Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lexington Comic and Toy Convention Re-Cap

Wow!  We had a ton of fun at the Lexington, KY, Comic and Toy Convention last week.  It was a second year convention, one day, and 4,000 people!  It seemed more like 4,001-1/2 people.  Besides Muley being around, we hung out with Martheus Wade, Shawn Pryor and Jon Carroll.  Shawn Pryor was there to represent his company Action Lab Entertainment.  Comics and prints were the hot item that day.

The city was beautiful, very clean, and full of very nice folks.  The quality of service in the restaurants far exceeded anywhere we've been before, and the whole experience of the city was fantastic.

You can see images on the MAW Productions Facebook Page by clicking here.

You can join Muley's Facebook page by clicking here, or Kevin's by clicking here.

There were Mighty Morphin Power Rangers there which, of course, caused our own to become the Might Muley Power Ranger...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lexington Comic and Toy Convention 2012

Hey, Kentucky!  Here comes MAW Productions!!

We'll be in town on Saturday, March 24, 2012, at the Comic and Toy Convention.  (Click the logo to see more information.)

Martheus Wade (Jetta:Tales of the Toshigawa) and Kevin L. Williams (with mule in tow) will be heading out to the Lexington comic and toy convention this weekend! We will have all things Jetta: tales of the Toshigawa and Muley the Mule and Friends on sale. As well, we will have prints on sale such as the Green Ranger print and "There is no Dana, only Mule" print! We will be hanging out with Shawn Pryor and Action Lab Entertaimment. Come check us out if you will be in the area.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Greg Berg - An Interview (Part Deux)

Yesterday we talked Muppet Babies with Greg Berg (click here to read part one) pretty much in-depth, and today we'll touch on them some as they relate to other projects followed by reviews of "The Muppets"which just hit stores today!  So, read on fair reader:

KW: Okay, I’ll put the Muppet questions on the back-burner for a while to simmer while moving forward. What is the experience like working with characters as popular as The Simpsons, Robotman and Friends, and Yo, Yogi (on which you performed as the aforementioned Huckleberry Hound)?

GB: The experiences were meeting some of the most talented artist in the field I wanted to break into, for each of the various shows had me in awe one way or another as I am a very excitable person when someone PAYS me to do something I love!

Robotman and Friends was my first professional animated show. It has been released on VHS and so I wasn't sure whether to call it a pilot, special, or show? The show may have been the first for D.I.C. Productions. Was given word from the wonderful director Marsha Goodman, that as the company had an American and Canadian producer, I was the one voice they BOTH agreed on. Trivia from the show: Cast members Frank Welker and Katie Leigh and I were assembled 2 years later to work again on Muppet Babies!

For 'The Simpson's' I, as well as hundreds of others, were brought in to audition for the various roles and as a multi-voice talent, I thought my talent would work well on this new Primetime show for FOX TV. As I didn't get a 'main' role, the show used my versatility for the voices of unnamed characters as they would appear at the bowling alley and playground (I even whistled as BART for a scene), and then was asked to 'Guest Star' on the Bart VS. Thanksgiving episode, providing 3 characters throughout. The show really took off and celebrities played many of the guest stars from then on.

It was still a thrill to be part of a show that has also gone on to be a big part of animation history. That led to about 9 years voicing with them.

The show Yo Yogi, not much of a 'known' show, hadn't panned into anything spectacular. It was one of the last Hanna-Barbera cartoons to be on Sat. mornings on NBC. Then one Sat. people woke up to Saturday kid sitcoms, namely SAVED BY THE BELL. The Yo Yogi experience also validated my work in my mind as, at the time, I worked my way up the voice ranks, studied with the greats who worked long before me and 1) I recreated my teacher/mentor Daws Butler's character to what I hoped would be acceptable if he were to critique it? 2) I worked with the incredible 'Mr. Cartoon' Don Messick and many other great celebrities who made me laugh before even thinking I'd be anywhere near Hollywood! 3) Had put in 9 years on Muppet Babies, begun Simpson's work, was an alternate voice of Donatello on TMNT and yet the Yo Yogi experience that sticks out was on one episode that was almost a rewritten scene (where a gorilla is missing) from an original Huckleberry Hound show I've seen loads of times as a little kid growing up in Ohio. And here was MY voice as Huck doing the scene.

KW: Those are wonderful memories to have! It would have to be wonderful to have the experience of working with your childhood favorites like Huckleberry Hound! Now, you were the voice of "Fungus" in the Monsters, Inc., video game: did you prepare by eating moldy bread? Just kidding! The actual question is this: Having voiced both Fungus and Baby Fozzie—both Frank Oz characters—did you voice any other characters originated by Frank Oz?

GB: I have found myself in a number of cases having to do voice-alike’s. I would be asked 'can you sound like so-and-so?' and if I don't know them, I am provided with the scene or voice and my mind turns like a Rolodex, locates the character, and I get a yes or no.

So, for the Fungus sound-alike I had to see him as I come close to Frank Oz's voice and that was in my repertoire; but, sometimes people I had sounded like for movies may put on a character that I couldn't match because then it becomes psychological. Fungus wasn't too hard for me.

Also Muppets once did a test show called 'Muppets Babies and Little Monsters.’ In that show they animated Fozzie and I was THAT grown voice, as well as Dr. Strangepork for the animated 'Pigs in Space' portion of the show. But, I never got to do anything Yoda. Guess others latched on to that character!

Animated Dr. Julius Strangepork "Pigs In Space"

Animated Fozzie Bear
 KW: Now, we all loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! What all can you share with us about performing for that show? Were you required to know martial arts skills, or slip in to work like a ninja?

GB: I never got caught up in the books or show but studied the character voice. Don't remember even reading for the original show as many never knew of all my work at that time. I never followed the show as I was either studying or working but as the call came in to ‘sound like a voice,’ some people thought to try me, as, after all I was imitating Frank Oz's Characters.

And YES, I was already studying Martial Arts as a hobby.

KW: When Nickelodeon purchased the TMNT, what were your thoughts about being involved with that show (if it were offered)?

GB: The Turtle franchise keeps changing hands. Just like when another Yogi Bear special came out, those I knew who would be best for the roles were never thought of or, lately, when some popular TV show is transferred to a film version they may be asked to use other talent than the original and then sometimes even after the film version gets established and they change the voice or character/talent the film suffers as was seen when TMNT 1st 3 movies went for a new cast on the 2nd one (and maybe other things) made it not do as well. BUT they went back to the same voices from the 1st when they did the 3rd, so maybe the voice factor came up.

KW: You did a voice-match in TMNT for Donatello: Have you ever met any of the folks you did a matching voice after?

GB: I have met the actor Barry Gordon who I voice-matched as Donatello, and I am friends with the actors who voiced Donatello in the 1st 2 movies. What a coincidence!

KW: What’s easier? Voice-matching or creating a new voice?

GB: Well, we discussed the "Rolodex of voices" earlier; but, I know what you mean though as I remember meeting others who did voices on a radio show and the guy had a stack of pictures of all the people whose voice he was going to do. Everyone has their way to do a voice, I guess.

KW: I often say that a fellow has to be crazy to be a puppeteer with all this personality and performance flowing through his hand; and the same with having to draw a comic strip with different characters interacting—almost always constantly in my head—to create those strips. Now, these voices and characters are all living in my head and so, of course, when folks say I’m crazy: I agree! My question to you is, with all the voices you create: Are you crazy?

GB: Tell someone you do lots of voices and maybe you'd be put away. So, if you have to make a face to get the voice you need, guess you'd be put away twice as long; but, as you sit in the rubber room, you'd be able to say, 'Somebody paid me to do that! Why aren't THEY locked up?!'

KW: Is there a funny story you can share about something that happened while doing voice acting?

GB: I haven't collected funny things that happen in a session. Maybe because (to me) if someone, say, starts joking around by talking with a mouthful of water, I just figure 'maybe that's a new character!'.

There have been 'strange' sessions but that's what they called for. Like once when I provided the voice of a moose for Build-a-Bear (as mentioned earlier).

Next year, they may be out with another video game, in which I am doing 5 or 6 animal reactions. I also gurgled as a monster Alligator Boy for the film 'Highway' (originally titled the Leonard Cohen Untitled Project.)

KW: What advice do you have for the aspiring, up-and-coming voice actor?

GB: My advice: The motivator/coach in me would tell you that you can do anything which you set your heart on doing, as long as it doesn't violate the Laws of Man or 'Whatever' Universal Creator you believe in (and isn't being a pro basketball player when you're only 4'5''). Also ask yourself if you were never 'paid' to do voiceovers, would you still do it. Yes, it's a lucrative paying job; but, you must first become satisfactory at voicing which moves you into the decent pay range as a 'regular' hired talent.
Wow, imagine me showing up to a voice class and saying 'this' instead of 'give me your money and I'll tell you how great you are'? So, back to advice: learn the craft and read a good book (one of my favorites is 'Word of Mouth' by Sue Blu) on the business before starting. If you are already started, the next step: find a good workout (voice) class and proceed as they may help you put a demo together or teach you how to. Before you ask: I don't voice teach/coach but more 'creative' coach.

KW: What other talents do you possess?

GB: People are mostly aware of my vocal abilities but not many have seen enough of my character acting work for TV and films which I am pursuing currently (as Mel Blanc had been known for) and I have aspired to build a career out of. As I have made this choice, a whole new team needs to be assembled with an agent and press to help build the awareness of these talents. This has been a passion of mine since my teen years and discovered The National Lampoon Radio Players who eventually went on to be major comedy/character acting influences from Bill Murray to Dan Aykroyd, and Saturday Night Live Players. (Feels like I'm launching a plane here until it comes together further.) Just saying here, I have a lot more to offer. To add to the progress, I also studied and/or performed with the best I could find: from the Second City L.A. Performers Group to National Lampoon L.A. directed by Ryan Stiles.

Daws Butler with puppets of cartoon characters he voiced,
including Huckleberry Hound!

Mel Blanc and his illustrious career of characters...

 (At this point, Muley the Mule walked in with his notepad and pen in hand and decided it was his turn. After a hearty apology, I left the room and left poor Greg with the mule.)

MULEY THE MULE: Hi, Greg, I’m your ‘Mule on the Street: In Print’ reporter. I have a few very hard-hitting, important questions that the readers want to know. First up: Paper or plastic?

GREG BERG: I assume you mean when shopping? I ask for rubber!

MTM: How do you like your eggs cooked?

GB: I am a fried, egg white kinda guy.

MTM: Just so you know, I have a friend who is a duck. He was an egg once. I just want you to think about that next time you’re eating an egg. That could have been someone’s pal! Anyway, what’s your favorite color?

GB: Plaid!

MTM: This one is a deep question and almost always stumps people: Where do you squeeze your toothpaste tube?

GB: Squeeze?! I 'suck' my toothpaste out of the tube like everyone else! ...oh, I get it..trick question!

MTM: You’ve been studying! Now, with spring on the horizon folks will be looking to cohabitate until the fall (or, that’s how it is in some species—I just talked to a flamingo this morning about this and, well, let’s finish here first and I’ll tell you all about the flamingo later): Toilet paper! Over or under?

GB: C'mon! I grew up in the suburbs of Ohio where we would BURN our trash, in a can, out in the backyard! The question SHOULD BE: 'Leaves or Sears Catalogue pages?’

MTM: Interesting!

(At this point, I could see Muley in the room stop talking for a moment to jot down a bunch of notes which, to this day, I have never seen. I did see him draw something about an animal backed up to a tree..?)

MTM: And the final question, Mr. Berg: If you had a girl name what would it be?

GB: My name as a Girl? I haven't been to prison, so don't know? What would your girl name be?

MTM: Gotta run!

(With that, Muley fled the room and I re-entered to apologize again for anything Muley may have said or done in that time.)
KW: Thank you again, Greg, for your time to answer these questions and for playing along with our mule. Anything else you’d like to add?

GB: Glad to be a part of such a great industry. Thanks for your interest in my voice contributions.

We appreciate Mr. Berg! You can hear him in just about anything and more—so, keep your ears tuned in!

THE MUPPETS -New on DVD and Blu Ray 3/20/2012!  The Muppets also get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame--hop here to read about it!

You can read my review on the movie (which is chock FULL of spoilers) by clicking here, and Muley's review (or whatever it is!) will be below. But, for now, let’s visit with Mr. Berg’s thoughts on the movie:

I saw 'The Muppets' at the
El Capitan Theater in Hollywood. The theater site was partly used as a location in the movie. Very surreal, saying to myself 'Whoa! I'm 'in' that very theater seen in the movie, watching the Muppets do their show in this theater for the movie I'm watching! 

I enjoyed the upbeat feel to it. As I've been a part of the 'audience' of Muppets Lovers and have seen the ups and downs of their work, so I was happy to see it held up for the story they were presenting.

What was fun to see was when they tapped into using TV favorite moments; i.e. recreating the Muppet Show Theme for the Muppet Telethon. Glad Jason (Segel) and Nick Stoller, his writing partner, added this element as it was fun seeing a bit of the TV memory on the big screen. Noticed the very brief celebrity cameos, but not sure if that was cut short to focus on the Muppets or not to put too much TV element into it? As maybe the Muppets performing a song or sketch with a celebrity would take away from the main story point.

I had heard, the movie may have run 3 hours before some scenes were cut from the final presentation.

When I was growing up with the Muppets, (before having any personal connection), the attraction was how it was fun and family-friendly to watch. The Muppets taking a road trip is familiar (families relate with, park scenes, friendships formed) compared to some movies since whose including product tie-ins keep people cautionary, taking away from their enjoying the story and show.

'The Muppets' movie and my connection: I was brought in to be the voice of the (unseen) Stage Manager for the critical scene where the Muppets rush around and have 15 seconds to go before the Telethon starts. One Muppet says "15 seconds", then it gets to 1 second and you hear my low volume voice—to establish the manager is in the control booth. I'm heard for about 2 seconds saying, '1...Cue Scooter!' Then, the show begins.

Later, after the power outage, they restart the show and again you may hear me louder on a speaker cueing them with '3...2' then they begin again, back onstage.

So, for those who love 'micromanaged' movie trivia, it fits into me being the ONLY actor from the animated Muppet Babies show who can be heard in a Muppet Movie--(for now) as years ago when actors had added voices in movie, trivia buffs had discovered Paul Frees was 3 or 4 voices in 1 movie scene. Plus, I was asked to do my 'natural' voice (Muppets do the only characters—after all: it's their movie).

Head on over now and buy your own copy of this fantastic movie; click the poster!
And now, here is Muley the Mule's (tongue-in-cheek) review of "The Muppets:"

Videography by DaMarco Randle.

Yeah.  It seems to me that someone's "review" turned into a jealous rant.  He'll get over it, though. That 'Walter' doll behind him?  That belongs to Muley.  And, most folks already know I'm a big fan of Walter's:

Don't forget that I also interviewed Kami Asgar and Rocco Fonzarelli, the sound guys for The Muppets.  You can read it at Muppet Central by clicking here.

Images not of Muley or myself are copyrighted by their owners, links to the origin of images used here represent credit given to the source. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

GREG BERG: An Interviewee to be Heard

(No, Muley: that's "heard", not "herd!")

A while back, I was given an opportunity to visit with one of the nicest fellows you can hope to meet: Greg Berg.  Our first meeting happened at that wonderful event called MuppetFest back in December 2001.  I was getting autographs in my “Jim Henson: The Works” book when I mentioned that I liked his embroidered “Muppet Babies” jacket.  He discussed with me that the cast and crew of the show got one and as the discussions continued I learned that was the voice of Baby Fozzie (everyone knows that, in The Muppets cast of characters, right after Kermit my favorite is Fozzie) so I immediately flipped to a page in my book and asked him for his autograph, an inquiry to which he graciously obliged.

Of course, that whole Muppety connection is what got my interest flowing; but, Greg is much more talented than just Muppets—he’s been in a TON of things, usually working in ground-breaking animation-firsts:
A. Robotman and Friends: D.I.C. Animation's 'first' Canadian-American animated venture.
B. Muppet Babies: 'First' animated Jim Henson network show with Muppets (or younger version)
C. Worked on the Simpsons, 'longest' running animated show
D. Worked on Toy Story: Pixar's 'first' full length film (w/Disney)
E. Voiced on Disney's Chicken Little: their 'first' all CGI film

This is a VERY LONG article, so I plan to post part of it today with a follow up tomorrow.  It’s a very important follow up tomorrow for a few reasons: 1) the remainder of the interview with Mr. Berg; 2) Muley does his “In Print” “Mule on the Street” questions; 3) it’s the release date of 2011’s “The Muppets” on DVD and Blu Ray and you’ll only be able to learn what Mr. Berg’s thoughts were of the film and his own INCLUSION in the movie as well as Muley’s review of the film—so be sure to check back tomorrow!

Right now, I really do appreciate his taking time to discuss his life and career with us and hope you enjoy this article.

KEVIN WILLIAMS:  So, Greg, what can you share about your childhood and the inspirations that you found which made you want to work as a voice actor?

GREG BERG:  I was born in Brooklyn, NY, and we moved to Ohio after I was about 4.  Must've been something in the water at both places as many entertainers I have admired were from both places. From the 3 Stooges, Marx Bros. and Danny Kaye to Daws Butler, Jonathan Winters and more!

My inspiration was a possible mix from a local Akron, OH, DJ named Jerry Healey, used to do a morning show providing his own natural voice, then switching to an elderly man and then elderly woman and would hold humorous conversations fooling thousands of listeners into thinking 3 people were there. He would let me watch from time-to-time.

Then it all led to my discovery of Mel Blanc doing silly voices for cartoons many grew up hearing. Later it evolved to me trying to imitate others (having seen) Rich Little appear on TV doing impressions to much applause.

KW: Speaking of inspirations and influences, who are your heroes in the industry?

GB: Heroes in the industry? Like 'SuperVoiceman?' There have been MANY talents who have impressed me to continue voicing, from the top of the list, the funny and creative Mel Blanc, in the category of performing came Daws Butler.  Eventually, I learned of the talented Frank Welker who is a creative, great, impressive and talented guy who I hold in high esteem. He is also someone that anyone in multiple voice and character work should have on their list as the best of the best! And anyone else who is the best or is striving to be the best at whatever they do.

KW:  When did you realize you could make a career performing voices?

GB: When I figured money could be made (was) probably when I was able to manage my time. This came about after learning how to recognize, relate and assimilate myself to applying myself to whatever I wanted to do. I set a goal and went for it!
KW: What existing character would be your dream character to perform in your career?
GB:  That sounds like asking if I could be someone else then who would I be?  I can't ever recall wanting to BE a certain established character.  I have admired the careers of some of the most known character voice talents and would love my work to aspire to their recognition status.

KW: What has been your favorite project to voice and why?
GB: Enjoying the creative side of v.o.'s, talents constantly are evolving and so for favorite voice projects, after spending 8 or 9 years of providing the Muppet Baby characters for which I'm known, the years spent 'playing' on that project were very happy times and yet after spending 1 season on the series 'Yo, Yogi' as Young Huckleberry Hound was a joy and ethereal experience having the ability and honor to do the young version of my teacher, who was one of my inspirations to do voices for my livelihood.

Each project has a benefit from my experience so really there are no single outstanding faves.
As a multi-voice, each character has to have something to make it worth doing which is also why I can't think of a major favorite character.

KW: What are you working on these days?
GB: (A while back I) completed work on another video game as one zombie (of many), and an electrified demon providing horrifying sounds and gurgles! Sweet, huh? As we just completed it, it's not near being promoted, so it wouldn't mean anything mentioning it for now. In the last year alone my most prominent work included voicing on an Oliver Stone war documentary, voicing a new Transformer (Igor) for the film "Transformers: Dark of the Moon,"and a brief voice of the unseen Stage Manager in "The Muppets."

NOTE: come back to read Part Two of the interview for more indepth discussion of "The Muppets."

Some other credits added to my list:  There was a recent radio commercial played for an AARP convention! Talk about versatility!

For my career, at this point, providing multiple voice duty, I have found my projects to vary on a bigger scale with more than 1 voice to offer, I may be hired to do more TV commercials one year, the next year filled doing more radio, and then, like this year, more video or interactive work.

Also, when I last checked on the website for the 'Build A Bear' company, my voice can be heard as The Mooselator which the viewer enters an English phrase and press the icon to translate the phrase into moose talk! They have had this up (a few) Christmas seasons. Silly and cute!  And commercials.

KW: Now, you know I’m a HUGE Muppets fan, so we can’t escape the Muppet Babies questions. I know what all the other fans will be asking:  Did you get to meet any of the actual Muppeteers while performing voices for the characters?

GB: As the show progressed, Jim Henson eventually paid a visit to the studio and THAT was a dream come true for me. I mean: what do you do when first you are selected for a 'project' that is new to the world, then you feel you record your part and it gets sent to the animators; BUT, when the 'creator' of one of your remotest lifelong dreams shakes your hand and sits in to watch your performance, the game feels won!

Now, if I may express my belief in the Law of Attraction which happened to befall me at a younger age, another story for another time, a short time after booking the roles of Baby Fozzie Bear and Baby Scooter, I happened to visit Beverly Hills (which was far from my usual stomping grounds and hang out area). Never expecting to see ANYONE I know (as the BH is more of a high-end office area), while literally crossing mid-street in a cluster of opposite crossing pedestrians, I look at one of the people and say “Frank?” He says ”'yes” and I turn around to return where I just left to continue the conversation. It was FRANK OZ! I rambled something nutty about “I'm Greg Berg, I'm you for the Muppet Baby cartoon,” which may not even have started to air yet.  The encounter was very brief as we were nearly talking in mid-street and he was on his way to something I'm sure was pressing.

That was a story or two as they were the first two I came across early on.  Later into the show, I visited Henson Studios to a kind welcome, and later when the first Muppet Convention took place in Santa Monica, CA, I met many of the performers (but the convention was after Richard Hunt passed).
This photo is an interview exclusive thanks to Greg Berg
for allowing us the opportunity to share it with everyone!

KW: What was your favorite thing about working on Muppet Babies?

GB: I enjoy 'unpredictable' elements within shows whether animated or live action. (Maybe because it makes you think.) Many successful old TV/radio shows, among them: The Jack Benny Show, The Mel Blanc Show, Abbott and Costello, it's what made Carol Burnett fun to watch -I'm glued to listening to or watching when it happens.  For Muppet Babies, it was when they showed recognizable live action film clips throughout various scenes.

KW: How were you approached about working on the animated series?

GB: As I was new to the animation scene, I had come to town with my mind set on doing what one of my favorite talents, Mel Blanc, did in Hollywood, On-Camera Comedy/Character acting and voices wherever they needed them. In 1982 I had been on an animated pilot for D.I.C. Productions (called ROBOTMAN AND FRIENDS) whose animation programming had just started to become known. I was still learning the craft and watched and studied whatever TV shows included funny or character voices in them about 2 years later had seen MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN-which included the first ever view of the Muppet 'Babies'.

Thanks to the creative awareness of Jim Henson, he had them developed into an animated show. They searched for new people to do the voices as it was to be done in L.A. and the NY talent was too busy and most likely were not able to pick up and constantly travel East and West for a cartoon and continue their local duties. I notified my agent at the time that I heard they were looking, he got me an audition and I tried the young voice versions of Babies Fozzie and Scooter for the auditions for the Muppet Babies. I was later informed I booked the 2 roles.

KW: What were your feelings when you learned you were going to perform those characters?

GB: I was thrilled to hear I was going to be part of ANYTHING connected with Jim Henson.

KW: When you were working on the show, did you realize you were going to touch the lives of so many children--after all, there was a whole generation of kids that Muppet Babies was their first experience with 'Muppets' characters. I recall my nephew even asking me once, "Why'd they grow up the characters?" after I showed him a tape of The Muppet Show.

GB: As a teen in Akron, Ohio, I had played around doing silly voices and sound-alike’s, and would watch and be very familiar with Jim Henson's work from the Ed Sullivan and Jimmy Dean shows, and Sesame Street. Luckily, I didn't disregard it and even wanted to contact the Children's Television Workshop to be part of the troupe of players they used for educational animation on The Electric Company OR Sesame Street. I questioned my abilities and then understood that to be on such noteworthy projects you had to be really talented and specially trained.  So, off to Hollywood to train (because who from MY town was working on such prestigious programming?).  I went when I had the chance, studied with voice king Daws Butler, and, bringing it around to becoming iconic Baby Fozzie, 'understood' this is what I put all my desire into and had a 'responsibility' to live up to.  Or if I tarnished the already established character, my reputation to future voice work would take a long time to reestablish, so I had a lot riding on giving it my best from my training and self-respect of living up to supplying voices to these characters.

I've been very Blessed to be part of a creative, talented, influential legacy.  Yes, this has been entertainment WORK, however I was given this mass audience of kids and fun-loving adults to entertain, and to give them a glimpse of me the actor 'behind the voice’.  I too share in their love of a life in a Muppet World. I don't smoke, drink, or do drugs.  I get a thrill from motivating others to follow their dreams after doing it myself!  I view myself as a big kid and get along well with kids and teens.  I’m a former Boy Scout, fan of The Little Rascals, love performing comedy (improvisational) characters, comics, and enjoying a good laugh.  Describe myself?  When in a silly mood a little like Lou Cosetllo—somewhat reflected as I perform Fozzie; when at a dinner (as I never use alcohol) I'm most likely drinking Chocolate milk or Fresh Lemonade. I’m positive, happy-go-lucky, and caring.

Baby Fozzie

Baby Scooter
KW: What preparation did you do to prepare yourself for Babies Fozzie and Scooter?

GB: The prep work was done as I evolved in my love for the Muppets, so I was aware of Fozzie Bear. I had a Kermit and Miss Piggy hand puppet in the early 80's and would occasionally use them to entertain my niece and nephew when I visited.  One day some neighbor kids came over after seeing me with the 2 puppets and handed me a Fozzie puppet! This was pre-everything that started my career. They said, 'Can you do his voice?' I said, “I'll try” but had no idea of the nuances etc., very amateur, and BAM!! A few years later I was asked if I could try out for the show and auditioned like many others.  Eventually, I was chosen!  I even remember watching the ‘Muppets Take Manhattan’ movie before they even had the idea for the animated show. But since I am a good listener, the voice stayed with me which was easy to relate to.
The original characters Greg saw in "The Muppets Take Manhattan"
not long before auditioning for the roles of Baby Scooter (left) and
Baby Fozzie (right).
KW: “Muppet Babies” featured a lot of beloved characters and even more songs and dialogue.  Were the voice actors all together for these recordings?

GB: As best as the director could wrangle the group together. Howie Mandel eventually had times out of town and had to record at his availability; but, the theme song session had most of us there. And later the schedules worked out to record the show together. The songs, later for the show was separate as we had separate tracks and characters.

KW: Off-topic but on it while I’m thinking about it: Do you own the three Muppet Babies plush from McDonald's all those years ago (the same ones in every Muppet fan's house)?

GB: I have the Baby Fozzie McD’s doll, and have seen many on Ebay. I have a doll from Hasbro as well. Someone gave me a grown-up Fozzie doll also. And McDonald’s had issued the Babies in cars and Baby Fozzie on a Toy Horse with wheels. And I have a grown-up Fozzie Pez dispenser. I have the Muppet Babies singing on 2 cassettes and 1 album. I have a (slightly worn-but not ratty- at one cuff) ORIGINAL embroidered MUPPET BABY JACKET I am eventually going to sell, as it's a large size satin, and I am now XXL.

KW:  I recall that jacket as the thing that started us talking at MuppetFest so many years ago! Looking back now at working on Muppet Babies, what was your happiest moment?

GB: All in all the cast and crew of the show all were great to work with! We all got to work for a terrific entertainment franchise that will be one of my fondest memories and hope to have a future connection anytime they're open to it. I've met Brian at the 2001 MuppetFest convention and introduced myself. I'm aware animation is a different group than puppetry: however, if anyone knew my background in the past 30 years, I've LIVE-voiced for a puppet which I stood next to as the puppeteer and I timed our actions, an interactive robot, and my earliest voice was for a talking interactive snowman. Will they need my talents later if they did another Muppet Babies series, or any series? Hey, we can talk!

(Note from KW: Should someone reading this like to hire Greg Berg you can reach him through the William Morris Endeavor Agency in L.A.!)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tools and Techniques: Inking (how-to, and how not to!)

In answering the popular question we hear at conventions: How do you ink, and what tools do you use? My co-horts in comics crime, Martheus and Janet Wade (with whom I've worked on "Jetta: Tales of the Toshigawa" and been family with for many years) and I have posted our "how-to" for inking in a full article on the new MAW Productions Studios blog. 

In addition to what you'll read there, I wanted to give you some more suggestions here. 

You'll learn that there's a thing called digital inking.  I don't do it properly, but I do it so that it suits my needs such as the times I create a Muley-mini—quicker, not as neat little ‘toons.  You'll find a way that will suit you as well.  In this case, I take the image in pencil from a sketchbook or other paper…

And I scan that image into the computer as a color image.

I work in Photoshop, and so I choose “Image,” “Adjustments,” and “Curves.”

I move the line around in curves until I get a line color I can approve of…

...with a nicer, blacker “inked” line.  Click on “OK” and start the clean-up process--erase out the specks and "dirt" from the art that came through from the scanner, then save the cleaned up final work.  Then, it's ready for colorization.

There are other means for proper inking as well.  Martheus Wade points out that you should erase your pencils in one direction so as not to dim the darkness of your inks--a good suggestion!!  Here, I'm going to suggest to you how to ink WITHOUT having to erase your pencils!  Plus, you can still save your art in pencil.  How's that?

You'll need to make another trip down to the art store and buy yourself some Layout Bond paper.  I love using the Layout Bond paper (Strathmore makes this as well as the Bristol I use) because you can do all your pencils here--get the erasing out the way and such--and then lay this on your light table along with your Bristol on top of it, and trace your pencils using the inking styles mentioned in the full article.

Now, you'll have solid, pure black inked lines with no eraser smudges or rubbings on it AND you have your pencils that students 100 years from now can look at and learn your process.  It also makes for neat art-displays as well to let folks see your thought process in creating the strip.

The process I mention in particular happens to deal with placement of characters, word balloons, backgrounds...when folks have the pencils to look at they might see that you moved a character to help the flow of the dialogue work better, or that you changed something in the background so it didn't distract from something in the foreground.  Sometimes, it's interesting to see that some things just get left out altogether--one such strip is Muley sitting in a long  panel complaining about how "lonliness is such a long word for just one person..." 

In the original strip art there is a window; but, because the strip is about solitude, that window made you feel that he wasn't alone all of a sudden, so I removed the window leaving only Muley in the room without anything else--no furniture, no toys, no anything.  But, I digress as this leads us into a whole new "how-to!"

For more information, you can purchase “Cartooning with Muley” at the conventions for $1.00, or order by mail for $1.75 via Paypal with a request to KevinMule.  This shows a process for creating a comic strip.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

DaMarco Randle, Roy Duck's pal, Hits The Papers!

MSCA Member DaMarco Randle has made an appearance in the Tuesday, March 13, 2012, papers of The Commercial Appeal for his participation in the "Draw Line Color" show at the Germantown Performing Arts Center which runs through March 31st, the same ending date of the show he is also in as part of the Mid-South Cartoonists Association show "Drawing Inspiration" at the DeSoto Arts Council in Hernando, MS. He'll also be in an artshow called "Chicken Pot Paintings" this Friday, March 16, from 6 - 9 at Marshall Arts at 639 Marshall Ave, Memphis, TN 38103.

Not only has he performed puppetry with the Muley gang as the voice of Roy Duck, he has also created a "Turra" Pin-up for MAW Productions' "Turra: Bombs and Betrayal" and is an official photographer for us all.  We're proud of his appearance in the paper:

Photo by Michael Donahue
"Roy Duck" by DaMarco Randle
Oil & Acrylic on 8x10" Canvas

Friday, March 9, 2012

Muley's Pals: "Jetta: Tales of the Toshigawa" Now Digital!!

Action Lab Entertainment is proud to present Jetta: Tales of the Toshigawa as a digital exclusive comic, available in Nook, iOS, Android, Kobo, Kindle, Graphicly and additional formats in Mid-May.  Click the image below to learn more!

Now, in a follow-up to the question from last week about where do ideas come from, (we know, "from" shouldn't end a sentence) I failed to mention something that I have always told people for years and years: PLAYTIME! Yes, while you walk by your shelf of collected action figures, play with them some. Move them around, put them in new poses, and do a little role-play with them--you'll be surprised at the ideas you can come up with! Just place your characters in the roles of those action figures and you're on your way to a new idea or storyline.

Friday, March 2, 2012

How-To: Where do ideas come from?

One of the questions I get asked from time-to-time is, "Where do you get your ideas?"

Well, sometimes from reading.  It can be a book about creating ideas, like "The Cartoonist's Muse"; or, it can happen while you're reading a novel.  Sometimes, reading other comic strips will send my brain reeling down another path and then I have to stop and go write a few comic strips.

Other times, it's an idea that stems from a conversation with a friend, eavesdropping on the conversation at the next table, or from a story that a friend tells you from their life.  I can say that sometimes ideas come from just doodling Muley and the other critters--when I draw them a certain way, wearing a certain costume...they tell ME what they want to do, and I do it.

And, in some cases, the area around you creates the idea.  A while back we went to the Nashville Horror Con, followed by dinner at the Tilted Kilt.  While there, and with nothing much to look at *wink, wink* I found a clear paper placemat in front of me, so I whipped out my Sharpee and went to doodling.  I left the original art there on the table for out waitress; but, I took a photo of the idea I had.

You see, it's an Irish pub.  And the specialty?  Fish and chips.  Everyone ordered "Fish-n-chips," which sounded like "fishin' chips."  That's where the doodle came from and where this strip originated.

So, you see, the ideas can come from anywhere.  Reach out for them, snag them, and be sure to jot them down quick because as fast as the ideas come they will leave your mind.

Here's a question for you, and feel free to comment below: When do you get your ideas?  Do you feel like they come to you when you're about to go to sleep?  Do they show up while you're showering?  Do they show up while you're doing other art, like sketching?  I want to hear from you.

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