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From Mickey Mouse to Porky Pig, Character Voice Caretakers

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

May 26, 2009

Comments (5)

Mickey MouseWhen a character's voice is first created, something special happens, and although it may be voiced by different people over the decades, takes on a life of its own.

Meet a few caretakers who were chosen to pick up where one of their colleagues left off, preserving each character as an individual with great awe and reverence.

The 3rd Voice of Mickey Mouse Takes His Final Bow

Many of you may have heard that Wayne Allwine, the most recent voice of Mickey Mouse, passed away on May 18, 2009 due to complications from diabetes at the age of 62. He and his wife Russi Taylor, the current voice of Minnie Mouse, met in studio over 20 years ago and were inseparable.

Although the two made quite a pair voicing the Disney icons (named as Disney Legends in 2008), they never lost sight of the fact that they were merely the stewards of a legacy, entrusted with taking care of Mickey and Minnie, humbly doing their work in the service of others to keep Walt Disney's dream, and the spirit of the characters, alive.

Russi Taylor, said of her dearly departed husband, Wayne Allwine, "Walt [Disney] used to say, he put the heart and soul into Mickey Mouse," She noted that while Allwine was certainly proud to be the voice of Mickey Mouse, he was never boastful or arrogant. The couple, in fact, made a point of not using their Minnie and Mickey voices in public out of respect for the characters.

Taylor also shared, "We've always said we were the caretakers of these characters."

Voices of Mickey Mouse (years shown in duration of time as Mickey's voice):

Walt Disney (1928-1947)
Jimmy MacDonald (1947-1977)
Wayne Allwine (1977-2009)

To further the point of characters being their own people, in honor of his 50th Anniversary (November 18, 1978), Mickey Mouse became the first cartoon character to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star is located on 6925 Hollywood Blvd.

Bob Bergen, Voice of Porky Pig, Shares Experiences at Warner Bros.

Bob Bergen is the current voice of Porky Pig among other characters in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes franchise, taking up where Mel Blanc left off. I asked Bob to contribute some insight into how he sees his role and what it means to him to be a caretaker for several characters who he now gives voice to.

~~

Contributed by Bob Bergen

I'm often asked if I feel a sense of responsibility voicing classic characters. The answer is, of course! It's always my ultimate goal to uphold the integrity of the characters. I will also say that none of us, including myself, can replace Mel Blanc. He was a genius. So much of who he was is in these characters. Just like so much of Jim Henson was in Kermit the Frog. My goal has never been to try to emulate Mel. My goal is to portray Porky, Tweety, Sylvester, Jr., or whichever Looney Tune I've been hired to voice as honestly as I can.

Often this is a challenge. Any actor is only as good as the writing. Every once in a while the writing doesn't work with the character. So, you just do your best. Fortunately, most everyone I've ever worked with at Warner Bros. has been open to ideas and suggestions. "Can I try this a different way?" "Porky wouldn't stutter on that word," etc.

I find it a privilege and an honor to voice these characters. I don't take it for granted. And I have the utmost respect for the legacy of the creators, from Mel Blanc, to Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, etc. These characters are a conglomerate of a creative mixed marriage. I'm thrilled and humbled to be a part of the family.

Bob Bergen

Are You a Character Voice Caretaker?

It's so very important that the people who take on these roles have a profound respect for those who went before as well as the character itself. People like Bob Bergen, Wayne Allwine and Russi Taylor have set a phenomenal example of what it means to preserve and venerate their characters for generations of families to enjoy now and for years to come.

I invite you to share your story if you have inherited a voice acting legacy.

Also, if you would like to talk about someone's work that is now living on through other voice talent, you're welcome to share those memories, too. Artists may also feel this kinship with other animators, so if you are in that boat, I'd love to hear from you.

Looking forward to your stories,

Stephanie

Related Topics: Bob Bergen, cartoons, Disney, hired, Hollywood, Mel Blanc, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Porky Pig, Russi Taylor, Wayne Allwine


Comments


    Hi Stephanie,

    Yes, I am always saddened by the passing of a great voice actor who, from behind the scenes, is responsible for breathing life into such an iconic character as Mickey Mouse and other characters over the years.

    I'm still currently the voice of "Riley" the giraffe mascot of Riley Childrens Hospital in Indianapolis. He's the character that is live (via video tape or DVD today) and shown to each of the children as they enter for treatment at Riley. He explains what to expect and to calm their fears about needles, doctors, procedure, etc. It's a prideful voice I've had the privilege to become a living part of.

    I additionally am the voice of Hunter Dan. He is the action sports figure that is the safety-conscience advocate for bow & arrow hunting. I completed this project years ago and he has his own website, video game, safety rule PSA's, etc. Another fun one promoting safety for little hunters.

    JG

    Posted by:

      Stephanie--Altho' it hasn't been a lifetime gig, I became the voice of Doc of Seven Dwarves fame some years ago first for the Ice Show- then a show with all of us 7 at the park and more recently for the rides at the Park in Florida. For example:

      "When you step into the cart here's a little tip-
      Keep yer hands,arms,feet and legs inside while on yer trip.
      Adults watch yer children and please stay in yer seat
      And you'll have yerself a ride-that's really quite a treat."

      Just a little info: from Del Roy aka Methusaleh!

      Posted by:
      • Del Roy
      • June 1, 2009 6:55 PM

        I'm the current caretaker of Dr. Eggman from the Sonic the Hedgehog video games and the Sonic X animated series. The character came to me very well-worn, having originated in Japan, then having been played by several American actors before me.

        My situation is particularly sticky, having inherited the role as part of a mass-recasting which was not terribly well-received by die-hard fans. To further complicate matters, a couple of my predecessors passed away right around the time I assumed the mantle. As such, I had the double-burden of keeping the character true to what the fanbase expected, as well as honoring the memory of some of those who came -- and went -- before me.

        The casting process was long and arduous, but I wouldn't have traded it for anything. I was asked to study one of the previous voices and try to match it for the auditions, but over the past few years, I've been able to put my own stamp on the good Dr. and make him my own, for as long as I'm fortunate enough to have the chance to sound like him.

        --Mike

        Posted by:

          Hi Mike,

          Thank you very much for sharing your story! It is a unique one and I'm grateful that you took the time to read the article and comment with your thoughts.

          Best wishes,

          Stephanie

          Posted by:

            I've been a Disney "nut" since I was a child and I have always had a vested interest in who voices the characters I came to love. However, this article is giving me some very much needed advice.

            I just took the voice of a female video game character. It's been a challenge to adapt to a character someone has already developed and be able to breathe new life into her at the same time. I'm enjoying reading comments from these care takers and seeing how they are handling their situations.

            Posted by:

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