To resume our examination of Alan Young’s voice-over career, the Disney A Christmas Carol album from 1975 was the first step in Young working as a character voice actor. It helped that Alan Dinehart (his collaborator on the album) was voice director for several studios of the day: Hanna-Barbera, Ruby Spears, and Marvel. So Young, using his own soft natural voice, was often cast as fathers or narrators in specials. He narrated and played the title role in Hanna-Barbera's 1978 special Black Beauty. While there are supporting voices (and Young himself doubles, often as abusive grooms or owners), his soft tones are what primarily drive the special.
Dinehart also directed Battle of the Planets, the 1978 dub of Gatchaman (with considerable rewriting and other changes). Young dubbed two principal characters, team member Keyop and, most notably, the robot 7-Zark-7. The latter was added primarily to bridge the holes from the edits and alterations made, so new limited animation of 7-Zark-7 was used and Young provided expository narration.
Dinehart used Young on other series, including Plastic Man and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. On the latter, he had a nice character showcase in “The Fantastic Mr. Frump” as the title character, a meek old man who discovers an amulet and power for a day (or episode, anyway). Young was also heard on Ruby-Spear's Alvin and the Chipmunks, mostly in kindly oldster mode as Grandpa Seville, and sometimes in other bits.
Dinehart-directed episodes of The Smurfs also provided steady work, given the incredibly large cast with new characters introduced. All of the Smurfs had slightly sped up voices, but Young was still recognizable, first as the frightened Scaredy Smurf, then as Farmer Smurf, who was added with a distinct New England twang befitting his occupation. Young also voiced Miner Smurf, an infrequent character on the series.
Due to Young's starring role in the featurette Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983), discussed in Part 1 of this tribute, Disney also came to cast Young as another Scots-accented animal a few years later. The kindly toymaker, Faversham, whose kidnapping kickstarts the plot of The Great Mouse Detective, had same Scots voice, with a little less of the harshness that occasionally surfaced in the Dickensian (Duckensian?) miser, Scrooge. The character lent considerable warmth to the film, and merited an “And Alan Young as…” credit.
But it was in 1987, the following year, that was the biggest turning point for Young's voiceover career. DuckTales, a weekly television series starring Uncle Scrooge McDuck and company, used the original comic book stories of Scrooge creator Carl Barks as a starting point. The series was Disney Television Animation’s third (following The Wuzzles and Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears), but the first intended for weekday syndication. In a regular series context, Young, as Scrooge, could play comedy, drama, pathos, and go stark raving mad when, in one memorable moment, a sea monster eats his ice cream:
In a later episode, “Blue Collar Scrooge,” Scrooge gets amnesia and actually wonders “Why am I talking with this funny accent?” For the duration of the episode, Scrooge speaks in a slightly gruffer variation of Young’s normal voice.
In addition to the series, Young also voiced Scrooge in the show's spin-off film, DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp. He also came to voice the character in Disney's “Let’s begin now” audio cassettes, stage shows, a guest spot on Disney’s 1992 Saturday morning series Raw Toonage (as Mr. McDuck tries to break into his own vault), and other spin-offs.
During this time frame, Young was cast in a touching episode of another Disney Afternoon favorite, TaleSpin. In “The Old Man and the Sea Duck," Young voices Doc Cooper, the local doctor who provides expository explanation at episode’s end.
Young continued to pop up in animation throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. On Batman: The Animated Series, he was one of several former sitcom stars cast as the TV family of “Baby-Doll.” He also went into grouchy mode again in A Flintstone Family Christmas (1993), in the small role of a neighbor appropriately named Mr. Gravelberry. However, the Scots voice also remained in demand, used with even more Scottish names. In later seasons of Ren and Stimpy, Young used it as Haggis MacHaggis, and in the video game Curse of Monkey Island as pirate barber Haggis McMutton (with a voice cast including co-stars Terry McGovern from DuckTales and Dave Madden from Adventures in Odyssey). The familiar tones added considerably to the game's cartoon feel and humor, in near equivalent to Scrooge's regular exclamations of "Curse me kilts!" or "Bless me bagpipes!" Young, as Haggis, describes what he assumes to be headlice with "...they wriggle about ye scalp like a pack o' wretched sea lions!"
Young made on-camera guest spots, too, in twinkling kindly elder mode, from Doogie Howser MD to Sabrina the Teenage Witch. He also had a small but high-billed cameo as a flower shop owner in the 2002 remake of The Time Machine.
In his later years, most of the remaining voice roles, however, were more Scrooge reprisals for holiday CDs (The Twelve Days of Christmas), direct-to-video releases, Mickey MouseWorks and House of Mouse, and video games. The most notable of the latter was the highly anticipated DuckTales ReMastered, giving voice to the classic NES game. Before his passing, Young again lent voice to Scrooge in two installments of the stylized short Mickey Mouse series.
Whether it’s being talked to by a horse or talking like a duck (and the less obvious achievements we’ve discussed), in memory, Alan Young will indeed be Young forever.
About Andrew Leal: A longtime staff member of Voice Chasers, Andrew Leal has contributed to books The Animated Movie Guide and two academic books on Jim Henson. He has also acted in several stage radio recreations.
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