Rocky and Bullwinkle, Smurfette, Crusader Rabbit, and Scooby-Doo are cartoon favorites of millions of children. Not every child however, has the chance to meet the voices! Society member Kevin Segall shares his story of his first autographs.
My First Autographs By Kevin Segall
I was nine years old in 1983 when I went with my dad to the first official Animation Art Festival held by ASIFA (the International Animated Film Society) in Los Angeles. I was a huge cartoon fan—and loved to draw my own cartoons—so this was a dream come true for me. The highlight of the event was a live reading of a Rocky and Bullwinkle script performed by the original voices: June Foray (Rocky) and Bill Scott (Bullwinkle), along with several other legendary cartoon voice artists.
It was at this event that I collected my first autographs—ones I treasure to this day. At a freebie table at the festival, I picked up a press release flyer advertising Hanna-Barbera’s roster of cartoons for the 1977–78 season. Bravely, I went up after the reading to all the actors and politely asked for their autograph on the blank side of the flyer.
What a treat! There was Lucille Bliss (1916–2012), whom I knew as the voice of Smurfette on The Smurfs. She also performed the title character of the very first made-for-television cartoon, Crusader Rabbit. Then Corey Burton added his inscription. He was working as several voices on Transformers at the time and did an incredible Paul Frees imitation for the Rocky and Bullwinkle reading. Next Steven Schatzberg (1943–2008) signed it. I knew him as the voice of Tyg Tiger on Saturday morning’s Shirt Tales cartoon. He later did the voice of Piglet for some Disney projects.
Another voice legend on stage who generously added his autograph was Frank Welker. Best known as Fred from Scooby-Doo, Welker was doing Hefty Smurf and Megatron from Transformers at the time. Of course Bullwinkle was performed by the great Bill Scott (1920–1985), not only a talented actor but also head writer and coproducer of Rocky and Bullwinkle.
But my favorite autograph of the day was June Foray (1917–2017), who performed the voices of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Natasha Fatale. She also voiced Lucifer from Disney’s Cinderella, Cindy Lou Who, Jokey Smurf, Granny from the Warner Bros. cartoons, and Talky Tina from the The Twilight Zone. I was lucky enough to get to know June a bit in her final years.
I picked up a few other treasures at the event. Academy Award-winning animator Chuck Jones (1912–2002) drew an incredible Bugs Bunny for me for a mere $10 donation to ASIFA. Similar drawings now sell for a minimum of several hundred dollars. I wish I could go back in time and ask him to draw a few more characters for me! I met Grim Natwick (1890–1990), designer of Fleischer Studios’ most popular character, Betty Boop, and a lead animator on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He seemed ancient to me! I also met Frank Thomas (1912–2004), one of Disney’s team of animators known as the Nine Old Men. He signed a publicity shot for me.
There and then I was bitten by the autograph bug, and I haven’t slowed down since. I’ve expanded my collecting to Hollywood stars, authors, musicians, US presidents, and more. I’m still a big cartoon fan, too, and have gotten to know and work with a number of my cartoon heroes. And now I’m heading off to a meeting of my local chapter of the National Cartoonists Society. We meet about once a month, and it’s a blast!
Kevin Segall is a past board member of the Manuscript Society and contributor to Manuscripts, as well as a member of ASIFA and the National Cartoonists Society. He can be reached at https://KevinSegall.com.