Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Two Big Milestones for Two Big Names in Animation

This week I'm giving a special two-for-one post.  Two big names in animation and voice acting:  one a current leader in prime time animation entertainment, and the other a legend that I almost feel bad including with the former.

First off is Seth MacFarlane's role as host on Saturday Night Live last weekend for their season opener.  It's neat in terms of animation landmarks because it was the first time that an animator has hosted the show.  I can't really imagine Walt Disney or Matt Groening doing such a thing, and I list those two because they are probably the only other animation producers that most people can name.  This really is a testament to the level of celebrity that MacFarlane has generated for himself.  Granted, I am not his biggest fan.  Family Guy has disappeared up its own rear end to become one giant meta joke and The Cleveland Show still struggles along, but  America Dad  continues to stay strong (and structured! *gasp*) and Ted  was surprisingly funny  with all of its crude jokes and Flash Gordon references.  I also am not thrilled that the shoddy animation and often lazy writing has become the face of modern animation.  Ralph Bakshi has more talent in his beard hair as far as I'm concerned, but regardless, the man has done an excellent job branding himself in a way that few animators do.

As for SNL itself, it was enjoyable enough.  Both the host and the show are loved for their quick pace, copious pop culture references, and questionable material that is sure to turn off some viewers.  In this way MacFarlane is an ideal host, although I did feel like his vocal range was not maximized to its fullest potential (barring his enjoyable, if self-promoting, opening monologue).  It was also nice to see him in a role where he wasn't calling all of the shots.  I'm sure the appearance will do plenty to build enthusiasm for the season premiere of all of his shows.

Secondly, today is June Foray's 95th birthday.  The First Lady of Voice Acting has provided some of the most memorable characters in animation history.  Her list of credits is far too long to include here, including virtually every major cartoon studio since the 40's, but some of my favorites include Witch Hazel from various Looney Tunes shorts, the Talky Tina doll from an episode of The Twilight Zone, and Natasha Fatale and Rocket J. "Rocky" Squirrel on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.  In a career that has spanned more than six decades and still shows no signs of stopping, she has shown a passion for animation that is truly admirable.

The range and strength of her voice have led many to call her the female Mel Blanc, but as Chuck Jones once supposedly said, "June Foray is not the female Mel Blanc, Mel Blanc is the male June Foray."  Earlier this year, Foray was finally formally recognized when she was nominated and won her first Emmy award.  Even though it was for a role on The Garfield Show, for lifelong fans, it served as a thank you for all of the years of wonderful characters and unforgettable voices.  She is a truly remarkable person and I wish her the best of birthdays! 

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