Charitable Voice Actors

02.03.2011

Celebrity charity auction site ClothesOffOurBack.org has listed a few items that some voice actor fans may be interested in bidding on: two bottles of 2008 Merlot wine autographed by Hank Azaria (The Simpsons, Anastasia) and Mila Kunis (Family Guy, Robot Chicken), and a dress donated by CCH Pounder (Justice League, Batman Beyond).

Both auctions end March 1, 2011. Proceeds benefit various children’s charities.

In a bit of related news, Paul Rugg (voice actor and writer on Freakazoid and Animaniacs) has announced that he is going to be auctioning off animation cells and memorabilia from shows he has worked on to help raise funds for Angels Way Maternity Home in California. Paul has a video on his Froynlaven! blog showing many of the items he’ll be donating from his own collection. We’ll provide an update when his auction officially begins.

~ Craig Crumpton
Publisher, Voice Actors in the News

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The Clothes Off Our Back Foundation is a 501c3 organization that hosts charity auctions showcasing today’s hottest celebrity attire. Items are put up for bid to the public with proceeds going to benefit children’s charities. Clothes Off Our Back was founded by actors and philanthropists Jane Kaczmarek (“Malcolm In The Middle,” “Raising the Bar”) and Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing,” “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”) whose efforts, along with their celebrity and designer friends have helped improve the lives of children across the globe. For more information and to bid, log onto www.clothesoffourback.org.


Voice Cast Cavalcade: The Simpsons

01.11.2010

Originally a news brief, this post has since been expanded into a feature article to commemorate 20 years of “The Simpsons” by spotlighting the show’s voice cast and guest stars. Please scroll down for the most recent updates.

© Image courtesy Fox Broadcasting

Originally posted 1.11.2010:

NYDailyNews.com has a pictorial showcasing “The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special: the faces behind the iconic cartoon” which includes 56 photos of the principal cast and many of the show’s celebrity guest stars over the last two decades and the characters they voiced.

Of note are some of the lesser-recognized members of the supporting cast: Frank Welker, Pamela Hayden, Maggie Roswell, Marcia Wallace, Tress MacNeille and Russi Taylor.

Update: 1.12.2010, 2:30 PM (EST)Time.com has a pictorial on “The Simpsons Greatest Guest Voice Appearances” featuring “a gallery of 20 of the world’s most illustrious personalities as skewered by Matt Groening.”

(Thanks to VoiceChasers for the heads-up via Twitter.)

Elsewhere, Macleans.ca blogger Jaime Weinman illustrates how The Simpsons’ cast has helped simple one-shot, castaway characters become recurring fan favorites.

Update: 7:30 PM (EST) — If you missed seeing “The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special: In 3-D! On Ice!” when it premiered on FOX Sunday, Jan. 10th, as of Monday, Jan. 11th the entire episode is available on Hulu.com. (Sorry, I am unable to embed Hulu videos via WordPress.)

I believe fans can also expect an extended “director’s cut” to be released on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2010.

[I’ve deleted the original YouTube link to the documentary for legal reasons.]

The documentary (which has a run-time of around 42 minutes) features the following voice talents:

Mike Judge (Beavis & Butthead, King of the Hill, The Goode Family)
Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, American Dad, The Cleveland Show)
Julie Kavner, voice of Marge Simpson
Yeardley Smith, voice of Maggie
Nancy Cartwright, voice of Bart
Hank Azaria, voice of Moe, Apu, Chief Wiggum
Dan Castellaneta, voice of Homer, Grandpa Simpson, Krusty, Mayor Quimby
Dana Gould (The Simpsons, Clerks: The Cartoon, Gex video game series)
David Cross (Kung Fu Panda, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Freak Show)
Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park)
– …and several of the shows guest stars such as Sting, Jerry Springer, Conan O’Brien and Hugh Hefner.

[Simpsons’ cast member Harry Shearer is noticeably absent from the documentary. Shearer performs the voices of Ned Flanders, Kent Brockman, Principal Skinner, Mr. Burns, Smithers, Rev. Lovejoy, Lenny, Scratchy and many others.]

Additionally, TVSquad blogger Jason Hughes has a thorough review of the special. Here’s an excerpt:

Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Super-Size Me, 30 Days) quite literally traveled the globe speaking to fans of all walks of life. He found the largest single collection of Simpsons merchandise and it was a frightening and beautiful thing to see. It spotlighted just how important this show is to some people, and how much these characters have resonated with generations of fans now.

It was also great seeing the interviews with the voice actors, as we so rarely get to see the faces that go with so many of the voices on the show. There are so many great characters on The Simpsons, it’s hard to imagine that so few actors voice all of them. Personally, I would have gotten a huge kick out of seeing them all do their big characters, but maybe that’s just me. The work that goes on behind each episode fascinates me.

Elsewhere, National Post columnist Robert Cushman has an opinionated review of Spurlock’s documentary.

Update: 8:00 PM (EST)OnTheBox.com has a review of The Simpsons: Access All Areas, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the show. It aired only in the UK on SKY1 on Monday, Jan. 11th.

[Update: 1.13.2010 — According to the UK’s Press and Journal, this was the first of a series of three special featurettes airing on SKY1 during the week.]

Narrated by Ricky Gervais (BBC’s The Office), it featured interviews with the show’s cast and crew, including creator Matt Groening, producer Al Jean, composer Alf Clausen, voice actors Dan Castellaneta and Nancy Cartwright, other of the show’s writers and artists and token celebrities Christina Ricci, Tony Hawk and Simon Cowell (who all voiced cameos in the series).

Update: 8:15 PM (EST) — Video interview with Yeardley Smith on FOX’s Good Day LA.

Hank Azaria posts 1.11.2010 via Twitter:

It was actually 22 years ago that the simpsons began for me, so next year when I turn 46, I’ll have been doing it for half my life. Sheesh.

– The Niles Daily Star has a retrospective on 20 years of The Simpsons, including commentary on the show’s voice cast. It also quotes Harry Shearer (via The Associated Press):

“I wish I could say that we inspired an awful lot of funny, smart, irreverent, acerbic shows that took a lacerating view of the insitutions of society. But I don’t think we have,” SNL alum Harry Shearer, 66, who voices Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Ned Flanders, the Rev. Lovejoy, Kent Brockman, Dr. Hibbert and Principal Skinner, told The Associated Press.

Shearer, who also pummeled the pretensions of rock music as bassist Derek Smalls in 1984’s magnificent mockumentary “This is Spinal Tap,” said satire doesn’t change anything with its scorn.

“For instance,” he said, “after 20 years and 450 episodes, I don’t really think ‘The Simpsons’ has increased the country’s skepticism about nuclear power,” which employs the bumbling Homer as a safety inspector.

Update: 8:45 PM (EST)TheImproper.com has some behind-the-scenes “secrets” on the show’s celebrity guest voices from Hank Azaria and writer/producer Al Jean.

Azaria recalls meeting Rolling Stones’ frontman Mick Jagger at the door just before a Simpsons recording session:

“I said, ‘Hey, Mick, we’re thrilled to have you here.’ And he kind of blew right by me like I was the greeter, and went, all dismissively, ‘Yeah, we’ll get it.’

“It made me a little bit annoyed. I knew it was going to get awkward, because I was about to walk upstairs and record with him,” Azaria said.

Al Jean discusses having to turn down celebrity requests to be on the show, such as David Beckham who didn’t make the cut because the show’s producers “didn’t think he was famous enough.” Jean says they ended up getting “a lot of grief” over it, saying it made some people “really angry.” Jean adds, “We get a lot of requests from celebrities, and it’s always a shame when we have to turn people down.”

The Altoona Mirror has a very insightful interview with The Simpsons’ associate producer Brian Kaufman discussing the recording process and directing sessions with the series’ cast and guest stars.

Kaufman, who’s been part of The Simpsons‘ production staff for 12 years, says that it takes about “nine months to produce a show, between all of the components of production,” and reveals that there are “enough new episodes to air through the spring, but even the staff isn’t sure if or when the series will end.”

“It’s kind of renewed in chunks, because of the the contracts – there are deals with the studio, with the actors,” he said. “There are a lot of contractual obligations, and every time one of them comes up, it’s like, ‘Oh, this is it.’ But then they’ll renew for another season.”

On the recording process, Kaufman says, “It’s great to work with the actors, to be on the stage with them, directing them. On the recording stage, it’s usually myself, a writer and the actors. All the actors are there when we do the original recording, but once all the changes – the re-writes – are done, we call them in separately.”

Kaufman says he limits recording lines to “[no] more than 10 takes.” After that, he explains, “the words lose meaning.”

On working with the cast, Kaufman says:

“You have to trust the actors’ instincts. A lot of times, they gave you the best option on the first take. It’s my job to say, ‘OK, we got it.'”

At this point, the cast is “pretty tame,” Kaufman said, because they’ve been working together for so long. He said Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer, is the “funniest” actor to work with, and he’s amazed by the talent of Harry Shearer, who can hold conversations between the many different characters he voices.

Update: 11:30 PM (EST) — Collection of video interviews released to the media by FOX, featuring Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Hank Azaria, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Marcia Wallace and Pamela Hayden:

– On the show’s beginning:

– On casting:

– On performing the characters and being recognized in public:

– On the guest stars:

– On the show’s relevance to society and how it mirrors real life:

– On the show’s success and how proud the cast is to have been a part of it:

Update: 1.13.2010, 1:00 AM (EST) — Best-selling author Mitch Albom (Tuesdays With Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven) details his experience — via The Detroit Free Press — recording dialog for his cameo in The Simpsons’ episode “Thursdays With Abie.”

Update: 3:15 AM (EST) — Voices.com co-founder Stephanie Ciccarelli blogs via Vox Daily about the 20th anniversary of The Simpsons, explaining the influence the series has had on the voiceover industry and community.

Update: 2:30 PM (EST)iF Magazine reports 1.11.2010 on the future of “The Simpsons”:

[We] approached Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly about how long he sees THE SIMPSONS staying on Fox, now that it’s reached its 20-year milestone.

“We have it for two more seasons and then we’ll sit down and see where we are,” says Reilly. “The show is extraordinary. We just celebrated twenty years. I’m certainly not gunning for it. It’s still creatively vibrant. The show is up again this season. It’s just just mind-blowing the breadth of creativity that’s still coming out of that camp.”

And in a closely-related interview (via TVGuide.com) with Simpsons executive producer Al Jean, he says he doesn’t feel the end of the show is “imminent.”

“There have been a lot of great endings but we’ve done them all,” says Jean. “Like the ‘Behind the Laughter’ episode. ‘Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind’ would have been a good one. ‘Lisa’ First Word,’ when Maggie spoke, would have been a good one. One thing I learned in television is don’t save it; if you got something good, air it. I have an idea for the last episode but I don’t want to say it.”

In the same interview, Jean says that his “favorite guest star might be Kelsey Grammer [Sideshow Bob] and it’s a really tough contest because there are so many great ones. His voice gives you so much.”

Jean also reflects on the significance of having the late pop star Michael Jackson involved in the show:

It was one of the many amazing things that happened to me while working on the show. He had said to Jim Brooks, ‘I want to be on the show and I want to write a No. 1 song for Bart.’ And he did and he did, it was No. 1.[Jackson co-wrote — although uncredited — the song “Do the Bartman,” which reached No. 1 in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia.] He did come to the table reads and read the script [for the episode “Stark Raving Dad”] but when it came to the singing, he wanted a sound-alike to do the recording and we never really understood why. I did hear him sing and of course he was great. It was one of the coolest things I’ve been involved with.

Elsewhere, IGN.com has an exclusive video with a “special anniversary message” from the King of the Hill cast, featuring the voices of Mike Judge, Stephen Root and Johnny Hardwick.

Update: 3:00 PM (EST)

– Morgan Spurlock talks with Newsarama about the making of “The Simpsons” documentary.

Harry Shearer and Yeardley Smith reflect on 20 years of “The Simpsons” with the Boston Globe.

Nancy Cartwright says in an interview with the UK’s Press and Journal that she has a history of being mistaken for a boy.

“I was about seven when people started making comments about my voice,” Cartwright says. “And being seven and having short hair I had an androgynous quality, so people didn’t know whether I was a boy or a girl. But I just used my voice to make people laugh and, because it made people laugh, it made me happy.”

And after 20 years, when asked what she would like to happen to Bart, Nancy replies, “I’d like Bart to meet Hugh Jackman [X-Men series, The Prestige] – I don’t know if Bart would necessarily want to meet him, but Nancy Cartwright would.”

Update: 1.14.2010, 1:30 PM

TheTakeaway.org has an audio interview with Harry Shearer discussing 20 years of “The Simpsons.”

Also, NewsOK.com has a short piece celebrating Shearer’s 66th birthday on Dec. 23rd.

Media Bistro has a video interview with “The Simpsons” documentary director Morgan Spurlock.

Yahoo News has an interview with Harry Shearer (via The Associated Press).

The Sioux City Journal interviews Yeardley Smith.

Look for more articles to be added to this report in the near future, as several of The Simpsons’ cast have been interviewed recently to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the series.


New ‘Simpsons’ Game Features Show’s Voice Cast

12.22.2009

IGN has an interview with Steve Robert, producer of The Simpsons Arcade game which was released Dec. 21st as an iPhone app.

Robert says that Gracie Films was “very involved” in the development of the game, and adds that the script was drafted by Simpsons’ writer Michael Price.

An earlier press release from game publisher Electronic Arts states that the voices were all recorded “by the real, live actors” and Geek site Kotaku.com confirms that all of the following provided voices for the game: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer.

Robert also says that the game features 25 characters, “plus a rat, some scary bats, cyborgs, vicious hounds, and attack cows.”


‘Epic’ Voice Actors Photo Feature on Life.com

08.28.2009

Life.com has a photo feature on the individuals they have determined to be “Epic” voice actors.

The 17 names who made their list:

Mel Blanc: most of the iconic Looney Tunes characters.
Dan Castellaneta: The Simpsons, Earthworm Jim.
Alan Reed: voice of Fred Flintstone.
Seth MacFarlane: creator/producer/writer/voice actor on Family Guy, American Dad!, The Cleveland Show.
Frank Oz: voice of Jedi Master Yoda, Sesame Street characters Grover and Bert.
Matt Stone and Trey Parker: creators of South Park.
Tom Kenny: voice of SpongeBob SquarePants
Billy West: Futurama, Ren & Stimpy
Hank Azaria: The Simpsons
Nancy Cartright: The Simpsons
Russi Taylor and the late Wayne Allwine: respective voices of Minnie and Mickey Mouse.
Tony Anselmo: voice of Donald Duck
Harry Shearer: The Simpsons
Jorge Arvizu: considered to be the Hispanic equivalent of Mel Blanc.
Mark Hamill: voice of The Joker.

I had reservations about linking to this because the nitpicker in me believes this list has been mislabeled as “epic” when “iconic” would be more fitting. Also, some major talents have been omitted — no Frank Welker, Daws Butler, June Foray, Jim Cummings, or plenty of others I could mention — all very worthy of the title of “epic” when it comes to voice acting talent.

And there there are some like Parker and Stone who just don’t feel at all like they belong on such a list. They may have created iconic characters and a cult hit show, but they are so not “epic” in terms of voice talent. One reason I stopped watching the show is that they do their own voices as celebrity impressions for every stinking celebrity they spoof… and they all sound the same. It may be one of the show’s running gags, but it just grates on my ears. I’ll grant that some of their character voices like Cartman, Mr. Garrison, Butters, and Kenny are amusing, but I just don’t believe they qualify as “epic.”

Furthermore, in the photo profiles there’s a typo on Tweety’s name (“Tweet Bird”) and Mark Hamill’s last name is misspelled as “Hammill.” (That qualifies as “epic” FAIL in my book.)

And I would like to have seen more females mentioned other than just Nancy Cartright. It blows my mind that Life would neglect to include “The First Lady of Cartoon Voice Acting,” June Foray. And there are other females who would have been welcome additions to such a list: Mae Questel (Olive Oyl, Betty Boop), Janet Waldo (The Jetsons, Penelope Pitstop), Tress MacNeille (Animaniacs, Futurama), and Mary Kay Bergman (South Park, Captain Planet, Scooby Doo movie series). (And that’s just to name a few).

Now, with that off my chest, I will say that it’s nice to see the majority of these individuals featured by a publication as renowned as Life Magazine. (And photos of voice actors are always welcome.) Frankly, Mark Hamill still gets unfair media criticisms for being a so-called “has-been since Star Wars” so any time he’s recognized in the media for his incredible voice acting is okay by me (although you’d think they would’ve tried spelling his name correctly). And as far as I’m concerned, Tony Anselmo, Russi Taylor, and the late Wayne Allwine will never receive enough recognition for their work.

Finally, I was rather surprised and pleased to see Jorge Arvizu included, someone I’d been planning to feature here in the future. He really is a great character voice actor who needs to be introduced to a wider U.S. audience. Here’s a clip of him performing some of his characters in a promo for Súper Agente 86 (the Spanish version of Get Smart):

[Link credit: Voice Chasers]


Azaria, Garrett Competing in Charity Poker Tournament

07.02.2009

The Las Vegas Sun reports that Hank Azaria (The Simpsons, Anastasia, Night at the Museum 2), Brad Garrett (Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, A Bugs’ Life), and Jason Alexander (Duckman, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) are among the celebrity guests participating in the annual “Ante Up for Africa” charity poker tournament which has raised nearly $2 million since 2006.

The event will air August 11th on ESPN as a 3-hour TV special.


Hank Azaria @ ‘Star Trek’ Premiere

05.05.2009

THR TV attends the Star Trek red carpet event in Los Angeles, interviewing Hank Azaria (via YouTube) who ad libs as Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.

Fast-forward to the 1:45 mark to see Hank’s interview.

Also at the premiere, Hank spoke with People Magazine about going through pregnancy with girlfriend Katie Wright: “She has everything: cravings, nausea – everything.”

Wright, whose baby is due this summer, says that her number one craving has been “In-N-Out-Burger.” To which Hank added, “They should really give us a year’s worth. We are the greatest [customers]. I literally bought a hat because I’ve delivered so much In-N-Out Burger in the last six months.”

Previous news: 4.03.2009 — Hank Azaria Guests on VH1’s Free Radio.


Hank Azaria Guests on VH1’s ‘Free Radio’

04.03.2009

Hank Azaria (The Simpsons, Anastasia) guest stars on the April 9th episode of VH1’s Free Radio. Look for bonus clips and the full episode to be available online following the Thursday, 4.09.2009 11PM broadcast at VH1.com.

Elsewhere, The Real Estalker has photos and a detailed description of the new home Azaria recently purchased in Bel Air, CA — to the tune of nearly $14 million dollars.

Azaria also appears as “Kah Mun Rah” in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (and is the voice of “The Thinker” in the film as well) which opens in theaters May 22nd, and he has a supporting role in Year One, starring Jack Black, opening in theaters June 19.