Keith Scott: Down Under's Voice Over Marvel

by Stephen Lynch

Keith Scott with his alter ego. Courtesy of Keith Scott.

When the makers of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinklehired Keith Scott to be the voice of the world's most famous moose, they knew they were getting more than just an actor. Not only were they employing Australia's foremost vocal impressionist, who had years of experience providing half the voices for Yoram Gross' cartoons, they were also procuring the services of the world's most avid fan of Jay Ward Productions.

For apart from being the official voice of Bullwinkle since 1992, Keith Scott has spent many years chronicling the history of the studio. Now, in a fortuitous turn of events, his book The Moose That Roaredis being released on the same day as Bullwinkle's debut as a major movie star. Recently I spoke to Keith about this convergence of his two worlds, and asked just how did an Aussie get to be the voice of Bullwinkle anyway?

Scott's new book is on shelves now.
Scott with Tiffany Ward. Courtesy of Keith Scott.

Stephen Lynch: Let's clear up one thing from the start. It's been reported elsewhere that you and Bill Scott are related. That's not true, is it?

Keith Scott: No. It's totally erroneous and incorrect. I knew the late Bill Scott really well, from 1971 when I first wrote to him until the day he died in 1985. He was the original voice of Bullwinkle, and he could see how genuine my passion for his cartoons were. I always joke that he took me under his antlers, and eventually when he semi-retired he said, "You've got this voice when I'm gone." I never believed it would happen.

SL: So how did it happen?

KS: A couple of years after Jay Ward died, his daughter Tiffany took over the company and started revitalizing the characters. At that time I had made a tape of all the imitations of Bullwinkle, Boris, Dudley Do-Right and a lot of the supporting characters. Tiffany got a copy of this from June Foray, who is the voice of Rocky. Once Tiffany heard the tape she realized that I'd obviously studied it for years so she appointed me the official voices in '92. For the first few years it was just for an occasional 30 second animated TV commercial. Then in '97, my biggest break came when she recommended me to narrate George of the Jungle,which was another of her father's cartoons. I thought that was just a once off situation and I just came back to my normal everyday voice-over work and live shows. Then suddenly she called up and said that they were really getting close to doing a movie with Rocky and Bullwinkle, and that she'd like me to be the voice of Bullwinkle. I said, "Fantastic!"

Scott brings all the roars to this new Bullwinkle ride. © 2000 Universal Studios. All Right Reserved.

SL: So how did you first discover you had this ability to impersonate voices?

KS: It's so long ago now I almost forget. When I was very young, I was always enchanted by the mimics and impressionists on The Ed Sullivan Show,so it was kind of a foregone conclusion. I started developing it in high school doing teacher's voices. Then just after I left school, William Hanna from Hanna-Barbera opened up a local branch for farmed out animation and he lived here for six months. I had letters from Daws Butler who did the voice of Yogi Bear, and all these other people that I had written to as a kid. Not so much as a fan, but seeking some sort of instruction. They were all so gracious about it and very, very good with their time. Of course, when he saw that I had these letters from his then chief voice man, he gave me a job working around the office. Finally when I had a very rough demo tape ready he gave me a reference, and I guess his name carried such credibility that it got me into an agency. From that point I just started slowly getting into voice-over work. It really took about two years before I had the confidence and had developed enough skills to feel comfortable. Then it sort of took off. From around about '74, I started doing quite a bit of work, many anonymous radio and TV commercials, just crazy voices, either impersonations or original characters. At the same time I was also working as an impressionist doing stand up stuff where I made it into that first wave of that Comedy Store generation. So that was an exciting time.

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