Chalk this up to personal prejudice, but I find professional cartoon voice actors today almost universally unbearable. On more than one occasion, their shrill and abrasive performances have rendered an animated TV series impossible for me to watch. This dissonant quality of contemporary cartoon voices extends across nearly every animation studio and network, which leads me to suspect that some type of ingrained industry-wide belief has evolved over the years amongst casting directors, actors, and TV show directors that a cartoon voice must be caricatured and “wacky” at any cost.
By contrast, I find cartoon voice acting from the Golden Age of theatrical and TV animation (1930s to 1960s) to be almost uniformly excellent. These actors are much funnier to listen to while also exhibiting more rigorous performance-oriented discipline. This first generation of voice actors created cartoon characters that had a warm, believable, and dare I say it, human quality.
It should be no surprise that these early voice actors were also skilled as live performers, something that can’t be said for most of today’s full-time voice actors. Most Golden Age voice actors enjoyed extensive careers in film, TV and radio, quite often as character actors. The proof can be found in the following three-part series of YouTube videos created by Ray Mujica that shows rare clips of famous cartoon voice actors in live-action roles. The actors and actresses who are featured in this video series include:
- Mae Questel (Betty Boop, Olive Oyl)
- Billy Bletcher (Peg-Leg Pete, Spike the Bulldog)
- Janet Waldo (Judy Jetson)
- Alan Reed (Fred Flintstone)
- Arthur Q. Byran (Elmer Fudd)
- Bill Thompson (Droopy)
- George O’Hanlon (George Jetson)
- Hans Conried (Snidely Whiplash)
- Bea Benaderet (Betty Rubble)
- Arnold Stang (Top Cat)
It’s a delightful way to spend half an hour.
Part three isn’t embeddable for whatever reason, but HERE IT IS.
[UPDATE]: Reader Eric Graf points out that there are two other parts to this series: