Put A Little Looney In Your GPS


This makes the fourth in our series covering official celebrity/character voices for TomTom navigational devices… Homer Simpson, Darth Vader, Yoda and now… Looney Tunes!

Joe Alaskey at the premiere of 'Looney Tunes: Back in Action' (11/09/2003). Photo credit: exposay.com / Lee Roth / RothStock

First offered are Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam, performed by Joe Alaskey (Tiny Toon Adventures, Duck Dodgers).

Here’s the official press release, courtesy of BusinessWire.com:

For Immediate Release

Warner Bros. Looney Tunes™ characters bring their animated antics to TomTom!

~ The classic voices of Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam, Daffy Duck, Sylvester and Pepé Le Pew star on TomTom devices ~

CONCORD, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–TomTom draws on the rich heritage of Looney Tunes’ animated superstars! In association with Warner Bros. Consumer Products and VoiceSkins.com, TomTom brings the classic Looney Tunes voices to TomTom navigation devices for the very first time.

“Say doc, after 600 yards stay in the right lane. What’s this rabbit’s foot doin’ in the glove box?”

Beginning today with Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam, the launch of Warner Bros.’ dazzling galaxy of classic cartoon greats will continue throughout the Autumn of 2010 – with Daffy Duck and Sylvester launching in October, and Pepé Le Pew coming to TomTom device screens in November.

Bugs Bunny, the most popular cartoon character ever, guides you in his trademark laconic way with wise-cracks aplenty. Just make sure you’ve got enough carrots to keep your hungry co-pilot focused on the navigation! As well as the sounds of much carrot munching, the Bugs Bunny voice also features the iconic Looney Tunes theme, entertaining sound effects and original incidental music overlaid on the navigation commands to provide that iconic Looney Tunes shorts feel. Bugs makes driving more fun with lines such as, “Say doc, after 600 yards stay in the right lane. What’s this rabbit’s foot doin’ in the glove box?”

[Video demo of TomTom Bugs Bunny in action]

Yosemite Sam, the greatest, the toughest, rip-roarin’-est, hombre that ever packed a six-shooter and a map navigates with characteristic growls and threats like: “Sharp left, ya humpbacked muley. Then go straight on. This ve-hicle ain’t big enough for the two of us!”

“We are excited to launch these Looney Tunes voices exclusively for TomTom devices. By offering these fun personalities, our drivers will not only enjoy the best directions, but they will also have fun along the way,” said Tom Murray, senior vice president market development at TomTom, Inc. “We hope that drivers and passengers of all ages can enjoy the rich heritage of these classic voices during their everyday journeys.”

“TomTom is a global leader in personal navigation and what better way to travel than with a little help from some of the world’s most beloved characters,” said Karen McTier, executive vice president, domestic licensing and worldwide marketing, Warner Bros. Consumer Products. “The Looney Tunes will make any journey more entertaining with their irreverence and fun-loving nature.”

TomTom customers will also be able to download free of charge various official warning alert sounds voiced by Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam, along with free start up screen wallpapers.

To celebrate the release of the voices, TomTom is launching a hilarious viral video treat featuring the Looney Tunes classic characters, and their agent, “negotiating” a deal to bring their voices to TomTom.

All Looney Tunes voices will be available in English. The Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam voices are available for download immediately for $12.95.

To hear clips of the voices – and to find out more about them – visit www.tomtom.com/looneytunes

All Looney Tunes voices are performed by Emmy award-winning voice actor, Joe Alaskey.

About Warner Bros. Consumer Products

Warner Bros. Consumer Products, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, is one of the leading licensing and retail merchandising organizations in the world.

About TomTom N.V.

TomTom N.V. (AEX: TOM2) is the world’s leading provider of location and navigation solutions. Headquartered in the Netherlands it employs over 3000 employees worldwide. More than 40 million people daily use its solutions, be it in the form of dedicated portable navigation devices (PNDs), in- dash car systems or tracking and tracing solutions for fleet management. In addition, hundreds of millions of people use TomTom’s digital maps on the internet or mobile phone.

In 2009, TomTom reported €1.5 billion in revenues and a €340 million net cash flow from operating activities. More information about TomTom can be found on www.TomTom.com.

About VoiceSkins.com & Locutio Voice Technologies

Founded in 2004, Locutio Voice Technologies is the world’s foremost developer of real celebrity and premium branded voice content for in-car GPS. Working with vocal greats like Lucas Film/Star Wars, Fox/Simpsons, Warner Bros./Looney Tunes and Snoop Dogg, Locutio’s VoiceSkins make every journey a truly fun event, delivering real in-car infotainment!

VoiceSkins.com currently offers the original Homer Simpson voice for sale, recorded by Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Snoop Dogg, the official Star Wars voices and now the classic Looney Tunes characters. More high-profile branded celebrity voice content is set to be launched throughout Q4 2010. See www.VoiceSkins.com (and their official YouTube Channel) and www.Locutio.co.uk for further details.

LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.


And here are some bonus videos to showcase Joe Alaskey’s tremendous talent as an impressionist:

– Joe Alaskey on The David Letterman Show, circa 1987 (this video currently has over 908 thousand views on YouTube):

– Joe Alaskey performing a series of impressions on Comedy Tonight (circa 1985-ish):

– Local FOX affiliate interviews Joe in a promo for the very short-lived Tiny Toons spinoff The Plucky Duck Show (circa 1992):

– Joe Alaskey performs as Daffy, Marvin, Yosemite Sam and Bugs with the West Coast Symphony in Santa Barbara, CA (Feb 2004):

– Joe Alaskey interview and street chat with fans (Oct. 2008):.

~ Craig Crumpton
Publisher, Voice Actors in the News

Voice Actor Spotlight: Jay Jennings


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

Rich Little to Perform Jimmy Stewart Tribute Show


In an interview with the Times-Herald, impressionist Rich Little announced that he has turned his impression of and close friendship with Jimmy Stewart into a one-man tribute show, “Jimmy Stewart: A Humorous Look at His Life.”

According to Little’s official site, the inaugural performance is scheduled for Friday, May 7th in Bettendorf, IA.

“It’s great fun for me to do,” Little told the Times-Herald. “I think [Stewart is] my best impression. I knew him extremely well.”

Little said he approached Stewart about the one-man show years before it came to fruition, “I said, ‘You know, Jimmy, I’m thinking about a one man show about you,’ and he says (Little becomes Stewart), ‘Rich, why can’t I do that?'”

In the show, Little includes impersonations of Gary Cooper, Andy Rooney, Dr. Phil and others.

“A lot of one man shows, for two hours, can be boring. I didn’t want to make it boring,” Little said. “So I put all the other voices in it. I want to take it to Broadway. I’ve been working on it every day for three years.”

Little adds that he’s also considering a tribute show to Ronald Reagan. Little’s friendship and history with Reagan is detailed on RichLittle.com.

Related post: 1.07.2010 — Impressionist Rich Little Becomes U.S. Citizen

Featured Voices: Charlie Williams


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.

Updated: Impressionist Rich Little Becomes U.S. Citizen


The Las Vegas Review Journal reports:

Rich Little will no longer impersonate a U.S. citizen. On Friday, the Canadian impressionist takes part in a naturalization ceremony in U.S. District Court. The 71-year-old Little has lived in Las Vegas more than 10 years.

Update: 1.27.2010The Las Vegas Review Journal has coverage of Little’s naturalization ceremony, including an interview and photo of Little wearing a very patriotic tie for the event:

“America, I like the sound of the word,” Little said in a slow Wayne-like drawl. “It makes a man tight in the throat — makes him choked up. As I travel the world, I run into many Americans. I know they’re Americans because they’re wearing Italian shoes, eating Chinese food and drinking French wine.”

What is usually a solemn occasion in a federal courtroom turned into a comedic roast of sorts as Little’s longtime friends and colleagues Steve Rossi, Nelson Sardelli and Kathy Walker joked about his new life as a U.S. citizen.

“When I asked Rich what the first thing he was going to do when he was an American was, he said, ‘Collect unemployment,’ ” Rossi said.

Little also explained why he finally decided to get his U.S. citizenship:

“Well, I’ve been illegally in this country for 50 years. I just thought it was high time to become a citizen. It’s a lot easier to poke fun at the politicians when you’re an American. This country has been awfully good to me, and I can’t complain. It’s just a big thrill to become an American citizen.”

[Source: Immigration Daily]

Related post: 3.30.2009 — Rich Little on Tour

The Jim Cummings Interview: Outtakes, Photos and Biography


Jim Cummings in an undated publicity photo. (Photo credit: Disney PR)

Jim Cummings in an undated publicity photo. (Photo credit: Disney PR)

Toon Zone has published my interview with cartoon voice acting legend Jim Cummings, originally conducted by phone July 28th just prior to the August 4th DVD release of The Tigger Movie 10th Anniversary Edition.

In this candid and extensive interview, Jim discusses The Tigger Movie; his process for performing voice matches/sound-alikes; his role as Ray the firefly in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog (and the controversies surrounding the film); his Daytime Emmy nomination; Sterling Holloway (Pooh’s original voice); Phil Harris (Disney’s Jungle Book, Robin Hood); his cameo in the live-action Comic Book: The Movie; and the infamous “Carol Channing Story.”

I’m also pleased to announce that Jim’s full audio from this interview will be available here exclusively in the near future.

And to my fellow Jim Cummings fans out there — especially those reading this by way of Toon Zone, Jim’s Facebook fanpage (hosted by Hillary DePiano, webmaster of The Cult of Cummings), The Voiceover Bulletin Board, and The Acorn Cafe — if you’re curious to know how it was to get the chance to chat with Jim on the phone…

Well, words like “thrilled,” “excited,” and “beyond ecstatic” come to mind. I lost count how many different character voices did during the course of the interview (which you’ll hear in the audio later), so it was like getting a private, one-man show (which others will be able to enjoy later when the audio is posted).

I should mention that this interview was booked on very short notice, giving me very little prep time. But I’m very grateful and appreciative to Ed at Toon Zone for passing the opportunity along to me.

Initially, it was scheduled to be only a 10-minute interview. However, Dustin Sandoval of Click Communications graciously honored my request to extend my interview to 20 minutes, and then my Disney contact permitted it to run a full 30 minutes. Otherwise, I would have never had time to cover the core topics I hoped to address.

Here’s an excerpt from my original interview, omitted from the published version at Toon Zone because it was a dated question about the status of Jim’s official website: JimJCummings.com. Up until the time of the interview, his site had been down for quite some time, so I asked him when it might return. And unfortunately, my audio recording software glitched during part of his response and thus made it un-transcribable (if that’s a word). So to summarize, Jim explained his site had been down due to switching servers, although he didn’t quite know how to express it that way. He explained thusly:

I have to be honest with you. I’m still a bit of a “Luddite” – I think I topped out at VCRs. (laughs) I’m part Amish. I kind of put the site up [in 2007] in the original form and it’s kind of stayed there ever since. It’s been fun [to make] for people. What can I say…my mom likes it.

Jim also assured me that it would be back for good after it relaunched, which as you can now see is back — probably happened sometime in early August due to the release of The Tigger Movie and other interviews Jim did concerning his Daytime Emmy nomination.

Another excerpt you won’t hear in the final version of the published audio is my confession to Jim that I went — by myself — to see The Tigger Movie when it first premiered in February 2000, simply because Jim was involved in the movie.

In 2000, I was almost 30 years old and single with no kids. So for me to be sitting — by myself — in a theater with parents and kids just to hear Jim’s performance… well, that’s true fan devotion for you. (Although I’m sure parents in the audience who saw me by myself, watching a kids movie, thought I was some kind of creepy, weirdo geek.)

But Jim seemed flattered that I had done this, and said that it was nothing to be ashamed of.

Moving onto the reason the interview was scheduled in the first place — The Tigger Movie 10th Anniversary Edition DVD

In spite of the film’s flaws and young target demographic, it’s an entertaining film on the merits of the traditional animation, the musical numbers composed by the legendary Sherman Brothers, and the great character voice performances, including:

Jim Cummings skillfully performing both Tigger and Pooh (who also sings as both characters in the film)
Ken Sansom as Rabbit
John Fiedler as Piglet
Peter Cullen as Eeyore
Andre Stojka as Owl
Nikita Hopkins as Roo
Kath Soucie as Kanga
Tom Attenborough as Christopher Robin
John Hurt as the Narrator

It’s also visually appealing as the animators were able to recreate the animation style from the original Winnie the Pooh cartoons. And for those of you with younger children, it’s a lighthearted, fun family film (the DVD press release Disney provided states that the previous DVD release of the movie “is the best-selling pre-school DVD of all time” according to a 2008 Nielsen report).

And two previously-unreleased to DVD vintage Pooh cartoons are included as bonus features: “King the of Beasties” and “Tigger’s Houseguest” from The New Adventures of Winnie The Pooh (1988), which features (besides the aforementioned cast who reprise their roles in The Tigger Movie) Paul Winchell as Tigger, Hal Smith as Owl, Michael Gough as Gopher, and Tim Hoskins as Christopher Robin.

Other features include a bonus digital copy of the movie (for Macs, PCs, portable digital devices), “Your Heart Will Lead You Home” Kenny Loggins music video, and for the kiddies: “Round My Family Tree” sing-along, Movie DVD Storybook, and interactive trivia and matching games. The trivia game is actually worth noting because, as Toon Zone’s Ed Liu says in his review, “correctly answering all the questions unlocks a pleasant, brief video on the history of Winnie the Pooh as a liteary figure and a Disney character.”

Unfortunately, Jim was not asked to record any new materials for this DVD release, as he stated in my interview.

I mentioned Jim’s role in Comic Book The Movie earlier — I’m actually planning a feature on CBTM since 2009 marks the 5th anniversary since the movie was released. I covered CBTM extensively for Toon Zone back in 2003 (here’s the archive of the original feature article). And then after the movie released on DVD January 27, 2004, I still had some additional materials related to the movie which I wasn’t able to publish due to lack of internet access.

I need some time to finish compiling data and recovering files and photos from an old hard drive, so this feature will be published sometime in November. I also hope to have some follow-up interviews with CBTM’s cast and crew to coincide with the article.

In the meantime, here are a few photos from the CBTM panel Mark Hamill hosted at the 2003 San Diego Comic-Con — easily one of the most entertaining con panels I have ever attended:

L to R: Roger Rose, Debbie Derryberry, Donna D'Errico, Jess Harnell, Jim Cummings, Mark Hamill

L to R: Roger Rose, Debbie Derryberry, Donna D'Errico, Jess Harnell, Jim Cummings, Mark Hamill

L to R: Roger Rose, Debbie Derryberry, Jess Harnell, Billy West, Jim Cummings, Mark Hamill

L to R: Roger Rose, Debbie Derryberry, Jess Harnell, Billy West, Jim Cummings, Mark Hamill

Jim Cummings with Craig Crumpton after the 'Comic Book: The Movie' panel at SDCC 2003.

Jim Cummings with Craig Crumpton after the 'Comic Book: The Movie' panel at SDCC 2003.

And finally, Disney also provided a bio on Jim, added here for archival purposes:


“Tell the kid he’s got it,” said the legendary Mel Blanc with a smile, after listening to a young man’s first demo tape of cartoon character voices. The year was 1984, “the kid,” was Jim Cummings. Since then, “the kid” has gone on to give life and voice to some of America’s most beloved animated characters, even a few of the late Mel Blanc’s, and in May, Cummings was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for his work as the lovable Tigger on Disney Channel’s “My Friends Tigger and Pooh,” in which he also voices everyone’s favorite bear, Winnie the Pooh.

Born and raised in Youngstown Ohio, Cummings spent Saturday mornings riveted to the TV screen as he mimicked the characters in his favorite cartoons, all the while dreaming that one day he would voice them himself. At age 19, he moved to New Orleans, where he performed as a drummer, a singer, a deck hand on riverboats, and even designed and created Mardi Gras floats, all the while absorbing the rich characters and accents that would some day find expression in animation.

Years later, Cummings relocated to Southern California and managed a video store as he pursued his childhood dream. He gave his first demo tape to a customer who was also a movie producer, and the rest, as they say, is history. In 1984, Cummings landed his first role as Lionel the Lion, in Disney Channel’s “Dumbo’s Circus.” During his illustrious career, he has worked extensively for the Walt Disney Studios voicing classic characters such as Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, King Louis, Kaa the Snake, Pete (formerly peg-legged Pete), and more. His many other Disney credits include Darkwing Duck, Bonkers, Fat Cat, and Monterey Jack on “Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers,” Don Karnage on “Talespin,” and too many others to mention here.

Cummings has done scores of voices for Warner Bros. as well, including Taz the Tasmanian Devil himself, Steven Spielberg’s “Animaniacs,” “Tiny Toon Adventures,” “Batman,” “Pinky and the Brain,” “Taz-Mania,” “Duck Dodgers,” and more. Other credits include “King of the Hill,” “Bump in the Night,” “Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius,” “The Replacements,” “The Addams Family,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Star Wars Clone Wars,” “The Simpsons,” “Barnyard,” and “Catdog.” He was also “AC,” the lead singer of the famed claymation “California Raisins” cartoon series.

Not limited to the small screen, Cummings has acted in several blockbuster feature films for Dreamworks including “Shrek,” “Antz,” “Kung Fu Panda’s Furious 5,” “Hook,” “The Bee Movie,” “Balto,” and more. His credits read like a top-list of animated and live-action films. Credits include “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “Tarzan,” “Pocahontas,” “The Lion King,” “Babe: Pig in the City,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Brother Bear 2,” to name a few.

Cummings’ uncanny ability to sing in character and voice match for stars who are, in his words, “great actors, just not great singers,” has led to many platinum and gold records for soundtracks like “Anastasia,” “The Lion King,” “Fox and the Hound 2,” “Pocahontas,” “Hercules,” and more.

His most recent musical turn will be as Ray, the Cajun firefly, in Disney Studio’s feature, “The Princess and the Frog,” due in theaters Christmas 2009 with Oscar-winner Randy Newman as composer. Cummings’ work in voice over includes hundred of television and radio commercials, movie trailers, promos, and videogames. “Pretty much anything involving microphones, music, noise in general, and padded walls,” jokes the affable actor, and “remember, only you can prevent forest fires,” so says Smokey the Bear, aka, Jim Cummings. No matter how busy Cummings’ schedule may be, it all stops when Famous Fone Friends or the Make-A-Wish Foundation call on behalf of a very ill child and distraught family in need of a phone call from their favorite cartoon character. “Just bringing a respite, however brief, and perhaps a smile and giggle or two means so much to the child and their families. I consider it a true blessing to be able to do that.”

Cummings is a proud father of four and resides somewhere in Southern California with his wife Stephanie, their beautiful daughters Grace, Lulu Rose, and their critters.


I’d like to offer a special thanks to Jim for his time and participation in the interview (it was indeed an honor and a privilege), as well as Dustin Sandoval (Click Communications) and Alexis with Disney PR for helping to set the interview up.

Related post: 8.27.2009 — ‘Rescue Rangers’ Voice Cast Featured in Vintage Video Clip

Stewart Honored at National Aviation HOF Event, Rich Little to Emcee


Ohio’s Springfield News-Sun reports that comedian Rich Little will serve as master of ceremonies for the National Aviation Hall of Fame’s “annual enshrinement ceremony” on Saturday, July 18th in Dayton, OH:

The event is scheduled to coordinate with the annual Vectren Dayton Air Show, to allow prominent aviators the opportunity to attend both the Dayton-based events.

The astronauts expected to attend on either or both of two nights of the National Aviation Hall of Fame’s celebration include Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, Walter Cunningham, Jim Lovell, Frank Borman, Charlie Duke, Jim McDivitt, Vance Brand, Joe Engle, Harrison Schmitt, Gene Cernan, Fred Haise and Tom Stafford. The astronauts also are invited to July events in Washington to mark the 40th anniversary of Armstrong’s historic first steps on the moon.

The National Aviation Hall of Fame has scheduled its annual president’s dinner the night of Friday, July 17, at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. There, the organization plans to present the Milton Caniff “Spirit of Flight” award to the Apollo astronauts to honor their work in achieving moon landings and returning to Earth.

One of the honorees to be inducted is the late actor and World War II bomber pilot James Stewart who served as a colonel in the Army Air Corps during WW II. After the war he stayed on with the Air Force Reserves serving as a 1-star brigadier general, thus achieving “the highest active military rank of any actor in history” (IMDb.com), and he was also a highly-decorated officer during his military career.

While Stewart is of course remembered for his film and TV roles, he actually had quite a bit of voice acting work to his credit. According to IMDb.com, he was the narrator for several TV and film productions, had a cameo in an episode of the 1992 animated series Goof Troop, voiced Sheriff Wylie Burp in An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991). He also performed on radio shows with such stars as Edgar Bergen, Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson, and Lionel Barrymore. From 1953-54, he starred in the NBC radio western The Six Shooter, and even reprised his role as George Bailey in the 1947 Lux Radio Theater’s adaptation of It’s A Wonderful Life joined by many of his original co-stars from the classic Frank Capra film.

Previous post: 3.30.2009 — Rich Little on Tour.

Happy Birthday, John Byner!


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).

Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show


While actor/comedian Kevin Pollak has minimal voice-over work to his credit, his vocal skills as an impressionist make me wish he were given more opportunities for voice acting. According to IMDb.com, his voice credits include Dr. Dolittle 2, an obscure video game, and “voice characterizations” in the 1985 Star Wars “classic” spinoff Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, which is likely suspect since Kevin didn’t start his acting career until the late 80’s.

Voice actor Maurice LaMarche (Pinky & The Brain, Futurama) credits Kevin as being the premiere impressionist of William Shatner, and after watching clips of Kevin imitating Shatner in his stand-up act (such as this vintage bit, which also includes impressions of Robin Williams, Christopher Lloyd, Jack Nicholson, and Dudley Moore) I’m inclined to agree. (Also, if Moe says it, I believe him.)

In April 2009, Kevin started his own internet talk show — Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show which streams live on the web every Sunday at 5:00 PM (PST). Previous guests include Adam Corolla, Dana Carvey, and LeVar Burton. NPR’s Weekend Edition recently interviewed Kevin about the show as well.

Visit Kevin’s official site — KevinPollak.net — for other details, such as his comedy tour schedule and recently-released new live comedy CD, “A Little Off The Top.” He also has an official YouTube Channel, where I would particularly recommend watching an informal “vlog” from a hotel room with him doing impressions of Shatner and Christopher Walken.