Happy Birthday, June Foray!

09.18.2010

June Foray in an undated publicity photo.

Voice Actors in the News would like to wish a very happy birthday to “The First Lady of Cartoon Voicing” — June Foray — born September 18th, 1917.

June Foray with fellow Looney Tunes character voicers Maurice LaMarche and Bob Bergen at VOICE 2010. Photo courtesy Dave Nimitz.

For cartoon voice actor fans, June needs no introduction. With more than 300 credits listed on The Internet Movie Database, her most notable roles are… well, all of them, but the most widely-known characters she’s voiced are Granny and Witch Hazel in classic Looney Tunes cartoons, Rocky and Natasha in Rocky & Bullwinkle, Magica De Spell and Ma Beagle in Disney’s DuckTales, and Jokey Smurf in The Smurfs.

June Foray, Dave Nimitz and Ginger. Photo courtesy Dave Nimitz.

And as we’ve reported here a few times, there’s a June Foray documentary forthcoming, which according to the official site is currently in post-production. (A new trailer was added on August 5th, 2010.)

There’s also the Smurf Justice for June Foray campaign which needs the continued support of all her fans and a great deal more media exposure if it’s going to be successful:

There’s also more than 40 links, interviews and video related to June that I collected via June’s category at The Open Directory Project. And I’ll probably be adding more to it over the next week. One link in particular that’s highly recommended is The Archive of American Television’s 2-hour video interview with June from 2008. Here’s part 1 via YouTube:

Additionally, animation artist Dave Nimitz, who has been close friends with June for ages (and who also donated personal photos for this article), has home videos with June on his official YouTube Channel, and many, many photos featuring June on his Flickr photostream.

Voice Actors in the News staffer Doreen Mulman also has a tribute to June on her blog, including an image Dave Nimitz created for June in honor of her birthday.

Cover image for June Foray's autobiography courtesy of BearManorMedia.com.

Lastly (but certainly not leastly), June’s autobiography Did You Grow Up With Me Too? is available through her official site, JUNEFORAY.COM. Mark Evanier stated via NewsFromME.com in February 2010:

[We] will soon be closing down her site and it will no longer be possible to order signed copies from there. But I like you so I’m giving you what may be your final opportunity. If you want a copy autographed by the legend herself — the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Natasha, Tweety’s owner Granny, Nell Fenwick, Jokey Smurf and so many more — go there now and order one…or more. And don’t come crawling to me when you finally decide you need one and they’re no longer available.

Mark hasn’t followed up on this since, and the site does appear to still have copies available. But if for some reason they’re sold out, you can still purchase the book through the publisher: BEARMANORMEDIA.COM.

June Foray and Bob Bergen at VOICE 2010. Photo courtesy Dave Nimitz.

June’s character voices have been entertaining me since I was a toddler. I hope to finally get a chance to meet her so I can tell her in person how much I admire and appreciate her work, and how much it influenced me to pursue a career as a performer.

And from myself and the staff here at Voice Actors in the News, we wish you a very happy birthday, June.

Actress June Foray arrives for the 2009 Governors Awards at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, California on November 14, 2009. Photo credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images.


‘Voice of Hollywood’ Marni Nixon Concert Event in N.C.

08.17.2010

For immediate release

Marni Nixon image courtesy Asheville Lyric Opera

MARNI NIXON, “The Voice of Hollywood,” presents a cabaret show at Diana Wortham Theatre on August 29th, at 3:00 p.m. One of the most famous voices in Hollywood film history, Ms. Nixon is best known as the singing voice of Natalie Wood in West Side Story, Deborah Kerr in The King and I and An Affair to Remember, as well as Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

~~ Click here to view the promotional poster for this event ~~

This one-woman show of brilliant singing is part of the 2010 summer at the WORTHAM series, Pack Place in downtown Asheville, NC. Ms. Nixon sings highlights from her extensive career in TV, Recordings, Movies, Broadway and Opera. This once in a lifetime event will bring the audience a unique behind the scenes look into the music secrets and success of Hollywood and Broadway in the grand glamour silver screen days.

This special event is sponsored by Asheville Lyric Opera Guild and the Grand Bohemian Hotel and will benefit the ALO education programs and opera activates.

Tickets are available at 828-257-4530. Concert prices are $50, $40, and seniors $35.

For more information see www.ashevillelyric.org or call 828-236-0670.

Marni will also be performing October 9th with the Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra at the Los Medanos College Recital Hall in Pittsburg, CA. We’ll provide more details and ticket info on this event in the near future.

Update: 8.17, 2:15 PM — Marni tells Voice Actors in the News exclusively that she has just won a Peabody Award for “Outstanding Contribution to American Music” which she will receive in May 2011 at an event in New York.

And as a bonus, here’s a January 2008 video interview with Marni Nixon from The Chicago Tribune:

A very special thanks to David Craig Starkey for the press release and images, and to Marni Nixon for the info on the Oct. 9th concert. Please visit MarniNixon.com for more about Marni’s life and work.

~ Craig Crumpton
Publisher: Voice Actors in the News


Voice Actor Spotlight: Jay Jennings

08.17.2010

Jay Jennings was mentored by Daws Butler, who felt Jay had the talent to do many of the classic Hanna-Barbera voices “spot on.” A meeting with Hanna-Barbera executives in Studio City was arranged so Daws could vouch for Jay’s talent, but before the meeting could take place Daws passed away and none of what he had hoped for Jay transpired. Unfortunately, Jay doesn’t have any photographs of himself with Daws, because they always went straight to work at Daws’ home studio in his garage and never posed for one.

Jay with Steve Allen

Jay Jennings’ speaking voice has been compared to a young Orson Welles, so to say he has been blessed vocally would be an understatement. Jay’s voice-over jobs have mostly been indie work: college radio station IDs, commercials, public service announcements, narrations, some horror movie trailers, and of course, his cartoon voices.

Jay is also a celebrity impressionist and has been fortunate enough throughout his career to be have been trained by two legendary entertainers: Frank Gorshin (The Riddler on the ’60s cult classic, Batman) and Steve Allen. Jay Jennings is now a film director and L.A. historian, and still does voiceovers. He is also known as “The Knott’s Guy” having written two books about Southern California’s oldest theme park, Knott’s Berry Farm.

Voice Actors in the News is pleased to present an interview with Jennings conducted by blog staffer Doreen Mulman:

DM: How old were you when you developed an interest in doing voices?

JJ: My love for doing voices probably started when I was very young. I instantly felt a connection to all the cartoons I watched on Saturday mornings such as Yogi Bear, Snagglepuss, Bullwinkle, Daffy Duck, and Tom Slick, to name but a few. I always tried to impersonate them during the week and at school. I also loved TV variety shows of the early 1970’s where voices and impressions were on display, such as The Jonathan Winters Show, The Red Skelton Show, and The Kopykats.

Interestingly enough, one of the first record albums I ever listened to was Rich Little’s Broadway, where I first learned to impersonate the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, and President Nixon. As I got older and my voice matured, I was able to mimic voices and mannerisms by watching a lot of old movies on TV and listening to impressionists like Rich Little, Frank Gorshin, Will Jordan, Fred Travalena, and George Kirby.

DM: How did you meet Daws Butler?

JJ: My mother, who once worked for the head of the William Morris Agency, was always on the look-out for agents and mentors to help me hone my acting and voice talent. She called in a few favors and arranged an initial meeting with Daws Butler at his studio in 1982. In fact, he was the first person to tell me that my speaking voice sounded very much like a young Orson Welles (on the radio).

During that first meeting, I was in complete awe knowing I was in the presence of the man whose cartoon voices I grew up with. He asked me if I did anything special with my voice. I replied, “Matter of fact, I can do most of your voices.” He replied, “Oh really? Well, let’s see what you can do.” With that, I rattled off my versions of Yogi Bear, Snagglepuss, Hokey Wolf, Super Snooper, Mr. Jinx, and a few others. Daws grinned and said, “You know something, Jay? You have a great ear. I’d like to train you to make them even better.” So over the next five years, I was mentored by Daws to carry on his cartoon voice legacy after he retired. I’d say we had about twenty sessions in his studio. It was definitely magical.

In 1987, while Daws and I were preparing for an upcoming meeting at Hanna-Barbera headquarters in Studio City, California, Daws’ health took a turn for the worse and he passed away less than a year later, so we never got to meet with Hanna-Barbera’s head of voice talent. I then turned my sights mostly to filmmaking, as my voicework kind of took a backseat over the next 20 years.

Listen to Jay’s Hanna-Barbera Voice Reel:

DM: Were your sessions with Daws one-on-one or were other students of his (such as Nancy Cartwright) present?

JJ: My sessions with Daws were all one-on-one, which Daws decided after our first meeting. He was very impressed with the fact that I could do a lot of his cartoon voices before ever being trained by him, so his goal was to help me perfect them and to excel in reading cartoon and commercial “copy” for auditions and future voice jobs.

DM: Was Daws a fun person to be with? Considering his profession one might expect him to be a bit of an imp with a silly sense of humor, or did you find him to be more serious individual? Are there any anecdotes of your times with him that might illustrate?

JJ: Daws, to me, was like a gentle grandfather figure, whose laugh was very childlike and innocent. He was serious when you were trying to read copy or learn something new and we would repeat it over and over until I got it right. “He would say, “No, try that again with more enthusiasm. Good, now try it again while breathing out slowly.” Daws knew every technique in the book when it came to teaching acting, voices, and breathing properly while recording in the studio, which by the way, was my favorite part of our sessions, going into the recording booth and making magic with our voices.

By far, the most memorable session that we had in his studio was the time Daws suggested that we both take turns performing all the classic Hanna-Barbera voices as if we were at a big Hollywood party, commenting on the food and scenery. In essence, I would imitate Quickdraw McGraw, Lippy the Lion, and Snagglepuss, while Daws would answer back as Yogi Bear, Wally Gator, and Elroy Jetson. Unfortunately, I never asked Daws for a copy of this recording since I was too blown away at the time to realize the significance of this once-in-a-lifetime collaboration.

DM: Could you describe some of the teaching techniques Daws Butler, Frank Gorshin, and Steve Allen used when you were being mentored?

JJ: The main thing Daws pressed upon me during our sessions together, no matter what vocal technique we were working on, was to have correct pronunciation, cadence, and the right vocal audio level, not to mention, to have proper lip, mouth and teeth manipulation, which in turn, would make it easier to perform certain voices (i.e. an old man, a little boy, a British aristocrat, a gangster, or an Old West sheriff).

Jay with Frank Gorshin

I met Frank Gorshin at an autograph show in Hollywood, California in the early 2000’s. He took a liking to me after I told him I was a big fan and a celebrity impressionist myself. During our half dozen meetings, Frank taught me the importance of facial expressions and contorting my face and lips when doing an impression. Frank was an extremely nice and cordial man.

I met Steve Allen in 1990 while I was hosting a cable TV show in Beverly Hills. In the three meetings we had, Steve taught me the importance of sketch comedy and how to be generally funny, and how to make an audience laugh. He said, “You must always have a punch line that knocks the audience dead with laughter, otherwise you’ll simply drown, which is a comedian’s worst nightmare.”

DM: Which celebrities do you like to impersonate?

JJ: My favorite celebrities to impersonate are obviously the classic stars of yesteryear, such as Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, W.C. Fields, Groucho Marx, Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Vincent Price, George Burns, Jack Benny, Ed Sullivan, Charles Bronson, George C. Scott, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, and countless others.

DM: What physical preparation do you find helps your throat/tongue/vocal cords to duplicate voices best? For example, warm/cold liquids, lemon, honey, gargling, clearing your sinuses, etc.

JJ: Before every voice session with Daws, he would offer me some hot chocolate to soothe my throat and voice and I’ve stuck with that vocal preparation ever since. If hot cocoa isn’t available, I find that hot tea with honey works very well.

DM: Are you still interested in a career in voice-overs?

JJ: I’ve been a film director since 1989 and it’s basically what I’m known for. I’ve made a name for myself in the amusement park genre by writing two books about Knott’s Berry Farm. With that said, it’s safe to say that I’ve never stopped working on my voice over endeavors, as I still perform the occasional narration, movie trailer, radio spot, and cartoon voice, always making myself available if called upon.

Watch Jay in a TV Appearance about Knott’s Berry Farm:

Thank you for your time and use of your photographs, Jay.  Voice Actors in the News wishes you much success in all that you do.

~ Doreen Mulman, Staff Contributor
Voice Actors in the News

Jay Jennings may be contacted at: jenningsfilms@gmail.com


Featured Voices: Jeff Bordner

02.07.2010

Continued Super Bowl Sunday voice-related coverage…

Salt Lake City’s KSL.com has an interview with Jeff Bordner, who won the audition as the announcer for Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl VI.

“I love what I do. My work is play,” he tells KSL.com. “My commute consists of a cup of coffee and negotiating the steps downstairs in my power suit, which is my bathrobe.”

Bordner, who also voices promos for ESPN, NBC, CBS and FOX, says of the VO industry: “I don’t know of another business that is this competitive. I’m very fortunate and I’m very blessed. Every type of voice brings with it some kind of positive thing, some kind of hook that advertisers are looking for. Whether it’s comedic or intense, or whether it’s just a regular guy. I’ve learned it’s not the voice, it’s the performance. You are voice acting. It is acting.”

You can learn more about Bordner’s work on his official site: NationalVoiceover.com.

Bordner replaces the late Harry Kalas, who served as announcer for Puppy Bowls I-V. Kalas, who passed away April 13, 2009, was the beloved voice of the Philadelphia Phillies and narrator for NFL Films. Look for a memorial tribute to Kalas here in April, 2010.

Related post: 2.07.2010 — Super Bowl Sunday VO


Happy 50th Birthiversary, Rocky and Bullwinkle!

11.18.2009

Have Mr. Peabody fire up the “WABAC Machine” and travel back to November 19th, 1959 and you’ll discover it’s been 50 years since Jay Ward’s “Rocky and His Friends” made its television debut — still one of the best animated comedies ever produced.

The show’s excellent writing with rapid-fire gags and quips, combined with fun characters, a great voice cast, and the simplicity of the animation gave this show a timeless quality that makes it as funny and entertaining today as it was 50 years ago, and will likely continue to be for generations to come.

Various online news media have begun publishing articles to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the famous animated moose and squirrel. Most articles I’ve seen so far merely rehash the series’ history (and are probably just rewording the Wikipedia entry anyway), but of note is this interview in the Star-Telegram with Tiffany Ward (Jay Ward’s daughter) and cast member June Foray (voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Natasha Fatale). Here’s an excerpt from June on being recognized by her voice:

“One time, I was buying a magazine in a store and I was chatting with the clerk, and he said, ‘I hope you’re not insulted, but you sound like Rocky the Flying Squirrel.’ I said, ‘I’m not insulted that you think so. I’m delighted.’”

UPDATE: 11.19.2009. 2:00 PM (EST)

    The Journal Star has a feature on “Rocky and Bullwinkle” which includes an archive interview with June Foray. And for additional interviews with Tiffany Ward, see my news post on toonzone.

    Also for a limited time you can view the entire first season (20 episodes) of the show for free on Hulu.com.

    And for more details on the show’s cast (including photos), visit the toonzone-hosted Hokey Smoke! Rocky and Bullwinkle fan site.

I also found a recent photo of June from Gettys Images, taken on the red carpet at the 2009 Governors Awards at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, California on November 14, 2009.

June’s autobiography, Did You Grow Up With Me Too?, was published in July 2009, and if you haven’t yet purchased it you can order an autographed copy through her official website, JuneForay.com.

And on a related note, I’ve taken this opportunity to add 40 links (articles, interviews, audio and video) to June’s category at The Open Directory Project (dmoz.org). And by the way, that’s not a typo either — I really do mean “40” as in forty links, and I assure you they’re all well-worth your time to browse (I don’t link ‘em if they ain’t), and several of them are gems from the last few months that have largely gone unnoticed.

Related post: 8.07.2009 — June Foray DVD Documentary Update


June Foray on Blu-Ray! (and related news)

07.15.2009

Home Media Magazine reports that Warner Home Video will release “Blu-ray Disc combo packs of the animated classics Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! and A Charlie Brown Christmas — each set, at $29.99, will include both a high-def version on Blu-ray and a standard-def version on DVD.”

The Grinch combo pack will include bonus features from the previous DVD release which feature Thurl Ravenscroft (performer of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch”), the TNT featurette hosted by Phil Hartman (The Simpsons), and audio commentary by the “First Lady of Cartoon Voice Acting” June Foray.

Elsewhere, voice director/comics and animation writer Mark Evanier reported on July 5th that June’s autobiography Did You Grow Up With Me, Too? will be available just in time for fans to purchase autographed copies at the San Diego Comic-Con. June will be one of the Con’s Guests of Honor, participating in a panel presentation on Saturday, July 25th (see Mark’s con sked for more details).

The same day, Mark also posted a vintage photo with a group shot of animation and voice acting legends: Joe Barbera, Walter Lantz, Don Messick, Daws Butler, June Foray and Bill Hanna.

Mark gives June’s book high praise: “This is a remarkable book about a remarkable lady and it’s profusely illustrated with never-before-seen photos from her personal files. You’re going to want a copy. Trust me.”

And on July 16, Mark praised the book yet again: “If you’ve ever loved anything June has done, you want this book, which is lavishly illustrated with photos from her private files.” Mark’s update also offers additional details on her appearances at the San Diego Comic-Con.

If you’re not able to attend the con (and many of us unfortunately can’t), you can order the book from my friend and fellow voice actor fan Ben Ohmart via BearManorMedia.com starting July 25th. In the meantime, you can preview the book’s Foreward written by film historian Leonard Maltin at the same link.

And on a related note, just a reminder that the June Foray Documentary is releasing sometime in 2009, as I previously reported here. Still no word on the release date, though, but I’ll see if I can get an update from the producer soon.

In the meantime, here’s a preview via YouTube:

This 30-minute DVD documentary will be narrated by legendary announcer and cartoon voice actor Gary Owens, and feature interviews with noted voice talents Joe Alaskey, Will Ryan, Rob Paulsen, Tom Kenny, Mark Evanier, and June’s VO agent Don Pitts.


Web Show Features LaFontaine’s Last On-Camera Performance

07.13.2009

A press release from Shoot Online announces that a new original, comedy web series “Captain Alpha Male” (about the adventures of a “middle management superhero”) will feature the final on-camera appearance of the late Don LaFontaine. The premiere episode of the web-exclusive series includes Don’s performance and will air on on CaptainAlphaMale.com starting Thursday, July 16th.

A preview of the show is available on YouTube:

To read the complete press release, please visit ShootOnline.com.

Related post: 5.01.2009 — Vox Daily on Don LaFontaine.


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