Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Voice of 1,000 Places

Tim Allen isn't the second coming of Mel Blanc. He isn't the next "Man of 1,000 Voices," as Blanc was known.

But Allen is the "Man of 1,000 Places," as in, his voice seems to be everywhere.

You can't escape Allen these days.

He's in your car, voicing "Pure Michigan" ads. And he's certainly all over your television, lending his voice to Chevrolet and Campbell's Soup ads. He's in your DVD cases, as Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story movie franchise.

And, I am happy to report, Allen's face is on TV now, too, and has been, as Mike Baxter in ABC's Last Man Standing, a sitcom heading into its third season this fall. Good for Allen; readers of this blog may remember this piece I did on that show when it was set to debut, hoping for its success as Allen returned to the small screen after a 14-year absence.

But it's Allen's voice that goes to show that there's a lot of money in reading copy into a microphone in a sterile studio---where you don't need a makeup person or even to get out of your pajamas.

The voice over as a source of income is nothing new, of course, to high profile actors. For decades, really since TV's inception, the nameless studio voices employed by the networks have been joined by the distinctive vocal tones of leading actors of the day, usually as pitchmen (and women).

If you're sharp of ear, you know who's out there these days, making some extra dough with their pipes.

But Allen seems to be the most omnipresent.

His work as Buzz Lightyear, the toy spaceman who famously charges "To infinity...and BEYOND!" will go down in Hollyowood history, along with Tom Hanks as cowboy Woody, as perhaps the most iconic voice work ever.

Allen must have a voice advertisers love.



The products he espouses---Michigan tourism, soup and Chevy vehicles---couldn't be more different, when you think about it. Yet Allen doesn't really change his voice for any of them. They all carry his soothing, credible tone.

It's almost like if you get Tim Allen to voice your ads, it's a status symbol.

I mentioned Blanc, but while most of Mel's work was for the big screen and cartoons, it was Paul Winchell who made a lot of hay on television and through advertising for the medium.

Winchell, who died in 2005 at age 82, practically was a card-carrying pioneer of television. He started as a ventriloquist and his career zoomed from there, all involving his voice(s). Remember Dow's Scrubbing Bubbles? That was Winchell voicing the lead bubble, whose "We work hard so you don't have toooooooooo" as the bubbles washed down the drain became a 1970s staple.

But Winchell, like Blanc, was a cornucopia of voices. Tim Allen---who may be making more money than any voice actor working today---has one voice. But that one voice is all over the place.

Allen's tag line for Campbell's is "It's amazing what soup can do."

If Allen had a tag line for himself, it might be, "It's amazing what my voice can earn."

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