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by Billy Ingram with clips from Jeff Vilencia's archives
Daws Butler was part of the second wave of cartoon voice artists, beginning his long and storied career in 1948 working along side the immortal Tex Avery. A year later was cast in a pioneering kid's puppet and cartoon show, Time for Beany.
Before long, Butler was collaborating with Stan Freeberg on a series of comedy albums for both adults and kids. LPs Little Blue Riding Hood and Face the Funnies are considered comedy classics while holiday singles like "Green Christmas" (Scrooge and Bob Cratchit as ad agency hacks) and "Christmas Dragnet" sold in the millions.
For Hanna-Barbera, Butler provided unforgettable voices for Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear (H-B's first breakout stars), Wally Gator, Peter Potamus, Jinx the Cat, Snagglepuss, and Elroy from the Jetsons, along with dozens of others.
He gave some of his best performances in the Fractured Fairy Tales and Aesop and Son features from Jay Ward's Rocky and his Friends (Bullwinkle) and characterized most of the absurd villains on Super Chicken and George of the Jungle.
Because of the severely limited animation of the H-B and Ward studios, it fell to the vocal talent to breathe life into the sketchy characters. Daws Butler was peerless in this regard.
In conjunction with his series work, there were also hundreds of television commercials for breakfast foods that Daws gave voice to, seen on network Saturday mornings and daily local kid shows over a 25 year span.
Here are samples taken from Daws Butler's own promotional reel, compiled in the early-seventies under the umbrella of Playhouse Pictures and sent around to potential clients.
Huckleberry Hound was Hanna-Barbera's first hit show, syndicated in 1958 to local stations for daytime broadcast. The series ran for four years.
One of the supporting segments, Yogi Bear, was so popular he was spun off into his own hit series in 1961. These cartoons were backed financially by Kellogg's so that their cereal advertisements could be more effectively inserted between segments.
As the most popular cartoon character on TV, Yogi naturally became the spokesbear for Kellogg's Corn Flakes, the line leader. In this spot, Daws did double duty as the voices of Yogi and Hokie Wolf.
Pixie and Dixie was another inspiration from Hanna-Barbera's first generation, springing as a supporting feature on the Huckleberry Hound Show, the first animated series made for television to win an Emmy.
Jinx the cat "hated meeces to pieces," but loved his Kellogg's Raisin Bran. In the first example (above), the plotline from one of the cartoon segments was carried forward into the commercial, as Pixie and Dixie managed to steal the coveted Raisin Bran with the help of a feline robot.
In another ad, Jinx and the meeces perform a rock and roll number, Californ-i-a style.
Don Messick was the voice of Pixie Mouse, Daws voiced Dixie and Mr. Jinks. Between the two of them, they gave life to a majority of all the cartoon characters H-B pumped out over the next decade.
Here's a Rice Krispies commercial that finds Quickdraw and Baba Looey, his little buddy from south of the border, producing a television commercial for Kellogg's. Daws provides both voices.
These ads had a much bigger per-minute budget than the cartoons they were featured on, so you may notice there was a greater range of motion exhibited.
Here's a musical spot starring another favorite Daws Butler H-B character - Snagglepuss for Cocoa Krispies. "Heavens to Mergatroid, already!"
"The rai-sunniest bran under the sun - that's me!"
This commercial was recorded a decade after Daws Butler's first gave voice to cartoon characters for Kellogg's Raisin Bran. It kicked off a long-running series of talking sun spots.
While still working for Hanna-Barbera, Daws also found time to freelance for Jay Ward Productions starting with the first season of Rocky and Friends in 1959.
With General Mills sponsoring the show, Rocky the Squirrel happily sold Jets cereal in commercials produced by the Jay Ward studio. He and Bullwinkle also pitched other 'Big G' cereals over the years.
Here is a sponsor message from the Rocky and his Friends series featuring Aesop and Son for Cheerios.
Aesop and Son replaced Fractured Fairy Tales on the Rocky show, in part, to provide new characters that could be used in cereal ads.
Jay Ward's production studio was responsible for some of the wittiest cartoons (and cereal commercials) of the sixties - Saturday and Sunday morning faves like Dudley Do-Right, Bullwinkle, Hoppity Hooper and George of the Jungle were some of his big shows in the 60s.
Though he worked well within the very limited animation demanded by TV budgets, Jay Ward refused to churn out unfunny junk like so many other TV animation studios were happy to do. He hired superb writers and the best vocal talent - so what if the animation was crude?
Ward and associates created the venerable Cap'n Crunch and his crew in 1962. To demonstrate just how sophisticated marketing techniques were forty years ago, it took Ward and Quaker Oats a full year of development before the first commercials were produced in 1963, and another year of regional testing before the cereal was rolled out on a national scale.
Daws was tapped for the voice of Captain Horatio Magellan Crunch. During the first voice-over session, fellow actor June Foray purposely mispronounced the character's name as "Cap'n" - everyone liked it, so it stayed that way.
This campaign was one of the biggest Brand Identity successes of the decade. Quaker Oats couldn't keep the store shelves sufficiently stocked, a special plant had to be built to cover the overnight demand for Cap'n Crunch cereal.
By the end of the sixties, according Quaker Oats' research, Cap'n Crunch was America's favorite cartoon character - no surprise given the abysmal quality of the Saturday morning shows the commercials not-so-rudely interrupted.
Ward had a much bigger budget for animation on these commercials than he had for his half-hour shows (where production was handled in Mexico by Gamma Productions).
With likable characters that caught on immediately, it wasn't long before there were a half-dozen different variations of Cap'n Crunch cereal in the supermarkets - featuring peanut butter, chocolate and exotic ingredients called "Crunch Berries."
A "vitamin powered sugary cereal for Quazy energy." Daws was Quisp, Quake was played by William Conrad (Cannon).
This was another wildly popular ad campaign begun in 1965 as a result of the overwhelming demand for Cap'n Crunch.
Both Quisp and Quake cereals were marketed to kids as rival products, but they were, in fact, exactly the same taste and texture - besides being suspiciously similar to Cap'n Crunch.
In case you remember and/or care, Quisp won the battle for market supremacy. Eventually, Quaker dropped Quake altogether after a brief teaming with orange flavored 'Quangaroos.' Only Quisp was left on the grocery shelves, but by the early-eighties even Quisp had all but disappeared.
Quisp was revived in 2001 via the Internet, with new commercials produced by Ren & Stimpy's John Kricfalusi. You can order the cereal and Quisp merchandise at Quisp.com.
On a roll by 1968, Jay Ward produced more new product roll-outs for Quaker. Again, Daws Butler was called into service, portraying Professor Goody, who tries in vain to keep waffles out of the hands of the Waffle Whiffer.
The Waffle-Whiffer helped to introduce a new revolution in breakfast foods - frozen, pre-made waffles. The character didn't last (because he was annoying beyond belief) but you can still find this product in grocery stores.
Jay Ward's series work fell out of network favor by 1969, having personally pissed of the heads of both CBS and NBC. The Quaker Oats account (that included products like King Vitaman, Scooter Pies and Half-sies) made up the bulk of Ward's studio output from that point until 1984 when the last Jay Ward / Daws Butler spot was produced. Daws Butler died in 1988.
Have you noticed today that cereal makers are marketing their products to adults? Admit it - you want a bowl of Cocoa Krispies right now!
of a clever series featuring a talking cow, with that low-key, flat delivery
that was so popular in the sixties.
Here's a look at the staff of Playhouse Pictures, another commercial production house that Daws Butler worked for. Daw's voice was used to sell everything from cooking oil to automobiles.
"Every voice actor working today owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. Butler."
"One curiosity about the Cheerios ad (featuring the Jay Ward characters Aesop and Son) is that it sounds like Daws is doing both characters. In the original cartoons, Aesop was portrayed by veteran character actor Charles Ruggles, with Daws as the voice of Junior. Ruggles died in 1970, so perhaps this ad came later? After all, the Rocky and Bullwinkle stable of characters was still very popular in reruns long after production ceased on the original series.
"It's also interesting to note how many of Daws' cartoon voices were based on other actors. For example: Yogi Bear - Art Carney; Hokey Wolf - Phil Silvers; Snagglepuss - Burt Lahr; Quisp - Jerry Lewis.
"However, he infused them with such unique qualities that they never sound like "impersonations," but rather as "impressionistic exaggerations" of that actor's vocal resonance. In other words, I doubt Quisp or Yogi Bear would have sounded as funny had Lewis or Carny actually done the voices."
- David M. Duke
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