He’s the voice in your head.
No, not that one. The other voice(s) you heard as a child: Raphael of “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (in the ‘80s); Pinky in “Animaniacs” and “Pinky and the Brain” (in the ‘90s) and many other animated characters from shows such as “The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest” and “The Fairly OddParents.”
He is Rob Paulsen and he is coming to the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center on Sat., January 20, 2018. He and fellow cast members are bringing a show of combined animation and live action to local audience members called “Animaniacs Live.”
“This is a unique circumstance. The people who wrote and originally performed the music doing it live,” Paulsen said. “It’s not only nostalgic, it’s incredibly entertaining.”
“Animaniacs” footage on a large screen will form a backdrop for music performances by Paulsen, Wakko Warner voice actor Jess Harnell and songwriter Randy Rogel, who mix slapstick humor, pop culture and witty lines onstage. It’s a chance for the public to revisit a favorite show from the past and get a night of fresh entertainment.
“You will ultimately leave from two hours of laughing and smiling,” Paulsen said. “It’s a unique experience not only for the audience, but us … and we always do a Q and A at the end of it – and they love it.”
Paulsen’s heroes as a child included masters of comedy and impersonation Peter Sellers, Jonathan Winters and Carol Burnett. At an early age he started trying on voices and making people laugh.
“That doesn’t mean I thought I would make any money doing it,” Paulsen explained. “It wasn’t until my 20s that I thought, ‘I really love this, and I really can’t not do it.’”
With some music and theatre experience under his belt, Paulsen moved from Michigan to California in 1978.
“Fortunately, my parents instilled in me a sense of responsibility – they said, ‘You’re on your own,’ but they encouraged me to follow my passion, even though they preferred I finished college,” Paulsen said. “I just couldn’t see myself doing anything else. You’re driven to do something for this deep ‘jones’ of doing it.”
The aspiring actor worked on “GI Joe” and made connections that landed him the voice of “Hadji” on the new “Jonny Quest” series. And while snagging the Ninja Turtles part of Raphael was one of his biggest breaks, he was doubly delighted to play Donatello when the reboot was in production 25 years later.
By far, one of Paulsen’s lowest points was two years ago when he was diagnosed with stage 3 throat cancer, a terrible and ironic illness for a voice actor. His doctor found a lump in his neck where the cancer had spread to a lymph node. He completed radiation and chemotherapy by May 2016.
“I am a very, very fortunate individual,” Paulsen said. “Never did my wife and I have a moment of ‘why me?’ We are very fortunate … the treatment worked.”
The gratitude he exudes is likely one of the reasons cancer couldn’t hold Paulsen back.
“I could not have asked for a better career, and I have a great family and friends,” he said. “I’ve gotten to do this for 30 years. I’m beyond fortunate.”
In addition to touring with “Animaniacs Live,” creating and directing, Hulu picked up 26 more half-hour shows of “Pinky and the Brain.” Also, Steven Spielberg announced a plan for a reboot of the series, which could put even more on Paulsen’s plate.
“I’m a very driven individual,” he said. “It’s a new challenge. Most of my career I’ve been a hired gun. I show up, I do the job and I go home. Now I’m pitching ideas, going on the road. I’m busier now than I’ve ever been in my life.”
After 30 years creating characters that gained traction with audiences of more than one generation, Paulsen’s work connects him to a growing fan base, which he says spans in age from 8 to 70 years old.
“People say, ‘I watched this and now my kids watch this,’” he said. “All it does is make everybody happy. I’m really enjoying the challenge.”
“Animaniacs Live” will be at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center on Sat., January 20 at 2 p.m. The PAC is located on the College of the Canyons campus located at 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road in Valencia. For tickets, call 661-362-5304 or visit http://www3.canyons.edu/Offices/PIO/CanyonsPAC/animaniacs.html.