Monday, November 30, 2020

To the victor go the spoils

In general, Hollywood stars are not beloved in Hollywood. Why? Because they make so much money AND they now take jobs away from people who don’t make much money.

I think this started with commercials. Young actors could make an okay living picking up commercial work. Then in Japan, companies would pay absurd amounts to American stars to be spokesmen for their commercials. And the actors felt the commercials would never be seen here so no one was going to accuse them of selling out, so what the hell? Think: the plot of LOST IN TRANSLATION. Bill Murray is in Japan to film a whiskey commercial.

Eventually, Madison Avenue came calling and started offering commercials to Hollywood stars. We had moved past the era where selling out was a bad thing. So stars became spokespeople squeezing out the brick and mortar actors who just scraped by as it was.

Similarly, voice over work started going to stars. Why hire a seasoned voice over artist who studied for years when you can get Jon Hamm?

And by the way, I don’t begrudge Jon Hamm or the stars who take these deals. Why not? Someone is offering it to you, it’s a lot of money for just a few days work, and if you pass they’ll just ask another star instead. Might as well take it.

Another area where stars have taken over is animation voice over. Here too, gifted voice over actors who have worked for years perfecting their craft are now being replaced by Ellen DeGeneres and Tim Allen. Does Ellen do a good job? Yeah. Could seventeen voice over artists do just as good or better a job? You bet. Will Ellen’s name in the trailer bring people into the theatre? My guess is of course not. So what’s the big whoop in hiring Ellen DeGeneres?

Cartoon voice over people can do many voices, can shade their voices, add nuance. That’s what they do… or at least, did.

How many extra takes are required by stars because they’re not really used to working in animation? Considering the extra money it costs for stars and the extra production time, is it worth it? It is for the producers or, in the case of advertising, the Mad Men who get to meet and hobnob with the stars.

The latest example I’ve found is game show hosting. Yes, it looks easy but there’s an art to hosting a game show. To move things along, be spontaneous, follow the game, make the contestants feel comfortable, read the questions without stumbling – it takes a certain polish and charm. There’s a reason you see the same guys hosting shows over the years. Very few have the necessary skill.

And I’ll tell you who sure doesn’t have the skill – Anthony Anderson or Elizabeth Banks. (To be fair, Alec Baldwin has a flair and is funny and brings a lot to THE MATCH GAME – and it’s a game not to be taken seriously anyway.) Plus, I'm a fan of Anthony Anderson and Elizabeth Banks -- but in the right role, which is not introducing lightening rounds.

That said, I’m sure if ABC had their way, they’d do JEOPARDY by replacing Alex Trebek with Tracee Ellis Ross.

So you want to come to Hollywood and be an actor?  You better have a day job and hope that Starbucks doesn't offer barista positions to Ellen. 


VincentS said...

I read where after he finished FRASIER John Mahoney was offered voice over work but turned it down because he made enough money off FRASIER to last him for life and didn't want to take work away from actors who needed the jobs.

Glenn said...

Part of the problem these days is that they make commercials created specifically for the stars. Like the "Ferris Bueller 30 years later" one with Matthew Broderick... or the Die hard batteries one with Bruce Willis, which is basically a 5-minute Die Hard reboot.

WB Jax said...

Great points all, Ken.

The interesting thing about Alex Trebek was that he wasn't recruited from the known stable of TV game show hosts (because he came from Toronto). And yet once he transitioned from Wizard of Odds to High Rollers (...'the man with the action'...) US TV audiences, the people used to the "usual suspects" (Bill Cullen, Bob Barker, Wink Martindale, Allen Ludden, Tom Kennedy) quickly welcomed him into their "living rooms" (as they did also with Geoff Edwards, Chuck Woolery, Art James, Pat Sajak, all excellent game show hosts).

Rather miss the era when TV stars and game show hosts were separate entities.

Note to Jeopardy producers: thought about finding out who's presenting in Canada these days?

Curt Alliaume said...

I’ll throw in my defense of current game show hosts.

Most of the guys us baby boomers grew up with hosting game shows—well, they’re dead. Monty Hall, Garry Moore, Bill Cullen, Tom Kennedy, Richard Dawson, Gene Rayburn, Alex Trebek, Peter Tomarken—all gone. The ones that are still around from that era, with the exception of Pat Sajak, aren’t going to ever host anything again.

During the 1990s, there was a huge gap in game shows on television. At one point, the only three programs running were The Price Is Right, Jeopardy, and Wheel of Fortune. So there wasn’t the opportunity for anyone to break in hosting a game show, except maybe on cable. (Most classic game show hosts started out as radio DJs, announcers, hosting local shows, or as local news anchors.)

So when game shows started coming back—slowly, with the success of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and then more rapidly in 2016 when ABC brought back some classics for the summer—new faces had to be brought in. CBS had already had some success with comedians taking over classic shows—Drew Carey on The Price Is Right and Wayne Brady on Let’s Make a Deal—so some shows went in that direction. And one thing to be thankful for: game show hosting was for decades the exclusive domain of 40- and 50-something white guys. Now game shows are hosted by Anthony Anderson, Michael Strahan (who’s very good at Pyramid), Leslie Jones, Elizabeth Banks, and Steve Harvey. That reflects our society far more accurately. And as you note, producers aren’t going to go with complete unknowns if they don’t have to. Merv Griffin learned that lesson when he named Rolf Benirschke host of the daytime Wheel of Fortune after Pat Sajak departed to host his late-night talk show—that didn’t end well for anybody.

So I’m okay with where we’re at.

WB Jax said...

You reminded me of something, Curt: the CBS game show "Musical Chairs," hosted by Adam Wade. In an era where Cosby, Sanford and Son and Good Times were all huge it didn't seem all that unusual, then, for an African American to be a game show host. And he was good (though I'm not sure if he did any other such shows later).

Don Kemp said...

I'll play. Rolf Benirschke is a former Pro Bowl kicker for the San Diego Chargers who was considered quite dashing and handsome by some when he played. It didn't quite work out but being an entrepnuerial type, Benirschke went on to success in the financial markets and is presently a motivational type speaker, using his battle with ulcerative colitis as a central topic.

Unknown said...

I totally agree with you regarding the game show hosts though I think that Joel McHale has shown some real promise with Card Sharks. If he sticks with it/if Hollywood allows it, I think that he could be excellent for a variety of game shows going forward. Drew Carey also feels like a good fit for the Price is Right.

Speaking of Card Sharks...Jim Perry has to be mentioned as one of the all time great game show hosts. I watched him host Sale of the Century when I was a kid and I think that he made that show go. When I saw the old episodes of him hosting Card Sharks on GSN it only reinforced my opinion of him.

Daniel said...

Regarding celebrities doing animation voiceover work: I think the reason that studios hire celebrity actors (as opposed to workaday voiceover actors) for feature films has more to do with marketing and PR. Entertainment reporters are more interested in interviewing celebrities because they know that people will tune in to watch interviews with them (and thus learn about the upcoming film) and that they won't tune in for interviews with the workaday voiceover actors. I'm not making a value judgment, just pointing out why it's likely done that way.

Steve Bailey said...

The weirdest foreign TV ads I've ever seen were done by Woody Allen, who always claimed not to be Mr. Sell-Out. You can see them here on YouTube:

Joseph Scarbrough said...

As yes, if there's anybody who knows anything about doing commercials for Japanese TV at the height of their career, it would be former 70s teen idol Leif Garrett. . . .

When speaking of doing this commercial, Leif even admits, "Hey, it paid the bills."

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

What Daniel said...

The Exciting World of Voiceover doesn't exist for the typical v/o person, except in the pitches from trainers, schools and online courses. Proof? Google it. And, check out and other gig sites where thousands of voiceover people plead for $5 per voiceover. Then, there's "membership" or pay-to-play sites where again thousands sign up at a yearly fee of hundreds of dollars for the 'opportunity' to audition for gigs that are sent to the group.

The only way to survive is to be excellent, join AFTRA/SAG, have a great agent (I'm lucky: 2 out of 3...and not #1) and find your own clients. Do not wait for the phone to ring. It won't.

Occasionally, great gigs come along. Rejoice when that happens. Otherwise, get on the phone and pitch your own clients.


Good luck amigos...

RyderDA said...

I always appreciated that Pixar was not afraid to use lesser known folks as voices for animated characters. Watching a Pixar picture, I don't really care that I'm watching a "star" or not. For instance, at this moment, I can't actually tell you who voiced any of the characters in WALL-E. When I actually look it up, I can't think of anything that Sigourney Weaver brought to the role of the computer that another actor couldn't. Having said that, that film (like all Pixar movies) would have been nothing without John Ratzenberger...

Mike Doran said...

Am I the only one who's noticed that since he got The Price Is Right, Drew Carey seem to have deliberately cultivated a resemblance to Bill Cullen?

Side Note:
There's a guy named Adam Nedeff, who writes full-scale biographies of many game-show hosts, including Bill Cullen, Allen Ludden, Gene Rayburn, Dennis James, and I'm likely missing somebody, but you can find his many works at Amazon, so there too.
Mr. Nedeff's point is that these were (and are) substantial people, with many strings to their respective bows; all are worth getting to know.

Tudor Queen said...

When Drew Carey was announced as Bob Barker's successor on "Price is Right," I was very uncertain. Not only did he quickly win me over with his enthusiasm for the games and his clear affection for the contestants, I decided - I know this is heresy - that he was better than Barker. For one thing, when asked if he wanted to rename 'Barker's Beauties' (the spokesmodels) 'Carey's Cuties' or 'Drew's Dolls' he asked "Why not call them by their names?"

Someone who I feel never got the credit he deserved was Ryan Seacrest on the original iteration of "American Idol" (I never watched the relaunch). Seacrest was mocked as a 'metrosexual' or whatever, but he made a difficult job look effortless. He kept it moving, knew how to take a joke but never mocked the contestants, and clearly cared about them all, sometimes averting a meltdown or giving a heartbroken singer some quiet support before he or she left the stage.

Steve Harvey, Alec Baldwin, John Michael Higgins, Alfonso Ribiero (with Witney Carson for a quick opening dance move or two) are all turning out to be good at game show hosting, and Tom Bergeron, before his unceremonious dismissal) have all proven to be very good at the job.

Whatever did happen to Adam Wade?

RobW said...

Without question, the most idiotic example of celebrity voice casting would be paying Vin Diesel to voice Groot in the Galaxy of the Guardians series.

Mibbitmaker said...

Very similar circumstances where there are many celebrities these days writing children's books. There's bound to be a number of professional children's book authors getting less work due to famous people from TV, movies and music putting out books.

A couple points to the contrary, though. If any of those books are really well done, then there should be a place for them. Also, while children's book writers have extra competition from high profile celebs, children's book illustrators get more work coming their way with the extra books, so they actually get helped by that situation.

ninja3000 said...

Back around 1970, GAF hired Henry Fonda to plug their "new" 35mm camera film, which was a huge coup for the ad agency. The reasoning was that Fonda was seen as a very credible person, and the product introduction needed to make a real splash to break through as a competitor of Kodak. My father was involved on the PR side of the intro, and seeing as how I was a budding teen photographer at the time, I was gifted a case of GAF 35mm film. (PS, the film sucked and GAF's effort mercifully died a few years later.) So I can see a major star being hired as a draw for a new product, but otherwise...

Pat Reeder said...

As a former voice person myself (I mostly write these days), I hated to see the celebrity takeover of animation. Not only because of the loss of work, but because it harms the product. Walt Disney wouldn't use star voices or characters closely based on celebrities because he was creating movies for posterity and he knew that tying them to current celebrities was lazy, uncreative and would tie the films to the real world and cause them to quickly become dated. Sort of like what I was saying the other day about comedians who want to be more topical and political: when was the last time you heard a Mort Sahl record or a 1940's Bob Hope monologue played on a comedy radio station? I recently saw a Looney Tune from the '40s that parodied the then-current Hollywood stars, and you'd have to be a trivia nut like me to recognize more than half of them.

Jeffrey Graebner said...

"I always appreciated that Pixar was not afraid to use lesser known folks as voices for animated characters."

That's kind of an odd statement as Pixar played a huge role in the trend towards celebrity casting in animated films. "Wall-E" was used as an example, but the lack of big stars in that film probably has more to do with the emphasis on sound effects and music over dialog in that film. As noted it still had Sigourney Weaver in a supporting role as well as Kathy Najimy and Fred Willard. The leads in "The Good Dinosaur" were also not well known, although there were some more familiar supporting cast members in that one too, including Frances McDormand, Sam Elliot, and Anna Paquin.

Here are key cast members in Pixar's other films:

Toy Story 1-4: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles
A Bug's Life: Dave Foley, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kevin Spacey
Monsters, Inc./Monsters University: Billy Crystal, John Goodman
Finding Nemo/Finding Dory: Albert Brooks, Ellen Degeneres
The Incredibles 1-2: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter
Cars 1-3: Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy
Ratatouille: Patton Oswald, Peter O'Toole, Janeane Garofalo
Up: Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer
Brave: Kelly Mcdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly.
Coco: Benjamin Bratt, Edward James Olmos (the leads are less well-known, at least in the US)
Onward: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt
Soul: Jamie Fox, Tina Fey

John (formerly) in NE Ohio said...

I think Daniel hit one reason right on the head - promotion. It's the same reason networks want a recognizable name in a new show. Of the actor is good at/for the part, then this will help the project. If they are not, it will get initial attention, but won't last.
As for Drew Carey, I think it helps that he was a comedian first, and really not much of an actor. Also, by all accounts his is a good person

Buttermilk Sky said...

Voice-over artists need a strong union. Membership should be contingent on the ability to do at least as many different voices as Harry Shearer.

Anita Bonita said...

I love you, Ken.

Cheryl Marks said...

Adding on to what Don Kemp said:

Rolf Benirschke was a originally a soccer player at UC Davis, a Division AA Football team at the time. (We even played our games on Friday nights.) The football coach who was in need of a kicker for the team recruited Rolf. The guy is special.

Michael said...

A bow to Pat Reeder on the Disney quote, which reminded me that Warner Bros. did a lot of cartoons featuring celebrities of the time--the most famous may have been the Honeymousers, but there are many, including some set at Hollywood parties, and two Bugs Bunny classics, one involving gangsters Edward G. Robinson and Peter Lorre, and the other with Humphrey Bogart ordering fried rabbit at a restaurant. But here's what's cute. Apparently, they had some of the big name celebrities do their own voices and they found that they weren't good at it. Mel Blanc was better at imitating them because imitation requires exaggeration, and of course they exaggerated their characteristics for the comedy, and because voice acting is acting, but a different form of it. Someone at Warner once took photos of Blanc while he did voices to show him how his facial expressions changed to fit the characters. And there was a clip of Mark Hamill doing The Joker where he is overacting, just as The Joker would.

Now to game show hosts. When there was a boom in the late 1990s, an interviewer asked Regis Philbin why so many of the hosts were older, like him. He replied that was because he and the others started in live radio and TV, and a game show is recorded, but it's done live and you have to be able to react and improvise. When you think of the great hosts, that's true. That also may explain why comedians like Carey and Brady have been successful, but people from the stand-up world have not been.

Dave-El said...

Hi, Ken! I gotta take issue with you on Elizabeth Banks. My family watches the new Press Your Luck and we admire Elizabeth for her energy and enthusiasm for the game as well as her interactions with the contestants.

DwWashburn said...

If I enjoyed the original game, I usually enjoy the reboot regardless of host. The only exception is Family Feud. Even after all these years, Harvey seems very wooden when delivering the questions and only comes to life when he can imply something dirty within the game.

With that said there are few hosts in the ABC reboots that I like. Like you I think Baldwin is doing a good job and unlike you I think the Anderson version of TTTT is the best version ever put together. Have never liked the game Supermarket Sweep so no opinion on Jones. But Strahan, McHale (much better panelist than host) and Harvey have a lot to learn about being a good host. I give Banks a light pass because she's nice eye candy.

As far as GSN's originals, Higgins on America Says is about the only one I can handle. He's very good. But Fatone, Belusi and Burns -- no. I really don't see what GSN sees in Brooke Burns. She had a nice repour with Mark Labbatt on The Chase but was not a good host.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Doing cartoon voices is why I got into show business in the first place. My idols were Mel Blanc, June Foray and Stan Freberg, et al. Unfortunately it never happened for me. So I agree with Ken for the most part.
I also agree about the game shows with one exception. I watched the "Match Game" reboot when it debuted. I wasn't impressed with Alec Baldwin or the show. I haven't watched since.
However, I would like to add to the list of good celebrity hosts. I think Jane Lynch has done a fine job on her previous projects. She has a tendency to be a little too sardonic, but that's perfect for "The Weakest Link."
Jeff Foxworthy was just right for "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-grader." One of his strengths was his ability to, pardon the cliché, laugh with you and not at you. That is, being able to make light of someone's mistake without humiliating them.
Speaking of "Fifth-grader," I'd love to see a celebrity version reboot. It would be very interesting to watch some of Hollywood's pseudointellectuals struggle with the questions. You know who would be a great host for that? "Larry the Cable Guy."

A couple of people mentioned unions. Being in SAG/AFTRA is a mixed blessing. I know that many voice actors can't survive on union work alone. The only way they can make a living is to work non-union or "financial core." If you are already a star it's great. Of you're near the bottom it sucks.


Mike Bloodworth said...

Correction: "...5th Grader."


iamr4man said...

Here’s something Tom Selleck isn’t telling you when he hawks reverse mortgages. Many reverse mortgages contain shared appreciation clauses. That means that when you die or seek to pay off the mortgage, then lender gets as much as half of the amount the house has appreciated over time. In times when home values are going up this can be a lot of money. In some cases people who borrowed just a few thousand dollars ended up owing over 100k in just a short time. There were a lot of stories about it several years back, and this is why they use celebrities like Selleck to assure seniors that it isn’t a scheme to steal your house.
So if you are considering a reverse mortgage be sure to read the fine print and specifically ask about shared appreciation.

Anonymous said...

The Disney fully/partially animated features — from the first — actually did use MANY celebrity voice actors, folks who were widely known — at the time, but not now — for their work in films and on stage and radio. And many of these performers — especially those with their own shows — promoted their Disney films on radio.

Here’s a sample too lengthy list
Roy Atwell as Doc
Otis Harlan as Happy
Billy Gilbert as Sneezy
Moroni Olsen as The Magic Mirror
Dick Jones as Pinocchio
Cliff Edwards as Jiminy Cricket
Walter Catlett as "Honest" John Worthington
Charles Judels as Stromboli
Evelyn Venable as The Blue Fairy
Frankie Darro as Lampwick
Walt Disney
Robert Benchley
Frances Gifford
Claud Allister
Edward Brophy as Timothy Q. Mouse
Verna Felton as Elephant Matriarch
Cliff Edwards as Dandy Crow
Herman Bing as The Ringmaster
Sterling Holloway as Mr. Stork
The Hall Johnson Choir as Crow Chorus
James Baskett as Fats Crow
Nick Stewart as Specks Crow
The King's Men as Roustabout Chorus
Billy Bletcher as Clown
Donnie Dunagan as Young Bambi
Hardie Albright as Adolescent Bambi
Sterling Holloway as Young Adult Flower
Will Wright as Friend Owl
Nelson Eddy
Dinah Shore
Benny Goodman
The Andrews Sisters
Jerry Colonna
Sterling Holloway
Andy Russell
The Pied Pipers
The King's Men
The Ken Darby Chorus
Edgar Bergen – himself, Charlie McCarthy, and Mortimer Snerd
Luana Patten – herself
Dinah Shore – singer, narrator of Bongo
Cliff Edwards – Jiminy Cricket
Walt Disney – Mickey Mouse
Billy Gilbert – Willie the Giant
The King's Men – Happy Valley crows
Roy Rogers
Dennis Day
The Andrews Sisters
Freddy Martin
Ethel Smith
Frances Langford
Buddy Clark
Bob Nolan
Sons of the Pioneers
Bobby Driscoll
Luana Patten
Basil Rathbone as Narrator and Policeman
Eric Blore as J. Thaddeus Toad
J. Pat O'Malley as Cyril Proudbottom
Claude Allister as Water Rat
Bing Crosby as Ichabod Crane and Brom Bones
Ed Wynn as Mad Hatter
Jerry Colonna as March Hare
Richard Haydn as Caterpillar
Sterling Holloway as Cheshire Cat
Verna Felton as Queen of Hearts
J. Pat O'Malley as Tweedledum and Tweedledee/Walrus and Carpenter/Mother Oyster
Bill Thompson as White Rabbit/The Dodo
Heather Angel as Alice's sister
Joseph Kearns as Doorknob
Bobby Driscoll as Peter Pan
Heather Angel as Mary Darling
Hans Conried as Captain Hook
Bill Thompson as Mr. Smee
Tom Conway as the narrator

Mike Doran said...

Something I've heard, but can't confirm:
When they were putting together the To Tell The Truth reboot, the producers made an offer to Orson Bean to do a guest appearance, as a shout-out to the original.
When he saw the changes they had planned for the game play, Orson turned them down flat.
How vehement he may have been depends on which version of the story you hear; Orson Bean had done several iterations of TTTT, and had great respect for the game itself, and for Mark Goodson's conduct of it.
Over the many years, in many interviews, Orson was emphatic about how his panel had been cast, and how the spots had been structured to utilize the panelists's personalities: as one example, he called Kitty Carlisle "the Margaret Dumont figure" on the panel, staying dignified while he and Bill Cullen would get a bit naughty, along with Peggy Cass, "the ward heeler's daughter".
Compare to today's TTTT, which never uses panelists two weeks running; the producers are still throwing stuff at the wall, hoping something sticks ...
This is useless; just look at TTTT reruns from the past, on Buzzr, GSN, or YouTube, and see how this game should really be played.

blinky said...

Samuel Jackson has made a billion dollars and is in every single movie ever made. So what does he do to pick up a spare couple of bucks? He hawks the crappy Capitol One credit card that gives 1.5% back. That is one of the worst credit card money back offers out there. His ego must need constant fluffing to take that gig.

Mike said...

“Celebrity endorsements are lazy.”
-Don Draper

Stephen Robinson said...

I agree completely with Ken’s point about voice over work. However, there are “Hollywood" actors such as Kelsey Grammer, Mark Hamill, and Tim Curry who are just so damn good. They are true vocal artists.

However, I recall seeing the film ANTZ in theatres and rolling my eyes at the stunt casting. There are voice actors who could’ve done a Woody Allen or Stallone like character far better than, well, Allen or Stallone did.

You also got the sense that the studio was very impressed casting Sharon Stone as the romantic lead, but her voice -- with all respect -- is not her sexiest trait. It’s voice work. There are actors who don’t look like Sharon Stone who nonetheless could deliver a sexier performance.

Liggie said...

Voice acting: A good mix was in "Zootopia", which used celebrities like Jason Bateman, Idris Elba and Ginnifer Goodwin (excellent as Judy Hopps), but also veteran voice actors like Maurice LaMarche (in the key role of "Mr. Big").

Game show hosts: Elizabeth Banks is also the executive producer of "Press Your Luck", so she's not going anywhere as emcee. Tom Bergeron was smooth in a "Hollywood Squares" revival like he was in "Dancing with the Stars", and should be considered in future ABC prime time game show revivals. I also thought of another suggestion for "Jeopardy!": Meredith Vieira. She's hosted the syndicated "Millionaire" and is on a new syndicated show, "25 Words or Less" (like "Password" except you have to guess a list of five secret words within 25 clues).

Drew Carey: He is a genuinely nice person, and we in Seattle know from his partial ownership of the MLS Sounders. He goes to a lot of games, hangs out with the fans, and is always willing to sign autographs and pose for selfies. He also has a Friday night music show on Sirius XM that seems to be well-received. Might he be a future podcast guest, with his varied career?

A related Friday Question: Daytime game shows were hugely popular in the '70s and '80s, but have fallen off the map other than "The Price Is Right" and "Let's Make a Deal". What changed with daytime television viewers that caused this lowered demand? There's still an audience for the genre as the prime time "Jeopardy!", "Wheel of Fortune" and the big budget productions like "Millionaire" and even "Deal or No Deal", but why no longer daytime?

Don R said...

Not that there are any OTHER podcasts to listen to other than "Hollywood and Levine," but... by sheer coincidence, Don Rooney and John Timpane talk with voiceover artist Cristina Pucelli in their latest Musical Innertube podcast. From firsthand experience, she makes many of the same points Ken does in this blog entry.

J Lee said...

If you go back and listen to some of the old Top 40 radio air checks, or click on a few YouTube links to commercials from half a century ago, there was a certain amount of celebrity voice-over use even then. It was usually by people with very distinctive voices -- Orson was really started to milk the ad market for cash about that time, while you also hear Rod Serling and Gene Barry a lot during that time period.

DARON72 said...

Although he has improved over 13 years (who wouldn't), I've just never warmed up to Drew Carey as host of "The Price Is Right." When he says 'nice job, buddy' I never know if the guy won or lost. Both Dan Patrick and Tom Bergeron turned down large amounts of money to take over the show after Barker retired. But I guess comedians and actors, and not TV and radio announcers, are the latest thing in hosting. RIP to Alex Trebek and Tom Kennedy.

Pat Reeder said...

To Anonymous: Many of the Disney voices you listed who are well-known were mostly known as voice actors or at best, character actors. The major stars you mentioned were mostly in films that included live action sequences where the celebrities were actually on screen; or they were narrators, not characters in the story.

For instance, in "Snow White," I doubt that most people even in the '30s would have known Roy Atwell, Otis Harlan or Moroni Olsen. Billy Gilbert voiced Sneezy because he was known for doing a good sneeze routine, but Walt ordered that Sneezy not physically resemble Gilbert or mimic any of his mannerisms. Likewise, Dopey was partly inspired by Harpo Marx, but the animators made sure he wasn't a clone of Harpo. Even in "Alice In Wonderland" (not "Cinderella"), while Ed Wynn and Jerry Colonna seemed a bit too on-the-nose, they were the only stars most people would recognize (and the making of that film was, appropriately, a madhouse.)

Today, many animated films get big name stars as voices and pattern the characters' personalities on their public personas, which is both lazy and more likely to date the movie. If I watch an animated movie and keep thinking, "That's Kevin Hart" or whomever, then I'm not getting caught up in the story.

BG said...

@Liggie, not to speak for Ken, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that by the 90s, local affiliates wanted the time slot to air other syndicated or local talk shows. So instead of "Scrabble" or "Family Feud", the affiliate airs "The People's Court" or "Jerry Springer".

Granted, that was 25-30 years ago, when game shows waned in popularity. I think NBC and ABC could do so much better than another hour of their morning news/talk shows, but I imagine it's much cheaper than another game show or soap opera. With the popularity of the "Pyramid" or "Match Game" revivals, I'm surprised someone hasn't trotted out another daytime game show.

Shame...Pluto just rolled out a classic "Price is Right" channel that immediately took me back to my days being babysat by my grandmother in the mid-to-late-80s, watching all the daytime shows.

mike schlesinger said...

I have to second Jane Lynch, who is absolutely stone perfect on "Weakest Link." She zings the contestants like Anne Robinson, but does it with a twinkle in her eye, and that makes all the difference. Ken, you should give her a spin. Baldwin is also aces, but I wish he'd be a little less obvious when reading the cue cards.

And although he's not an actor, Kimmel's doing a first-rate job on "Millionaire."

Albert Walgreen said...

I am going to agree with Curt Alliaume's and Tudor Queen's point about Drew Carey doing a good job hosting "The Price is Right". And I first saw "Family Feud" host Richard Dawson playing Newkirk on "Hogan's Heroes". Maybe I am missing the point of this post; I know that Ken has also commented on how difficult it is for even established actors to land roles. Perhaps even the stars hit a point were work is hard to find.

Roger Ebert's review of the 1982 "Conan the Barbarian" has always stuck with me. Ebert noted "it was, for me, a rather unsettling image to see this Nordic superman confronting a black", but surely James Earl Jones would have been a fool to turn down an excellent film role, even if he deserved other, better roles. He is also noted for voiceover work in "Star Wars".

Breadbaker said...

Another now dead longtime game show host is Tom Kennedy, who died October 7, just over a month before Trebek. He outlived his brother and fellow game show veteran Jack Narz by a dozen years.