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|Also Known As:||Died:||October 25, 1997|
|Born:||September 7, 1926||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Buffalo, New York, USA||Profession:||Cast ... voice actor actor|
One of the most prolific and versatile voice actors of the 20th century, Don Messick voiced such iconic childhood favorites as Scooby-Doo, Boo Boo, Astro, Papa Smurf and dozens of other roles for Hanna-Barbera's stable of animated television programs, as well as other companies. He began his career as a ventriloquist before attempting to break into show business via television puppet shows. When the format was phased out in the early 1950s, Messick turned to the major animation studios, briefly voicing Droopy before teaming with Daws Butler on most of Hanna-Barbera's best-known series. In addition to his major characters, Messick also narrated many shows while also providing background voices and vocal sound effects for hundreds of episodes. The various iterations of Scooby-Doo kept Messick busy until the 1990s, when he retired from voice acting following a stroke in 1996. Messick's death in 1997 was mourned by the best and brightest in his field, who recalled his work as an inspiration to animation performers, creators and fans everywhere.
Donald Earl Messick was born on Sept. 7, 1926 in Buffalo, NY to house painter Binford Messick and his wife, Lena. The family moved to Baltimore soon after his birth before his father's search for work required them to relocate to the remote town of Nanticoke. There, Messick became aware of voice acting through listening to the versatile actors on weekly radio series. Initially, he parlayed his interest through a self-taught ventriloquist act, which he performed at various functions throughout the Chesapeake Bay's Eastern Shore at the age of 13. Two years later, he had earned his own one-man radio show on WBOC, the area's sole radio station. After graduating from high school at 16, Messick moved back to Baltimore, where he trained as an actor. He soon found work on local radio before being drafted into the Army in 1944. There, he performed for troops stationed across the country as part of the Special Services department.
After his discharge from the military, Messick headed to the West Coast to act in a radio drama on KGO radio in San Francisco. He then moved to Hollywood, where he secured a theatrical agent for variety show performances and local theater. He briefly returned to the East Coast, where he struggled to find work, but a call from animator Bob Clampett brought him back to California to work on a puppet show called "Time for Beany" (KTLA/Paramount Television Network, 1949-1955), which was the live-action predecessor to the influential "Beany and Cecil" (ABC, 1962) animated series. At the time, the show featured voice actor Daws Butler, who would later become Messick's frequent co-star on countless Hanna-Barbera programs, as well as one of his closest friends.
Though Messick was not cast on "Time for Beany," he was signed to a six-year contract to work on other televised puppet shows. Unfortunately, such programming was being phased out by most networks, which saved money by airing a block of cartoons instead of hiring a full staff of puppeteers for their children's programming. Messick began offering his talents to various animation studios, and landed his big break in the early '50s when Butler recommended him to replace actor Bill Thompson as the voice of Droopy, the deadpan canine hero of numerous MGM animated shorts. When the studio's chief animation producers, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, opened their own studio in 1957, they hired Butler and Messick to provide the voices for most of their animated series. Frequently cast as an amiable sidekick or foil to Butler's leads, Messick voiced Yogi Bear's diminutive voice of conscience, Boo Boo, as well as the perpetually thwarted Ranger Smith. He was also Pixie the mouse in the "Pixie and Dixie" segments, one of several actors to voice Bamm-Bamm on "The Flintstones" (NBC, 1960-65), Atom Ant, Dr. Benton Quest on "Jonny Quest" (ABC, 1964-65), space dog Astro on "The Jetsons" (ABC, 1962-63) and the snickering Muttley on "The Wacky Races" (CBS, 1968-69). In addition to these characters, Messick also narrated many of the shows in appropriately authoritative tones while also providing a host of screeches, cries and sound effects for various aliens, monsters and creatures of all stripes.
In 1969, Messick began a three-decade tenure as the voice of Scooby-Doo, the mystery-solving Great Dane who began his long television career with "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!" (ABC, 1969-1970). He would voice the canine character in all of its spin-off series, including "The New Scooby-Doo Movie" (CBS, 1972-1973), "The Scooby-Doo Show" (ABC, 1976-78) and "A Pup Named Scooby-Doo" (ABC, 1988-1991), while also voicing Scrappy-Doo, Scooby's overeager nephew. Though Hanna-Barbera projects like "Scooby" and the similar "Josie and the Pussycats" (CBS, 1970-71) took up much of his work in the 1970s, Messick also contributed voices to Rankin/Bass animated efforts like "Rudolph's Shiny New Year" (CBS, 1976) and "The Hobbit" (NBC, 1977), as well as live-action theatrical features like "The Andromeda Strain" (1970) and "Diamonds Are Forever" (1971). The 1980s found Messick as active as ever, performing Papa Smurf on "The Smurfs" (NBC, 1981-89) and several robot heroes on "Transformers" (syndicated, 1984-88) while reprising all of his major Hanna-Barbera characters in a dizzying array of spin-offs and new versions of older series. He also earned a rare on-camera role as voice actor Wally Wooster on the short-lived NBC sitcom "The Duck Factory" (1984), which starred Jim Carrey as a naïve young animator at a cartoon company.
In the 1990s, he added Hamton J. Pig, faithful student to Porky Pig on "Tiny Toon Adventures" (CBS/syndicated/Fox/WB Kids, 1990-95). Messick remained exceptionally active until September 1996, when he suffered a stroke while recording voices for Hanna-Barbera, and subsequently announced his retirement from voice acting. Messick's long career was feted at a party attended by many of his voice-acting peers, including Henry Corden, Casey Kasem and June Foray, who worked alongside him on "The Smurfs" in addition to voicing Rocket J. Squirrel on "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" (ABC/NBC, 1959-1964). A second stroke claimed Messick's life on Oct. 27, 1997; as with his longtime collaborator Daws Butler, dozens of voice actors were required to take over the multitude of roles he played throughout his adult life.
By Paul Gaita
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