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The Magic Behind the Voices_ A Who_s Who of Cartoon Voice Actors

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Since the beginning of animation, of the hundreds of people who traditionally worked on cartoons, usually it was only the executives or the directors who were given screen credit, leaving the general public none the wiser. Although it has been noted that a good vocal performance can save a mediocre cartoon or even elevate a good cartoon to a great one, especially when the animation is very limited, there are many reasons why producers were motivated from the very start to keep the voice actors anonymous. In spite of the fact that animation is now often discussed as an art form, it has always been a business first, with none of the animators or voice artists among the most recognized.

It has been suggested that keeping the voice talent anonymous ensured that other studios could not target actors to hire them away; however, the producer may also have wanted to ensure that the public could not associate the part with a specific person, as it could give the actor leverage to ask for more money. The earliest case in point might be the early Fleischer brothers' Popeye cartoons of the late 19308. According to Leslie Cabarga, the author of The Fleischer Story, actor William Costello performed the title voice until "success went to his head" and he was judged "too difficult" to work with. Consequently, when Popeye animator and writer Jack Mercer was hired away from the drawing board to continue the role for the next five decades, he did not receive screen recognition until the animated character made a cameo appearance in the 1980 Robert Altman live-action film. In fact, this dynamic is still very much in evidence even for an entity that has met with as much commercial success as The Simpsons.

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