Daws Butler (born Charles Dawson Butler; November 16, 1916 – May 18, 1988) was a voice actor originally from Toledo, Ohio. He originated the voices of many famous animated cartoon characters, including Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss, and Huckleberry Hound.
Daws Butler trained many working actors including Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson) and Joe Bevilacqua (whom Daws personally taught how to do all of his characters). Butler's voice and scripts were a frequent part of Bevilacqua's now-defunct XM show. Bevilacqua also wrote Butler's official biography, published by Bear Manor Media. A new book of cartoon scripts written by Daws Butler and Joe Bevilacqua, Uncle Dunkle and Donnie: Fractured Fables, was scheduled for publication in the fall of 2009. A four-volume, 4½-hour audio set of Uncle Dunkle and Donnie was to be released simultaneously with Bevilacqua performing all 97 characters in 35 stories. Butler also trained Hal Rayle, who ultimately determined that his best-known character of Doyle Cleverlobe from Galaxy High School should sound like Elroy Jetson after he finished puberty.
Early life and career
His first voice work came in 1943 at MGM. Tex Avery hired Butler to provide narration work for several of his cartoons. In many cartoons, there was a nameless wolf who spoke in a Southern accent and whistled all the time. Butler provided the voice for this wolf. While at MGM, Avery wanted Butler to try to do the voice of Droopy Dog, a character that Bill Thompson regularly voiced. Butler performed the voice for a few cartoons, but he then told Avery about Don Messick, another voice actor and Butler's life-long friend. Messick quickly became a voice actor.
In 1949, Butler landed a role in a televised puppet show created by former Warner Brothers cartoon director Bob Clampett called Time for Beany. Thirty-three-year-old Butler was teamed up with 23-year-old Stan Freberg, and together they did all the voices of the puppets. Butler voiced Beany Boy and Captain Huffenpuff. Freberg voiced Cecil and Dishonest John. An entire stable of recurring characters were seen. The show's writers were Charles Shows and Lloyd Turner, whose dependably funny dialog was still always at the mercy of Butler's and Freberg's ad libs. Time for Beany ran from 1949 to 1954 and won several Emmy Awards. It was the basis for the cartoon Beany and Cecil.
Butler briefly turned his attention to TV commercials, although he quickly moved to providing the voice to many nameless Walter Lantz characters for theatrical shorts later seen on the Woody Woodpecker program. His notable character was the penguin "Chilly Willy" and his sidekick, the southern-speaking dog Smedley (the same voice used for Tex Avery's laid-back wolf character).
Also in the 1950s, Stan Freberg asked Butler to help him write comedy skits for his Capitol Records albums. Their first collaboration, "St. George and the Dragon-Net" (based on Dragnet), was the first comedy record to sell over one million copies. Freberg was more of a satirist who did song parodies, but the bulk of his "talking" routines were co-written by, and co-starred, Daws Butler. Butler also teamed up again with Freberg and cartoon actress June Foray in a short-lived network radio series, The Stan Freberg Show, which ran from July to October 1957 on the CBS Radio Network. Freberg's box-set, Tip of the Freberg (Rhino Entertainment, 1999) chronicles every aspect of Freberg's career except the cartoon voice-over work, and it showcases his career with Daws Butler.
In 1957, MGM closed their animation division, and producers William Hanna and Joseph Barbera found themselves unemployed. They quickly formed their own company, and Daws Butler and Don Messick were on-hand to provide voices. The first, The Ruff & Reddy Show, set the formula for the rest of the series of cartoons that the two would helm until the mid 1960s.
The characters with voices by Butler from 1957 to 1978 included:
- "Bring 'Em Back Alive" Clive
- Aesop's Son (in the "Aesop and Son" segment of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show)
- Fibber Fox and Alfy Gator (of Yakky Doodle)
- Ali Gator (in two Lantz theatrical shorts)
- Augie Doggie
- Baba Looey (from Quick Draw McGraw)
- Barney Rubble (from The Flintstones) (1961; season two episodes 1, 2, 5, 6, and 9 only)
- Big Gruesome
- Bingo (of Banana Splits)
- Brutus the Lion (of The Roman Holidays)
- Cap'n Crunch
- Captain Skyhook (of The Space Kidettes)
- Chilly Willy
- Colonel Pot Shot
- Dixie Mouse (of Pixie and Dixie)
- Elroy Jetson
- Fibber Fox (of Yakky Doodle)
- Gabby Gator (of Woody Woodpecker)
- Gelationous Giant from The Phantom Tollbooth
- Gooney the "Gooney Bird" Albatross
- Hair Bear (of Help!... It's the Hair Bear Bunch)
- Henry Orbit
- Hokey Wolf
- Huckleberry Hound
- Hustle (of The CB Bears)
- Jonathan Wellington "Mudsy" Muddlemore (of The Funky Phantom)
- Karlos K. Krinkelbein (from the 1971 animated TV special version of The Cat in the Hat)
- Lambsy (of "It's the Wolf" on Cattanooga Cats)
- Lippy the Lion
- Loopy De Loop
- Maxie the Polar Bear
- Mr. Jinks (of Pixie and Dixie)
- Peter Perfect
- Peter Potamus
- Quick Draw McGraw
- Raggedy Andy (in "The Great Santa Claus Caper (1978)")
- Red Max
- Reddy the dog (from The Ruff & Reddy Show)
- Rock Slag
- Rufus Ruffcut
- Senses Taker from The Phantom Tollbooth
- Sgt. Blast
- Smedley the dog (from the Chilly Willy cartoons)
- Super Snooper and Blabber Mouse
- Stick and Duke (of Posse Impossible)
- Undercover Elephant
- Terrible Trivium from The Phantom Tollbooth
- Whether Man from The Phantom Tollbooth
- Wally Gator
- Wimpy (from The All-New Popeye Hour)
- Wolf (from the Droopy cartoons)
- Yahooey (from Yippee, Yappee and Yahooey)
- Yogi Bear
Butler would voice most of these characters for many decades, in both TV shows and in some commercials. The breakfast cereal mascot Cap'n Crunch became an icon of sorts on Saturday morning TV through many commercials produced by Jay Ward. Butler gave voice to the Cap'n from the 1960s to the 1980s. He based the voice on that of character actor Charles Butterworth. In the 1970s he was the voice of "Hair Bear" and a few characters in minor cartoons such as C.B. Bears. On Wacky Races, Butler provided the voices for a number of the racers, notably Rock Slag, Big Gruesome, the Red Max, Sgt. Blast, Peter Perfect, and Rufus Ruffcut. On Laff-a-Lympics, Butler was virtually the entire "Yogi Yahooey" team. He voiced a penguin and a turtle in the movie Mary Poppins, his only known film work for Disney. Along with Stan Freberg, Paul Frees and June Foray, Butler also provided voices for countless children's records featuring recreations of several successful Disney cartoons and films.
Butler based some of his voices on popular celebrities of the day. Yogi Bear began as an Art Carney impression; Butler had done a similar voice in several of Robert McKimson's films at Warner Brothers and Stan Freberg's comedy record "The Honey-Earthers." However, Butler soon changed Yogi's voice, making it much deeper and more sing-songy, thus making it a more original voice. Hokey Wolf began as an impression of Phil Silvers, and Snagglepuss as Bert Lahr. In fact, when Snagglepuss began appearing in commercials for Kellogg's Cocoa Krispies in 1961, Lahr threatened to sue Butler for "stealing" his voice. To appease him, Butler was given screen credit at the end of those commercials, making him the only voice actor ever to receive one in an animated TV commercial. Again, Butler redesigned these voices, making them his own inventions. Huckleberry Hound was inspired many years earlier, in 1945, by the North Carolina neighbor of Daws's wife's family, and he had in fact been using that voice for a long time, for Avery's laid-back wolf and Lantz's Smedley.
When Mel Blanc was recovering from a motor vehicle accident, Butler stepped in to provide the voice of Barney Rubble (another rather Carney-esque voice) in four episodes of Flintstones. Butler remained somewhat low-key in the 1970s and 1980s, until a 1985 revival of The Jetsons. In 1975, Butler began an acting workshop that spawned such talents as Nancy Cartwright (The Simpsons), Corey Burton (Old Navy, Disney), and Joe Bevilacqua (NPR).
In the year of his death, The Good, the Bad, and Huckleberry Hound was released, a tour-de-force featuring most of his classic early characters.
Personal life and death
He was married to Myrtis Martin from the 1940s to 1988, whom he had met and married while he was in the United States Navy during World War 2. They had four sons, David Butler, Don Butler, Paul Butler, Charles Butler. Butler died from a heart attack on May 18, 1988. Being a Roman Catholic, he was buried in Culver City's Holy Cross Cemetery. Many of his roles were assumed by Greg Burson, who had personally studied with Butler for years.
- The video Daws Butler: Voice Magician is a 1987 documentary of Butler's career from his pre-MGM days on up through his teaming with Freberg in 1949 and the teaming with Don Messick in 1957. It was originally seen as a PBS pledge-drive special.
- Former Butler protege Joe Bevilacqua used to host a radio series on XM Satellite Radio's Sonic Theater Channel called The Comedy-O-Rama Hour which features a regular segment called What the Butler Wrote: Scenes from the Daws Butler Workshop with rare scripts of Daws performed by his students, including Nancy Cartwright, and rare recordings of Daws himself. Bevilacqua has also co-authored (with Ben Ohmart) the authorized biography book Daws Butler, Characters Actor, and edited the book Scenes for Actors and Voices written by Daws Butler, both published by Bear Manor Media.
-  A rare dramatic role by Butler as Toby Dammit in Poe's story Never Bet the Devil Your Head
- The Official Daws Butler Website
- Comedy-O-Rama and Scenes From the Daws Butler Workshop
- Daws Butler at the Internet Movie Database
- Daws Butler at Find a Grave