Featured Voices: Jeff Bordner

02.07.2010

Continued Super Bowl Sunday voice-related coverage…

Salt Lake City’s KSL.com has an interview with Jeff Bordner, who won the audition as the announcer for Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl VI.

“I love what I do. My work is play,” he tells KSL.com. “My commute consists of a cup of coffee and negotiating the steps downstairs in my power suit, which is my bathrobe.”

Bordner, who also voices promos for ESPN, NBC, CBS and FOX, says of the VO industry: “I don’t know of another business that is this competitive. I’m very fortunate and I’m very blessed. Every type of voice brings with it some kind of positive thing, some kind of hook that advertisers are looking for. Whether it’s comedic or intense, or whether it’s just a regular guy. I’ve learned it’s not the voice, it’s the performance. You are voice acting. It is acting.”

You can learn more about Bordner’s work on his official site: NationalVoiceover.com.

Bordner replaces the late Harry Kalas, who served as announcer for Puppy Bowls I-V. Kalas, who passed away April 13, 2009, was the beloved voice of the Philadelphia Phillies and narrator for NFL Films. Look for a memorial tribute to Kalas here in April, 2010.

Related post: 2.07.2010 — Super Bowl Sunday VO


RIP, Ed Ragozzino

02.01.2010

Ed Ragazzino (photo courtesy VoiceProfessionals.com)


The Register-Guard is reporting that performer Ed Ragozzino died of cancer Saturday, Jan. 30th. He was 79.

In addition to a serving in the Army during the Korean War, Ragozzino also had a fair “side career” working as a voice talent and actor in film, TV and radio productions. Furthermore, he was a high school and college drama teacher who also directed regional stage shows.

He provided voiceovers for Soloflex, Subaru, Mercedes Benz, AT&T, National Geographic, The History Channel and the Oregon Coast Aquarium. He also voiced characters for the 1994 video game Metaltech: Earthsiege.

One of Ragozzino’s drama students, Julie Payne, says of her beloved teacher, “We were all in love with Mr. Ragozzino. He was handsome, funny, terrifying, inspiring and kindly. Everything he knew, he wanted to pass on to us.”

Looking back on his life in a 2007 interview with the Register-Guard, Ragozzino said, “My timing was great. I’ve been lucky.”

Related links:

http://www.kval.com/news/local/83190042.html
http://www.voiceprofessionals.com/ragozzino.htm


Forbes Lists ‘Most Trusted Celebrities’

01.27.2010

Forbes journalist Lacey Rose has published a top 10 list (via E-Poll) of celebrities considered most-trusted by consumers:

1. James Earl Jones
2. Tom Hanks
3. Michael J. Fox
4. Mike Rowe
5. Morgan Freeman
6. Sally Field
7. Ron Howard
8. Will Smith
9. Bill Cosby
10. Denzel Washington

Rose’s article addresses the corporate marketing use of celebrity spokespersons, which follows a semi-regular topic on this blog and other VO forums as it relates to celebrity voiceovers:

Why bother at all with stars? “In a very crowded media environment its hard for companies to stand out,” says Gerry Philpott, president of Los Angeles-based E-Poll Market Research, who gauges the marketability of hundreds of public figures for clients. “They need those names to cut through the clutter.”

Celebrity Endorsement Network president Noreen Jenney believes the repercussions of [Tiger] Woods’–as well as his sponsors’–saga will be felt in subtle ways in the coming months and deals. Among them: Marketers will do that much more diligence on stars’ personal lives before signing them to represent their brands. What’s more, in a post-Tiger era she expects contracts will be written a little differently and marketers will be able to enforce stricter morality clauses regardless of a star’s clout.

A few of the individuals on Forbes’ list have come into high demand as corporate and commercial spokespersons — particularly for voiceovers — such as James Earl Jones, Mike Rowe and Morgan Freeman.

Although Jones is most-widely recognized for voicing Darth Vader (one of the most iconic villains in film history), his voice has been less-villainous as the voice of Mufasa in Disney’s The Lion King, the image voice for CNN and both the 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympics, and as the narrator for an unabridged audio recording of the King James Bible New Testament (a critically-acclaimed NY Times best-seller).

And while Mike Rowe has gained prominence as the host of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs, he’s also the spokesperson for Ford/Lincoln-Mercury and has served as narrator/announcer for nearly a dozen popular TV productions such as Ghost Hunters, Ghost Lab, Deadliest Catch and American Chopper.

Morgan Freeman has become the guy that over 54,000 fans on Facebook wish narrated their lives (and over a million on Facebook are fans of his voice).

I’ve been a fan of Morgan Freeman since he played “Easy Reader” and “Count Dracula” on The Electric Company (1971-77), and we also share the same hometown of Memphis, TN (I believe we were even born in the same hospital, although about 35 years apart). He also starred in and narrated my favorite live-action film The Shawshank Redemption, and has narrated many other films and TV productions as well.

On Jan. 4th, The CBS Evening News replaced the late Walter Cronkite with Morgan Freeman to voice the show’s opening.

I started writing an op-ed piece about this afterwards and then dropped it since my fellow VO-blogger Peter O’Connell already said it better than I could, and it was a hot topic on VO-BB and Voiceover Universe as well.

Freeman was interviewed in the January 2010 print edition of Cowboys & Indians Magazine [<–click to read online] discussing his love for horses and "The Old West," and his role as Nelson Mandela in Invictus (for which Freeman also served as executive producer).

Added: 2.02.2010 — You must see video game voice actor and promo announcer Josh Robert Thomspon‘s video featuring his Morgan Freeman sound-alike for The Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson:

Thanks to Josh for the heads-up on the video via Facebook.

Related posts:
– 1.14.2010 — Hollywood Actors Face ‘Special Challenges’ in Voice Acting
– 1.02.2010 — SlateV Tests Your Ear for Celebrity Voices


Catholic Review Interviews Jim Cummings

07.24.2009

Jim Cummings talks with The Catholic Review about attending Catholic schools during his childhood and his work as a voice actor. Here are some highlights:

– Jim was a “relentless mimic” from grade school through high school and was often reprimanded for it: “I’d be doing dolphin sounds in the background. Sister Mary Agnes would say, ‘We don’t allow dolphin sounds in the classroom, Mr. Cummings.”

Jim says he doesn’t hold being corrected (for what would eventually become his career) against his teachers or principals. “I have a scholarship at my old school in my dad’s name, so they don’t seem to mind me anymore.”

– While attending Ursuline High School in Youngstown, Ohio, he turned his talents into “championships for Ursuline during state and regional speech and oratory contests.”

– Among Jim’s greatest voice-over challenges he’s had to date was recording “practically every conceivable child’s name for a talking Winnie the Pooh toy. Jim says, “Esquire magazine gave it a prize for ‘most interesting name’: My Interactive Pooh.” Cummings speculates that he recorded 25,000 names for this project, causing him to accidentally answer the phone in Pooh’s voice when he returned home from recording.

– If Jim has any regret in his life, he says that it was when he was too sick to audition for The Simpsons when casting first took place 20 years ago for actors who could perform multiple voices. “Other than that one, I’m a happy camper. I don’t look back in frustration and anger,” he said. “I hope for the best, expect the worst, and take what comes.”

– Jim got his first TV role playing a “cute little kid” in a TV special called The Catholic School Story when he was in the sixth grade. Also appearing in the special as Father O’Neill was Ed O’Neill, who played Al Bundy on the sitcom Married With Children.

Click here to read the complete interview.

Previous post: 7.02.2009 — Washington Times Interviews Jim Cummings


IFC on ‘Vacillating Voiceovers’ in Film

07.23.2009

IFC.com has an interesting piece highlighting 12 films which have been “controlled, manipulated, and sometimes illuminated by unreliable narrators.”

Be warned, though, that if you have not seen some of the films mentioned, you click the link above at your own risk as they do contain spoilers.

I was surprised to see that the psychological thriller Memento (2000) was not mentioned — to me a perfect example of an “unreliable narrator” in Guy Pierce’s guarded, suspicious VO performance.

On a semi-related note, IFC.com also did a feature recently on “The 50 Greatest Trailers” with commentary by various film experts. Here are some which gave props to the voice-over narration:

The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001): “incredible use of voice-over.”

Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000): says Melissa Disney‘s voice “sets this trailer apart.”

Time Bandits (1981): Scott Goldman, head of theatrical for mOcean calls this trailer “one of [his] favorites” because it “breaks all the rules”:

It almost looked like they cut a trailer and said, “you know, this isn’t that funny.” I don’t think that’s how they did it, but that’s the [idea] -they did a trailer, it’s not that funny, let’s just rewrite the narrator and pretty much from about 15 seconds in, it has nothing to do with the movie. It’s just a combination of these very quirky, odd images of midgets running around and space and fantasy elements and [the narrator is] just rambling and mispronouncing words and complaining and it was just a really funny, self-aware trailer.

Not sure who’s voicing the narrator in this one, but it sounds like Michael Palin as the voice of the annoyed director.

Spinal Tap (1984): Rob Reiner rambles and grovels because he has no footage to show, and instead shows a documentary narrated by Harry Shearer on a Scandanavian cheese-rolling festival:

And for you movie trailer aficionados, click here for IFC’s full list of the 50 greatest.

Related post: 6.06.2009 — Corey Burton Honored With Golden Trailer Award


Web Show Features LaFontaine’s Last On-Camera Performance

07.13.2009

A press release from Shoot Online announces that a new original, comedy web series “Captain Alpha Male” (about the adventures of a “middle management superhero”) will feature the final on-camera appearance of the late Don LaFontaine. The premiere episode of the web-exclusive series includes Don’s performance and will air on on CaptainAlphaMale.com starting Thursday, July 16th.

A preview of the show is available on YouTube:

To read the complete press release, please visit ShootOnline.com.

Related post: 5.01.2009 — Vox Daily on Don LaFontaine.


Remembering TV/Radio Announcer Ken Roberts

07.08.2009

For my regular readers who might have noted that I’ve neglected to mention some recent voice talent-related passings, I should explain that I generally prefer to take the time to write a proper tribute article, sometimes going as far as to contact friends and family members and spending a considerable amount of time researching before publishing an obituary.

I realize that’s not common in media journalism, but this blog has been a hobby for me for ten years and reporting about death is normally something I prefer to postpone until I’m ready to write about it.

But all the hype surrounding recent celebrity deaths has overshadowed others who are worthy of mention, such as TV/radio announcer Ken Roberts who died June 19th of pneumonia. He was 99.

Ken Roberts. [Photo credit: 1946 image courtesy of Photofest]
According to Roberts’ Wikipedia entry, he began his radio career possibly as early as the 1920’s, and during the peak of the Golden Age of Radio (1930s-40s) his “voice appeared widely in live programming to introduce programs, moderate game shows and do live reads for commercials.” And he worked on some popular radio programs, most notably The Shadow which starred Orson Welles.

On TV, he served as announcer for game shows (Make Me Laugh, Chance of a Lifetime, Blind Date), was the original announcer for Candid Camera, and narrated the soap operas Love of Life and The Secret Storm for 20 years. He even spoofed himself as the soap opera-esque narrator for the “Love of Chair” segments (a parody of Love of Life) on The Electric Company between 1971-72. You can view vintage clips of these sketches on YouTube: Episode 1, Season 1 Finale, Final Episode.

In animation, IMDb.com credits Roberts with providing “additional voices” on the 1995 animated series Action Man, and The Big Cartoon Database states that his “announcing talents were used in uncredited voice roles as the narrator of the Famous Studios Noveltoons Madhattan Island (1947) and Flip Flap (1948).”

The San Francisco Chronicle says of Roberts:

Ken Roberts’ voice was so comforting, it was said he had a golden throat. Welcome in millions of American homes, its resonant urbanity helped housewives and their families while away many an afternoon and evening. He was a good-looking man, too: tall and dark, with a resemblance to Errol Flynn – according to his son, anyway. But not many people knew of him, and even fewer would have recognized him if he had knocked on the front door.

In the 1930s and ’40s, the heyday of radio, this was the lot of the announcer, the man who introduced serials and other narrative shows – always live on the air – and read advertisements and moderated game show panels. And like few others, Mr. Roberts was ubiquitous, the voice of dozens of shows, a star without a name or a face.

Roberts’ Wikipedia entry also includes a few select quotes about him:

Radio historian Jim Cox described Roberts’ voice as neither “Yankee, Southern, Western or anything else”. It was a voice that didn’t “irritate anybody” and that “you just naturally liked to hear”, making him “one of the leading lights of radio”.

Steve Beverly of The Daily Game Show Fix described Roberts as having “what executives called a golden throat”, with a familiar voice that was one of broadcasting’s most-recognized anonymous voices.

His son, actor Tony Roberts, described his father’s voice as accentless with perfect tones, sounding to him “as though it came from God.”

And in an obit by The Washington Times, Roberts’ was quoted from a 1945 interview about his work as an announcer:

“I would quote some doctor’s message about some hair tonic and give out with joy. Or advise the use of a chest rub to save you from pneumonia or worse and laugh with almost maniacal glee during the one-minute announcement.

“But now I don’t feel like a phony. I can toss around atrocious puns like the one about the world beginning with an Adam and ending with an atom, and just laugh and laugh and laugh. I feel human when talking into that mike, not like a grinning, foolish puppet on a sponsor’s string.”

For more on Roberts’ life and career, please see the links below:

The San Francisco Chronicle
The Washington Times (includes photo)
The San Francisco Chronicle
The Internet Movie Database
The New York Daily News
The Big Cartoon Database
A Shroud of Thoughts (blog tribute)
We Love Soaps (blog obit)
Bob’s House (blog tribute with video links)