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The Voices Behind 6 Classic Cereal Mascots

Their faces aren't as famous as those on the boxes, but odds are you’ve heard each of these beloved cereal mascots' voices somewhere else.

1. Paul Frees

Paul Frees was one of the most sought-after voiceover actors in his time. He recorded Boris Badenov in “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” but he’s probably more well-known for his commercial work: he was the voice of Toucan Sam, Boo Berry and the Pillsbury Doughboy.

http://youtu.be/ZF_Dhgisbys

It wasn’t until his retirement from voiceover work in film – including multiple roles in the movie Spartacus – that Frees focused on commercials. He recorded the voice for Toucan Sam, the Froot Loops mascot, in his home studio in Northern California. He took up the part after Kellogg’s decided to give the character a more distinguished tone; Mel Blanc was out, and Frees was in. Voice actor Maurice LaMarche, a prolific voice artist with numerous credits (notably, Brain of Pinky and the Brain) stepped in to voice Toucan Sam after Frees died in 1986.

http://youtu.be/PVHvrsoy9P0

To this day, Frees’ voice serves as the “Ghost Host” for both Haunted Mansion rides in Disney’s theme parks.

http://youtu.be/6CyeDKLoqQs

2. Thurl Ravenscroft

Thurl Ravenscroft may have only had one voice, but it was so deep and lyrical that popular culture owes him thanks for some of its most iconic successes. A singing Ravenscroft featured prominently in Chuck Jones’ animated version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Disney’s Cinderella, The Jungle Book and Mary Poppins.

However, the role he’s most well known for is as Tony the Tiger, the ultra confident feline on the front of every box of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes. He held the role from 1952 until his death in 2005, and claimed to have created Tony’s famous catchphrase, “They’re great!” Another notable feature of Tony’s voice is that it is Ravencroft’s actual speaking voice. These days, former WCW Wrestling and radio announcer Lee Marshall does his best Ravenscroft impression for Frosted Flakes commercials.

http://youtu.be/2LHS4xhzaZs

And just like Frees, Ravenscroft's voice can still be heard at Disney World and Disneyland, as one of the singing busts in the “Haunted Mansion” and one of the singing pirates on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride.

http://youtu.be/7TFUAq_VAQA

3. Daws Butler

A voice actor from the golden age of radio, Butler became a sensation for his Huckleberry Hound, whose familiar drawl was inspired by a slow-talking veterinarian from his wife’s North Carolina hometown. But this founding father of voice acting also brought to life two of the most beloved cereal mascots of all time – as the iconic Cap’n Crunch, and the voice of Quisp the alien.

http://youtu.be/uZSjFtdKcCU

You probably also know Daws Butler as Quick-Draw McGraw and Snagglepuss. Late in his career, Butler mentored up-and-coming voice talents like Tony Pope (the voice of Goofy) and Nancy Cartwright (the woman behind Bart Simpson). Butler wore the Captain’s hat behind the mic until his death in 1988.

4. Larry Kenney

Larry Kenney is well-known in animation circles for being the booming voice of Lion-O in the original and revival versions of “Thundercats,” as well as Gen. George S. Patton on Don Imus’ morning radio show. Those aren't the best-loved characters on his resume, though: Kenney provides the voices for Sonny (who’s “cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs”) and Count Chocula.

http://youtu.be/Y1CBftRW0F8

Cereal commercials were Kenney’s first foray into voice acting; he’d been a disc jockey from the age of 15, moving stations and picking up small commercial work along the way when he won two voice competitions – for the role of Sonny in 1977, and again for the Count in 1978. He's been doing the voices for both ever since. Fellow “Thundercats” cast member Bob McFadden – the voice of Snarf, Slythe and Lynx-O – played Franken Berry until McFadden’s death in 2000.

http://youtu.be/7YZCFsBw94o

5. Arnold Stang

This character actor of stage and screen also didn’t have much range outside of his normal speaking voice, but it was so interesting and unusual that it earned him a string of roles in radio, television and film.

http://youtu.be/8zeadIBxq4c

You probably remember Stang as Hanna-Barbera’s Top Cat, but his claim to fame in the cereal aisle was providing the voice of Buzz Bee, the bumbling little guy who hawked Honey Nut Cheerios for General Mills. The character wasn’t created until the 1980s, but he provided the voice for the popular cartoon insect until his passing in 2009. These days, Billy West (of Futurama, Doug, and too many more to mention here) does the voice of the Buzz.

6. Arthur Anderson

Anderson got his big break in Orson Welles’ acclaimed Mercury Theater in his controversial and highly acclaimed stage interpretation of “Julius Caesar,” which was set in Italy and Germany at the rise of the Nazi and Fascist movements. After his time with Welles’ bunch, he moved primarily into voiceover work and in 1963, General Mills hired him to provide the voice of Lucky the Leprechaun for their Lucky Charms cereal commercials.

http://youtu.be/Lc3rcodUuKg

Anderson played Lucky until his retirement in 1992, when voice actor Doug Preis (who has provided voices for cartoons such as Thundercats and Doug) took over the role. Anderson’s stories of working with the highly eccentric Welles served as the basis for Zac Efron’s character in Richard Linklater’s film, Me and Orson Welles.

Danny Gallagher is a freelance writer, humorist, reporter and cereal archeologist. He can be found on the webFacebook and Twitter.

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12 Things You Might Not Know About MAD Magazine
Mad Magazine
Mad Magazine

As fast as popular culture could erect wholesome depictions of American life in comics, television, or movies, MAD Magazine was there to tear them all down. A near-instant success for EC Comics upon its debut in 1952, the magazine has inspired generations of comedians for its pioneering satirical attitude and tasteful booger jokes. This month, DC Entertainment is relaunching an "all new" MAD, skewering pop culture on a bimonthly basis and in full color. To fill the gaps in your knowledge, take a look at these facts about the Usual Gang of Idiots.

1. NO ONE KNOWS WHO CAME UP WITH ALFRED E. NEUMAN.


Jamie, Flickr (L) // Boston Public Library, Flickr (R) // CC BY 2.0

MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman was in the offices of a Ballantine Books editor discussing reprints for the fledging publication when he noticed a grinning, gap-toothed imbecile staring back at him from a bulletin board. The unnamed figure was ubiquitous in the early 20th century, appearing in everything from dentistry ads to depictions of diseases. A charmed Kurtzman adopted him as MAD’s mascot beginning in 1954. Neuman later become so recognizable that a letter was delivered from New Zealand to MAD’s New York offices without an address: the envelope simply had a drawing of Alfred.  

2. THEY HAD TO APOLOGIZE ALMOST IMMEDIATELY.

MAD was conceived during a particularly sensitive time for the comics industry, with parents and watchdog groups concerned over content. (It didn't switch to a magazine format until issue #24.) Kurtzman usually knew where the line was, but when he was laid up with acute hepatitis in 1952, publisher William Gaines and others had to step in for him. Gaines thought it would be funny to offer a fictional biography of himself that detailed his father’s Communist leanings, his past as a dope dealer “near nursery schools,” and bouts of pyromania. When wholesalers were shocked at the content and threatened to boycott all of his titles, Gaines was forced to write a letter of apology.  

3. THEY PREDICTED JOHN F. KENNEDY'S ELECTION IN 1960.

But it was a cheat. In the run-up to the 1960 Presidential election, MAD printed a cover that featured Neuman congratulating Kennedy on his victory with a caption that read, “We were with you all the way, Jack!” But the issue was shipped long before votes had been tabulated. The secret? It was a dual cover. Flip it over and Neuman is celebrating Richard Nixon’s appointment to office. Stores were told to display the “right” side of the magazine depending on the outcome.

4. ALFRED BRIEFLY HAD A GIRLFRIEND.


MAD Magazine

A character named Moxie Cowznofski was introduced in the late 1950s as a female companion for Alfred. She made only a handful of cover appearances, possibly due to the fact she looked alarmingly like her significant other.

5. THEY DIDN'T RUN ANY (REAL) ADS FOR 44 YEARS.

From the beginning, Gaines felt that printing actual advertisements next to the products they were lampooning would not only dilute their edge but seem more than a little hypocritical. After some back-and-forth, MAD cut ads starting in 1957. The decision was a costly one—most print publications survive on such revenue—but led to the magazine’s keeping a sharp knife against the throat of seductive advertising, including cigarettes. Faced with dwindling circulation in 2001, Mad finally relented and began taking ads to help pay for a switch to color printing.

6. "SPY VS. SPY" WAS CREATED BY A SUSPECTED SPY.

Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohias was disenchanted with the regime under Fidel Castro when he began working on what would become “Spy vs. Spy.” Because Prohias’ other newspaper illustrations were critical of Castro, the Cuban government suspected him of working for the CIA. He wasn’t, but the perception had him worried harm might come to his co-workers. To get out of the situation, Prohias came to America in 1960. With his daughter helping translate, he stopped by Mad’s New York offices and submitted his work: his sneaky, triangle-headed spies became regulars.

7. THERE WAS ONE FOLD-IN THEY WOULDN'T RUN.

Artist Al Jaffee, now 94, has been with Mad almost from the beginning. He created the famous Fold-In—the back cover that reveals a new picture when doubled over—in 1964 after seeing the fold-outs in magazines like National Geographic, Playboy, and Life. Jaffee has rarely missed an issue since—but editors backtracked on one of Jaffee’s works that referenced a mass shooting in 2013. Citing poor taste, they destroyed over 600,000 copies.  

8. THEIR MOVIE WAS A DISASTER.

With the exception of Fox’s successful sketch series, 1994’s MAD TV, attempts to translate the MAD brand into other media have been underwhelming: a 1974 animated special didn’t even make it on air. But a 1980 film venture, a military school spoof directed by Robert Downey, Sr. titled Mad Presents Up the Academy, was so awful William Gaines demanded to have their name taken off of it. (Renamed Up the Academy, the DVD release of the movie still features someone sporting an Alfred E. Neuman mask; Mad parodied it in a spoof titled “Throw Up the Academy.”)

9. THE APRIL 1974 COVER HAD PEOPLE FLIPPING.


MAD Magazine

MAD has never made a habit of good taste, but a depiction of a raised middle finger for one issue in the mid-’70s caused a huge stir. Many stores wouldn’t stock it for fear of offending customers, and the company ended up accepting an irregular number of returns. Gaines took to his typewriter to write a letter of apology. Again. The relaunched #1, out in April 2018, pays homage to this cover, though it's slightly more tasteful: Neuman is picking his nose with his middle finger.

10. THEY INVENTED A SPORT.

MAD writer Tom Koch was amused by the convoluted rules of sports and attempted to one-up them in 43-Man Squamish, a game he invented for the April 1965 issue. Koch and artist George Woodbridge (“MAD’s Athletic Council”) prepared a guide that was utterly incomprehensible—the field was to have five sides, positions included Deep Brooders and Dummies, “interfering with the Wicket Men” constituted a penalty—but it amused high school and college readers enough to try and mount their own games. (Short on players? Try 2-Man Squamish: “The rules are identical,” Koch wrote, “except the object of the game is to lose.”) For the less physically inclined, Mad also issued a board game in which the goal is to lose all of your money.  

11. WEIRD AL WAS A GUEST EDITOR.

In what must be some kind of fulfilled prophecy, lyrical satirist “Weird” Al Yankovic was named as a guest editor—their first—for the magazine’s May 2015 issue. Yankovic told Entertainment Weekly that MAD had put him on “the dark, twisted path to becoming who I am today … I needed to pollute my mind with that kind of stuff.” In addition to his collaborations with the staff, Yankovic enlisted Patton Oswalt, Seth Green, and Chris Hardwick to contribute.

12. FRED ASTAIRE ONCE DANCED AS ALFRED E. NEUMAN.

In a scene so surreal even MAD’s irreverent editors would have had trouble dreaming it up, Fred Astaire decided to sport an Alfred E. Neuman mask for a dance number in his 1959 television special, Another Evening with Fred Astaire. No one seems to recall why exactly Astaire would do this—he may have just wanted to include a popular cultural reference—but it was no off-the-cuff decision. Astaire hired movie make-up veteran John Chambers (Planet of the Apes) to craft a credible mask of Neuman. The result is … well, kind of disturbing. But it’s a fitting addition to a long tradition of people going completely MAD.

Additional Sources:
Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America.

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Can You 'Hear' These Silent GIFs?
iStock
iStock

GIFs are silent—otherwise they wouldn't be GIFs. But some people claim to hear distinct noises accompanying certain clips. Check out the GIF below as an example: Do you hear a boom every time the structure hits the ground? If so, you may belong to the 20 to 30 percent of people who experience "visual-evoked auditory response," also known as vEAR.

Researchers from City University London recently published a paper online on the phenomenon in the journal Cortex, the British Psychological Society's Research Digest reports. For their study, they recruited more than 4000 volunteers and 126 paid participants and showed them 24 five-second video clips. Each clip lacked audio, but when asked how they rated the auditory sensation for each video on a scale of 0 to 5, 20 percent of the paid participants rated at least half the videos a 3 or more. The percentage was even higher for the volunteer group.

You can try out the researchers' survey yourself. It takes about 10 minutes.

The likelihood of visual-evoked auditory response, according to the researchers, directly relates to what the subject is looking at. "Some people hear what they see: Car indicator lights, flashing neon shop signs, and people's movements as they walk may all trigger an auditory sensation," they write in the study.

Images packed with meaning, like two cars colliding, are more likely to trigger the auditory illusion. But even more abstract images can produce the effect if they have high levels of something called "motion energy." Motion energy is what you see in the video above when the structure bounces and the camera shakes. It's why a video of a race car driving straight down a road might have less of an auditory impact than a clip of a flickering abstract pattern.

The researchers categorize vEAR as a type of synesthesia, a brain condition in which people's senses are combined. Those with synesthesia might "see" patterns when music plays or "taste" certain colors. Most synesthesia is rare, affecting just 4 percent of the population, but this new study suggests that "hearing motion synesthesia" is much more prevalent.

[h/t BPS Research Digest]

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