Monday, May 9, 2016

In Praise Of William Schallert

I heard earlier today that we lost the veteran character actor, William Schallert at the ripe old age of 93. Whether or not you know his name, anybody who grew up with TV from the 1960s and 70s will undoubtedly recognize that face, and probably his voice as well!

William Schallert will probably best be remembered in his dual roles as Martin Lane and twin brother Kenneth, fathers of twin cousins, Patty and Cathy respectively, on The Patty Duke Show. And it is a sad coincidence that we lost Patty Duke herself only this past March. Schallert can be seen in this show episode at the 4:45 mark:

But he was also a very familiar face appearing on countless TV series of the era in guest star roles, including Perry Mason, The Lucy Show, Mission: Impossible, The Wild Wild West, and the famous Star Trek episode, The Trouble With Tribbles. Get Smart fans will also fondly remember Schallert as the ancient Admiral Hargrade, the original Chief of Control.

Although he was usually cast as the easygoing, lanky and likeable gentleman and fatherly type, there were the rare occasions where he was cast against type as the villain. One of these roles had Schallert cast as a sharpshooting hired killer in the episode, The Empty Hours on the early police drama, 87th Precinct, based on the series of crime novels by Ed McBain (of which I am a huge fan!)

William Schallert was primarily a TV actor, but he did make a number of films as well. When I think back on it, I suspect that my introduction to him was when he played the gentle and understanding Professor Quigley in Disney's 1969 comedy, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. He was the foil to Joe Flynn's bombastic and frugal college head, Dean Higgins, where he championed the students' various causes against a highly reluctant college administration.

I mentioned earlier that TV viewers of that era would likely know William Schallert's voice, even when heard separately from his familiar image. That's because Schallert's pleasant, folksy voice was pitching numerous products on TV commercials throughout the 60s and 70s. There was one voiceover he did that I was not aware of as being him, though. One of the regular commercial assignments he had was as Milton the Toaster, the animated character on the Kellogg's Pop Tart ads. Here he affects a Brooklyn accent, so I didn't find out it was him until years later!

William Schallert was one of the last oldest surviving veterans of 1960's TV, so his passing really does make many of us sad and wistfully nostalgic for that innocent and vastly entertaining era. RIP William Schallert, and thanks for all the wonderful memories!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Happy Birthday, Eric Goldberg!

I see that today, May 1st, is the birthday of that master Disney animator, Eric Goldberg. Here's a photo of myself and Eric when he came to do a presentation at Sheridan College back in September 2013. Eric is a delightful, jolly little fellow, and his sprightly animation for Disney famously includes the Genie from Aladdin, which Eric caricatured to resemble his voice actor, the great Robin Williams. I have written about that in this previous blog post.

Other characters that Eric has skillfully brought to life in Disney films include Phil, the grouchy little satyr who reluctantly agrees to act as personal trainer to Hercules (who looks uncannily like his voice actor too - Danny Devito!) He also animated Louis, the alligator and aspiring Dixieland jazz trumpeter from The Princess And The Frog. More recently, Eric revived Donald Duck, José Carioca the parrot, and Panchito the rooster, known collectively as The Three Caballeros, for the renovated boat ride in the Mexican pavilion at EPCOT's World Showcase. Which was a fitting assignment, given that the original film characters were masterminded by the legendary animator, Ward Kimball, and Eric is very much this generation's equivalent of Ward, with the accent on highly cartooned design and rapid fire movement in much of his output.

But my favourite animation by Eric Goldberg is the brilliant Rhapsody In Blue segment from Disney's Fantasia 2000, which he directed with so much passion (with wife, Susan Goldberg art directing), as he got to base the overall look on the style of one of his artistic heroes, New York's legendary Broadway caricaturist, Al Hirschfeld. I too share Eric's admiration for Hirschfeld, as he has been the biggest influence on my own approach to drawing caricatures.

I know that Eric was just up this way again only a week ago, giving a lecture and workshop at the Toronto TAAFI animation festival. I regret not being there to see him myself, but I've heard back from several of my former Sheridan College students who were thrilled to hear his lecture and learn animation tips from him. I'm sure it would have been a most enjoyable event.

Happy Birthday to you, Eric Goldberg!