Happy Birthday, Michael Bell!


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]

Paley Center Event in LA Celebrates Hanna-Barbera


The Paley Center in Los Angeles, CA will be celebrating Yabba-Dabba-Doo! A 70th Anniversary Salute to Hanna-Barbera beginning with the opening of a gallery exhibit that runs from August 12 – September 20.

The exhibit will feature a display of “photographs and artwork — a compilation of seventy years of hard work from the Hanna-Barbera Studios as the artists originally intended.” Among the items on display are photos from voice recording sessions featuring the casts of such shows as The Flintstones, Top Cat, The Partridge Family, 2200 A.D., and Johnny Bravo.

Other exhibit highlights:

• Iwao Takamoto’s first sketches of the Scooby gang which include an extra character that was later deleted.
• Toby Bluth’s watercolor background paintings for the The Smurfs.
• Original designs for The Jetsons.
• ‘Hall of Justice’ sketches from Superfriends.
• Behind-the-scenes photos from Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, C.H.O.M.P.S., The Banana Splits, and the Legends of the Superheroes Roast.

In conjunction with this exhibit, on August 22nd The Paley Center will host the live event The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera with in-person guests:

* Jerry Eisenberg, The Flintstones
* Willie Ito, Yogi Bear
* Tony Benedict, The Jetsons
* Butch Hartman, Fairly Odd Parents

Additional panelists will be announced soon.

A book signing for Iwao Takamoto: My Life with a Thousand Characters will follow the panel presentation, with authors Barbara Takamoto, Michael Mallory, and Willie Ito.

PaleyCenter.org has more details on these events, plus a four-page feature article on Hanna-Barbera.

Happy Birthday, Tom Kane!


Wishing a very happy birthday to voice actor Tom Kane, born today in 1962.

Tom has been in the voice-over biz since he was 15 years old, and has voiced over “20,000 National TV Commercials, Movie Trailers, Network Promos, Cartoons, Documentaries, etc.” (according to his profile on Voice123.com). He’s become so prolific that just trying to list highlights of his voice-over career is difficult because he’s performed on so many popular animated series: The Powerpuff Girls, Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Kim Possible (just to name a few). He’s also voiced characters in more than 60 video games, and he’s doing so much movie trailer and TV promo work recently that you can hardly watch TV for 30 minutes on any given channel without hearing his voice.

For further reading about Tom, check out these interviews with Animation Magazine, Star Wars.com, Newsarama.com, and Ovi.com (a 27-minute phone interview).

And of course you’ll want to visit Tom’s official site: TomKane.com.

Behind-the-scenes on Disney’s ‘Phineas and Ferb’ Season 2


Stephen Armstrong, UK reporter for Times Online, offers readers a behind-the-scenes look into his experience recording the voices for three new characters appearing in an upcoming Season 2 episode of Disney’s hit show Phineas and Ferb.

Armstrong also mentions guest voices for Season 2 and interviews other members of the show’s cast and crew:

This particular vehicle, Phineas and Ferb, is turning out to be a gold mine for British talent. Series one, which went out on the Disney Channel in February 2008, had 17-year-old Thomas Sangster (from Nanny McPhee and Love Actually) playing the rectangle-headed Ferb, one of a pair of angular stepbrothers who spend their holidays forming rock bands, making a movie and fighting off aliens, all the while concealing their antics from their sister, Candace [voiced by Ashley Tisdale]. My mad scientists, for instance, are part of a team simultaneously trying to ruin their Christmas break and audition for parts in High School Musical 4. Other Brits include the Rocky Horror creator Richard O’Brien, who plays the dad, Lawrence, with Malcolm McDowell, Lucy Davis and Tim Curry providing sterling support. Series two, starting this weekend, further employs Damian Lewis, David Mitchell, [Mathew Horne, and Bruce MacKinnon].

Why so many Brits?

“I’m a great fan of British humour,” explains [P&F creator Jeff Marsh]. “I lived in London for years when I was working on Postman Pat and Bounty Hamster, while my co-creator, Dan Povenmire, was working on Family Guy. We remember growing up. Every summer day, we’d go out and do something: dig a trench or build a tunnel, fort or treehouse. While I was in London, I was always at the Comedy Store, and I really wanted to bring that British humour to the scripts and the voices.” It seems to have worked. Season one was nominated for a Bafta.

Continue reading: How easy is it to do cartoon voice-overs? [Times Online]

Celebrity Voice Acting Round-Up 2


Because my previous report on celebrity voice acting turned out to be so popular on this blog, I may just have to do this on a regular basis.

Here’s another summary of “celebrity” voice acting news:

Victoria Beckham, aka “Posh Spice,” will guest star as a princess in an upcoming episode of SpongeBob Squarepants. Mirror.co.uk reports:

Posh, 34, recorded the voice-over late last year in LA. She was persuaded to take the part by youngest son Cruz, four – who is a huge fan of Spongebob.

And her performance impressed Nickelodeon bosses so much, the former Spice Girl is being lined up for more voice-over work.

A source said: “Victoria was a complete pro and finished all her takes in a day.

“She isn’t interested in becoming an actress, but voice-over work is something that appealed. She joked that she could simply rock up to the studios in a trackie and no make-up and no one would ever know.

“Scriptwriters created the role of a posh British princess especially for her and were blown away by what a natural she was. Victoria enjoyed every minute and is keen to do more. Network bosses have been in touch since, offering more work – she really does have her pick of projects.”

Variety reports that Tobin Bell will likely reprise his role as the voice of Jigsaw for an upcoming video game from Konami based on the Saw film franchise.

Just Jared reports: “Beyoncé will make her voiceover debut in Nickelodeon’s Wow, Wow, Wubbzy, providing the voice for Shine, lead singer of a girl group.

– Just in case you missed the most recent trailer for Pixar/Disney’s Up (opening in theaters May 29th, 2009) you can view it on the official site. The voice cast includes Edward Asner, Jordan Nagai, Christopher Plummer, Paul Eiding, and John Ratzenberger.

– 20th Century Fox’s Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is releasing July 4th 2009. Most of the main cast members from the previous films are reprising their roles: Ray Romano, Queen Latifah, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Josh Peck, Seann William Scott, and Chris Wedge. Joining the cast is Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Run Fatboy Run) and child actors Joey King and Atticus Shaffer.

– Disney’s live-action/talking animal family feature G-Force (definitely NOT to be confused with the classic anime series of the same name) opens July 24th, featuring the voices of Nicolas Cage (Speckles the mole), Penelope Cruz (Juarez the guinea pig), Sam Rockwell (Darwin), Tracy Morgan (Blaster the guinea pig), and Steve Buscemi (Bucky the hamster). Will Arnett, who does quite a bit of voice acting work, has a supporting live-action role in the film.

411 Mania has an op-ed on celebrity involvement in video games. Nothing new, but it’s interesting to see a gamer’s POV on the subject. (Just be advised that the article linked contains adult language.)

– Another op-ed piece on celebrity voice acting: When an Oscar talks, it sounds like these actors [TampaBay.com]

– The September 18th release of Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs features the voices of SNL alums Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, and Tracy Morgan, as well as Anna Faris (The House Bunny, Scary Movie series), James Caan (The Godfather, Las Vegas), Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead series), and Mr. T (The A-Team). [While I may not always support celebrity voice casting, having Bruce Campbell and Mr. T voicing characters in the same movie is just so unbelievably full of win.]

– The February release of THQ’s Deadly Creatures for the Nintendo Wii features the voices of Dennis Hopper and Billy Bob Thornton.

– Yahoo Movies has a new trailer for the computer-animated feature film Astro Boy, due in theaters October 23, 2009. It features the voice talents of Freddie Highmore, Nicolas Cage [sensing a trend here? -Ed.], Kristen Bell, Nathan Lane, Matt Lucas, Eugene Levy, Donald Sutherland, and Bill Nighy.

– From a Nickelodeon press release for Glenn Martin, DDS, this summer’s first Nick-at-Nite animated series for adults:

A star-studded voice-over cast featuring Kevin Nealon (Weeds, Anger Management), Catherine O’Hara (For Your Consideration, Chicken Little) and Judy Greer (27 Dresses, Arrested Development) has been tapped for Nick at Nite’s upcoming stop-motion animated comedy, Glenn Martin, DDS set to premiere this Summer. The first television production to come from Michael Eisner’s Tornante Animation, Glenn Martin, DDS follows a beleaguered dentist and his family trading in the suburbs for life on the road. Crisscrossing the country, the Martins are beset by an array of colorful locals and crazy situations in locations ranging from Las Vegas to Amish Country. Many of the characters they encounter are voiced by enough instantly recognizable guest stars to fill a parking lot of RVs, including: Chrissie Hynde, Betty White, Gene Simmons, Wendie Malick and more.

Each of season one’s 20 episodes follows the life of Glenn Martin (Kevin Nealon), who yearns for a change of scenery and a deeper connection with his family. Determined to bring the family closer together, Glenn takes the Martins on a road trip to protest the destruction of a beloved childhood park. As things unravel right from the get-go, the family is forced to make the dental-mobile – replete with a giant decorative toothbrush on the roof – their new home. Glenn, Jackie and Courtney (Jackie Clarke) – an 11-year-old future corporate maven who brings along her personal assistant, Wendy (Judy Greer), a 14-year-old North Korean exile – and son, Conor (Peter Oldring), the 13-year-old hormone-addled tween who’s not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed–quickly learn when hitting the road that the road can sometimes hit back in unexpected ways. The Martins are accompanied on their journey by the family dog, Canine, who’s pronounced buttocks only add to the hilarity.

– The release date for Disney’s traditional, 2D animated musical, The Princess and the Frog, has been bumped up to December 11th, 2009. It includes the voice talents talents of Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls), Broadway singer Jennifer Cody, Keith David (Gargoyles), Jenifer Lewis (The PJs), John Goodman (The Emperor’s New Groove), Bruno Campos (Nip/Tuck), Oprah Winfrey, and VA fan favorite Jim Cummings.

– While watching VH1’s “Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 80’s” this past week, I was very surprised to hear that musician Billy Vera (whose heart-wrenching ballad “At This Moment” was a #1 radio hit in 1986) has also had a successful career as a voice-over artist. A quick Google search later, and I recognized him as the image voice for a recent Burger King ad campaign via his demos on SBVTalentAgency.com.

– Although it’s not due in theaters until 2011, there’s already been a lot of buzz about the computer-animated action-adventure, The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, which is being planned as a trilogy. Steven Spielberg is directing and John Williams is scoring the film. The cast appears to be made up entirely of Britains: Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot), Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead), Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead), Daniel Craig (007: Quantum of Solace), Tony Curran (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings), Mackenzie Crook (Pirates of the Caribbean), and several others.

Previous reports: 3.31.2009 — Celebrity Voice Acting Round-Up (yee-hah.)
3.20.2009 — Forbes Ranks Animation’s A-List Actors

VAs @ LA Times Festival of Books


The LA Times’ annual Festival of Books takes place April 25-26 at UCLA and will include appearances by voice actors Debbie Derryberry (Jimmy Neutron, Grim & Evil) and Yeardley Smith (The Simpsons), as well as celebrities who have done a fair amount of voice acting: Danica McKellar (Static Shock, Justice League), Wil Wheaton (Batman: The Brave and The Bold, Ben 10: Alien Force), Cloris Leachman (The Iron Giant, A Troll in Central Park), and Michael J. Fox (Stuart Little series, Atlantis: The Lost Empire).

Here’s a sample of the schedule of events:

– Saturday, April 25th

Panel presentation: 10:30 AM
Status Update: Social Networking and New Media, featuring Wil Wheaton

Stage presentation: 10:40 AM
Debi Derryberry, voice of Jimmy Neutron and Author, “Baby Banana” and “Licorice Tree”

Stage presentation: 12:00 PM
Danica McKellar, author, “Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who’s Boss”

Stage presentation: 3:00 PM
Yeardley Smith, voice of Lisa Simpson and Author, “I, Loreilei”

– Sunday, April 26th

Panel presentation: 10:30 AM
Michael J. Fox in Conversation with Mary McNamara

Panel presentation: 12:00 PM
Cloris Leachman, author of “Cloris” interviewed by George Englund

Event information is available via LATimesFestivalofBooks.com or you can call 1-800-LA TIMES, ext. 7BOOK. Admission for the event is free, but tickets are required for panel presentations. However, tickets are only .75 cents and can be purchased via select Ticketmaster outlets in Southern California starting at Noon on April 19th.

Previous related news: 3.19.2009 — Simpsons’ Yeardley Smith Publishes Children’s Book.