Bill Farmer, possibly best known to most of us as the voice of Disney’s Goofy for the past twenty-seven years, is an amazing talent, a hilarious person and an all-around nice guy. Bill, who was named a Disney Legend in 2009, and in 2011 was the first voice actor to receive the prestigious Friz Freleng Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Animation, began his career as a radio DJ and stand-up comedian before landing the role of Goofy in 1987. He has gone on to voice a myriad of other well-known characters as well, including Disney characters such as Pluto, Horace Horsecollar, and Doc.
Bill’s also voiced Looney Tunes characters such as Yosemite Sam, Sylvester, and Foghorn Leghorn, and other fun and memorable roles such as Secret Squirrel in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Stinkie in Casper: A Spirited Beginning and Casper Meets Wendy, Willie Bear in Horton Hears a Who!, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in Robot Chicken, Captain Wedgewood and Frill Lizard in Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, and many video game characters, including in Everquest II and Dead Rising. He is currently the voice of Doc in Disney’s 2014 cartoon The 7D.
I was lucky enough to get to sit down for a one-on-one chat with Bill at this year’s Dragon Con, and let me tell you, it was a blast. We talked about everything from how he got started in the voice acting industry, to what his experiences have been like working with everyone from established voice actors to newbies in the business, to his favorite voices and impressions.
We discussed his current work as Doc on The 7D, how he approaches new characters and legacy voices, his take on celebrities in the voice acting business, the differences between working in cartoons and in video games, and his experience at Dragon Con. It was a joy to speak with him, and lucky for you, I can share the experience with you now!
To see the interview, check out the video on YouTube. Hope you have as much fun watching as I had interviewing!
“All you can do is open up the throttle all the way and keep your nose up in the air.”
First Lieutenant Meyer C. Newell
P-51 Mustang Fighter Jock
Separated from his squadron, shot up and leaking hydraulic fluid somewhere in the skies over Burma
What is the measure of success? What is the measure of failure?
In the previous three columns, I’ve told you a little bit – well, quite a bit, actually, about early failures in my life. And for a very long time I let my, uh, lack of success, hold me back, drag me down. That old albatross had a permanent nest on my shoulder. The Fantastic Four may have visited the Negative Zone, but, guys, I lived there.
In my mid-thirties I was divorced and living with my parents. Alix was two or three. She was sleeping in a portable crib, I was sleeping on a cot in the den. And then one day – sometime in my late thirties, I think – I was driving with my father in the car. I don’t remember where we were going; I think he was driving me to an appointment with one of the numerous psychiatrists and therapists I had seen in an attempt to “figure out what was wrong with me.” Oh, that was fun, let me tell you. One doctor put me through a round of physical tests and blood work to see if there was a physiological reason for my “blues.” (Tests came back. I was perfect.) Another doctor gave me his trench coat, telling me to cover up my legs because he was getting sexually excited. I went to a therapy group for newly divorced women; all I remember of that is the woman whose husband regularly beat the crap out of her. “Jesus, honey,” we would all say, “get the hell out of there.” She would just start to cry and go on and on about how much she loved him until the hour was up. We never got to talk about anything else. There was one doctor who talked to me for five minutes and gave me a prescription for Valium, the drug of choice in those days for women on the edge of a nervous breakdown. I took one Valium, fell asleep for 18 hours and dumped out the bottle. A week later I got a bill for $500.00 for “services rendered.” I called him and told him I was sending him $50.00, and just try to take me to court. Never heard from him again.
The best, though, was the shrink who was an Orthodox Jew. He told me that the only thing wrong with me was that I wasn’t married, so “I should stop dating the goyim, marry a nice Yiddisher man, and have lots of babies.”
Anyway, back to that day in the car with my dad. We weren’t talking much, just bits here and there. Suddenly my dad started talking about a mission he had been on during WW II. It had been a bombing and strafing mission somewhere in Burma, the objective being to destroy the latest installment of the railroad the Japanese were building – see The Bridge On The River Kwai for reference. They had met a lot of resistance, and on one strafing run my father’s P-51 got hit up badly. One of the hydraulic lines was hit, and he couldn’t keep up with the rest of the squadron on their flight back to the base. They had to leave him.
“Wow, Daddy, what did you do?” I asked. (The answer is above.) And then he said, “Know what I’m saying?”
And the light bulb suddenly clicked on over my head, just like in the old Looney Tunes cartoons. “Thufferin’ Thuccosthasth!” I said. “I do!” (No, not really. I mean, yeah, the light bulb went on, but I didn’t suddenly start sputtering and slovering like Sylvester the Cat.)
I’m not saying that all of a sudden my life was a bed of roses and that everything was hunky-dory. No. Quite the opposite. It took finding the right therapist. It took swallowing my pride and starting on an anti-depressant. But mostly it took a lot of hard work, a lot of tears, a lot of self-recrimination. Most of all, self-forgiveness.
These days I wonder. All my failures – but were they really failures? Weren’t they just part of the pattern that’s made me who I am today? And any failures, any successes that I continue to experience will just add to that person who I will be tomorrow, next week, next month, next year or in a decade.
These days most people would say that my life is a success. Well, I don’t know about that, but if it is, it didn’t happen without failures, some my own, some caused by outside factors. For instance, two years ago I got laid off. (Yes, Virginia, registered nurses do get laid off these days.) It sucked. I cried. I ranted. I worked at a couple of hospitals I wouldn’t send my worst enemy to. (Well, maybe I would.) But I also went back to school and finished my BSN, opening up new doors for me.
As for my other career, the one in comics? A lot of people in the comics industry have commented and complimented me on my “ear for dialogue,” my ability to get into the heads of the characters I have written. Maybe that wouldn’t be true if I hadn’t lived the life I have lived. I probably would never have submitted a story to DC’s New Talent program. I wouldn’t have written When It Rains, God Is Crying, or Chalk Drawings with a certain mensch who goes by the name of George Pérez. I wouldn’t know Mike Gold or Martha Thomases or Len Wein or Karen Berger or Neil Gaiman. And I wouldn’t be here writing this column.
Black and White.
Stop and Go.
Yin and Yang.
Success and Failure.
The ups and downs of life.
TUESDAY MORNING: Can Michael Davis Possibly Still Be Black?
TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Can Emily S. Whitten Possibly Be Talking About Deadpool?
Long-time DC Comics and Marvel colorist Tom Ziuko (The History of the DC Universe, Superman, Batman, The Shadow, Hellblazer, Looney Tunes, Spider-Man, Captain America, Tomb of Dracula, etc.) has been facing some difficult medical issues over the last two years, including kidney failure, neuropathy, and, most recently, emergency surgery to repair a strangulated colon.
According to the Facebook page started by Gary Mann for Tom, “Tom is a freelance artist, unable to afford health insurance, and the last year has been brutal for him…. Tom is currently recuperating at home, although still unable to return to work full-time. Early last year, Tom’s friend and fellow freelance artist Alan Kupperberg mounted an effort to help raise some funds for him; and a great non-profit organization, The Hero Initiative, has played a major role in helping Tom to survive during this last year, keeping him afloat and literally saving him from becoming homeless. But Tom continues to face a mountain of medical bills, personal expenses and debt.
“And so I appeal to those of you who may have been touched by Tom’s work over the last three decades; in that you might be able to contribute to assisting him financially while he continues his recovery. I know that times are tight right now for everyone, but any contribution you might be able to make, no matter how small, would be both beneficial and greatly appreciated by Tom.
“If you want to contribute directly to Tom’s assistance fund, you can do so at Paypal — the account name is — firstname.lastname@example.org.
“And whether you’re able to contribute funds or not, you can write to Tom directly on Facebook, or at his email address (email@example.com) in order to send him get-well wishes, to say hello and wish him a speedy recovery, or just to let him know if you’ve enjoyed his work over the years.”
Wow. I’m sure gonna piss a lot of my friends off. Please don’t take this personally. It has nothing to do with your skill, your judgment, or your personal predilections. It’s just my opinion, one that is somewhat contradicted (only somewhat) by sales figures. Here it comes, folks.
When it comes to comics, licensed property tie-ins suck.
Okay, this isn’t an across-the-board opinion. There are exceptions. Archie Goodwin and Walter Simonson’s adaptation of Alien comes to mind. That was, let’s see, back in 1979. Remember Sturgeon’s Law? Ninety percent of everything Ted Sturgeon wrote is crap? Or something like that. My rule of thumb regarding entire genres is this: if you’re doing about five points worse than Ted Sturgeon’s Law, you suck.
There are solid reasons behind this blather. First, any group of talented creators – say, roughly, enough to fill Yankee Stadium – would not create what you see in a tie-in comic book if left on their own. Characters, concepts, designs, interrelationships, plots – they all would likely be… original.
Second, the characters, concepts, designs, interrelationships, and plots created for movies or teevee or toys were created for that particular medium. Transferring them to another medium requires sacrificing a degree of nuance that makes the source material unique. The timing of an actor’s performance that is used to establish character does not come across in comics; the artist is likely to get that bit across visually, but in the process he or she is changing the character.
Third, you can’t change the direction of anything. In a medium that for 25 years has been nothing other than constant change, the concepts of the licensed comic book are set in stone. The reader quickly realizes that any original character that might be introduced is likely to be killed off, and killed off in realistic terms – as opposed to the “death is completely meaningless” approach used in comics. Worse still, if the character works the licensor is likely to take it and use it in their own movies, shows, merchandising and whathaveyou – and the comics creators who thunk it all up ain’t gonna see a penny.
Finally, creators work with editors, some of whom are great (hiya, folks!), some less than great, and others couldn’t sort out a pack of Necco wafers if the candy was numbered. Editors work with editorial directors and editors-in-chief and publishers and if they’re any good they fight with the marketing department or at least try to wake them up. But when it comes to licensed properties, you’ve got the owners licensed products people to deal with. Not only do they not know comics, they usually do not know the properties they administrator. Case in point:
The idiot who passed judgment on DC’s Star Trek titles was so bad, if writer Peter David and editor Bob Greenberger flew out to Los Angeles and murdered the son of a bitch, I would have gone to great lengths to establish a solid alibi for them. Probably one involving a Mets game… but I digress. Here’s another.
Writer Joey Cavalieri plotted a Bugs Bunny mini-series that was, in my opinion as editor, as brilliant as it was hilarious. Stunningly brilliant. We sent it to the West Coast for the Warner Bros. studio approval. They hated it so much their Grand Imperial Klingon in charge of toothbrush licenses flew out to New York to cut me a new asshole. Unfortunately for editorial coordinator Terri Cunningham, this nuclear holocaust happened in her office.
The Mistress of All Things Looney started pointing out the good stuff we couldn’t do. Daffy Duck couldn’t issue spittle. Porky Pig couldn’t stutter. Tweety Bird couldn’t be a host on BTV, the all-bird watching network. Foghorn Leghorn couldn’t own a fast-food franchise. Bugs couldn’t be so manipulative. Hello? Anybody home? This is Looney Tunes we’re talking here!
I politely pointed out these were either long established character bits that started in the theaters in 1940 and continued on television to that very day. I said the Tweety and Foghorn bits were satire.
“Looney Tunes are not about satire!,” she screamed.
I saw poor Terri Cunningham in my peripheral vision. She looked like she was desperately trying to gnaw her way out of her own office. I said “Answer me this one question. Have you ever actually seen any of the Looney Tunes cartoons? Ever?” I turned on my heel and walked back to my office.
Here’s the worst part. My story is not in the least bit atypical. Not at all. It’s not even the worst I can tell you.
So when it comes to comic books, there’s a creative challenge to doing licensed properties and I’d take on some of those challengers as long as the licensor knows the property, but personally, I’d rather read something original.
Billy West talks about how be brought back is all time favorite Looney Tunes star, plus what we can look forward to in the coming weeks during the new run of FUTURAMA. And we finally have a new movie SPIDER-MAN, but on TV we lose a few summer shows.
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A new Looney Tunes television series is on the horizon, and the 80-year-old cartoon characters are getting another face lift. Jessica Borutskispent nearly two years redesigning the Looney Tunes characters for Warner Bros., saying, “I gave them slightly different proportions that
emphasize things I always
liked about the characters. An example is Bugs’ feet. I streamlined
them and made them bigger.” When the studio released the news about the upcoming cartoon series, along with promo art, many fans were in an uproar.
Borutski experienced a backlash of criticism and negativity towards her work. Many fans found the redesigns “desthpicable”, or as CartoonBrew.com put it, “embarrassing.” Although some people embraced the new style as being fun and more modern, the media’s attention has focused on the negative reactions to Borutski’s art. Pete Emslie, a freelance artist like Borutski and an admirer of her work, expressed his take on the situation in his blog: “If these designs were of brand new characters with no previous history
in cartoons, I believe that these images would be embraced by the
majority of animation fans and recognized for how appealing they are in
terms of graphic design and feeling of inner life and personality. The
problem of course is that these are the Looney Tunes characters, with a
long illustrious past… Most of us would rather that they not be
With three networks programming cartoons from 8 a.m. until just about noon throughout the 1960s, there was a rich variety of characters, situations, and styles. While Hanna-Barbera pretty much owned the first half of the decade, Filmation and others arrived and brought some different looks.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell from the second volume of Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1960s, coming out Tuesday from Warner Home Video. Making return appearances are [[[The Jetsons]]],[[[Magilla Gorilla]]], [[[Atom Ant]]], and the [[[Looney Tunes]]]gang instead of shows yet to be sampled.
New for the second volume, which was sent for review, are [[[The Space Kidettes]]], [[[Samson & Goliath]]], and [[[The Adventures of Gulliver]]]. [[[The Kidettes]]], a show I had forgotten about, ran for a single season, 1966-1967, and featured four adorable tykes living in their space clubhouse (a converted Gemini capsule) and outwitting the nefarious Captain Skyhook. Two cute for words.
Samson may have inadvertently inspired Roy Thomas with a teen, Samson, gained an enhanced form and super-powers by clanging together his bracelets, saying “I need Samson Power” and transformed into an adult hero. Clanging them a second time turned his trusty dog into a powerful lion, Goliath. No secret identities and lots of fighting evil organizations. The stories are predictable and Samson seems devoid of personality.
The one featurette, Completely Bananas: The Magilla Gorilla Story is short but points out this 1964 series was the end of an era for animal-centric series with H-B’s [[[Jonny Quest]]] about to debut and a move towards more human adventures. And as the super-heroes rapidly burned themselves out after just two seasons, networks sought other stories such as ABC’s The Adventures of Gulliver. The disc provides the pilot episode showing how the boy, Gary Gulliver, and his dog Bib survived a shipwreck and washed ashore on the very “lost” island they sought with Gary’s dad, now presumed missing. While Gary is drawn straight, the Lilliputians are cartoony and comical but a détente is achieved.
The disc also includes fresh installments of Wally Gator, Ricochet Rabbit, Mushmouth and Pumpkin’ Puss and their template, [[[Tom & Jerry]]. And assorted other features far more familiar than the above.
The two-disc set does not feel as fresh and inviting as the first and that could be because the mix isn’t as strong this time or, the nostalgia has worn after since the first volume came out earlier this year. Clearly, this is for the late Baby Boomers hoping to relive those years.
Once again there’s the absurd advisory about the material not suitable for this year’s kids.
For a true feel for the decade, we should have had [[[Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales]]], [[[Fireball XL-5]]], [[[Jonny Quest]]], [[[Superman]]], [[[Spider-Man]]], [[[Banana Splits]]], [[[Wacky Races]]], and of course [[[George of the Jungle]]]. Rights issues, no doubt, prevented this from being properly representative.
A parody of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper that features Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes gang on display at the Chuck Jones Gallery in San Diego has drawn a consistent stream of complaints.
The San Diego Union Tribune reports the painting titled The Gathering, created by Dallas artists Glen Tamowski and put on display a couple weeks ago, has drawn a number of angry telephone calls and unfriendly notes demanding the painting be removed.
I should consider myself lucky. My last supper in San Diego, there were a bunch of us, and somebody took a photo of me in the center of a long table, surrounded by twelve guys, and if you’ve seen what I look like with long hair…
Anyway, have more Easter stuff. And remember… keep smiling…!
Being Halloween, lots of places are running themed lists including beleaguered AOL which attempts to list the Top 20 witches on television. While we don’t find any glaring omissions, we wonder about many of the placements.
20. Alex Russo, The Wizards of Waverly Place
19. Miss Cackle, The Worst Witch
18. Marge Simpson, Treehouse of Horror VIII
17. Amanda Tucker, Tucker’s Witch
16. Ella, Hex
15. Witch Hazel, Looney Tunes
14. Endora, Passions
13. Paige Matthews (Rose McGowan), Charmed
12. Tabitha Stephens (Lisa Hartman), Tabitha
11. Mildred Hubble (Fairuza Balk), The Worst Witch
10. Prue Halliwell (Shannen Doherty), Charmed
9. Endora (Agnes Moorehead), Bewitched
8. Wilhelmina W. Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes), H.R. Pufnstuf
7. Phoebe Halliwell (Alyssa Milano), Charmed
6. Tabitha (Juliet Mills), Passions
5. Sabrina Spellman (Melissa Joan Hart), Sabrina the Teenage Witch
4. Grandmama Addams (Blossom Rock), The Addams Family
3. Piper Halliwell (Holly Marie Combs), Charmed
2. Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan), Buffy the Vampire Slayer
1. Samantha Stephens (Elizabeth Montrgomery), Bewitched
We applaud Piper over her sisters given how grounded she was as a character. On the other hand, Willow saved the world more than once and while she didn’t headline her own TV series, certainly has been displayed as the most powerful witch in this line-up. We adore Samantha and grew up watching her show, but maybe it’s a cultural thing and see Willow having more resonance in today’s television than Samantha ever had.
Warner Home Video has announced a sixth DVD box set in their Looney Tunes Golden Collection series. The new set will be released on October 21 with 60 classic, fully re-mastered and restored cartoons, presented in their original un-edited format. Most of the shorts in the collection have never been available on DVD before.
Retailing for $64.92, the set will feature a disc dedicated to Bosko, Buddy and Merrie Melodies while the bonus features includes a never-before-seen documentary on voice genius Mel Blanc.
A smaller Looney Tunes Spotlight Collection Volume Six will also be released that day with material drawn from both Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six and Volume Two for $26.99.