January 23, 2001
(The Story of Bill Scott, a Jack of All Trades)
From the really important things, to the superficial things, Bill Scott was a man who made incredible contributions to Jay Ward Productions……….had his hand in almost every aspect of these cartoons! Yet he modestly accepted very little credit for his work. He was actually an equal producer, with Jay Ward, but he opted to let Ward have exclusive recognition when they named the studio.
The fact of the matter is, Bill Scott actually had a lot more “overall experience”, in the cartoon industry, than did Jay Ward. For years he worked in various animation departments (lest there be any confusion, he actually worked in “animation” in the strictest sense of the word: the actual drawing end of the business), including stints with Warner Brothers and even while in the military. From animation, itself, he moved on to the layout departments and, later on, to the story-writing departments. Last, but not least, he claimed to be a fairly successful radio actor, for two to three years, when he was in his twenties (thus giving him the added experience to be able to do voices for cartoons).
Jay Ward, though he did have a love for cartoons, seemed to be much more of a businessman. According to Keith Scott, who penned The Moose That Roared, Ward had a real estate business, both before and during the studio’s reign.
In Scott’s 1974 letter, to me, he said that he and Jay Ward had discussed the name of their enterprise and had concluded that, since Ward already had a name in cartoons (he had produced the very first television cartoon series, ever, around 1950—-Crusader Rabbit.), they would name their studio after him. Scott also said that,he was willing to go along with this, because he knew that Ward was the one “who always worried about the money”.
I asked Bill Scott why he chose to never receive any credit for the voices that he did for all their cartoons…….After all………he did nearly all of the starring voices, in their three series. He answered my question, in the “P.S.” portion of his letter. He wrote: “I decided that it would look pretty dumb for my name to keep coming up for everything: Production, Direction, Writing, Voices………So I opted to take the highest credit: Producer.”; he added, “Looking back, I’m not sure that was such a good idea…….”.
A really interesting fact, about Bill……..not only did he do most of the starring voices but, per voice actor, Daws Butler (in his own letter to me), Bill wrote about 90% of all the scripts for Jay Ward Productions (even for their Quaker Oats and Aunt Jemima waffles commercials, which came later). Daws Butler, who had also dabbled in comedy writing (even after he had established himself as a voice-over artist), added that he and Bill had worked together, as writers, before Bill had met Jay Ward (Bill had told me that they met in 1957). Butler said that they used to compare notes. He said, “I’d laugh at Bill’s stuff and he’d laugh at mine!”.
In the final analysis, you could say that Bill Scott got a lot of recognition among his peers: the writers, the animators, the voice actors and the office support at his studio………They all knew about the tremendous amount of work that he did!………But the recognition pretty much stopped, behind those four walls………except for die-hard fans, like me (and many of you), who persevered and wanted to learn more about Jay Ward Productions. Bill Scott was like the man or woman, who gives away beaucoup de money, drops off food or flowers, for others, or offers hours of his/her time, in volunteer endeavors……….and does all of these things anonymously.
Though he appeared to do a lot more writing, than voice work, I would have really liked to see him recognized, on their shows, for all the characters that he portrayed. My own personal opinion is that Scott should have at least taken dual credit in the studio’s name (or espoused a neutral name, which included neither of their surnames), but that is what he wanted to do, so who am I to say?……….I will add, however, that he was a true GIANT, in his field. Maybe some of the biggest giants, as human beings, are those who tend to be modest about all their contributions.
With all these things, having been said, I will add, in total honesty (and this is just my opinion), that he was probably my least favorite voice-over actor on Jay Ward’s cartoons. He could be good………….even great, sometimes, but Daws Butler, June Foray and Paul Frees were stellar, supreme and absolutely magnificent!!……….comparatively speaking.
Giving credit, where credit is due, however, I loved his Dudley Do-Right/Tom Slick voice, which was truly a masterpiece and very funny! I also thought that he did a delightful, and wonderfully classy job, with some of the characters that he voiced, on the Fractured Fairy Tales portion of Rocky and Bullwinkle’s shows. There was one episode, in which he played Pinocchio’s master, Geppeto. He provided such a beautiful, grouchy, funny Italian voice. He was a total scream, as that character. On another episode he played a talking fish, with a very smug, upper crust, British accent (in a tale about a fisherman and his wife).
Other than these, however, most of his voices just were not that creative, unusual or unique:
Bullwinkle: though this voice has been loved, and relished, by many of us, when you come right down to it, it’s just a dopey voice, similar to others that I have heard in cartoons, for years.
Mr. Peabody: certainly better than Bullwinkle, but containing a very strong vestige of that trademark Scott voice, which can be easily heard in a lot of his other characters.
George of the Jungle: a caveman/Tarzan-like voice and that’s it!………..not particularly funny or interesting to listen to.
Super Chicken: one of his better voices, among those that I do not particularly care for, but not particularly imaginative. I really laughed, quite a few times, however, at his high-pitched, triumphant battle cry, that he’d call out, whenever he flew through the sky:
Fearless Leader: Actually, like Super Chicken, this voice was one of the “best of the worst” for me. Though I can hear that strong, trademark Scott voice, in this character, he had a great Russian accent!! And I just love that irritatingly-shrill voice, that he would use, to assault Boris and Natasha, whenever he was mad at them, and wanted to take them down a few notches.
At any rate, because so much of his personality was behind the work, that Jay Ward put out, and because he cared so little, about being remembered, we owe this creative genius a great deal of gratitude and praise! And even though I did not particularly care for most of his voices, it was his voices which made all those cartoons famous……..So I can’t help but tip my own hat to him for that……….And I know that there are many people, out there, who probably really loved his voices, and are not quite as picky as I.
Mr. Scott, you were very kind, and generous, to give of your time, twenty-seven years ago, when you wrote that long, long, informative letter to me (I remember that you joked, at the start of your letter, that you did feel a bit like the last witness, on a Perry Mason show, in responding to my many questions!). If you can see this piece, that I have written, from your “studio in the sky”, I am sorry that I was perhaps a tad bit too honest, and did not leave my personal feelings out, regarding some of your voices, but I did not want to be phony, and lie, to everyone who reads this. At any rate, thanks for the memories, vis à vis your voices that I really did love! Thank you, especially, for Dudley Do-Right!
I know that you left this world, fifteen to sixteen years ago…………and I know that I am really quite late, in saying this to you, but:
“Good-bye, Mr. Co-Producer!…………”