This Guy Did the Voices Of All Your Favorite Childhood Cartoon Characters
Billy West can’t choose which cartoon character is the favorite of the ones he has voiced during his illustrious career—there are too many to sort through, and each one is important to him in a different way.
“Any creations, they are all equally valuable to me, and important to me as any of the other ones. It would be like asking a mother to choose her favorite son, you just can’t do it,” said West, who has done the voices for past Nickelodeon shows Ren and Stimpy, and Doug. Going even further back into the cartoon vault, West also did the voices for classic characters such as Bugs Bunny, and Elmer Fudd.
In recent years, besides his work as the red M&M in the candy company’s television commercial spots, West is known for his part on the cult favorite Futurama, a cartoon that was created by the people behind the longest-running cartoon sitcom, The Simpsons. On Futurama, West played more than one character, including the lead role of Philip J. Fry, a human that travels the galaxy with an odd mix of different species aboard a spacecraft. When fans hear the voices of Dr. Zoidberg, or Professor Hubert—that’s West, too, so it’s no wonder he can’t flip through his list of performances and pinpoint a voice that appeals to him the most. “I have to tell you, I put 1,000 percent into anything I ever did,” he said of his 15-year career on Futurama.
His ability to shift the pitch in his voice, and come up with different sounding characters started as a kid, and lead to a 30-year career on some of the most watched childhood shows. “I was a freak. That’s all I can tell you. I could entertain myself with my voices and guitar, and I would draw for hours. I watched early, early television that inspired me greatly. But I was always fascinated with the cartoon people and their profession,” he said.
West, a Boston-native who got his start on WBCN and the Howard Stern show, now lives in Los Angeles, but he will be back in the city August 3 and 4 as a panel member and celebrity guest during the annual Comic Con event at the Seaport World Trade Center. The weekend is packed with appearances from some of the top comic book cartoonists and creators, as well as the lead roles from Sci-Fi television shows, and movies like The Hobbit.
Comic Con, which started as a one-day basement show and then exploded into a two-day event due to popularity, has been described as “the equivalent of sitting at the ‘cool table’ for people whose typically ‘nerdy’ interests may have kept them from that in the past.” Typically, fans that attend the two day event dress up in what’s known as “cosplay” outfits, going to extremes to make themselves look like their favorite characters.
West doesn’t know if anyone will show up as some of the characters he has given life to over his decades-long career as a voice actor, but he is humbled to be part of the event right here in his hometown, he said. “It’ll be fun for me, because I just want to thank everybody personally for watching these shows. It was the fans that brought back Futurama, and they will probably do it again, if we can get something going,” said West. “I loved Boston, and I hated leaving.”
But he doesn’t regret it. “I missed it, but I love all the fans [here] and I can’t wait to meet them and just thank them.”