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April 2nd, 2004


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02:58 pm - NAMEDROPPIN' FOR EBERT
From eBert's review of Disney's new Home on the Range:
The voices are all quickly recognizable, especially Barr's; the idea of using the voices of familiar stars instead of anonymous dubbing artists has added an intriguing dimension to recent animated features.
Recent? Disney's been bringing in celebrities for cartoon roles since at least 1951; Alice in Wonderland featured Ed Wynn and Jerry Colonna, popular comedians of the time. Peggy Lee did several voices in Lady & The Tramp, Eva Gabor and Bob Newhart were in The Rescuers (Eva also played the part of Duchess in The Aristocats), Louis Prima had himself a showstopper in The Jungle Book, Peter Ustinov was the voice of Prince John in Robin Hood, and Phil Harris (known at the time as both Jack Benny's bandleader and host of his own radio show with wife Alice Faye) was all over the place.

Granted, not every Disney animated feature had to use star power and there certainly are features which use "anonymous dubbing artists" as eBert describes (well, at least, anonymous to Ebert) but the practice is nothing new. You can't even say it's experienced a resurgence in "recent" times, since every Disney feature from The Little Mermaid on has used, or even relied upon, celebrities not known for their voice work. Shall we drop names? Ok, off the top of my head: Buddy Hackett, Angela Lansbury (a perennial Disney favorite), David Ogden Stiers, Jerry Orbach, Robin Williams, James Earl Jones, Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, Mel Gibson, Kevin Kline, Demi Moore, Jason Alexander, James Woods, Hal Holbrook, Danny DeVito, Eddie Murphy, Glenn Close, Minnie Driver, Rosie O'Donnell, David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt, Michael J. Fox, James Garner, Emma Thompson, David Hyde Pierce, Ving Rhames, Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas... and that's not even counting the star-driven Pixar features.

(Hell, even The Black Cauldron used John Huston's narrative vocal talents, Oliver & Company had Billy Joel as the Artful Dodger, and Mickey Rooney, Kurt Russell and Pearl Bailey were in The Fox and the Hound.)

Recent, huh, Mr. Ebert? Well, ohhhhh-kaaayyy...

(9 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:signsoflife
Date:April 2nd, 2004 12:37 pm (UTC)
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Ebert is SUCH a tool. It amazes me that more people don't realize this.

(I've noticed errors so glaring in his reviews I find it hard to imagine he was even in the theater sometimes.)
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:April 2nd, 2004 12:56 pm (UTC)
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I actually just dropped him a note. I rarely do shit like this.
In your review of Home on the Range, you mention that "...the idea of using the voices of familiar stars instead of anonymous dubbing artists has added an intriguing dimension to recent animated features." The practice of casting popular celebrities of the day in animated features is not new to Disney. 1951's Alice in Wonderland features Ed Wynn and Jerry Colonna, two popular comedians at the time, as the voices of the Mad Hatter and the March Hare.

Other celebrities not known for cartoon voices who show up in Disney features before the 1980s include Louis Prima in The Jungle Book, Peter Ustinov in Robin Hood, Eva Gabor and Bob Newhart in The Rescuers, and Peggy Lee in Lady & The Tramp.

While in recent times animated features have admittedly become more star-driven vehicles than just films with a few unorthodox casting decisions, the feature animation industry has certainly understood and relied upon the power of familiar celebrity voices for quite some time.
(I forgot to edit, though, so I cleaned up an awkward phrase in my last paragraph for public consumption.)
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:April 2nd, 2004 12:59 pm (UTC)
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(I was also going to mention that Disney was actually actively pushing for celebrity voices in Alice in Wonderland and had even pursued Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis for voices, which would've been pretty much the Disney casting coup of the century considering how insanely popular Martin & Lewis were in the early 50s, but I couldn't find my copy of Mouse Under Glass for references. Goddamn.)
[User Picture]
From:off_coloratura
Date:April 2nd, 2004 12:56 pm (UTC)
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God, I hate reviewers who can't write. Observe:

The voices are all quickly recognizable, especially Barr's; the idea of using the voices of familiar stars instead of anonymous dubbing artists has added an intriguing dimension to recent animated features.

Given: the fact that celebrity voices have been used for ages in cartoons, as you, Spatch, have pointed out. But he starts out his paragraph with a point. Intriguing dimension, eh? Like what, Mr. Ebert?

Listen, for example, to Randy Quaid as the dastardly Slim.

Okay, we're getting specific! Now tell us what's intriguing about it!

The paragraph continues:

It's traditional in Disney animation to fill the edges of the screen with hyperactive little supporting characters, and we get Lucky Jack the jackrabbit (Charles Haid) and Audrey the chicken (Estelle Harris), who is chicken. There are also three very busy little pigs, and Steve Buscemi almost seems to be playing himself as a critter named Wesley.

Um. Randy Quaid? Intriguing celebrity voices? Where did you go, Mr. Ebert? You were making a point and you wandered off on me!

Bad writing happens so often in reviews I read. More than once I have read articles where the reviewer makes a statement at the beginning that contradicts one he makes at the end. I know they have to get these things out on a deadline, but really, that is no excuse for not having a consistent opinion while pretending you do, or inability to follow the basic rules of structure. Sheesh.
[User Picture]
From:pecosy
Date:April 2nd, 2004 01:27 pm (UTC)
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and Mickey Rooney, Kurt Russell and Pearl Bailey were in The Fox and the Hound.

Don't forget Sandy Duncan and Corey Feldman! For a movie that doesn't get much attention, The Fox and the Hound has celebrity voices a-plenty.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:April 2nd, 2004 01:57 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I was also concerned by the whole "anonymous" remark, too. Pretty much harshes on the accomplished voice actors, some of whom are more versatile (and sometimes get more regular work) than the stars who're upstaging them.

I realize, though, mainstream audiences won't recognize (by name at least) the more prolific voice artists out there. June Foray and Mel Blanc seem to be the two major exceptions to that rule, maybe Frank Welker too, but outside of fandom and weirdos like me, who's gonna know names like Corey Burton, Jim Cummings, or Tress MacNeille?
[User Picture]
From:luckimunki
Date:April 2nd, 2004 03:11 pm (UTC)
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Your first paragraph took the words right out of my mouth.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 2nd, 2004 08:26 pm (UTC)

Keith

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I would also point out Hans Conried as Captain Hook in Peter Pan. He wasn't exactly unknown at that point, especially with that distinct a voice.

I wrote a letter to Mr. Ebert over twenty years ago, over something similar. He was reviewing the amazingly awful Lord of the Rings animated film that Ralph Bakshi made, and was complaining about the wretched rotoscoping, while pining for the beautiful hand-drawn qualities of Snow White. Never mind the fact that Snow White herself was extensively rotoscoped.

What kind of supposed film dork keeps making such basic mistakes? Oh, that's right. The one who wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixen. Gak.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 2nd, 2004 08:30 pm (UTC)

Keith

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Ooh! Ooh! You forgot Cheech Marin, who's been in TWO Disney features.

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