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.


Happy Birthday, Michael Bell!

07.30.2009

Michael Bell (Photo credit: Lynnanne Zager)

Michael Bell (Photo credit: Lynnanne Zager)

Wishing a very happy 71st birthday to voice actor Michael Bell, born today in 1938.

Michael has had a long and storied career as a cartoon voice actor, starting in the early 1970’s with such notable roles as Mark on Hanna-Barbera’s Speed Buggy, Plastic Man on The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show, Lance on Voltron: Defender of the Universe, Prowl / Sideswipe / Scrapper / Swoop on Transformers, Handy/Grouchy/Lazy Smurf on The Smurfs, Wonder Twin Zan and Gleek on Super Friends, Duke and Xamot and other characters on G.I. Joe, Quackerjack on Darkwing Duck, Drew Pickles and Charles “Chaz” Finster Sr. on Rugrats, and I literally could go on and on and on.

And if you’ve been an active gamer in the last two decades, chances are you’ve played a video game that features Michael’s voice talents. For a lengthy, comprehensive list of Michael’s video game voice credits, visit GiantBomb.com.

Michael also has a considerable amount of on-camera work to his credit, with guest starring roles on such popular vintage TV shows as Gomer Pyle, USMC, Get Smart, The Monkees, Mission Impossible, Charlie’s Angels, Three’s Company, CHiPs, M*A*S*H*, and Dallas. He also has a great deal of history with the Star Trek franchise, having provided character voices for four Trek video game titles to date, and he guest-starred on Star Trek: Deep Space 9 as Drofo Awa in “The Maquis: Part II” and as Borum in “The Homecoming.” Also, in the Star Trek: The Next Generation pilot episode, “Encounter at Farpoint,” he appeared as Groppler Zorn.

Most recently, Michael had the opportunity to serve both as voice talent *and* voice director for the Catastrophic Comics’ digital motion comic series Sparks which is now available on iTunes. Sparks is co-produced and published by William Katt (aka The Greatest American Hero), and features the voices of Michael Bell, Michael Paré (Eddie and the Cruisers), Charlie Brill (Silk Stalkings, Port Charles), Courtenay Taylor (video games Justice League Heroes, Destroy All Humans series), Ashley Bell (The United States of Tara), and Kevin Sherwood (Gamers).

I’ll have more details on Sparks in a separate post, but Michael says that he is “excited” about the series.

Michael was also featured on the voice cast reunion video documentaries included on the recent Shout! Factory box set releases for Transformers and G.I. Joe (previously reported here).

And finally, here are a few videos featuring Michael for your enjoyment:

– Michael shares a Mel Blanc anecdote at the 2006 San Diego Comic-Con:

– Transformers script reading at TFCon 2007, Part 1:

– TFCon 2007 script reading, Part 2:

– Michael on not being involved with Michael Bay’s Transformers movie:

And if that’s not enough for you, watch the making-of and outtakes clips from the video games Legacy of Kain: Defiance and Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2 from YouTube users LauraOrganaSolo, NosgothFr, and nejneko.

[Additional sources: IMDb.com, Wikipedia.org, Voicechasers.com]


Happy Birthday, Wil Wheaton!

07.29.2009

Wishing a very happy 37th birthday to Wil Wheaton, born today in 1972.

While most recognize Wil for his roles as Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) and Gordie in Stand By Me (1986), Wil has enjoyed a successful career as a voice actor starting as far back as 1982 when he voiced Martin in Don Bluth’s animated classic The Secret of N.I.M.H. He has since voiced several lead and supporting characters in video games (Grand Theft Auto series, Ghost Recon series, Everquest II) and animated TV series such as Aqualad on Teen Titans, Cosmic Boy on Legend of Super Heroes, Blue Beetle on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and Mike Morningstar/Darkstar on Ben 10: Alien Force.

Wil founded an independent publishing company in 2003, Monolith Press. He is the author of three memoirs: Dancing Barefoot (Monolith Press, 2003), Just a Geek (O’Reilly Media, 2004), and The Happiest Days of Our Lives (Monolith Press, 2007). Most recently, Wil published Sunken Treasure: Wil Wheaton’s Hot Cocoa Box Sampler which includes a collection of his favorite pieces from his blog and books, fiction excerpts, a production diary from his guest role on Criminal Minds, and a script he wrote and performed at the ACME Comedy Theater.

You can drop Wil a birthday note via Twitter or through this post on his official site.


Happy Birthday, Bill Cosby!

07.12.2009

Wishing a very happy 72nd birthday to actor/comedian/author/composer/producer Bill Cosby, born today in 1937.

The Montreal Gazette published a great, candid interview with Bill on July 11th. When asked how he’s dealt with great difficulties in his life, such as the murder of his son — a case which remains unsolved, Cosby says, “Right across the hall in this house, I’ve been guided by my wife, Camille, who loves me dearly, and all I have to do is realize that and want her love. It’s all about values. And if we can value ourselves, then we can value others.”

Although I don’t get much traffic here from posting about “The Coz,” my readers will just have to forgive me for being self-indulgent because I’m a bonafide Cosby fan (as I explained here), and I’ve been collecting various other interview links and news items on Bill with the intention to do another of my notorious “news round-up” articles. Unfortunately, my time is limited at the moment and that will have to wait. But I didn’t want to go without mentioning his birthday.

In the meantime, here are just a few links published around the web over the last week:

– New England Sports Network blog: Cosby returning to pregame show (includes video links).
– L.A. Watts Times: Cosby Draws Crowd to an Essence Town Hall on Family.
– MLive.com blog: Bill Cosby reaches out to media to spread the word about Mott Community College.

Previous post: 4.02.2009 — Bill Cosby to Receive Mark Twain Prize.


Happy Birthday, John Byner!

06.28.2009

Wishing a very happy 72nd birthday to John Byner, born today in 1938.

John’s a terrific comedian, impressionist and character voice actor who unfortunately doesn’t get recognized enough for his talents, and tends to be overshadowed by his contemporaries. But he’s had a long career as a comedian and TV actor. He’s also voiced characters in a number of animated cartoons such as The Angry Beavers, Duckman, Garfield and Friends, and Swat Kats. And in my humble opinion, his most noteworthy performances in animation were the voices of Gurgi and Doli in Disney’s 1985 animated feature The Black Cauldron, and both the title characters in The Ant and the Aardvark series of theatrical shorts produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises between 1969-71. The latter featured John’s impressions of crooner/TV and film star Dean Martin and comedian Jackie Mason as the respective voices of the Ant and the Aardvark.

Several of John’s TV appearances and stand-up routines are available via the YouTube Channel DogTownDon. And you can learn more about John’s biography and career on his official site JohnByner.com (and please send him birthday greetings via email–I’m sure it would make his day).


Happy Birthday, Casey Kasem!

04.27.2009

Wishing a very happy 77th birthday to Casey Kasem, born today in 1932.

Casey’s beginnings as a radio DJ in the 1960’s led to him establishing a long career in voice-overs — most notably as the voice of the iconic cartoon character Norville “Shaggy” Rogers on Scooby-Doo (which he continues to voice in recent productions), as well as characters on Transformers, Battle of the Planets, Super Friends, and other shows. He also founded and hosted the popular radio show “American Top 40” for more than 30 years, and recorded a steady stream of commercial voice-overs over the decades.

Learn more about Casey’s life and career on Wikipedia.org.


Happy Birthday, Billy West!

04.16.2009

Wishing a very happy birthday to voice actor/musician Billy West, born today in 1950.

If you watch cartoons at all, chances are you’ve heard Billy on one or most of them. He’s performed in many of TV’s most popular cartoons since the early 90’s when he landed his first lead roles as the title characters on Doug (when it was produced by Nickelodeon) and Ren and Stimpy. In recent years, he’s become famous with Futurama fans for voicing most of the primary cast of characters: Philip J. Fry, Prof. Hubert J. Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg, Zapp Brannigan, and President Richard Nixon’s Head.

Billy is also the creator of Billy Bastard, a “semi-autobiographical” adult comedy live-action/puppetry show he’s been developing since 2005 with former Ren and Stimpy animators Jim Gomez and Bill Wray. Originally produced as a TV show pilot, Billy said in a July 2008 interview with SCI FI Wire that he was attempting to turn it into a feature film: “We had a few false starts with big-name producers interested and working on it and then dropping out, and now we have a guy who gets it and wants to see it made into a feature film, so we’re working on the script for that right now.”

The official trailer from the Billy Bastard pilot is available on YouTube.com (narrated by Jim Cummings), although I must caution in advance that it contains strong adult language.

Billy also has a supporting role in the indie comedy Demoted, starring Michael Vartan, Sean Astin, David Cross, and comedian Ron White. The film does not yet have a release date although Billy said in a February 2009 interview with CosmicBookNews.com that it was “coming out soon.” When asked if being on camera was a “new venture” for him, Billy replied, “You know, I never wanted to be in movies and to tell the truth there’s nothing about me that said ‘You gotta get into movies!’ I was really hesitant to do it and I have done a couple of other things on camera in the past. But I had to audition for this and I got it and I had a couple of parts with David Cross and Sean Astin in it. They were funny and sharp as they come.”

For further reading on Billy’s background and career, check out these interviews on MLive.com, Movieweb.com, ArravistePress.com, CNBC’s The Big Idea (via YouTube.com), SCIFI TV Australia, ShavedNeck.com (radio interview), and Hippojuice.com (audio interview).

And naturally, you’ll want to visit Billy’s official site: BillyWest.com.