May 21, 2001
Daws Butler, THE Vintage Voice of the Vintage Cartoons of the Golden Age of Television
In recent months, I have had the chance to view some of the old Rocky and Bullwinkle episodes, for the very first time in more than a decade……….perhaps even as long as more than two decades. I have found many of their shows available at a local video store, very nicely packaged for cozy, home entertainment. Once again, I have to credit my web page partner, Greg, for this discovery. He informed me of the fact that these videos existed in a local store……So many contributions that Greg has made, in our undertaking of this web page.
Anyway, as always, my favorite part of these old shows, was the Fractured Fairy Tales feature. I have also developed a greater taste for the Aesop & Son feature, as well……..after seeing these old shows again! I have come to like some of them almost as much as the Fractured Fairy Tales.
It was in these particular episodes that Daws Butler really flourished and shined. Unfortunately, viewing these stories for the first time in years, I now see that Jay Ward Productions only showcased Daws Butler’s magnificent talents part of the time.
Though Daws was the star of quite a few of these episodes (sometimes he and June Foray were the only two voices, in a given cartoon—–like the Fractured Fairy Tale: Sleeping Beautyland), I have been reminded that Bill Scott (the co-producer of Jay Ward Productions) often cast himself as the star, and relegated to Daws some less juicier and meatier supporting roles and bit parts.
If that was not enough, I saw one particular Fractured Fairy Tale about a frog prince, in which all four of Jay’s major voice artists were together!!…….a very rare occurrence………especially since Paul Frees almost never participated in ANY of the Fractured Fairy Tales. Frees actually only took part in a handful of them (mostly filling in for Bill Scott when he was sick, but in this one, he and Bill acted together…….along with Daws and June).
Though it was actually neat to have ALL FOUR OF THEM TOGETHER………..this was yet another example of how Daws got short-changed…………Naturally he did not have as much of a role since he was competing with two other MALE voice artists in the same story (Paul Frees appeared to be THE STAR in this particular one).
When Daws was given the part of the supporting character or the bit player, often times this limited the voices that he could use. In many of these stories, the characters were pretty much just examples of an EVERYMAN…………or they just were not well-rounded characters. Hence a lot of Daws’ characterizations in these tales were really quite neutral, and not particularly special………they were characterizations that almost anyone could do………or a slight variation of his own natural voice.
Through watching some of these videos, I have seen that Daws Butler probably starred in less than half of the fairy tales and fables. In some cases, he was completely excluded (with Bill Scott and June Foray as the lone voices).
Bill Scott was already the star of just about all of the other Rocky and Bullwinkle shows. The fairy tales
and fables were the only features that Daws took part in on these shows. For that reason, it is a shame that he was not given even more opportunity to shine in these portions of the show, and entertain us with his great charm.
When Daws was the star, however, and when Daws did get some of those meatier, juicier roles!!……there was no comparison to how much better those stories were!!…….and how much they actually seemed to glow, like a beautiful, summer sunset, slowly melting into darkness………Had
the Grimm brothers lived to hear Daws speaking for some of their very best creations, they would have surely been immensely proud!!………….
Some of my favorite roles, that Daws played:
Big Hairy Ogres:
Kind of like an abominable snowman, too, who, for lack of better description, kind of talked like a very grouchy, loud, gruff Jackie Gleason (ironically Daws did use that voice, for Jackie Gleason’s character, in a Warner Bros. cartoon, that he did with June Foray).
Cute little boys:
Many of these were variations of the Elroy Jetson and Lambsy characters that Daws played in Hanna-Barbera’s cartoons. Daws had a way of making these little voices just so INCREDIBLY ADORABLE and SWEET, despite the fact that he was a middle-aged man. It is even more impressive, when one puts these high, cute, little voices, side by side with his angry, mean ogres and nasty, GRUFF villains…….it is TOTALLY INCREDIBLE that the same man could be that versatile. Daws was truly an artist, to the utmost degree!
Cats and Dullards:
A lot of Daws’ feline characters, or really STUPID characters, talked like Jinx the Cat…….The Hanna-
Barbera cartoon character who chased Pixie and Dixie (the two mice—-make that meese) with a broom. When Daws used this voice to portray a really DUMB character, he would REALLY go overboard, with Mr. Jinx’s voice……….he would give that characterization a kind of DROOLING, SLOBBERING, IDIOT voice that was just so hilarious!
Owls and Kings:
His owls and kings voices were actually the precursor of what became Captain Crunch in the mid to late 60s. Unfortunately that voice died as a character voice for other cartoons once he began to use it for the cereal commercials. I just that loved that voice, because it reminded me of a doddering, bumbling, old man, who was kind of absent-minded, but at the same time quite lovable in his silliness.
The Con Man:
I don’t know if I can adequately do justice in words to the “The Con Man” or “The Slick Salesman” voice that Daws sometimes used…….It’s kind of like kiwi………So many people whom I know insist that you just can’t describe the kiwi fruit in mere words……..
Probably the best way to describe Daws’ priceless “con man”/”slick salesman”, is to ask you, the reader, if you have ever heard Daws Butler do Hokey Wolf, for the Hanna- Barbera cartoons……….That is EXACTLY what Daws’ “con man” voice sounds like!
Keith Scott, in his book The Moose That Roared, described this voice that Daws does as a “Phil Silvers” voice. I have heard Phil Silvers, however, and do not think that it is the same thing. Daws’ “con man” voice is much more of a “smiling voice”……….much more of a “wink-wink”, “nudge or poke the listener in the side” kind of voice………I would also say that his “con man” voice is slightly higher pitched, than that of Phil Silvers.
It was this voice that Daws Butler used in a Fractured Fairy Tale about Sleeping Beautyland. He plays a prince who is reluctant to kiss Sleeping Beauty and wake her up. He feels that he would have a gold mine if he keeps her asleep and opens up a theme park, called Sleeping Beautyland.
This shady “con man” voice was perfect for this tale. Along comes a wicked fairy, in the story, who says that she was the one who put Sleeping Beauty to sleep. She threatens to wake the girl up if the prince does not cut her in, 50-50, as a partner of the theme park.
Daws’ sneaky prince slithers, just like a snake, throughout the rest of this tale, attempting all kinds of ploys and traps to get rid of this wicked fairy (she naïvely never seems to suspect that he is “gunning” for her). Hilariously he never manages to permanently get rid of her AT ALL! For me, anyway, this tale is right up there with the frog prince tale that I mentioned earlier, as one of my ALL-TIME FAVORITE Fractured Fairy Tales.
Daws could actually do all kinds of accents…….and not just British or Welsh accents…….He also did really GREAT French and German accents!! But I will never forget another one of my very favorite characterizations from the Fractured Fairy Tales…………the British Prince.
Daws actually put that characterization RIGHT NEAR THE VERY TOP of his own favorite voices that he himself did. The prince from the Fractured Fairy Tales was right up there, for Daws, after his two other favorites: Cap’n Crunch and Jinx the Cat.
Interestingly enough, Jay Ward and Bill Scott used to laugh about this voice and call it “The Fag Prince”, as per Keith Scott, who wrote the history of Jay Ward cartoons, The Moose That Roared.
What a shame that Daws was not given more opportunity in many of those stories to showcase his marvelous, mind-boggingly, priceless talent! Say what you will about Mel Blanc. As for me, I always wished that Daws had been right up there on that throne that Mel Blanc coveted for so many years. Daws with his WARMTH that he exuded from his characterizations, and his CHARM was TRULY, THE VOICE, which should have reigned on that throne………and been recognized as the best in Animation History………