You may not know the name Bill Farmer but you will certainly know his voice. He has been voicing Goofy and Pluto for nearly 30 years and was named a Disney Legend in 2009. Bill also has voiced tons of other notable characters including Foghorn Leghorn, Sylvester the Cat and Yosemite Sam in the film “Space Jam”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Bill about his voice roles and what we can expect from the new Disney Junior series “The 7D”.
Mike Gencarelli: You’ve been voicing Goofy and Pluto for nearly 30 years; what is it like hold these reigns for so long?
Bill Farmer: I think for any voice actor you can consider it a great honor to get a long lasting character. It is very competitive out here. Especially to get one of the Disney characters, I think it is one of the highest honors you can get in animation. Goofy was also my favorite Disney character growing up as a kid, which only made it that much sweeter that I ended up voicing him all these years.
MG: Do you feel that voicing characters like Goofy have changed for you the years?
BF: Voicing Goofy has certain changed my LIFE for the better. I first came to California as a stand-up comic. I had no idea that I would be voicing a character like Goofy. The audition came to me and it was very out of left field. I got a tape of Pinto Colvig and practiced it over the weekend. Then I went in and laid it down at the agency and about a month later they told me that I was going to get to do a Goofy job. I didn’t know if it was going to be more than one but after 27 years they are still using me. So (in Goofy’s voice) “Gawrsh, I guess I got lucky”.
MG: You are named a “Disney Legend” five years ago; tell us about receiving this amazing achievement?
BF: This actually came out of left field also; I had no idea that I was even being considered for this. I got a letter from Bob Iger in the mail saying “Congratulations on being nominated for the 2009 Disney Legend Award”. It is the greatest honor you can get from Disney. The ceremony was the first one ever in front of the public at the 2009 D23 event in Anaheim, CA. There were over 500 people in the audience, so that was very exciting. I got to get the award alongside Tony Anselmo, the voice of Donald Duck; Betty White and Robin Williams. It was overwhelming but also very exciting. I guess if you wait around long enough good stuff happens [laughs].
MG: You announced that “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” was canceled on your Twitter page; why did the show end after seven years?
BF: The show isn’t canceled from being on the air but we have finally recorded the last episode. They will still be coming out for a while. I do not even think that they started releasing the fifth season yet. We did record a fifth season but it takes so long for them to animate it. The production has ceased but it will be quite a while before the show runs out of new episodes for TV. We have been on the air consistently since 2006 and we started recording in 2004. So there is always a long lead-in time between recording and seeing it on TV. So don’t worry more is still to come, we just are not making any more.
MG: Can you give us a sneak to what we can expect coming up?
BF: One of my favorites in the last season, we are looking for Goof Beard the Pirate, who is Goofy’s grandfather. He is voiced by Dick Van Dyke. So that is a very exciting episode. And there are plenty more to come.
MG: You are currently also voicing Goofy in “Mickey Mouse” shorts; how does that differ for you?
BF: They are really radical. They are totally going in a different character direction then some of the previous stuff that we’ve done. But they are very funny and it is refreshing as an actor to not have to do the same thing over and over. I find it a lot of fun to do and get to stretch the character to new places that he has never been before.
MG: What other characters do you voice that people may not realize?
BF: Well yes actually, in the movie “Space Jam”, I voiced Foghorn Leghorn, Sylvester the Cat and Yosemite Sam. In episodes of “Robot Chicken”, I did Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. We have a new series called “The 7D”, it is like a reinvention of the Seven Dwarfs and in that I voice Doc. With the traditional Seven Dwarfs, I voice Sleepy. Horace Horsecollar got his voice in “The Prince and the Pauper” and I have gotten to voice him ever since. So yeah, there are a lot of little voices that you may not know about that I get to do.
MG: You beat me to it but I was going to ask you about the upcoming Disney Junior show “The 7D”; can you give us a sneak preview?
BF: “The 7D” is directed by Kelly Ward, who directed all six/seven years of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”, so I know him very well. Tom Ruegger, who did “Animaniacs”, is the producer. It is kind of a prequel in the way to “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. So there is no Snow White. They look much different as well from what you would expect with the classic Dwarfs. They decided to reinvent them since the things that they do are in a more modern fairy tale land. So rather than have the traditional dwarfs change their characters, they started from the ground up and came up with a new incarnation of these dwarfs. They are very well written and we have an amazing cast. It is definitely the who’s who in the voice over world including Maurice LaMarche, Kevin Michael Richardson, Billy West, Scott Menville, Stephen Stanton, Dee Bradley Baker and many more. We just finished recording the first season of 20-30 episodes and it was such a blast. They are being animated as we speak and it should hit the air somewhere around June this year. So I get to voice Doc and also a new dog character named Sir Yips A-lot, which was cool since I go to do more dogs besides just Pluto.
MG: Tell us about your involvement with the documentary “I Know That Voice”?
BF: John DiMaggio put this thing together, who voices Bender on “Futurama” and many other shows like “Adventure Time”. He put this documentary together and asked me if I would be in it. So they came over to the house and filmed for about an hour. They also filmed about another 100 voice over actors. The documentary is wonderful and is really the who’s who in voice over world. So if you ever want to know anything about voice over actors, you can go on iTunes and a few other places and download this documentary since it is really worth seeing.