May 17, 2014 posted by

Celebrity Voices Impersonated

Ever since the advent of sound film, celebrity vocal impersonations have been a staple of animation. Some of cartoondom’s brightest stars (Gandy Goose and Sourpuss anyone?) have been patterned after familiar movie and radio stars. Even animated television commercials often make use of celebrity sound-alikes. Several spots we have already featured in this column have used this technique, but here are a few we haven’t shown yet…


If Jimmy Durante wasn’t the most imitated voice in cartoons, he must surely be near the top of the list. Directed by Paul Fennell. Circa 1950.

Kix Cow

Here we have Len Maxwell impersonating Frank Nelson. Directed by Len Glasser.

Pink Seal Salmon

Alfred Hitchcock enjoys golf and canned fish, not necessarily in that order. Okay, it isn’t really Alfred. From Playhouse Pictures, 1963.

Up The Wall

Another Hubley Studio film made for The Electric Company. That singer seems familiar somehow…

W. C. Fritos

One of the characters who were used as a spokesman for Frito’s corn chips (after the removal of The Frito Bandito) was W. C. Fritos. He looked and sounded like ol’ Bill, and sometimes started to spots by saying “Greetings my little chip-a-dees!” Produced by New York’s Buzzco, animated by Vinnie Cafarelli and Vinnie Bell.

(The image quality of this video leaves something to be desired, but by golly it was the only copy available.)

Vlasic Pickles

Pat Harrington does the Groucho Marx voice in these famous pickle commercials. The doctor sounds like Roger Bowen. This is probably from Jack Zander’s studio.

Ford Show Opening

Snoopy does another kind of impersonation in this Ford Show opening from 1960. Produced by Playhouse Pictures.


  • Mike:
    Some more really good spots.The Ford Opening was especially clever,and the doctor in the Vlasic spot did sound like Roger Bowen.I really liked the Kix spot,and the Pink Seal Salmon spot was well done!

  • About the Fritios spot- Fields wouldn’t have voiced himself there- He died in 1946! Plus- who’s the voice actor on the Pink Seal plug?

    • Yes, we know that that wasn’t really W. C. Fields in the Fritos spot. That why we put it in the “Celebrity Voices Impersonated” post.

      I’m sorry I don’t know who did the voice in the Pink Seal spot.

  • Funny that the first one was Jimmy Durante, because the first thing I thought of was Crispy Critters (which I had just watched again a couple weeks ago).

  • A few other interesting foreign spots from Ford:

  • Being a voice artist myself, this post was a reeeeal treat! I remember the Frank Nelson cow as tho it were ystdy! I will never, til my dying day, see what the hell is “wrong” with Frito Bandito!?? Wtf???

  • W.C. Fritos was voiced by Karrell Fox. Old school Detroiters might better know Karrell as the second person to play Milky the Clown on WWJ-TV’s Milky’s Party Time.

    It seems like a sin to use celebrity voice impersonators for some commercials when the rea deals like Jimmy Durante and Frank Nelson were still active and working.

    • Karrell was a great magician and live actor as well, specially his Fields impersonation. I sure miss him. However, no disrespect, according to Frito-Lay, and in the voice clips you can hear it, W.C.Fritos was also voiced later on by actor Kurt Jelenik when Fox wasn’t available for health reasons.

  • Interesting that the animator(s) portray Charlie Brown’s forehead curlicue as hair when his head is in a 3/4 position. Don’t believe I’ve ever seen that done before.

    Also, Snoopy had performed a celebrity impression five years prior (bonus: its animation related) –

  • I started going nuts over old W.C. Fields movies (at the ripe old age of 10) right when this commercial started appearing. At one point, I even had a W.C. Fritos eraser on the end of my pencil.

    • As did I, Steve – I also had a few Frito Bandito erasers!

    • Me, too. Several.
      Also, anyone remember the Munch-a-Bunch? (“That’s EE-raser, boss.”)

  • There is a curious story on the late Michael Sporn’s blog detailing how the Hubley studio lost the Vlasic commercial account and how the Pat Harrington Groucho vocal impersonation ended up being the one used for the stork character in the Jack Zander studio’s Vlasic pickle commercial:

  • My favorite W.C. Fritos commercial is the one where he relates the tale of his confrontation with Isadore Fisk who possessed the world’s largest knuckles. I always like the design of Isadore and hope his commercial is out there somewhere waiting to be recovered.

  • I wonder if the filling-in of Charlie Brown’s forehead lock was a mistake in ink ‘n’ paint; also wonder if Bill Melendez had any hand in animating the Ford opening.

  • Loved the Peanuts clip!!

    Perhaps CR can do an entire post on the history behind these early Peanuts spots someday. I got on a kick several years ago tracking down other non-holiday-special animated Peanuts clips. Well before MetLife, there were Dolly Madison spots… and well before that, there were a variety of bread commercials, plus, of course, the Ford spots. Also, the modern day foreign commercials (Japan’s Hot Pepper) are lots of fun too!

    Excellent work, as always, Mike. I’ve been glad to make reading your posts part of my weekend routine.

    • Don’t forget Coca-Cola!

  • Ed Golick, Frank Nelson was very unhappy at being impersonated. You can read about it on Mark Evanier’s blog.

    • Bert Lahr was also not happy that Daws Butler impersonated his voice in some cereal ads (Butler also borrowed the Heavens to Murgatroyd line from Lahr) and as part of a settlement a caption had to be added saying that Butler, not Lahr, was voicing him. (A Boston radio station does the same thing in a promo; an impersonator plays Judge Judy and the ‘bailiff’ says, “All rise for the Honorable Judge Judy… (softer): sound-alike…”
      Various cartoon characters had voices based upon Ed Wynn, Elvis, Paul Lynde (Roger the alien on American Dad), Dean Martin, and yes Durante (Doggie Daddy)

  • As an individual of the Hispanic persuasion, I have to say that I grew up (and loved) singing the Frito Bandito song as a kid.

    • Me too. As an adult, do you still think it’s all okay?

  • Though an impersonation, that W.C. Fields voice sounded 100% uncanny perfect.

  • Trying to find a Fritos commercial with W.C. Fritos where he was in school and had to go to the school nurse, she would always give him Fritos…” runny nose… my glove is stuck… Indians, Indians!!! Would appreciate any direction and I thank you in advance.


  • As far as the doctor in the Vlasic ad is concerned, if it isn’t Roger Bowen, it might be a veteran voice actor like John Erwin, who was also the voice of Morris the Cat.

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