Two For the Price of One: Vance Colvig Junior and Senior
Pinto Colvig: Dean of Hollywood Voicemen
The sound of his voice is probably heard at least once a day in households with children across the world, but are they jumping up and shouting "Yes! That's Pinto Colvig!" No, and that's showbiz. -- Eugene Chadbourne, All Music Guide
The original Vance Colvig was more familiarly known as "Pinto," a childhood nickname he got from a face full of freckles. He launched his stage career at an early age: he and his brother Don had a song and dance act when Pinto was only thirteen. From there, he majored in music at college, played the clarinet occasionally to attract potential circus ticket-buyers (as well as playing with the college orchestra), worked as a circus clown every summer, joined a vaudeville act cartooning with chalk while performing monologues, played the clarinet in a clown band, and scraped by for several years doing illustrations for newspapers... all before he was twenty-five. (In fact, you can see one from 1912 at http://osulibrary.orst.edu/archives/exhibits/baseball/2ndbase.htm.)
In 1916, Pinto got married and got a job with the San Francisco Chronicle. In true Pinto Colvig fashion, he managed to keep that job, hold down a relationship, and still vibrate with creativity to the extent that he ended up opening his own animation studio: Pinto Cartoon Comedies. He just couldn't stop drawing. He couldn't be satisfied with just one creative outlet, either. After World War One ended, he moved to Hollywood, writing scripts and doing bit parts for famous director Mack Sennett.
As films began to break the sound barrier, Pinto worked with Walter Lantz (who would later create Woody Woodpecker) to produce "Bolivar, the Talking Ostrich," one of the first voiced cartoons. It was not a success, but it was the first step down a long road of hiccuping horses and singing pigs. Pinto Colvig specialized in cartoon voiceovers, and much as an actor can essentially create a character that has already been written, Pinto created many cartoon characters that had already been drawn. He created Goofy, Bluto, and Pluto.
According to Eugene Chadbourne, Goofy's voice features "the same soft, southern Oregon accent Colvig heard as a child growing up amongst the old miners and pioneers of Jacksonville, OR." Goofy was his favorite creation, combining as it did gentleness, humor, and the voices of his childhood.
Besides these vivid characters and occasional musical interludes, Pinto Colvig was a brilliant sound effects artist. He worked on Amos 'n' Andy, the Jack Benny Show, and many others, squealing, belching, barking, grunting, chirping, and even backfiring. If you've ever heard a cartoonish wolf whistling at an oversexed Little Red Riding Hood, it was probably Pinto Colvig.
Pinto made cartoon history again and again. Besides creating the aforementioned cartoon unforgettables, his work was featured in the world's first full-length animated feature, Snow White, in the roles of Sleepy and Grumpy. He co-wrote the song "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" in Disney's Three Little Pigs, which is stuck in my head at this very moment. He produced some of the first color cartoons ever made. Besides Mark Sennett and Walter Lantz, he worked closely with Walt Disney, Max Fleischer, Mel Blanc, and Tex Avery.
In 1946, Capitol Records asked him to change the world yet again. They wanted to combine books and records to make a new children's product where kids could read along with the story. They wanted Pinto Colvig to create Bozo the Clown.
Nobody had any idea that the first book/record set, Bozo at the Circus, would stay on the best-selling children's records list for 200 weeks. Bozo the Clown immediately and permanently became part of American children's culture. Pinto played Bozo as well as doing the voices of the entire circus menagerie, including a laughing hyena that sounds eerily like Goofy.
In 1949, Bozo became a TV show, with Pinto Colvig playing the clown -- part of the circus world once again, in a way. Capitol Records produced several sets of episodes, dropping Pinto from the lead role after the first year. Thanks to the heavy clown makeup, there could be infinitely many Bozos. Colvig returned to animation, directing the cartoon movie Gulliver's Travels and singing both of its theme songs: "All's Well" and "It's a Hap-Hap-Happy Day."
In 1967, Vance "Pinto" Colvig died of lung cancer. He lives on in the hearts of generations of children, however, and especially in The Southern Oregon Historical Society in Medford, which exhibits much of his work; the Jacksonville Children's Museum, which has a collection of his memorabilia and cartoons; and in the annals of Disney lore as a recipient of the Disney Legend Award in 1993.
And his name itself lived on, in....
Vance Colvig, Jr.: Wino to the Masses
Same name... same roles... same profession. People often get confused about which Vance Colvig played Bozo or did a particular voiceover, since generally the answer is "both." They even share a middle name: DeBar.
Vance Colvig, Jr. was born in San Francisco in 1918. He married Gini Arslanian, a strong and vibrant woman who dedicated her life to volunteer work. While she worked as an accessories buyer for I. Magnin, she became the first volunteer at the Hollywood Heritage Museum, and volunteered at the Motion Picture and Television Fund Auxiliary for twenty-five years -- among other places. There is much less biographical information available about her husband; the fans mentioning him, like those of his father, are interested in clowns and cartoons, and Vance Junior did not start doing cartoonish clowns until later in life.
He did, however, have a longer stint in the white pancake makeup and red nose than his father. Oddly enough, Vance picked up the Bozo the Clown role from 1959 through 1964, playing Bozo every weekday evening on Hollywood's KTTV. His version became the first franchised series of Bozo episodes. He branched out into other children's television roles, including Nutsy the Clown and Buck Sureshot. (Perhaps even more oddly, the Simpsons reference Nutsy. In one episode where Homer imagines a world without Krusty the Clown, Bart is watching Nutsy the Clown instead -- gently pointing up the fact that Krusty is a parody of the great line of kids' clowns that began with Bozo.)
During this daily clowning around, Vance also found time to voice the role of Chopper in the Hanna-Barbera cartoon series "Yakky Doodle." Yakky was a duck... a cute duck... a cute stupid duck who was in constant danger of getting eaten. The duck's main roles were in Tom and Jerry cartoons. At one point Yakky decided that Tom the ravenous cat was his mother, and this level of evolution-breaking idiocy characterized the duck when he got his own segment on the Yogi Bear show. Accordingly, the show's creators gave him a sidekick to keep him out of trouble: Chopper the bulldog.
Vance played Chopper between 1960 and 1962, as well as Bozo the Clown. Oh, and he also began working as the spokesperson for Los Angeles County Fairs, as well as a growing number of other organizations. But at this point his career diverges from his father's: He begins to devote his life to playing drunken bums.
Let's take a moment to review some of his later roles....
American Movie Classics
describes him as a "veteran character actor
In what may have been a tribute to his father, he did play at least one major role: he co-starred in an episode of Amazing Stories as "Vaudevillian #1." From what his fans describe of his career, however, the role that was most important to him may have simply been that of being Pinto Colvig's son.
Dual Bibliography Action!
An ode to a master: http://www.artistdirect.com/music/artist/bio/0,,521304,00.html?artist=Pinto+Colvig
A brief description of Pinto's Bozo work:
A partial resume of voiceover roles: http://voices.fuzzy.com/actor.idc?actor_id=821
A partial resume of the people with whom he worked: http://entertainment.msn.com/celebs/celeb.aspx?c=107611
About the Jacksonville museum: http://www.el.com/to/jacksonville/
A picture of Pinto Colvig: http://www.king5.com/travel/NW_100902EMBjacksonville.a2d9786f.html
A bit about his illustration work: http://osulibrary.orst.edu/archives/exhibits/baseball/2ndbase.htm
A rather sweet article about children's culture of the 1950s, mentioning Pinto's animation and Vance's Bozo work:
An outline of his roles in work and in life, including his nickname (see? I didn't make up that "Dean of Hollywood Voicemen" stuff!): http://us.imdb.com/Bio?Colvig,%20Pinto
A loving tribute to his wife Gini: http://www.hollywoodheritage.org/newsarchive/spring01/colvig.html
A summary of locally produced television programming in Los Angeles, touching on Vance's and Pinto's work as Bozo: http://www.angelfire.com/ca7/loyaltubist/Main.html
A partial resume of his film roles: http://movies.go.com/filmography/Filmography?person_id=210977
A partial resume of his television roles:
The Internet Movie Database's biography of Vance: http://us.imdb.com/Bio?Colvig%20Jr.,%20Vance
Pictures of Vance as Bozo: http://partigirl.www1.50megs.com/MoreHosts/Lostfound2.html
Information about Yakky Doodle: http://www.toonopedia.com/yakky.htm
The AMC mentions his character work: http://www.amctv.com/show/detail/0,,8488-1-EST,00.html
The Arsanian family website (Vance's in-laws!): http://arslanmb.org/arslanian/arslanian