The Voices Behind 6 Classic Cereal Mascots

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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.

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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.

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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.

June 18, 2012 - 4:53am
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