18 July 2009

Dallas McKennon Dies

Excerpted from the LA Times:

Dallas McKennon, an exuberant character actor and voice actor who helped enliven Gumby, Archie Andrews, Buzz Buzzard and many other animated characters, has died. He was 89.

McKennon, who played the tavern keeper Cincinnatus on the 1960s TV series "Daniel Boone" and dozens of other codgers on film and television, died Tuesday of age-related causes at the Willapa Harbor Care Center in Raymond, Wash., according to his daughter Barbara Porter.

A tall, gangly actor with an unruly beard, McKennon was easily identifiable on-screen, but he could bend his voice in endless variations to bring personality to a host of sound roles. Stop-motion pioneer Art Clokey used McKennon for the high-pitched tones of the green animated clay figure Gumby, and Woody Woodpecker cartoon creator Walter Lantz chose McKennon for Woody's nemesis, Buzz Buzzard. McKennon also provided the teenager voice for Archie Andrews, and he recorded characters for the Walt Disney films "Lady and the Tramp," "Mary Poppins" and "101 Dalmatians," among others.

At Disney theme parks, McKennon's distinctive voice warns riders on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to hang on to their hats and glasses because "this here's the wildest ride in the wilderness!" And at Disney's Epcot, when the animatronic Ben Franklin speaks in the "American Adventure" exhibit, it's actually McKennon doing the talking.

After landing a bit part in "Bend of the River," a 1952 James Stewart western filmed in Oregon, McKennon headed to Los Angeles. Besides lining up voice work, he played Captain Jet and introduced cartoons on "Space Funnies," a children's program that aired on KNXT-TV in the mid-1950s. He had small parts in Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 suspense film "The Birds" and the 1967 Elvis Presley vehicle "Clambake." He also had bad-guy roles in a string of TV and movie westerns including "Gunsmoke," "The Virginian," "Wagon Train" and "Bonanza."

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