In Passing: Dallas McKennon

Dallas McKennon as Cincinnatus (Daniel Boone TV series) in an undated publicity photo. Photo courtesy 'La Grande Observer'.

Dallas McKennon as Cincinnatus (Daniel Boone TV series) in an undated publicity photo. Photo courtesy

I’m saddened to relay the news via Mark Evanier’s NewsFromME.com of the passing of prolific cartoon voice actor Dallas “Dal” McKennon, who died Tuesday morning at the age of 89 (and mere days from his 90th birthday — born July 19, 1919).

Dal is one of those great talents who was never really recognized for his work except perhaps within the animation fan community and industry, as he voiced the iconic claymation character Gumby (during the 1960’s) as well as Archie Andrews and several other characters for Filmation’s Archie cartoons (namely Mr. Weatherbee, Hot Dog, Chuck Clayton, Coach Cleats, and Mr. Lodge).

Some of his other recurring characters include:

– From Walter Lantz Productions: Buzz Buzzard (Woody Woodpecker’s nemesis), Inspector Willoughby, and Dapper Denver Dooley.
– Both the title characters in Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse (1960)
– The title character in Q.T. Hush (1960)
– Both the title characters in Bucky and Pepito (1959)
– Joe Hardy and Chubby Morton in The Hardy Boys cartoon (1969)
– Tintin and Prof. Calculus for the English dubs of Belgium’s Tintin cartoons.
– According to Topher’s Breakfast Cereal Character Guide, Dal was the original voices of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies characters Snap, Crackle, and Pop (seriously, all three) and “the earliest talking version of Corny (or Cornelius), the Corn Flakes rooster.” Dal also reportedly claimed that he was the original voice of Tony the Tiger: “But I found out that doing that voice was ruining my throat,” Dal stated in an interview, “and since I wanted to be able to keep working, I gave it up and recommended that Thurl Ravenscroft do it.” (Thurl, in return, denied Dal’s claim, saying that he was always Tony’s voice.)

He also voiced characters for a number of Disney classics — Lady and the Tramp (1955), Sleeping Beauty (1959), 101 Dalmatians (1961), Mary Poppins (1964), and Bedknobs & Broomsticks (1971) — as well as some of Disney’s theme park attractions (Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Ben Franklin at Epcot’s American Adventure, and Zeke at The Country Bear Jamboree).

And in addition to his voice work, Dal was frequently a western-type character actor for a number of TV shows and films, most memorably as the shopkeep Cincinnatus on NBC/20th Century Fox’s Daniel Boone series from 1964-69 which starred Fess Parker. He also had film roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and Clambake with Elvis Presley.

You can browse his other 100+ voice and live-action credits via IMDb.com.

In an interview with the LA Times, cartoon voice actor Will Ryan (Gummi Bears, Teddy Ruxpin, Adventures in Odyssey) said of his long-time friend, “He was an entertainer. There was something of the 6-year-old in him, no matter what his age was. He had a gift for mimicry, but there’s that spirit behind it. It wasn’t so much that he could do different voices, but that he could enthusiastically do different personalities.”

The LA Times obit adds:

In 1968, McKennon and his wife, Betty, whom he had married in Portland in 1942, decided to move their family of eight children back to Oregon. They settled in Cannon Beach, and he commuted to Los Angeles for acting and voice jobs.

McKennon’s wife of 66 years survives him, as do his children: daughters Dalene Lackaff of Woolwich, Maine, Barbara Porter and Linda Strozyk, both of Raymond, Wash., Gayle McKennon of Hyannis, Mass., Tamara Rock of South Bend, Wash., and Wendy McKennon of North Bend, Ore; and sons Jerald McKennon of Tualatin, Ore., and Steven McKennon of Newberg, Ore. He is also survived by 21 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.

Dal’s hometown newspaper, The La Grande Observer reports that a memorial service is scheduled for August 1st at the Community Presbyterian Church in Cannon Beach, OR.

I never had the opportunity to meet Dal, but my fellow voice actor fan “LindaL3” did, whom I stumbled upon via the internet back in 2000 due to our mutual admiration for voice actor Will Ryan. Linda attended a July 2000 event which as I recall was hosted by ASIFA-Hollywood and emcee’d by Will. [Linda, if you’re still out there, I haven’t heard from you in years!] And I hope she doesn’t mind my taking the liberty of sharing the e-mail she sent afterwards:

I am on top of the world right now! I just got back from the Dal McKennon event and it was fantastic. Dal is a few weeks from being 81, but he is energetic and an amazing speaker. He kept us all laughing and on the edge of our respective seats with his stories of early Hollywood and how he got his start with the help of Jimmy Stewart (who got him his first agent).

Dal looks a bit like a wild man with an unruly white beard, but his energy is that of an old friend or a favorite uncle. He had plenty of stories and sang a few songs, did many of his voices and gave a few pointers to some of the voice artists in the audience.

Will Ryan was the moderator and did his best to gently guide Dal along, however he did it in an unobtrusive way and obviously did his homework. There wasn’t much time for Will to perform although he did pull out his
[ukulele] at one point to accompany Dal.

Linda also mailed me some photos from the event, which unfortunately I can’t find right now. Whenever I come across them, I’ll get them added to this article.

Update: 7.31.2009 — I found the photos. I apologize for the low-res quality, but I haven’t had a working scanner in ages and these are photos of photos I took with my digital camera:

Dal McKennon and Will Ryan at a July 2000 event. (Photo donated by Linda.)

Dal McKennon and Will Ryan at a July 2000 event. (Photo donated by Linda.)

Dal McKennon at a July 2000 event. (Photo donated by Linda.)

Dal McKennon at a July 2000 event. (Photo donated by Linda.)

Dal McKennon and Will Ryan ham for the camera at a July 2000 event. (Photo donated by Linda.)

Dal McKennon and Will Ryan ham for the camera at a July 2000 event. (Photo donated by Linda.)

Will Ryan and Dal McKennon performing at an event in July 2000. (Photo donated by Linda.)

Will Ryan and Dal McKennon performing at an event in July 2000. (Photo donated by Linda.)

Dal’s daughter, Gayle, is also planning to launch a memorial website in Dal’s honor. I hope to have more details on this here soon.

For more on Dal’s life and career, please see the following links:

– Mark Evanier: NewsFromME.com.
LA Times: Detailed obituary with photo.
Examiner.com tribute article by Jeff Baham.
ToonZone.net
GoldenAgeCartoons.com
VoiceChasers.com
– PodcastDirectory.com: November 2008 audio interview.
– The Walter Lantz Cartune Encyclopedia: Dal McKennon Interview.
– Wikipedia.org: Dallas McKennon.
– CartoonBrew.com: Obit by Jerry Beck (includes video link)
– StartedByAMouse.com: Dinner With Dallas McKennon by Steve Burns.
Have Banjo Will Travel: blog entry by Jim Coston, who once worked with Dal on a riverboat cruise in Dal’s home state of Oregon.
– YouTube video of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride with Dal’s voice-over:

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