Ahh, yes the wild and wacky world of cartoon voice overs. In the words of Rodney Dangerfield, they get no respect. They may do thousands of voices in their career, acting on screen using only their larynx and a silly accent to the best of their abilities, and get left out in the cold when it's time to remember the greats. Daws Butler is one such name.
Charles Dawson Butler was born November 16, 1916 in Toledo, Ohio. After a few moves, the family settled in Chicago during the Great Depression. He wanted to be a cartoonist, sketching day and night throughout his childhood. He also spent a lot of time writing jokes, and eventually started working as an amateur at a few clubs in the town. He became most famous for his dead-on impression of then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
He continued to work in clubs, eventually joining a three-many comedy troupe "The Three Short Waves." Early in 1940, Daws joined the Navy Reserve, hoping to make an easy pay. This was not to be. World War II saw Daws forced into several months of active duty, training along the West Coast, where he spent his nights entertaining his troops with his now growing repertoire of impersonations.
After the war, his talent was put to good use by Bob Clampett, who was producing puppet shows in Los Angeles for a rather novel invention at the time, television. Soon, he was also doing work for MGM's animation studio, providing the voice of the lovable Droopy's nemesis the wolf.
His big break finally came when William Hanna of Hanna-Barbera tapped him and fellow voiceover artist Don Messick to helm the voices for their new studio. Butler's first job was as Reddy on the classic TV short "Ruff and Reddy." He was also cast as Pixie and Mr. Jinks on the "Pixie and Dixie" shorts that ran alongside "Ruff and Reddy." However, his biggest roles would only come when Hanna-Barbera moved full-time into the foray of television.
Needing characters to flesh out a 30 minute variety show, Hanna and Barbera sat down with Butler and Messick and asked them for voices. Butler, the natural writer and cartoonist, had already envisioned several characters and jumped at the opportunity. Within two hours, he had invented some of the most beloved characters in cartoon history: Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss, Wally Gator, Peter Potamus, Augie Doggie, Hokey Wolf, Super Snooper and his sidekick Blabbermouse all saw the light of day. All of the shows were quickly brought to air time, and Butler made sure his best friend Messick received plenty of on-screen time as sidekicks and nemeses.
Voicing these legends alone would secure his name in the annals of cartoons forever, but Butler also spent time working in commercials. Some of his shorter roles include:
In 1962, Butler was handed the role of Elroy Jetson on "The Jetsons." He also provided the voice of the title character in "The Funky Phantom" (a rather suspect imitation of Snagglepuss) and Scooby Dum, Scooby-Doo's dim-witted cousin, for several episodes of "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?"
Butler also worked at Jay Ward's studios during the heyday of "Rocky and Bullwinkle" and their compatriots. He most notably portrayed Aesop and Aesop, Jr. and the majority of the voices of "Fractured Fairy Tales". It cannot be emphasized enough that at both this studio and Hanna-Barbera, Butler provided hundreds of minor characters on virtually every show the studios produced. From villains on "Super Chicken" to animals on "George Of The Jungle", his uncredited roles are virtually endless. Daws also appeared on a number of Walter Lantz's cartoons, primarily giving voice to the lovable penguin Chilly Willy.
Daws continued working into the 1970s and 80s, giving life to characters in Chuck Jones's underrated classic "The Phantom Tollbooth" and continuing to recreate all of his characters in a number of television films, holiday specials, and the occasional theatrical release.
Sadly, Daws Butler passed away May 18, 1988 of a heart attack. He was 72 years old. His characters were eventually inherited by other talented actors, but they will always be his first. You can catch virtually all of Daws's on-screen characters on Cartoon Network.