Every once in a while I’m going to make a “insert interesting thing here” edition of the Great Voice Actors series just to shake things up a bit. Also, I’ve been thinking, I may just try to crank it up a notch and pump out two GVAs a month in order to handle the insane amount of talented actors out there that could use some love. Like the idea? Hate it? Wanna smother it in Nutella and roll around in its sweet hazlenutty goodness? Leave your comments!
This month I’m dedicating GVA to two ladies who, though talented at voicing multiple characters, are most famous for male characters that they voiced. I was going to try to go the usual route of honoring one VA who is still living and one who has passed on to that great recording studio in the sky, but it seems my first featured actress insists on continually kicking Death in the pants. So for this special edition I give you two VAs who are still going strong. Have at you!
Having no apparent intention of being nearly a century old stop her, this nonagenarian has put out work as recently as 2009. One of her roles that year included a boy’s voice. A ninety-three-year-old woman still being able to convincingly voice a young boy character is just awesome to me. As I mentioned earlier, I had originally intended to feature June Foray as one of the great voice actors no longer with us but certainly unforgettable. Instead, the woman who first voiced Rocket J. Squirrel in her early 40’s back in 1959 is, to be blunt, not dead. Given the longevity of these amazing talents from the olden days I’m starting to see the err of my original stipulation of featuring one living and one deceased actor. I clearly underestimated the level of talent and dedication (and possibly cyborg parts) that a truly great voice actor has at his/her disposal.
Ms. Foray, born in 1917, started voice work uncredited in 1943’s Red Hot Riding Hood. Seven years later she went on to portray the devilish feline Lucifer in Disney’s Cinderella, beginning a relationship with the Walt Disney Studio that continues to this day (her most recent work for Disney being Magica de Spell for a 2008 video game). Five years after that, in 1955, June took over the voice of Tweety’s owner Granny from fellow voice great Bea Benaderet and still voices the Warner Brothers character.
June Foray’s role that lands her in this special edition of GVA is…well I already spoiled that, didn’t I? Okay so she voiced the plucky Rocky Squirrel in one of the most well-written and performed cartoons of all time, but did you know that she was also Boris’s partner in crime Natasha Fatale? How about Nell Fenwick, Dudley-Do-Right’s gal? I could go on and on about the kind of chops it has to take to voice such very different characters, but I implore you to instead have a listen for yourself. If you’re legally insane and still aren’t convinced, then just give a listen to the other well-known characters of hers featured in my list below. And don’t even get me started on non-animated voice roles.
Ms. Foray is a behemoth in the animation industry, not only for her outstanding performances, but for her contributions to bringing the art of animation more of the respect and recognition it deserves. Her most drastic non-vocal impact on the animation world is the Annie Awards, a yearly awards ceremony to honor the people behind animation in the same way the Emmys and Oscars honor their greats. The Annie Awards were June’s idea and she is largely responsible for bringing that idea to fruition. ASIFA-Hollywood named an award named after her, given to “an individual who has made a significant and benevolent impact on the art and industry of animation”.
Fortunately for all of us (albeit unfortunately for my continuity) June Foray is still with us today, showing everyone how it’s done. She’s still doing every character she has ever voiced originally with the exception of Ursula of the 1960s George of the Jungle series. Is there anything about this woman’s work that isn’t amazing? May we be lucky enough to have her around for years to come.
You’ve Also Probably Heard Her As:
- Ma Beagle and Magica de Spell in Disney’s Ducktales
- Witch Hazel in the Looney Tunes shorts
- Grammi Gummi from Gummi Bears
- Jokey Smurf
- Cindy Lou Who
- Knothead on The Woody Woodpecker Show
- Grandma Fa from Mulan and numerous other movies, radio and tv shows, commercials, etc.
Nancy Cartwright is the voice of an animated character who’s only second to Mickey Mouse in terms of international fame, and she enjoys an uncommon level of recognition for it. Her perpetually 10-year-old brat could easily come off as an annoying and unsympathetic character in the hands of a less talented voice actor (or writer, but that’s another article altogether). Instead Bart Simpson was an instant favorite among kids and adults when The Simpsons got their own TV show in 1989 (they had previously debuted as a series of shorts in 1987 on The Tracy Ullman Show). If we were talking about any other TV show this would be the point where I’d mention the year the show stopped running, and how it left a hole in fan’s hearts and blah blah blah but The Simpsons is still, right now in April of 2010, releasing new episodes, making it the longest-running prime-time US television show of all time, period (a feat some are happy with, while others say it should have ended after the ninth season). I’m not saying Ms. Cartwright is the sole reason for that. No, not at all! But her contribution to the show, and pop culture in general, is undeniable. I don’t know about you, but her (Bart’s) laugh is right behind Homer’s “Doh!” as THE sound I hear in my head when I think of “The Simpsons”.
Now I was only 6 at the time the show debuted, and totally not allowed to watch The Simpsons, but I knew exactly who Bart was. I knew his full name, exactly what he looked like (thanks to an INSANE amount of mass Bart marketing in the early 90’s) and was walking around saying “Eat my shorts!” and “Don’t have a cow!”, much to my mother’s chagrin. I still say the latter today. There’s nothing like making your parents proud, eh?
Man. This is the hardest GVA I’ve written so far. I thought Mel Blanc was going to be the one to stump me on how to give tribute to his greatness, and I didn’t do him justice for sure, but these ladies…. Well as I mentioned earlier, Bart could have easily been just another troublesome kid that just served as a vehicle for wacky antics. Honestly the kid can be a real jerk. But Nancy gave his voice such depth and character that one can’t help but feel a little bad for him when he puts on the “Aw I didn’t mean to do it, honest!” shtick. His voice, even if he’s hatching up some truly outrageous prank, has an undertone of pure, boyish glee that makes the audience feel that deep down he doesn’t mean anything really malicious. And whether he’s trying to get someone in on a scheme or get himself out of trouble, if he really tries he can make anyone believe him,whether he’s telling the truth or not. . If anything, if you don’t get just a twinge of sympathy when he moans his trademark “Uuuoooohhhh” then you have no soul.
Nancy Cartwright started out with a part-time job doing voice-overs for radio commercials back in 1977. The gig gave her the opportunity to meet with a Warner Bros. rep who gave her a list of contacts in the animation industry, which included the fantastic voice actor Daws Butler. In a gutsy move that you can’t help but love, the woman called him on his home phone and left him a message in a C ockney accent. Not surprisingly, she got his attention. He immediately called her back and agreed to be her mentor, serving not only was an amazing talent to learn from, but a proverbial foot in the door to other contacts and opportunities. One such opportunity was her first feature film role as a woman named Ethel, who gets trapped in a cartoon world in Twilight Zone: The Movie. The segment was later parodied in a Simpsons Treehouse of Horror segment.
For her performance as Bart, Nancy has won an Emmy, an Annie Award (The awards June Foray created) and received numerous other accolades these past two decades. She’s been in a main character in a few other cartoons as well, has done voicework for video games, wrote a book about her experience as the voice of Bart, titled My Life As A Ten-Year-Old Boy, and adapted that into a one-woman play that she has performed on numerous occasion. Nancy Cartwright is a hard-working, determined, accomplished woman that any fan of the profession wouldn’t hesitate to cite among the modern voice acting greats.
You’ve Also Probably Heard Her As:
- In The Simpsons: Todd Flanders, Nelson Muntz, Ralph Wiggum, Database, Maggie on occasion, etc.
- Mindy from The Animaniacs
- Margo Sherman in The Critic
- Rufus in Kim Possible
- Pistol Pete in Goof Troop
- Bright Eyes in Pound Puppies
- Chuckie Finster in Rugrats and All Grown Up since about 2003
- That screaming shoe that gets “dipped” in Who Framed Roger Rabbit