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“Inspiration” Starts with “I”

Nancy Cartwright remembers how speaking up and following through can be the key to attaining your dreams.

Nancy Cartwright.

As I write this article, I am sitting at a desk in a hotel in Englewood, Colorado. It isnt a bad hotel, but it isnt a great hotel either. It is simply the best hotel that Englewood, Colorado, has to offer. I will be here for just this one night. Tomorrow morning I am delivering the keynote speech to about 200 young women at St. Marys Academy, the fifth oldest private school in the Denver area. I have never visited Englewood, Colorado. To be honest, I did not even know where it was on the map. I had to check Google and saw that it is a stones throw away from Denver.

You may or may not know this, but I have traveled extensively around the world giving various inspirational speeches, university lectures and performing my one-woman show which focuses on my life as a 10-year old boy. Of all of these events, I have to say that I am particularly partial to speaking with students especially those who are interested in really being there to learn, rather than just skipping class.

As it turns out St. Marys Academy is sponsoring a Leadership conference. The headmistress contacted my office about six months ago to see if I was interested, and I gave them a resounding Yes! because these girls are my ideal public as they are the same age I was when I was formulating my own dreams for the future.

If you dont mind, let us go back for a moment. It is spring, 1977. I am working at WING radio in Dayton, Ohio. The president and general manager of the station knew that I had dreams of doing voices for commercials and cartoons. In fact, one day he told me that a representative from Warner Bros. music was going to visit the station to promote music and asked if I would like to meet her. Darn tootin I would. Well, Warner Bros. to me meant Mel Blanc the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Tweety Bird and dozens of other animated characters. This was a dream of mine, to meet and work with Mel Blanc.

Later that morning, I was introduced to Anne Schwebel. We shook hands and my boss told Anne that I was interested in doing cartoon voices. Anne gave me her card and told me that if I were to write her a letter, she would get it to the right people in the animation department. So, I wrote her a letter and to my surprise, she wrote me back! She included the names and addresses of some of the top animation departments, including Filmation, Disney and Hanna-Barbera. She advised me to send a sampling of my voices even though at least one of the studios only hires celebrities. I did not let that stop me.

She also included the name of Daws Butler. I had never heard of him, but later found out that he did most of the voices at Hanna-Barbera. You should know this bit of trivia: back in the 1960s, when animation was in full swing for Saturday morning cartoons, Daws Butler did not get any screen credit for all the voices he did. Mel Blanc fought for his rights and was actually the only voice actor to be credited for many years, despite the fact that other voice talent worked alongside him, including Mr. Butler.

At any rate, you can imagine that after I received that reply, I was on Cloud Nine! I followed up by sending everyone my tape. I had no address for Daws Butler, so I picked up the phone and called him. Long story short, Daws became my long-distance mentor. He would send me scripts in the mail and I would record my voice on a tape and mail it back to him. He would listen and give me a critique, but it was always positive and encouraging. Within three years, I was living in Hollywood and earning my living as a voice artist.

Now let us return to present time, March 2006: About a month ago, I got an unexpected email. It was one of those Remember me? emails, but I have to tell you I was exhilarated! It was from Anne, my first real networking success. As the email stated, Annes daughter was google-ing and just for kicks and giggles put her mothers name in the search. Lo and behold, whose name came up but mine. Yes it totally amazed 16-year-old Emily. Mom! Do you know Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson?!

She did indeed, and Anne wanted to let me know that she was tickled I had mentioned her in so many accounts. The truth is, I never forgot the act of kindness she showed me at a time when it would have been easier just to forget about it. Instead, she was good to her word and followed through with her promise. And because of her sense of integrity, my life was changed forever.

As it turned out, Anne lives, in all places, Englewood, Colorado! Can you believe the coincidence in that?! I told her I was coming to Colorado to speak at this conference and we agreed to meet. She brought her daughter, who was so instrumental in bringing us back together, along with her. I must confess, it was one of the most anticipated reunions I have ever experienced. We had a great time!

I think back to that earlier time in my life when my dreams were so big, and wonder if I had not spoken up and told my boss how much I loved doing voices, where would I be now. I never would have had that part on the radio and he never would have introduced me to Anne. I never would have connected with Daws Butler who eventually inspired me to move Los Angeles, and who took me to Hanna-Barbera, where I pursued my dream and was hired to do shows like Richie Rich, Pound Puppies, Popeye and Son, Snorks, Galaxy High, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain and dozens of others!

You see, you never know how valuable a person will be to your life, so do not be afraid to speak up when the appropriate time presents itself. If you are willing to receive help, and someone is willing to give it, then your life will be changed forever too. I know this is possible and I only wish the best for you! Just like in the movie Its a Wonderful Life, the choices you make in your life, actually are your life. Believe it. I would not be where I am today were it not for that one choice of speaking up to my boss, and then following through with Anne. Dreams do come true!

Nancy Cartwright is best known as the voice of spiky-headed Bart Simpson on The Simpsons. She has voiced dozens of cartoon characters in her career that has spanned more than 20 years. Currently, she can be heard as the voice of Rufus the Naked Mole Rat on Disneys Kim Possible and Chuckie on Rugrats and All Grown Up. To learn more about Nancys career, listen to her audio book My Life as a 10-year-old Boy.