April 18, 2011

Voice Actor - Daws Butler

A true legend in the world of cartoon voice acting.
His first voice work came in 1943 at MGM. Tex Avery hired Butler to provide narration work for several of his cartoons. In many cartoons, there was a nameless wolf who spoke in a Southern accent and whistled all the time. Butler provided the voice for this wolf. While at MGM, Avery wanted Butler to try to do the voice of Droopy Dog, a character that Bill Thompson regularly voiced. Butler performed the voice for a few cartoons, but he then told Avery about Don Messick, another voice actor and Butler's life-long friend. Messick quickly became a voice actor.

In 1949, Butler landed a role in a televised puppet show created by former Warner Brothers cartoon director Bob Clampett called Time for Beany. Thirty-three-year-old Butler was teamed up with 23-year-old Stan Freberg, and together they did all the voices of the puppets. Butler voiced Beany Boy and Captain Huffenpuff. Freberg voiced Cecil and Dishonest John. An entire stable of recurring characters were seen. The show's writers were Charles Shows and Lloyd Turner, whose dependably funny dialog was still always at the mercy of Butler's and Freberg's ad libs. Time for Beany ran from 1949 to 1954 and won several Emmy Awards. It was the basis for the cartoon Beany and Cecil.

Butler briefly turned his attention to TV commercials, although he quickly moved to providing the voice to many nameless Walter Lantz characters for theatrical shorts later seen on the Woody Woodpecker program. His notable character was the penguin "Chilly Willy" and his sidekick, the southern-speaking dog Smedley (the same voice used for Tex Avery's laid-back wolf character).
Also in the 1950s, Stan Freberg asked Butler to help him write comedy skits for his Capitol Records albums. Their first collaboration, "St. George and the Dragon-Net" (based on Dragnet), was the first comedy record to sell over one million copies. Freberg was more of a satirist who did song parodies, but the bulk of his "talking" routines were co-written by, and co-starred, Daws Butler.

In 1957, MGM closed their animation division, and producers William Hanna and Joseph Barbera found themselves unemployed. They quickly formed their own company, and Daws Butler and Don Messick were on-hand to provide voices. The first being The Ruff & Reddy Show, which set the formula for the rest of the series of cartoons that the two would helm until the mid 1960s.

Characters voiced by Butler from 1957 to 1978 included:
    •    "Bring 'Em Back Alive" Clive
    •    Aesop's Son (in the "Aesop and Son" segment of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show)
    •    Fibber Fox and Alfy Gator (of Yakky Doodle)
    •    Ali Gator (in two Lantz theatrical shorts)
    •    Augie Doggie
    •    Baba Looey (from Quick Draw McGraw)
    •    Barney Rubble (from The Flintstones) (Pilot & season 2 - episodes 1, 2, 5, 6, and 9 only)
    •    Big Gruesome
    •    Bingo (of Banana Splits)
    •    Brutus the Lion (of The Roman Holidays)
    •    Cap'n Crunch
    •    Captain Skyhook (of The Space Kidettes)
    •    Chilly Willy
    •    Cogswell
    •    Colonel Pot Shot
    •    Dixie Mouse (of Pixie and Dixie)
    •    Elroy Jetson
    •    Fibber Fox (of Yakky Doodle)
    •    Fred Flintstone (1959; The Flagstones pilot only)
    •    Gabby Gator (of Woody Woodpecker)
    •    Gelationous Giant from The Phantom Tollbooth
    •    Gooney the "Gooney Bird" Albatross
    •    Hair Bear (of Help!... It's the Hair Bear Bunch)
    •    Henry Orbit
    •    Hokey Wolf
    •    Huckleberry Hound
    •    Hustle (of The CB Bears)
    •    Jonathan Wellington "Mudsy" Muddlemore (of The Funky Phantom)
    •    Karlos K. Krinkelbein (from the 1971 animated TV special version of The Cat in the Hat)
    •    Lambsy (of "It's the Wolf" on Cattanooga Cats)
    •    Lippy the Lion
    •    Loopy De Loop
    •    Maxie the Polar Bear
    •    Mr. Jinks (of Pixie and Dixie)
    •    Peter Perfect
    •    Peter Potamus
    •    Quick Draw McGraw
    •    Quisp
    •    Raggedy Andy (in "The Great Santa Claus Caper (1978)")
    •    Red Max
    •    Reddy the dog (from The Ruff & Reddy Show)
    •    Rock Slag
    •    Rufus Ruffcut
    •    Scooby-Dum
    •    Senses Taker from The Phantom Tollbooth
    •    Sgt. Blast
    •    Smedley the dog (from the Chilly Willy cartoons)
    •    Snagglepuss
    •    Super Snooper and Blabber Mouse
    •    Stick and Duke (of Posse Impossible)
    •    Undercover Elephant
    •    Terrible Trivium from The Phantom Tollbooth
    •    Whether Man from The Phantom Tollbooth
    •    Wally Gator
    •    Wimpy (from The All-New Popeye Hour)
    •    Wolf (from the Droopy cartoons)
    •    Yahooey (from Yippee, Yappee and Yahooey)
    •    Yogi Bear

Butler would voice most of these characters for many decades, in both TV shows and in some commercials. The breakfast cereal mascot Cap'n Crunch became an icon of sorts on Saturday morning TV through many commercials produced by Jay Ward. Butler gave voice to the Cap'n from the 1960s to the 1980s. He based the voice on that of character actor Charles Butterworth. In the 1970s he was the voice of "Hair Bear" and a few characters in minor cartoons such as C.B. Bears. On Wacky Races, Butler provided the voices for a number of the racers, notably Rock Slag, Big Gruesome, the Red Max, Sgt. Blast, Peter Perfect, and Rufus Ruffcut. On Laff-a-Lympics, Butler was virtually the entire "Yogi Yahooey" team.

He voiced a penguin and a turtle in the movie Mary Poppins, his only known film work for Disney. Along with Stan Freberg, Paul Frees and June Foray, Butler also provided voices for countless children's records featuring recreations of several successful Disney cartoons and films.
When Mel Blanc was recovering from a motor vehicle accident, Butler stepped in to provide the voice of Barney Rubble (another rather Carney-esque voice) in four episodes of Flintstones.

Butler remained somewhat low-key in the 1970s and 1980s, until a 1985 revival of The Jetsons. In 1975, Butler began an acting workshop that spawned such talents as Nancy Cartwright (The Simpsons), Corey Burton (Old Navy, Disney), and Joe Bevilacqua (NPR).

In the year of his death, The Good, the Bad, and Huckleberry Hound was released, a tour-de-force featuring most of his classic early characters. Butler died from a heart attack on May 18, 1988.

See his huge credit list on Voice Chasers.

No comments: