The Voices Behind the Cartoon Characters
Some of the most famous characters on TV are not even real people, but yet they are. Who is more recognizable, Homer Simpson or Brad Pitt. Probably Homer Simpson, his face, his voice and the phrases he made famous. But you never see Homer Simpson do TV interviews with his even more famous son, Bart Simpson. So who are these real voices behind the cartoon characters.
Mel Blanc and the Early Years of Cartoon Character Voices
There have always been cartoons, and behind every cartoon character there has to be a voice. It has always amazed me how these voices behind the cartoon characters do not sound like the real voice of the person doing them and how they can do so many different and varied voices.
Starting in the early years of cartoons, Mel Blanc is probably the best known voice behind the cartoon characters. Called The Man of a Thousand Voices, Mel Blanc was the voice behind many well-known cartoon characters such as Porky Pig, Yosemite Sam, Wile E Coyote, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Speedy Gonzales and Woody Woodpecker (1940-1941).
Mel Blanc was the real Bugs Bunny (Warner Brothers)
In the 1960s, Mel Blanc was also the voice behind the cartoon characters of Barney Rubble in The Flintstones and Mr. Spacely of The Jetsons. You might remember the 1980 television series, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Mel Blanc was also the voice of the robot, Twiki.
There have been numerous great cartoon voices over the years including Daws Butler, June Foray, Paul Frees, Stan Freberg, Frank Welker, Casey Kasem and Don Messick. Don Messick could switch between 9 different cartoon character voices and have conversations with them. The voices he did varied between such diverse cartoon characters as Baam-Baam of The Flintstones to Dr. Benton Quest of Jonny Quest.
The Simpson family on FOX network is one of the most recognizable families in the world, their faces, phrases and voices and Marge Simpson even appearing in playboy. The Simpsons with Homer, Bart, Marge, Lisa and Maggie portray the infamous dysfunctional American family for 21 years now, which makes it the longest running television show in American history. But who are the real Simpson’s?
Homer Simpson is actually Dan Castellaneta, who has been doing Homer Simpson’s voice since the beginning of The Simpsons. Dan Castellaneta also does the voices of Grandpa Simpson, Krusty the Clown, Mayor Quimby and Groundskeeper Willie. Like almost all cartoon voices, he is not publicly recognized as Homer Simpson, the famous American actor.
Dan Castellaneta is the real Homer Simpson, caretaker Willie, Krusty and others. (Fox Network)
Bart Simpson is really a woman. Nancy Cartwright, an actress and comedian, has been doing the voice of Bart Simpson since the beginning of the show in 1989. In the early 1990s when Bart Simpson was becoming one of America’s most famous characters and even named entertainer of the year, Nancy Cartwright was anonymous. The producers of The Simpsons didn’t want anyone to know Bart was really a woman. Away from the recording studio, her voice is nothing like that of Bart Simpson, an example of how cartoon voices can be amazing when you find out the voice behind the cartoons character.
Nancy Cartwright is the real Homer Simpson (Fox Network)
Also on the FOX network is an even more dysfunctional family than the Simpsons, a cartoon called Family Guy featuring the Griffin Family. The Griffin family includes Peter Griffin the father, Lois as the caring wife and mother, Stewie is the baby of the family, kids Chris and Meg and a talking dog, Brian and a host of interesting neighbors and townsfolk.
It is amazing how one person can do so many different and varied voices behind these cartoons. Seth MacFarlane is the creator of the show, has written several episodes, does animation and does the voices of Peter Griffin, Stewie, Brian and the odd neighbor, Glenn Quagmire among other voices. Like or hate Family Guy, it is amazing to listen to the differences in the voices of Peter Griffin and baby Stewie.
Seth MacFarlane is the real Peter Griffin, Quagmire, Stewie and Brian. (Fox Network)
Alexandrea “Alex” Borstein is the voice behind Lois Griffin and reporter Tricia Takanawa. These are two completely different voices and another example of how these voices behind the cartoons can change their voices and roles.
One of the Griffin’s neighbors is Joe, a former police officer who is now in a wheelchair. The voice behind the cartoon character of Joe is Patrick Warburton, who also played David Puddy in the Seinfeld television series.
The Griffin’s live in the town of Quahog and the mayor of Quahog is Mayor West. The voice behind this cartoon character is Adam West, who was also the original Batman from the 1960s.
Brian and Stewie (Fox Network)
King of the Hill
Another cartoon on the FOX network is King of the Hill and it is amazing there is a television cartoon that doesn’t feature a dysfunctional American family, more of the typical All-Texas family where life revolves around lawn care and football, especially Dallas Cowboys football.
The father, Hank Hill, is also all about the propane business and the voice behind Hank is Mike Judge, who is also the creator of the cartoon. Mike Judge was also the voice behind Hank’s neighbor, Boomhauer and the voices of Kenny in South Park and Beavis and Butthead.
Hank’s son is 13-year old Bobby Hill and like Bart Simpson, the voice behind this cartoon character is a woman. The voice of Bobby Hill is Pamela Segall Adlon.
Pamela Segall Adlon is the real Bobby Hill.
The Hill’s niece, Luanne is married to Elroy “Lucky” Kleinschmidt and the voice behind the cartoon character of Lucky is Tom Petty of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
On a sad note, the voice behind the cartoon character Luanne was done by Brittany Murphy. She passed away on December 20, 2009 at the age of 32 from complications of pneumonia and anemia.
Voices Behind the Cartoon Characters
There have been many cartoons on television and in movies. Some of these voice actors are also actors and actresses who appear in television shows, Broadway, movies and do voices for other cartoon characters. Others who do cartoon character voices might be comedians and even radio station DJ’s. There are also voice acting schools you can go to.
In the famous words of Mel Blanc and Porky Pig, “That’s All Folks”
© 2010 Sam Montana
Fox Publicity Online: Peter Griffin, Glenn Quagmire, Stewie, Groundskeeper Willie, Bart Simpson, Homer Simpson
Good book about the history of cartoon voices: "The Magic Behind the Voices: A Who’s Who of Cartoon Voice Actors" by Tim Lawson and Alisa Persons