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The man behind the duck:

An interview with Joe Alaskey, current voice artist of Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Tweety, and countless others. 

-by Matthew Hunter and Joe Alaskey


Thanks very much to Mr. Alaskey for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about himself and his work!

1.  MH: How did you get your start in voice acting, and how did you become the official
      voice for Daffy, Sylvester, Tweety, etc.? I know you worked a lot on "Tiny Toon Adventures. Can you tell me about that?

JA: No fair! This is three questions!
Humble animation giant Bill Scott (Look him up, kids!) brought me to Hollywood in 1985. Before that, I was a successful stand-up impressionist and worked on a Boston radio morning show. Bill (and June Foray) was a guest on that show. He promised to help me get started, and by golly, he was a man of his word!

Friz Freleng scouted me by proxy around the same time. He gave me a lengthy phone critique of the WB characters I was doing in my act. By '88 I did my first role, alongside Mel Blanc, as Yosemite Sam in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit".

Can I tell you about "Tiny Toons"? Yes... Oh, okay. How was I cast as Plucky? Well, first of all, they wanted to call him "Mucky", believe it or not. And they asked me to "make him like Daffy, only different". Somehow, I deciphered this direction correctly and got the job. I helped select the name-change by expounding that it sounded (a) more heroic; (b) more euphonious, and (c) funnier, like a duck who would probably be unlucky enough to get plucked someday.

2.MH: Who is your favorite character in Warner Bros. cartoons, vintage or otherwise?

JA: Vintage AND otherwise is fairer, no? Daffy. Plucky. I'd be a darnfool human to suggest otherwise.

3. MH: What is your favorite Warner Bros. classic short?

JA: There are too many to really choose one, of course, but one of them might be "Chow Hound" for its very rare, very dark humor.

4. MH:  What was your favorite project to work on in your career?

JA: The best time I ever had in a recording session was what later was called "Night Ghoulery" for TTA. (Its working title was "The Tiny Toons Halloween Special".) And it was the last work (aside from games and commercials) I've done as Plucky. Nice to go out with a bang!


5. MH:  Who is your favorite classic Warner cartoon director? Favorite cartoon that person directed?

JA: Chuck Jones... "The Scarlet Pumpernickle". (I hope you meant MY favorite; I forget what his was.)

6. MH: Did you ever meet Mel Blanc? What do you think of his work?

JA: Sure did!! "Roger Rabbit", remember?
Eh... it's a living...

7.MH:  Do you have a list of Looney Tunes characters you have voiced over the
years? Which one has been your favorite to do? My favorite of your voices is
Sylvester, it sounds extremely close to the original, in fact I think there are some
aspects of it that are better.

JA: Another multiple question!
I lost track, like the great Mel. But I can tell you I'm the only voice actor in the current WB casting pool who's done all the famous ones (about fifteen or so) at one time or another.
We did "my favorite" already! But thanks for the "catty" compliment.

8.MH:  Are you currently working on any future projects? For example, I have
read about a new "Duck Dodgers" series being produced, based on the classic
Chuck Jones film. Will you be voicing that? Please say yes?

JA: No, I'm not working on any future projects, but I am working on some current ones. (Just try to figure that one out.)
I hope to be voicing a "Duck Dodgers" series -- but I haven't been asked yet. (Must be one of those "future projects", eager young space cadet!)

9.MH: When you do voices for a series like Tiny Toons, Sylvester and Tweety
Mysteries, or Looney Tunes Online, how does a typical session work? Is it
different with each project you do?

JA: Second part first:  A voice-over session is pretty much standard, WB included.
First part second: The cast is sent a script and/or storyboards in advance, usually. Then we do our homework (or not). Then a date and time are scheduled. Then we show up and Andrea Romano or some other very skilled Voice Director gets our best work out of us. I like to concentrate on what I'm doing while at work in front of a mic. Other actors like to socialize more (the ones who skipped their homework, usually. Sorry! No names! You think I'm a snitch?!).

10. MH: Have you done any non-Warner work recently?

JA: Well, let's see... I play "Grandpa Lou" on "Rugrats" (but not lately), and I'm the new voice of Toon Disney. The latter keeps me especially busy.
But if I were a movie star, of course, I'd be working even more!

11.MH: Concerning the market for new WB cartoon shorts in theaters...what do
you think about that? Are theater owners still against paying for them
individually, after that mentality killed the theatrical cartoon in general
in the late 1960's?

JA: Let's wait and see what develops! The theatrical short may still be a viable vehicle!

12.MH:  I have seen the Sylvester and Tweety movie, "High Flying Adventure". I
liked it, and I thought your voices were top-notch. How did you feel about
this project?

JA: Almost like a movie star. Or should I say a "direct-to-video" star? I loved the songs.

13. MH: When I interviewed Bob Bergen a while back, he mentioned working on a
5-minute pilot for a new, 'modern' series of Looney Tunes for TV. Have you
had any involvement in that, or do you know more about it?

JA: Nope... But that was a little over a year ago, I think, before the changing of the guard in the executive department. There's been a whole new slate of project ideas since then, but no official word on anything yet from the new powers-that-be, despite what rumors you may hear.

14.MH:  I have read that when Mel Blanc did the voice of Daffy Duck, he was
doing Sylvester, then had someone speed up the voice for the distinguishing
effect. Is it the same with your Daffy, or do you just do each one in a
different voice octave?

JA: It's been a little of both. But lately, I've been working more like Mel (as you described), rather than try to imitate the mechanical speeding process. It pays to do one's homework. (I have my own vari-speed recorder at home now.

15. MH: Anything else you'd like your public to know about you or your job?
Anything else you'd like to say about anything?

JA: Okay, here are a few odds-and-ends:

I have a mustache now.

I usually sit when I work.

I sing every day to keep the larynx supple.

I'm working out and losing weight. The slow, permanent way, hopefully.

I used to have a parakeet but all it did was bite people's fingers and say: "I hate all humans! Awwkk!". I didn't even have it long enough to find out what gender it was. And it flew away the first time the cage door and window were open at the same time. I haven't had a pet since. I loved it too much.

I'm almost completely right-brained.

And I hate interviews. (Reading them, not giving them!)

- jfa

That's All, Folks!