland Jr., Lester, Uncle Thomas the Tank Engine and Flavor Flav
– Reagan Gomez as Roberta Tubbs
– Seth MacFarlane as Tim

Guest Voice Cast:
– Jason Sudeikis as Holt
– Jamie Kennedy as Federline
– Connor Rayburn as Dylan
– Aseem Batra as Kendra
– Glenn Howerton as Ernie
– Alec Sulkin as Angus
– Alex Borstein as Mrs. Lowenstein
– John Viener as Gordy

Additionally, FreakinSweetNews.com reports that the May 23rd episode will feature “a special musical number by Earth, Wind & Fire.”

Now, onto the videos…

In April 2010, Mike Henry was interviewed by BackStage Casting:

And these are all from the official FOX Broadcasting YouTube Channel and most of them from 2009:

And finally, from The Hollywood Reporter:

I’ll continue to update this page over time to add photos, videos and related interviews. And I’m still trying to find photos/videos from The Cleveland Show panel featuring cast members Mike Henry and Kevin Michael Richardson at the 2010 Chicago Entertainment and Comic Expo.


Shearer and Harris Compete for a Million on Jeopardy

04.26.2010

This article was originally published April 26th and has since been updated and expanded. Please scroll down for the latest updates.

Harry Shearer and Neil Patrick Harris are among the nine finalists competing on the JEOPARDY! Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational May 3-7 (check your local listings for showtimes in your area).

Of the nine finalists, Shearer and Harris are by far the most prolific voiceoverists in animation.

Shearer, of Simpsons‘ fame, is the voice of many of the show’s popular characters: Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy, Kent Brockman and Principal Skinner (just to name a “few”).

And Harris has voiced lead and guest starring roles for a number of animated productions: Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Penguins of Madagascar, Robot Chicken, Family Guy, Spider-Man, and even had a cameo as himself on The Simpsons. He’s also voicing Nightwing/Dick Grayson for the upcoming direct-to-video animated feature Batman: Under the Red Hood.

Other celebrity participants in this competition have also voiced animated productions such as Michael McKean (voices on Harvey Birdman, Justice League, Family Guy), Cheech Marin (Cars, The Lion King series, Oliver & Company), Jane Curtin (Antz, Hercules, Recess, Cyberchase), Charles Shaughnessey (Stanley, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, The Tale of Despereaux, Rugrats: All Grown Up), and Jane Kaczmarek (voice of Judge Constance Harm, a recurring character on The Simpsons).

Update: 5.08 — Congratulations to Michael McKean on winning the JEOPARDY! Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational. Here’s the final results (via SonyPictures.com):

- Michael McKean: $11,200
15 correct answers / 2 incorrect

- Cheech Marin: $8,000
19 / 5

- Jane Curtin: $11,000
18 / 3

Thanks to McKean’s tournament win, his charity — the International Myeloma Foundation — earns $1,000,000. Jane Curtin’s charity — US Fund for UNICEF — gets $250,000, and Cheech Marin earned $100,000 for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.

Update: 5.07 — Congrats to Michael McKean on his win for the first round of the finals. Here’s the results (via SonyPictures.com):

- Michael McKean: $21,600
24 correct answers / 0 incorrect

- Cheech Marin: $11,600
13 / 1

- Jane Curtin: $15,800
21 / 3

Update: 5.05Cheech Marin wins over Neil Patrick Harris and Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle) in Round 3, which leaves Marin, McKean and Jane Curtin (3rd Rock from the Sun) as the finalists competing May 6-7.

Results from Round 3 (courtesy of SonyPictures.com):

- Neil Patrick Harris: $9,400
17 correct answers / 2 incorrect

- Jane Kaczmarek: $11,400
15 / 2

- Cheech Marin: $16,200
18 / 0

Update: 5.04 @ 11:30 PM — Michael McKean soundly beat his challengers Isaac Mizrahi and Charles Shaughnessey. Final results (courtesy of SonyPictures.com):

- Michael McKean: $18,800
25 correct / 2 incorrect

- Isaac Mizrahi: $9,600
16 / 1

- Charles Shaughnessey: $15,600
17 / 0

Update: 5.03 @ 10:00 PM (EST) — Although Shearer clearly has great knowledge of trivia, he was out-answered by Jane Curtin by 21 correct answers to Shearer’s 15. But he very nearly had a last-minute upset during Final Jeopardy, when she wagered a low amount while Shearer bet everything.

Final results (via SonyPictures.com):

- Pat Sajak: $4,800
12 correct answers, 5 incorrect

- Jane Curtin: $14,600
21 / 2

- Harry Shearer: $12,600
15 / 2

Ah, well…so much for my high hopes for a Spinal Tap cast face-off in the finals with Shearer against Michael McKean.

And courtesy of CBS’s official Jeopardy! YouTube Channel, following are highlights from the quarterfinals and interviews about the celebrities’ respective charities:

Source: Celebwall.com


Voice Cast Cavalcade: Word Up, WordGirl!

02.14.2010

This article was first published February 14, 2010 and has since been revised and updated with new information. Please scroll down for the most recent additions.

Although I have done previous voice cast features here on the blog, I’m introducing it as a series with a fancy-schmancy title — “Voice Cast Cavalcade” — where I will periodically spotlight the voice casts of TV shows, movies, films and video games which I think are worthy of mention.

WordGirl image courtesy of PBS.org

First up is the Emmy Award-winning PBS series, WordGirl [<-- official site link], one of my current favorite animated shows.

Yes, I know it’s a kids’ show. And no, I don’t have any kids. But as a writer I’ve always had a fascination with words and their meanings. I’m also involved in education as an acting coach for kids and teens, and I perform an “edutainment” reading program for children. So if I must justify why I watch WordGirl, there you go.

But I also watch the show because I just love cartoons. And as an animation critic, I can’t say the show’s animation is particularly striking or even outstanding. But that’s not worth criticizing because WordGirl is designed to have a functional, simplistic coloring book/comic book-esque look that’s easy on the eyes and works for the show’s format.

And it’s on PBS so it’s expected that WordGirl‘s focus is education, which it has in spades — it’s geared to help boost reading comprehension and vocabulary.

But quite surprisingly it also entertains…for all ages.

Most studios producing animated educational programming for kids unfortunately share a common problem: they often seem to forget to try making the show entertaining for adults too. (Many parents — good parents — do watch shows with their kids rather than letting the TV serve as a babysitter. I’m an uncle several times over and I love watching kids’ shows with my nieces and nephews because I find it interesting to observe what they react to.)

And because PBS shows are sponsored by companies who want parents to buy their products, I don’t understand why a production company would not attempt to make a kids’ show at least moderately entertaining for adults. Otherwise, the sponsors and advertisers seem more of an afterthought.

WordGirl is one of those rare kids’ shows that seems to have been intentionally crafted to be entertaining for all ages, and with a production studio like Soup2Nuts behind the series…well, that explains a LOT.

Soup2Nuts is the same studio that gave us Science Court, Home Movies and Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist. Home Movies and Dr. Katz — both skewed for adults — have developed a strong adult following through Adult Swim and Comedy Central (respectively). And Science Court was a kids’ show that thanks to clever writing and comedic voice performances had a broad audience appeal.

(And thankfully, WordGirl doesn’t use Soup2Nuts’ trademark “Squigglevision” from any of those series.)

And I’m not the only adult who has noticed WordGirl‘s entertainment value.

Popular animation fan site toonzone.net ranked WordGirl #19 on their Toons of the 2000s: Top 25 Animated Television Series, actually ranking WordGirl higher than such fan favorites as King of the Hill, Teen Titans, South Park and Chowder. Toonzone calls it “one of the smartest shows on television” thanks to the “humorous and fast-paced dialogue,” “unique villains,” “zany…secondary characters,” and the narrator’s commentary which “makes for some of the greatest highlights of the show.”

Toonzone calls it a “nominally…educational program,” and adds that there is “nothing nominal…about its entertainment value.”

PBS and Scholastic also seem deliberate in promoting the show to adults. In 2007, they enlisted PBS’ news anchor Jim Lehrer to do a “mock interview” with WordGirl for a show promo:

But what personally hooked me on the show were the cast performances and guest stars, which helped WordGirl to win the award for “Best Voice Talent” at the inaugural 2010 KidScreen Awards.

Danna Feinglass (photo courtesy UCBTheatre.com)

The show’s title character, WordGirl (aka Becky Botsford) is voiced by Dannah Feinglass (also credited as Dannah Phirman) who is also the voice of Penny, Bessie Higgenbottom’s sidekick on Nick’s popular animated series The Mighty B!. Furthermore, Feinglass voices Zaria and Linda the Sheep on Tak and the Power of Juju (also on Nickelodeon), and has voiced characters in the Mass Effect video game series. [FYI: Feinglass has also written episodes of WordGirl and The Mighty B!]

Feinglass is also an alumni of the Los Angeles’ comedy troupe, The Upright Citizens Brigade — which if you browse the Performers page on UCBTheatre.com you’ll discover this is a common connection with several other members of WordGirl’s voice cast: James Adomian, Maria Bamford, Patton Oswalt, Matt Besser, Danielle Schneider, Ron Lynch and Nick Kroll.

WordGirl‘s voice cast is far too lengthy for me to include here in its entirety, so I’ll just list the principals, recurring roles and notable guest stars (note that these are all recurring characters featured in 3 or more episodes).

- Chris Parnell – Narrator, “The Exposition Guy”
Maria Bamford – Mrs. Botsford, Violet Heaslip, Leslie the Assistant
Ryan Raddatz – Mr. Botsford, Todd “Scoops” Ming
Cree Summer – Granny May
Tom Kenny – T.J. Botsford, Dr. Two Brains
James Adomian – Curator, Security Guard, Robber
Fred Stoller – Chuck the Evil Sandwich Making Guy
Patton Oswalt – Theodore “Tobey” McCalister III
H. Jon Benjamin – Reginald, the Jewelry Store Clerk
Ron Lynch – Mayor
Larry Murphy – TV Reporter
Grey DeLisle – Lady Redundant Woman
Jeffrey Tambor – Mr. Big
Jim Gaffigan – Mr. Dudley
Pamela Adlon – The Birthday Girl
John C. McGinley – The Whammer

Other notable guest stars include Kevin McDonald (Kids in the Hall, Invader ZIM), Ed Asner (Freakazoid!, The Mary Tyler Moore Show), Wayne Knight (Seinfeld, Toonsylvania), Kristin Schaal (Flight of the Conchords), Andy Dick (NewsRadio, Clone High), Judy Greer (Arrested Development), Peter Graves (Mission: Impossible, Airplane!), Elliot Gould (Friends, Kim Possible), and Brian Posehn (Transformers Animated, Mission Hill).

Here’s a segment from WordGirl introducing one of the series’ recurring villains “The Butcher” via PBS’ official YouTube Channel, featuring the voices of Dannah Feinglass (Becky, WordGirl), Chris Parnell (Narrator), Maria Bamford (Violet), Jack Ferraiolo (The Butcher), Jen Cohn (Bank Teller, Rich Old Lady), H. Jon Benjamin (Reginald), and Mike O’Connell (Grocery Store Manager).

For the show’s on-air credits, the cast is listed by name only which unfortunately makes it difficult to ID the voices, and I am unable to find an official source with a complete voice cast. The cast lists on IMDb.com and Wikipedia.org are useful but lack 100% accuracy.

I’ve contacted PBS Kids and Scholastic in hopes that they will be able to supply this information for the fans, and will update upon their reply.

DVD cover for 'WordGirl: Earth Day Girl' (via Scholastic press release)

And in very closely related news, PBS issued a press release (via toonzone.net) on Jan. 19th announcing WordGirl’s first-ever DVD release for March 30th: WordGirl: Earth Day Girl.

WordGirl: Earth Day Girl includes 8 episodes with bonus content that will both educate and entertain younger viewers, and I believe animation fans will find the show refreshingly entertaining too.

I personally hope it sells extremely well with parents and thus possibly help season box sets to be released in the future…for my future kids, naturally, but for me too.

Update: 5.04.2010
— I’ve given this article a complete overhaul and added images and video clips, and tried finding some other cast interviews via Google search:

- Found a mention on the official site for Ryan Raddatz (series writer and voice of WordGirl’s dad, Mr. Botsford) of a WordGirl live event (held in Los Angeles January 22, 2009) where Raddatz’s mentions that they had just wrapped production on “104 eleven-minute episodes” for WordGirl’s second season. (Barely half of Season 2’s new episodes have aired as of May 2010.)

And in a follow-up post, Raddatz shared several photos of the event featuring the voice cast.

In a more recent post, Raddatz blogged February 12th, 2010:

I’m currently writing my last script of season four (episode 155!) and we’ll be in the booth recording all next week. We should hear soon about more seasons….Fingers crossed!

- Series writer and voice talent Jack Ferraiolo was profiled in a June 2008 interview following his Daytime Emmy win.

- Animation World Network published an interview February 2009 with WordGirl executive producer Deborah Forte and series’ creator Dorothea Gillim.

- Two interviews with Maria Bamford:
womensradio.com
creativeloafing.com

- Starpulse.com February 2009 interview with Chris Parnell.


Kenny, Hines Talk ‘Superhero Squad’

02.11.2010

ComicBookResources.com has an interview with Tom Kenny detailing his work on The Superhero Squad Show as the voice Captain America, Iron Man, M.O.D.O.K., Juggernaut, Colossus and other characters on the show. Kenny also talks about his love for all things geeky and reveals some tidbits about the show’s season finale.

Here’s what Kenny has to say about voice acting as a career:

I messed around in rock and roll bands when I was a little kid, and I still do. Then I kind of stumbled my way into standup and sketch comedy. Eventually, I became employed in that while doing the occasional voiceover, but the whole time I was doing those things, I thought that voiceover was the thing I was best at. I wished that could be 98% of my pie instead of two percent. It’s kind of a tough nut to crack. I made a living as a standup for many years and eventually the voiceover thing was able to supplant a lot of that stuff. It turns out that I was right – voiceover is better. [Laughs] Voiceover is the best-kept secret in entertainment.

It’s a perfect job for what you would call the shy show-off, you know what I mean? The person who doesn’t exactly want to be famous and deal with all of the horrific stuff that being an on camera celebrity brings to your life, but you still want to make a living as an actor. If you’re not driven by wanting to see your face on the cover of “People Magazine,” then being a voice actor is the best. It’s all of the fun of being an actor without any of the mess.

CBR CBR also interviews Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s Cheryl Hines who voices Stardust, herald of Galactus (voiced by George Takei), on the 2-part season finale of The Superhero Squad Show airing Feb. 13th and 20th at 7:30 PM on Cartoon Network.

Says Hines of her voice acting experience:

The first time you do this, it’s such a strange feeling, because you’re in this booth that has this big glass window and there are usually, I don’t know, five to eight people on the other side staring at you with their headphones on. You can’t really hear what they’re saying, unless they want you to hear what they’re saying, and then they push a little button and say something to you. Otherwise, you’ll do a take and see them all talking. “Oh no, what’s going on in there?” Then they’ll push the button and go, “That was good, but let’s just try it one more time.” [Laughs] They’re always super calm when they talk to you, because they don’t want you getting rattled.

I remember the first time I did it, I was sweating. You’re not sure if you’re doing it right. You don’t really know what you’re doing. After you do a few [takes], you realize that there’s actually no right or wrong. The people on the other side of the glass, they’re listening and they’re really good at imagining the world that you’re creating.

You are so exhausted at the end of recording something like this. It’s very draining. I mean, let’s be honest, I’m not digging ditches, but your whole body is all tense and you’re trying to get it right and you’re so in it and concentrating so hard for three or four hours at a time. When it’s over, it feels like you just ran a marathon. Plus, with everybody’s eyes all on you, everyone’s listening to every little swallow, and God help you if you have any other body noises. [Laughs] It can be very stressful! But it’s weird. It’s a different way of working.

Related post: 1.31.2010 — Tom Kenny Talks Handy Manny


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