Top 10 Male Voice Actors: Pre-1980s

Both in recording podcasts for GeekCastRadio's "Tooncast" and in adding content to the site here at Behind the Voice Actors, I noticed that certain names kept popping up over and over again in show credits. I also noticed that many 'top-ten' lists on the internet are either completely biased towards a person's favorite characters or even one particular show. (One top fifty list I saw had basically every voice actor that ever worked on the Simpsons) Thus, I started a 'monumental' task of coming up with Top Ten lists for voice actors in certain time periods. I was curious as to who the most prominent actors have been throughout our history. (What do you expect, I was a History Major). That being said, this is the first of six, Top Ten lists I will be adding to the site. Each list will be dedicated to either male or female voice actors in three different time periods (Pre-1980s, 1980s & 1990s). To lay some groundwork before we get to the list let me explain a few things.

First, this IS NOT a list of my favorite voice actors or a list of voice actors who voiced my favorite characters. This is a list of the most PROMINENT voice actors. What I mean by that, is that this list is dedicated to those voice actors whose entire body of work puts them head and shoulders above everyone else. For example, Larry Kenney voiced one of the most popular characters in the 80s, Lion-O from Thundercats. However, since he had literally fewer than a dozen voice credits to his name, he will not appear on any of the lists that you see here.

Movies, Commercial Voices, and Cartoons (of course) were the main things considered when compiling this list. I started by going through and making a list of every notable character in cartoon history. I then proceeded to fill in the voice actors for all of those characters and began cross referencing to see whose names showed up the most. From there I compiled a list of about 20-30 voice actors for each time period and for male and female. Next, I took an in depth look at each of those 20-30 voice actors entire filmography/career. Finally, having all of the data and credits in front of me for each of the finalists, I began to select who would make the Top Ten and at which rank they would fall in.

Two things helped each voice actor more than anything else. First, the total number of credits they had, and second, the total number of major credits they had. It should be noted that, since most voice actors work is not confined to the time periods I have created for these lists it was necessary to determine which time period each actor did their finest work. For example, Frank Welker has done notable voices from all three time periods, but no one can argue that his most notable work was done in the 1980s, so that is the list he would qualify for. Also, I would like to mention that I did leave the possibility for future lists open, like Top Ten of the 2000s. You will probably notice quite a few names that you may assume would have made the 1990s lists but since they really have done more work in the 2000s I left them off just in case myself, or someone else wants to do that list in the future.

For each list I will also mention a few Honorable Mentions for people I feel deserve to be mentioned in the discussion either because they just missed making the list themselves, or because they voiced an iconic character during their time period. So, for the Male Voice Actors Pre-1980s here are your

Honorable Mentions:

Casey Kasem:
The iconic voice of Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, Robin from many of the Superfriends cartoons, as well as Cliffjumper and Teletraan-1 from the Transformers. Kasem of course has one of the most recognizeable voices in history. However, since he has only really voiced a handful of memorable cartoon characters, most of which he used the same voice for, he missed earning a spot in the Top-Ten.

Alan Melvin
: The memorable voice of Bluto from the New Adventures of Popeye and Magilla Gorilla among others.

Henry Corden
: The unmistakeable voice of Fred Flinstone who also lent his deep voice to Ookla the Mok and Gemini from Thundarr the Barbarian as well as Paw Rugg and Bez from the Banana Splits Adventure Hour.

Dayton Allen
: Mr. Bungle from Winky Dink and You was probably his most notable work but he also voiced Deputy Dawg, Heckle & Jeckle, Cleo the Giraffe, Astronut, & Lariat Sam. And now the

Top 10 Male Voice Actors: Pre-1980s
By OptimusSolo on Tue Feb 16 2010, 11 Comments, Add Comment


Lennie Weinrib

Iconic Role: H. R. Pufnstuf

Weinrib's most famous role is as the title character in H.R. Pufnstuf but his voice acting career also saw him lending his skills to Roland and Ratfink (cartoon shorts), Sam Scurvy in Doctor Dolittle, Moonrock on the Flinstones Comedy Hour, the secretary bird and lion from Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Stanley from the Amazing Chan & the Chan Clan, Gomez Addams from the Addams Family, Hi-Riser from Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch, Chet Boyle from Wait till Your Father gets Home, Comissioner Gordon, Joker, Penguin, and Mr. Freeze from The New Adventures of Batman, Hunk & Prince Lotor from Voltron, the ORIGINAL Scrappy-Doo, and Zorlock from the Adventures of the Gummi Bears just to name a few!

Even though, Weinrib may not have the major roles that some of the other voice actors had that were mentioned in the Honorable Mention portion above, it was the number of shows he appeared in over the decades that just could not be ignored.

Hal Smith

Iconic Role: Goofy

Smith is most known as the town drunk on the Andy Griffith Show. However, one must look past his live-action roles to see the true beauty in this artist. Smith's most noteable voice work came when he took over roles for actors that had passed on. He took over the character of Goofy from Pinto Colvig after his death as well as the character of Elmer Fudd after Arthur Q. Bryan died. He also took over the role of Owl from Sterling Holloway in the 80s.

Other notable work in the 80s included both the nemesis Flintheart Glomgold and the absent minded Gyro Gearloose in Disney's Ducktales. Although not with main roles, he also voiced characters in Yogi Bear, Clutch Cargo, The Flinstones, Hong Kong Phooey, Casper, Kwicky Koala, Smurfs, and Pole Position among others.

John Stephenson

Iconic Role: Mr. Nate Slate

From 1953 to 2006, very few voice actors can stack up the resume that John Stephenson can in shear number of roles. Influenced by the likes of Joe Flynn, Boris Karloff, Jimmy Durante & Paul Lynde, Stephenson used what some would call, a limited range, to bring a half dozen voices to many characters throughout the decades. Early, on in his career he gravitated towards narrating roles in Atom Ant, Dragnet 1967 and Hanna-Barbera's first television cartoon, Ruff & Reddy.

He also seemed to be a favorite choice of Hanna-Barbera for multiple villains on the Scooby-Doo cartoons. His most famous early work though, was as Mr.Nate Slate, Fred's boss, on the Flinstones. Other notable roles include but are not limited to Fariik and Bakaar in the Banana Splits Adventure Hour, Fancy-Fancy in Top Cat, Dr. Benton Quest in Jonny Quest, Doggie Daddy and Hardy Har Har from Hanna-Barbera fame.

Stephenson although most prominent for his work with Hanna-Barbera early on, he continued to voice characters throughout the 80s and 90s as well. He voiced Chief Quimby at one point on Inspector Gadget, a variety of characters on Transformers, including Huffer, Thundercracker, Windcharger, Alpha Trion, & Kup. He voiced the character of Beef Bonk on Galaxy High School, Jack Bennet from Bionic-Six, and a variety of characters on G.I. Joe. No one can argue that Mr. John Stephenson has more than earned his spot on our list!

Paul Winchell

Iconic Role: Tigger

Winchell truly is a man of MANY MANY talents. From his storied past as a ventriloquist to his patented inventions, including the artificial heart, Winchell definitely left his mark on the world. In fact, he literally has a mark on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Winchell did not begin doing voice-over work until much later in his career but it didnt take long for him to make his mark, usually with Hanna-Barbera and Disney features. He even won a Grammy in relation to his work as Tigger in Winnie the Pooh. Besides Tigger, Winchell also voiced, Dick Dastardly from Dasterdly & Muttley, Bubi Bear from the Hair Bear Bunch, Goober from Goober and the Ghost Chasers, Revs from Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch, and Woofer from Clue Club. Although many times gone without notice he also was Sam-I-Am in Green Eggs & Ham as well as the Owl from the famous Tootsie Pop commercials.

Not limited to cartoons and commercials, Winchell also appeared in a number of Disney films including the roles of Shun Gon in the Aristocats and Boomer in the Fox & The Hound. His later work included, Zummi Gummi from Disneys the Adventures of the Gummi Bears and Marmaduke from the Heathcliff show. My favorite role from Winchell was his portrayal of Gargamel on the classic Smurfs cartoon. Unfortunately, like many of the actors on this list, Winchell is no longer with us, 'Tigger' ironically passed one day after 'Piglet' (John Fielder) in 2005. Not only, will Winchell live on in the many voices he gave us over the year, but his daughter April Winchell has carried on his notable voice work in a career of her own.

Dallas McKennon

Iconic Role: Gumby

Dallas McKennon was everywhere in the early decades of television and film. McKennon's commercial resume is unrivaled by anyone on this list as is his work in Disney Films. However, he also did more than his share of cartoon voices. For Disney he not only lent his voice but often times his singing skills to such movies as Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and 101 Dalmations.

For cartoons he was most known for his work as Gumby and Pokey from the Gumby Show, Inspector Willoughby, Tintin, Dapper Denver Dooley and the Smokey Bear from a variety of cartoon shorts, Q.T. Hush from the series of the same name, Archie Andrews and Mr. Weatherbee from the Archie Show, and Buzz Buzzard from Woody the Woodpecker shorts.

Jim Henson

Iconic Role: Kermit The Frog

A lot of times people forget about Jim Henson when debating the best voice actors in history. That crime will not be made on this list. Had Henson done any amount of work outside of the Muppets, he may have topped our list. That being said his life-long dedicated to the Muppets is easily more than enough for him to make our Top Five. While most recognize his name as the creator of the legendary Muppets, I would venture to say that many are not aware of his actual voice work on the show. Henson IS the voice of Kermit The Frog, Rowlf the Dog , Ernie (you know from Burt and Ernie), The Swedish Chef, Guy Smiley, Waldorf, and Dr. Teeth among others.

Nothing else should really need to be said about Mr. Henson. But, just in case anything else is needed, he is one of only two people (the other tops our list) to not only be honored on the Hollywood Walk of Fame but to also have one of his characters also honored...Kermit the Frog.

Paul Frees

Iconic Role: Boris Badenov

Anyone who has ever been to Disneyland knows Paul Frees's voice, even if they don't know they know it. Named a Disney Legend posthumously in 2006, Frees's voice could be heard in the Haunted Mansion, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and many other Disneyland attractions. He also narrated numerous Disney projects and was THE Professor Ludwig Von Drake in the Disney anthology series.

Disney was not the only company Frees lent his vocal skills to though which was often unheard of in this era. While most voice actors worked with only one or two studios at the most, Frees provided his skills to at least nine major production studios. SOME of his other notable roles include Boris Badenov from Rocky and Bullwinkle, Go Go Gomez from the Dick Tracy Show, Judge Clutch from Calvin and the Colonel, Snuffy Smith & Barney Google, Ignatz Mouse and Office Pupp from Krazy Kat, the Narrator from Hoppity Hooper, John Lennon and George Harrison from the Beatles Cartoon, and The Thing, The Watcher & Benjamin Grimm from Fantastic Four. He also did numerous narrating roles for live-action shows and projects. Heck, he even voiced K.A.R.R. from the original Knight Rider series.

And we aren't even close to being done yet! Frees also did a tremendous amount of work for Rankin-Bass, especially in their christmas specials. He was the traffic cop, ticket taker and Santa Claus in 1969s Frosty the Snowman, Burgermeister Meisterburger and Grimsby in Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, the Father of the Drummer Boy, Ali and the Three Wise Men in the Little Drummer Boy, Eon the Terrible in Rudolph's Shiny New Year, and Mabruk in the Last Unicorn.

If none of that was enough, his commercial credits include the Little Green Sprout from Jolly Green Giant, Boo-Berry, Toucan Sam and The Pillsbury Doughboy. It is safe to say that no one can argue about this man's spot on the list.

Don Messick

Iconic Role: Scooby-Doo

Not to say that some of the names on the list previously don't also deserve this 'title' but the next the top three names on our list are regarded by just about everyone that knows anything about anything as 'Voice Legends'. Perhaps, the hardest part about making this entire list was trying to decide in what order these three would appear. Rather than try to justify why one ranks above the other, I will simply give you the highlights of each and let you decide if I got it right or not.

Most people know Don Messick as the voice of Scooby-Doo, but perhaps you are not aware of some of the other roles Mr. Messick portrayed. Messick's first voice role came thanks to fellow voice actor Daws Butler who suggested Messick to Tex Avery for his character Droopy Dog. He often teamed up with Butler throughout the rest of his career which can be seen in the Hanna-Barbera's pioneering venture Ruff & Reddy in which Messick voiced Ruff and Butler voiced Reddy. For most of his time at Hanna-Barbera Messick acted as Butler's sidekick in a number of cartoons. Some of these roles included, Ranger Smith and Boo-Boo Bear in The Yogi Bear Show, Pixie Mouse in PIxie & Dixie, and Muttley in Dastardly and Muttley. He also narrated many early Hanna-Barbera shows including Yogi Bear and Hong Kong Phooey.

Eventually Messick would gain his spot as the lead in such cartoons as Ricochet Rabbit and of course, Scooby-Doo. His longevity as a voice actor can easily be seen when you look at some of his other notable roles; Astro from the Jetsons, Dr. Benton Quest from Jonny Quest and Bamm-Bamm from the Flinstones in the 1960s, Squiddly Diddly, Atom Ant and Scarecrow from the Superfriends in the 1970s, Papa Smurf from the Smurfs, Scrappy-Doo, and Gears, Ratchet, and Scavenger from the Transformers in the 1980s and finally Hamton J. Pig from the Tiny Toon Adventures and a reprisal of Droopy in the 1990s.

In fact, Messick was such a dedicated Voice Artist that it was in a recording studio that he suffered a stroke that would lead to his unfortunate death.

Daws Butler

Iconic Role: Yogi Bear

The mentor and life-long friend of Don Messick, Daws Butler was every bit of a 'Voice Legend' in his own right. While Messick usually portrayed the sidekick in the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons, it was was Butler who was the star of the show. A few of those lead characters included, Reddy from Ruff and Reddy, Huckleberry Hound, Quickdraw McGraw, Snagglepuss, Augie Daddy, Dixie Mouse from Pixie and Dixie, Hokey Wolf, and Yogi Bear. Other famous roles included Baba Looey (and almost every other character) from Quickdraw McGraw, Chilly Willy, Wally Gator, Elroy Jetson from the Jetsons, Hair Bear from the show of the same title, Lippy the Lion, Mr. Jinks from Pixie and Dixie, Peter Potamus, Super Snooper and Blabber Mouse, Wimpy from the All-New Popeye Hour, and Yahooey from Yippee, Yappee, and Yahooey.

We also have all heard his voice as the iconic Cap'n Crunch. Perhaps even greater than his own voice work however has been his mentoring and training of such other great voice actors as, Corey Burton, Nancy Cartwright, Joe Bevilacqua.

Mel Blanc

Iconic Role: Bugs Bunny

Known by many as the 'MAN of a Thousand Voices', Mel Blanc was the famous voice of just about every Looney Tunes character ever made. Ok, so let's get this out of the way right off the top, Blanc was the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester the Cat, Tweety Bird, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, and Wile E. Coyote. It is safe to say that just about everyone who ever turned on a TV in America has probably heard his voice. That alone though was not enough to elevate Blanc to the top of our list. Just as Blanc made Warner Brothers famous, Daws Butler did the same at Hanna-Barbera. Blanc's work goes past just the famous Looney Tunes characters though. He was also the voice of Woody the Woodpecker until contractual obligations with Warner Brothers kept him from carrying on the role. Most of his other work was done for Hanna-Barbera. While there he voiced Barney Rubble from the Flinstones, Mr. Spacely from the Jetsons, and many others. He actually was the first person to voice Toucan Sam but was later replaced by Paul Frees. His final voice work came as the famous orange cat, Heathcliff.

Like Jim Henson, both Blanc and one of his characters, Bugs Bunny, have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Mel Blanc was very conscious of his vocal abilities and when seeking a raise from Warner Brothers ended up instead getting exclusive on-screen credit for his work while at the studio. This stipulation in his contract is the reason he seems to have done many more voices than most people of his era, although it is safe to say that some of his uncredited co-stars, like June Foray, actually outdid Blanc in total number of credits. That being said, Mel Blanc has endured, just like his six decade stint as a radio star, as the standard that most voice actors strive to achieve, and for that Mel Blanc is the Most Prominent Male Voice Actor of his era!

So, what do you all think? Where did I get it right and where did I go so awfully wrong? Did I forget a major male voice actor of the era in question, or at least your favorite? Can you truly change the self proclaimed, Expert's mind?

This was The, er, I mean My Top Ten...What's yours?


Add a Comment

OptimusSolo (Admin)
said at 12:15 PM on Sun May 23 2010
No, I Honestly don't think he warranted an honorable mention when compared to those that I did give one too...
said at 8:46 PM on Wed Aug 15 2012
@OptimusSolo What about Jack Mercer, the voice of Popeye?
OptimusSolo (Admin)
said at 1:41 AM on Thu Aug 16 2012
@RNB He was great as well. I plan on doing a "Top 10 from the Theatrical Shorts Era" or something to that effect, and Mercer will no doubt be on that list!
said at 1:25 PM on Thu Aug 16 2012
@OptimusSolo Ok. Great!
OptimusSolo (Admin)
said at 12:06 PM on Mon Mar 1 2010
Interesting, I did not know that - thanks for the info @jonhardwick
OptimusSolo (Admin)
said at 9:29 PM on Thu Feb 25 2010
Agreed, those two do deserve a mention, NOT a spot in the Top 10 to be clear, but a mention none the less!
said at 6:39 PM on Tue Feb 23 2010
 2 Shout Outs!
I have two more honorable mentions:

Bud Collyer (Superman)

Olan Soule (Batman)
Foxwolf (Admin)
said at 1:03 PM on Tue Feb 23 2010
no one else but Mel Blanc deserves to be in top spot.

he brought to life basically all the major Looney Tunes players.
Jackson_H (Admin)
said at 12:35 PM on Tue Feb 23 2010
I'm not very knowledge about voice actors pre 90s but I definitely recognize some of the voices of the characters a lot of these men played.

Mel Blanc, Jim Henson and Paul Winchell definitely played some iconic characters.
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Which do you think should be in the #1 spot?
Mel Blanc
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Don Messick
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Dallas McKennon
Paul Winchell
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