What do we learn when the real-life characters behind cartoon or puppet voices get in trouble?
Well, mostly, we learn who they are.
First it was Elmo, the lovable Sesame Street character. We learned the person who has voiced the cuddly red monster for all these years, 52-year-old Kevin Clash, resigned in November after repeated accusations that he had sex with underage boys.
This week we learned that the voice of Charles Shulz’s character Charlie Brown, 56-year-old Peter Robbins, was charged with stalking and threatening his former girlfriend and a plastic surgeon who gave her a breast enhancement. Robbins pleaded not guilty Wednesday in San Diego Superior Court to two counts of stalking and 10 counts of making criminal threats.
Robbins was just 9 years old back in the 1960s when he was cast as the hapless blockhead for the TV specials “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and “A Boy Named Charlie Brown.”
While I didn’t find any sordid stories in the backgrounds of other voice actors, it was interesting to find out who were the real people behind other characters.
Kermit the Frog, of course, was voiced by Muppets creator Jim Henson, who died in 1990. Steve Whitmire took over as “Kermie” from there. Henson’s Sesame Street character Big Bird has been voiced by Carroll Spinney since 1969, but Spinney is aging, so others, including Matt Vogel in 1998, have been groomed for the part.
TV cartoon sensation Homer Simpson plus “The Simpsons” characters Grampa Simpson, Krusty the Clown, Barney Gumble, Groundskeeper Willie and Mayor Quimby are all voiced by Dan Castellaneta. Troublemaker Bart Simpson is brought to life by Nancy Cartwright.
Going way back to the early days of cartoons, did you know that Walt Disney himself was the voice of Mickey Mouse from 1928-1947? He even did Minnie Mouse in 1928. Of course, Mickey’s been around a long time, and Jimmy MacDonald did his voice from 1947-1977, Wayne Allwine from 1977-2009 and Bret Iwan from 2009 to the present.
Paramount’s Popeye character was voiced by Jack Mercer, and Mae Questel was the voice of Olive Oyl as well as Betty Boop.
The Hanna-Barbera cartoons of the 1960s featured Daws Butler as Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss and Huckleberry Hound. He even filled in as Barney Rubble on “The Flintstones” while voice actor Mel Blanc was recovering from a serious traffic accident.
Blanc’s resume was endless as the voice of Warner Brothers characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Yosemite Sam and Foghorn Leghorn. Later Blanc did Barney Rubble and Mr. Spacely in “The Jetsons” for Hanna-Barbera.
Blanc died in 1989, the epitome of beloved voice actors — and with no police record.