I need to lay this out for all y'all:
Case 1: Real celebrity likenesses, real celebrity voices: Aerosmith and many others have made appearances on "The Simpsons." Sometimes a "Simpsonized" version of their likenesses are used, along with their ACTUAL voices. Also, The Three Stooges, Don Knotts, Harlem Globetrotters all played themselves on "Scooby Doo." Permission is obviously a must, since they had to agree to come down to record the dialog. Payment/royalties unknown.
Case 2: Real celebrity voice: Celebrities will often provide "guest voices" on cartoons. You might or might not recognize the voice, since you don't have the appropriate celebrity likeness to go along with it. Same as above concerning permission, payment/royalties assumed.
Case 3: Real celebrity likeness: While one example doesn't come immediately come to mind, I don't believe there would be an legal issues concerning the use of a celebrity's face on a background billboard or in the crowd, walking by. I'm making an assumption here that there would be no payment, no permission and no royalties. I guess a reasonable example would be a MAD Magazine drawing of a celebrity.
Case 4: The tough one - Real celebrity likeness, IMPERSONATED celebrity voices. Evidence Exhibit #1 - The Looney Tunes cartoon with Bugs in the nightclub with Marlene Dietrich, Groucho Marx, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, etc. I find it hard to believe that they got all those people to give permission, and then got them into a studio to record their lines. Maybe it's posssible that Warner Brothers used dialog from their movies, which they would have owned. I know Carl Stalling used either PD music, or music owned by Warner Publishing. But the voices....
Here's why: I am concerned about my desire to use celebrity likenesses AND impersonated voices in my cartoon. I'm afraid that LEGALLY it could be considered a "performance" by the celebrity and I would be liable to pay for their performance.
Case in point: My cartoon involves one of my own characters singing in a televised talent show. I have chosen to avoid the obvious celebrity judges, but have chosen instead to use three famous, living singers, who will not only speak dialog, but some of the dialog they speak will be the titles of songs they're famous for. This is not in the cartoon, but a good example would be Bon Jovi telling my villain that he wants him "Dead or Alive." We'd have a Bon Jovi character. We'd CALL him "Bon Jovi." And an impersonator would say his dialog.
EVEN if the three celebrities I want to use agreed to their own likenesses and voices, I would have to go to THEM with a DAT to record their dialog. The expense of bring them to me would be more than the cost of the cartoon.
In your opinions, would it be sufficient to contact their management and ask permission to use their likenesses and provide an impersonated voice if we included the dialog and how it would be used? Or, is doing anything even necessary?
Are there any examples, maybe "The Animaniacs," where what I want to do was done with no reprocussions?