Toonarific Interviews
- Hal Rayle

June 11, 2004


This has got to be the best interview we have given to date. It was many months in the making, but we finally got back in touch, or rather he got in touch with us, after we forwarded an interview to him. If you grew up in the 80's, some of your favorite toons would have featured this man's incredible voicework. Though, his voice talent comes in second to his intelligence, integrity and heart, and I am truly honored to have had the opportunity to interview such a talented actor, as well as a person who has been at the forefront of the digital age. We'll have to do lunch sometime when I'm up in Denver.

You've done a ton of great voices for many animated series since the early 80's. But let's go all the way back to the beginning. When you were child, what were your favorite shows? activities? What was your family environment like, if you don't mind me asking? Did any of these inspire you do later do voicework?
Yes. Long story being short...I grew up without a father. Raised by my Mother and 3 older sisters. We lived in a town of 800 which served as the county seat. I was born at the time of television. It was my great escape. I was always searching for who I was going to become and developed a knack for mimicry. My extended family (on my Grandmothers side) has had a family reunion since 1926. It is an annual summer event, capped off by a vaudeville night. This is where it all began for me (as the saying goes). This was my foray into the world of entertainment. This is where my gift for voices was seasoned and honed.
What extracurricular activities did you participate in in school? What were your favorite subjects? Did anything during this time period stear you into your current place in life?
I was a swimmer and worked in a gas station after school and practice. My favorite subject was advanced composition & history. I was known throughout the school as a clown with many voices.
Did you attend college, and if so, where did you go and how were your experiences there? What was your major? What part of it made a major impact in your life?
I went to Ball State University and majored in Telecommunications, Cinematography & History. I wasn't much of an engineer. The equipment was antiquated compared to what was period and being dyslixic I shyed away from patching etc. I strove for performing. During my last year of college the head of the Telecommunications dept. (who didn't care much for my original programming ideas) told me that my best advice would be to get myself a job with a 5 thousand watt radio station in Indiana and learn radio from the ground up. I promptly graduated and steered completely another way.
What was your first job outside of school? If not in the entertainment industry, how did you change gears and go in that direction?
I worked through school and my last two years were spent working for a restaurant chain called T.G.I. Friday's in Indianapolis. It was a full hours drive each way - but I was young under the lure of money. While tending bar an advertising guy heard me doing Howard Cossell & Muhammid Ali. That brought me into radio advertising. This mean't additional revenue outside of my bartending. Man, I was livin' large. I wrote, voiced & sold commercials to car dealers around the country and got mid grades from my professors who were jealous about using my vocal abilites to sell my writing and development. I guess what I lacked in style - I made up for with talent. Something mediocrity always despises.
What was your first job in the entertainment field, if it wasn't the answer of the previous question? Do you have any fond memories of this experience, and if so, what were they?
I think I answered that question in the last one but I do have a great story. One night while tending bar after my college graduation. I was musing to myself during the lull on whether I should stay or move out of Indiana. I loved that place at that time in an almost consuming way. I was at a cross roads in my life. I was scared to make the next leap of faith. I was ultimately scared to leave home. I'd met a girl and we were in love and I wondered if I was making the right decision…staying for love at the expense of my dream. That night the manager came over to me with an old buddy from college (they went to Texas Tech). The manager says: "Hey, you gotta hear this guy do his Howard Cossell…do it, c'mon duit!" It was time to lead the monkey out and parade him around in front of friends…otherwise known as a command performance. I launched into my schpeel and the friend of my managers leaned forward and brandished a bic lighter which he used to light my beard on fire. Everyone at the bar was horrified except for the friend of the managers who sneered: "I always wanted to burn, Howard Cossell." I received apologies from my manager who hustled his friend out of the bar but, I made up my mind right then to leave Indiana. To reach out for the brass ring. I went to the manager and had him put me on the traveling team, setting up bars, training bartenders and heading for California.
Leading up to this point, who were your mentors and how did they influence your thought process and outlook, and help you achieve your goals?
The first time I went to L.A. I had no mentors. I had no help, I had no advice and I had no money. I was trying to do stand-up comedy around the country so that I could break into cartoons. I failed miserably. I moved away and regrouped. After a few years in Silicon Valley in the late 70's I moved to San Francisco. A great place to be. I had a girl friend, I had a great job and then I got cancer. That changed everything for me. I woke up after my surgery and made my mind up that nothing was going to stop me again from trying…except dying. It took me 3 years to dig out of that financial / physical hole and a hellish one it was. I lost everything except my pride. I stayed in the light and everyday in every way I encouraged myself to go on. I committed myself to practice my voices. I took classes, I ran, I worked (after a year), I went on auditions and eventually I got my S.A.G. & A.F.T.R.A. cards. I sub-let my apartment. Bought a truck with a camper (in case I didn't have a place to sleep) and moved to Hollywood with all of $400.00 to my name.
Now, coming into your voicework career. You've done work not only with animated series, but also live-action series. Can you please tell me some of the shows you've worked with, and how they were, if at all, different from working on the sets of animated productions? Any fond memories from these shows?
Geez, you gotta be kidding. . .fond memories? The greatest!! Working with the best is always a thrill. It sizzles. It makes you perform on a higher level. I've done a lot of things and wouldn't take any of them back - here's some of my favorite Hollywood moments.

    The Predator 2: I spent 9 days roaring, snarling & attacking. I wear a tmj-mouth guard at night to this day because of the dreams I have had during and since that period. Honestly, how many different ways can a thing squeel out in excruciating pain or malice? We blended sounds, I created alien speech, we tried this, that and any other thing the studio felt it might need. I left 4 more predator movies there on the editing room floor…except it's digital now so I'm sure it's still usable...somehow. Right fella's.

    In the movie Total Recall with Arnold Schwartzenneger I voiced all the rats in the scene where he's told by himself on a flat screen laptop computer to "GET YOUR ASS TO MARS!" The Director actually asked me if I could make one of the rats French. He was perfectly serious and honestly believed that a French rat would sound much different from a rat raised somewhere else.

Ah, mediocrity...ya' gotta love it...'cause your gonna deal with it...in the voice business.

You've done voices for many of the shows I watched growing up, some I was a die-hard fan of. First I'd like to focus on some of the "big guns", since those were my favorites. The titles I'd like to talk about are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, and GI Joe. These 4 shows are some of the most popular animated series of all time, creating an enormous fan base that has lasted years and caused many sequels, movies, and tons of high priced merchandise. If you could, please tell me about your characters that you did on each of these shows, and a little 'insider' info on the behind-the-scenes action that took place where us mortals could not see.

What were your favorite moments, if any, that took place while working on these shows?

I played Raphael for 13 shows while Rob Paullsen was off doing something else. It was great fun and the ensemble cast was a hoot to work with. G.I. Joe & Transformers were almost the same casts. I actually have a huge poster signed by the cast of G.I. Joe. The director; Wally Burr was a piece of work. By far the longest sessions of anything I've ever worked on…in fact so long, many expressed their desire to strike because of the length of his sessions. I didn't have a problem with it…I was a new face in the crowd and I liked the social interaction. Some of the heavy hitters were anxious to be released because of auditions, jobs etc. I was just beginning in animation and for me it was long but it was fun. I remember when we did the Transformers Movie and Orson Wells had just recorded (he had a stipulation in his contract that no-one else would be present at his assigned recording time. I was one of the first to arrive in the room after he'd left. I swear you could feel the air in the studio. His snifter & Perrier bottle still resting on the table where he sat.

For Transformers I played Pipes, Snarl & Shrapnel. Two dinobots & an insecticon. I loved Shrapnel with his repetitive echo & his high-pitched shriek of laughter. Snarl was difficult because he was enormous and roared after each line. I nearly blew my throat out before I learned how to control him. In G.I. Joe my first character was Prince Hajji of the desert sands, then I became Deep-6 underwater demolitions expert. He spoke like Charles Bronson and was great fun to do. Admiral Ledger (head of the Pacific Fleet) was another character I played…very Patton (George C. Scott). He barked orders and was big on discipline.

I guess if I had a favorite moment it would be during construction of the Wally Burr studio's there was a sheet rock wall that everyone signed while they were waiting to audition or go in and record. There were lots of funny things on it and some of the biggest names in voice over who were alive at that time…then, Wally painted over it.

I'm not even going to try and list all of the shows you have worked on. There are other sites for that. However, being that you have worked on many shows (Bionic Six, Wizard of Oz, Galaxy High School, Defenders of the Earth, Tale Spin, and on and on), what can you tell me about your personal favorites? Did any of these shows leave a greater impact in your career than others? If so, which ones and how did they?
I loved Galaxy High. I was the star and worked with really great people on it. Henry Gibson, Gino Conforti, Howard Morris, Nancy Cartwright, Pat Fraley etc. Chris Columbus created the show and we got submarined by the networks. CBS was more into PeeWee's Playhouse & Teen Wolf so we were pre-empted by every major sporting event throughout the winter sports season. Bionic Six was fun...again working with my comedy mentor Howard Morris*. I played: Eric (Sport 1). My eternally young star voice was working again. I played Prince Krotan the son of Ming the Merciless in Defenders of the Earth. I've got one of those posters signed by the cast as well. I loved the Prince he was just so vile that he was great fun to play. We had a director (Stu Rosen) and he insisted that we walk around as our characters before we started rolling tape. Such an idiot. He micro-managed everyones performances because he was a frustrated actor as well. The same guy who wouldn't audition me for Ninja Turtles when it first came around and many other shows. He was just a petulant pig…of course that's just my opinion. Favorite directors would have to be: Howard Morris, Ginny McSwain & Susan Blu. As far as impacting my career…I believe each and every character I played impacted my career. Most especially because of the caliber of people I worked with in front of the Mic and behind. Spiral Zone was one that not only impacted my career…it fattened my wallet. I played Max (My ode to: Muhammid Ali), Raw Meat (my ode to: inbred white trash) & Ben (once again my young hero voice).

The Wizard of Oz was a crowning achievement for me. I am very proud to have played a part in it's rich history. I was approved by both MGM & Jack Haley Jr. to play the Tin Woodsman. A part that shall ever stay in my heart.

Now you have a thriving business, Roswell 'n Rayle? How did this endeavor take shape and come into fruition? What entertainment categories do you cover with this company? Tell me a little bit about your partner in crime.
In 1986, I met Maggie Roswell (of the Simpsons fame). We married in 1987 and have been living happily ever since. In 1986, I also served on the S.A.G./A.F.T.R.A. negotiation board. It was during this time that I watched the future unfold. The unions refused to acknowledge Cable Television and the Digital Universe as anything but a passing phase. They couldn't have been more wrong. I voiced my opinions and payed a high price for it among certain animation directors and houses. My wife & I moved to Denver, Colorado in 1994 to raise our daughter and to get away from the age-ism, fires, strikes, riots & the quakes of California.

Roswell 'n Rayle set up in Denver, Colorado because of it's location for our daughter and it's participation in the digital empire. We have ISDN so that we can broadcast fiber-optically anywhere in the world. We write, produce, voice & deliver advertising for commercial as well as internet use. In the last year we have branched out into mobile entertainment. Meaning, we write, voice & create comedy ring tones for your cell phone and are in the process of creating messaging as well. This is huge for us because we will be the first to create & populate cel messaging in the U.S. To reach these messages go to www.audiornr.com and click on the AudioObjects box. This will take you to a page which describes AudioObjects and contains a link to RingToneJukeBox.com

Once you get to RingToneJukeBox click on RealTones and look for Comedy Real Tones. This will have our Ring Tones / Text Toons etc. which can be downloaded onto any web access cel phone that's out there.

My agent once said to me in 1992..."What are they going to do with a few seconds of sound?" I said: "Just because you can't see the writing on the wall...don't fault the one's who can." Ladies & Gentlemen...the digital age is here.

Now, looking back on your career-to-date, do you feel that you are where you wanted to be at this point in time, or did you have other goals you wished you could have achieved? Do you have any advice to give those who may also attempt to follow in a similar path as the one you have cut?
I knew when I left Los Angeles that it was over for me there. I knew because I knew what was coming and I knew that the Union had already given up any chance for actors to get a handle on it. Sure, I regret not being in the thick of the action but let me tell you something; nothing and everything is fair in Hollywood. It's show business. Most people emphasize the show and leave the business to agents, managers etc. I opted to own myself and harness my own creativity. It's hard. I can tell you that going from Indiana to Hollywood was a lot easier than going from Hollywood to Denver.

Not because of the proving yourself aspect of credibility but because of the mediocrity that govens the mind set of the Colorado Film Commission. I know and knew where digital was headed because of my involvement with it's inception. That's no brag...it's fact. I put my money where my mouth was and now my voice can reach out to any digital location on this globe.

I built my own studio and learned how to operate it. I went from waiting for the phone to ring in Hollywood to developing it's ring tone and the future of cellular messaging - right here in Denver.

The best advice I can give is: "Don't let the b-st-rds wear you down. Believe in yourself -and so shall others." The hardest part of any journey is commiting to it and taking those first long steps of departure. My life's experience tells me - talent will always win out - if it is harnessed, honed, cultivated and ready for those fleeting moments when chance presents itself. As Thomas Edison once said: "Chance favors the prepared mind."

The world is full of short cuts but in the end they will lead you to a place where you are untried, untested an unable to move forward.

"Know thyself, take in all things with moderation and nothing to excess."
             - Inscriptions from The Ancient Temple of Delphi

Looking at today's animation industry, on what's hot and what's not, what are your feelings about the shows that are the most popular among today's youth? Do you feel these shows are making a good or not-so-good impact?
I'm old school. I like a message with a heart. Since the Simpsons arrived we've had a lot of shows which try to emphasize the whole dysfunctional family scenario. The Simpsons (in my opinion) are able to translate so well because in the end it is about home & family. For all their faults and foibles they do care for each other. My wife and I were in Venice, Italy and having a discussion with some high ranking Doctors in the Venetian medical community. One of these Doctors was a high ranking man in the Tuscan Knights of the Roman Catholic Church and he challenged my wife and I at dinner with the proclamation: "I don't like the Simpson's!" The room went silent. We began telling him about the people were all yellow because Matt Groening set out to make fun of all things and all people. We gave the argument about the show's emphasis on family but, what won him over was my wife's eloquence in comparing the comedia' (a renaissance comedy troop) and it's ties with political satire and the Simpson's. At the end of the discussion he agreed to see the show for himself and make his mind up afterward. I was impressed with his ability to listen to a discussion of a contrary opinion and remain open to the logic of the conversation.

I love Fleisher Bros. Animation. I love characters with a heart. Something has happened to today's youth and I can't put my finger on what it is.

When I first started writing comedy real tones the #1 real tone was...A crowd of people panicked by the blasting of an automatic weapon fired among them.

I have an 11 year old daughter & I don't want that kind of stuff on her cell phone. If I can create something that's funny that's what I'm here for. Comedy is the solvent of terror & tension. We here at Roswell 'n Rayle are commited to comedy with a blend of humanity and humor.


Now if that didn't blow your socks off, I don't know what will. Also check back later for a question we submitted to Maggie, which wasn't included in this version of the interview, since she is a busy lady.

And for those who want to visit the Roswell 'n Rayle website, go to www.audiornr.com.

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