Sometimes, the voice is so iconic that everyone knows it even if the character has fallen out of popularity. There hasn’t been a full-on Droopy cartoon since 1958. He’s apparently in all the Tom & Jerry movies, but I’m not sure my kids have ever actually watched Tom & Jerry. Because they will never know the pain of having that be the only cartoons available be boring and annoying Tom & Jerry. Ahem. The point is, while my eight-year-old hadn’t heard his voice, the process of discovering this information did make him interested in seeing more Droopy cartoons. That’ll happen when you introduce your kid to Tex Avery, I guess.
Now, my kid is still familiar with Bill Thompson, because Thompson wasn’t just Droopy. And in fact the Droopy voice is not dissimilar to the one my kid would recognize, as the Droopy voice has a fair amount in common with J. Audubon Woodlore, ranger of Disney’s Brownstone National Park. No, Zane isn’t exactly a fan of Fibber McGee and Molly, but he’s extremely familiar with Mr. Smee. He knows King Hubert and “Pigs Is Pigs” and the various other Disney shorts Bill Thompson voiced.
It’s interesting, though, that someone whose name even people in the ’40s didn’t necessarily know is a voice that my children know. Will likely be a voice that their children know, should they have children. Even if you know his name, today may well have been the first time you’ve seen his face. I mean, you could prove me wrong and be a huge fan of Comin’ Round the Mountain, the Great Gildersleeve movie. Which has several Disney types in it, come to that, as well as Cliff Arquette. But The Great Gildersleeve isn’t even as well known these days as Fibber McGee and Molly.
I’ll also admit that he’s not the most varied voiceover artist. J. Audubon Woodlore sounds like Droopy Dog sounds like Professor Owl. That’s okay. Apparently, they all sound like one of his Fibber McGee and Molly characters, but although I’ve read the scripts now and again, I’ve never actually listened to the show. Still, you don’t have to be varied—it’s my understanding that they’ve hired Maurice LaMarche to replace him as Droopy, and that means that Droopy now sounds like the Brain.
He eventually pretty well retired from acting, having become an executive at Union Oil, and boy that’s something I’d like more detail about. He came out of semi-retirement to play Uncle Waldo in The Aristocats, in some of the not-racist parts. He then died of sepsis at the age of only 58, and that’s another thing I’d like more detail about. A presumably well-off man in LA in the ’70s doesn’t just get sepsis. Somehow, Bill Thompson did, and there’s something wrong there.