Remember that zany cartoon about the Warner Brothers and the Warner sister? (she was the cute one). Not only do I remember it, but I still think Animaniacs is one of the greatest cartoons ever created. I even quote it on a regular basis and occasionally sing “Yakko’s World” for my friends (whether they want me to or not.)
Since I’m such a fan of the show, you can easily imagine my delight when I recently had the opportunity to meet Rob Paulsen at his Rob Paulsen Live seminar in Atlanta, Georgia. You may not know his name or his face, but you certainly know his voice. From Animaniacs, he is Yakko Warner, Pinky, and Dr. Scratch ‘n’ Sniff. He is also Carl Wheezer from the Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Raphael from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, and a myriad of other characters, including some from G.I. Joe and the Snorks. A much more comprehensive list can be found at his IMDB page here.
Mr. Paulsen’s career has spanned nearly 30 years, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet him. When I arrived at the seminar, he walked right up to me and introduced himself, and he was extremely friendly and down-to-earth. He greeted everyone as they entered and referred to them by name when they asked questions. By splitting his seminar into two sessions, he was able to keep the groups small, and the result was a more intimate gathering with an open discussion and a very relaxed atmosphere. He explained that his goal was to have a more interactive event rather than merely standing in front of the room and talking.
Mr. Paulsen began the event by recounting some of his history and how he got into voice acting. He grew up in Michigan and initially dreamed of becoming a hockey player. When he realized that hockey wasn’t in the cards, At the age of nineteen, he moved to Los Angeles to join a theater company. He lived there for about a year before moving back to Michigan and joining a rock and roll cover band. After about two years of singing, he moved back to California and returned to acting. He found a gig on a cable access show and signed with an agent. Commercial work followed, as well as appearances on MacGyver and St. Elsewhere.
When the voice acting jobs became more and more numerous (to the point that they conflicted with acting auditions), he made a decision to focus solely on voice acting. He was hired for Haji on Johnny Quest and had roles on Transformers, Smurfs, Gummi Bears, Darkwing Duck, Talespin . . . the list goes on and on.
A highlight in his career came when he won a Daytime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program” for Pinky in Pinky and the Brain. He spoke of how he forgot to think Maurice LaMarche (the voice of The Brain) in his speech and had to call him afterwards, and how the one and only Mr. Rogers congratulated him personally after his win. He also added that Andrea Romano, the casting director of Animaniacs, has so many Emmys that she “dresses them in Barbie clothes.” (I wasn’t sure if he was being serious or not).
Below is some video of him saying some of Pinky’s best lines:
Without a doubt, the best moment came when I asked Mr. Paulsen how long it took him to learn the song “Yakko’s World,” in which Yakko Warner sings the names of the countries while pointing at them on a map. He answered with some history of the song, saying that songwriter Randy Rogel was helping his child with geography and realized there was a song to be found there. Mr. Paulsen received the song, had a week to rehearse it, and it only took two takes (and they used the first one). He then asked if we’d like for him to perform it.
Here is the result:
One of his latest projects is to voice Donatello for the upcoming Nickelodeon version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The new version of the four turtles named after Renaissance artists will debut next year, and it will be CGI. Sean Astin and Jason Biggs are also turtles (Raphael and Leonardo, respectively.) Actor Greg Cipes takes on the role of Michaelangelo (the party dude!).
If you have the opportunity, I urge you to attend a Rob Paulsen Live seminar. Go if you’re a fan, if you want to know more about the voice acting business, or if you just want to be entertained. He was funny, genuine, and ever so willing to answer any questions. And, everyone who attends has the opportunity to speak with Mr. Paulsen one on one and receive a signed picture.
He will be in Dallas on September 17th, and tickets can be purchased at his website.