October 7, 2001
(A followup on our Jack of All Trades)
For many years I assumed that Bill Scott never did voices for cartoons, other than Jay Ward Productions. I had always assumed this because of the conflict of interest that this would have been (since he was the co-producer at Jay Ward). When I read his filmography for the first time, in 2000, I did get confirmation that this was true. Interestingly enough, however, I saw that he began to “venture out of the nest” in the mid 80s, and did voices for other producers, after he and Jay retired. In 1985 he provided voices for two extraneous cartoon TV series: The Gummie Bears and The Wuzzles. This first one was produced by the Disney Studios; an interesting irony since Bill once said, in so many words, that he had never worked for Disney and he was proud of it!! (he had worked for other animation giants, however, like Warner Brothers)
It was Keith Scott (no relation to Bill Scott, for the record) who enlightened me, in his masterpiece, The Moose That Roared, as to why Bill decided to “test the waters” and voice other cartoons. In 1984, Bill and Jay Ward saw the handwriting on the wall, that they were going to be closing down. They had been having many problems with Quaker Oats, for whom they had been doing animated cereal commercials for years. Bill Scott, who wrote 90% of the scripts for Jay Ward Productions (according to Daws Butler), had been forced, by Quaker, to write two, three or more drafts, for their commercial, in recent years, before they met with final approval. This was only the tip of the ice berg, vis à vis the lack of cooperation and the thinly veiled animosity that had been aimed at Scott and Ward, by this sponsor.
Keith Scott wrote that Bill began sending out tapes and “feelers”, to other animation studios, about doing voice work for them, as his own studio began to wind down its affairs. I assume that there were probably many times, over the decades, that Bill had been offered voice work, by other studios, but had turned it all down, since he was at the helm of Jay Ward. The only other voice work that I know of, that Bill did, was in radio. According to his 1974 letter to me, he was a “reasonably employed radio actor” for about two or three years (around the age of twenty). I am sure that he probably did some additional voice work, that I am not aware of; the filmographies of actors often do not include all their work.
I can only imagine, after twenty-five years of running the show at Jay Ward Productions (he wrote, directed, produced and did most of the starring voices in all their cartoons), it must have been rather difficult, to work for someone else and no longer be the boss…………and to be involved in animation work only from the voice angle. Doubtless there must have been many times when he bit his tongue and did not give advice that he would have liked to give. Also he was most assuredly disappointed with the scripts that he had to work with. The animation studios, which were still producing shows in the mid 80s, all “played the game” and kowtowed to a myriad of censor and sponsor demands. They either kowtowed or they did not produce.
Scott and Ward, for their part, fought tooth and nail, as long as they could, to not have to compromise and water down the quality of their work. So there Bill Scott was, in 1984 and 1985, working for cartoon producers who did just the opposite of what he and Jay did. For him to work for someone else, must have been analogous to a minister who retired from his church after thirty-five to forty years, and then remained at the church, as a parishoner, afterwards. You can imagine how hard it might be, for that retired pastor to bite his tongue, and not get involved with the decisions of the new pastor (especially if his church was a big church).
I believe that it was very admirable for Bill Scott to do what he did. I also think that it was great, since he was sixty-four years old, in 1984, that he did not just go away, quietly, and forsake his artistic leanings completely. Unfortunately, shortly after Bill began to work, with the same folks who had long been his competition, he died, very suddenly, of a heart attack. The other animation giants only got to work with him for a year or less. What a sad irony, since they had been denied access to his talents, for at least twenty-five years.
Though Bill’s voice work was not my favorite at Jay Ward, I would be very interested to learn about how he developed his vast repertoire, over the years. He was especially talented in the realm of accents and dialects; those were truly his strength. I never thought to ask him about that, when we exchanged letters in the mid 70s. I also never thought to ask him how he became interested in voice characterizations in the first place (or how old he was when he first developed a love for this; he was probably quite young, since he broke into radio work around age twenty).
On a more personal note, Bill Scott, like Paul Frees, seemed to have a great deal of confidence in me. He closed out his letter to me (he only wrote to me once), wishing me every success and great fortune for the future. He also emphasized that, whatever I decided to do with my life, he was sure that I would not have anything to worry about; that I would have a very successful life. How honored I was to read such an extraordinary ending, from such an extraordinary man. I hope to continue to draw on my memory of Bill Scott, as a very rich source of inspiration, for however many more years, that God is kind enough to bless me with.