At this point, the accepted line on "The Simpsons" is that it hasn't been good for decades, which is sort of true, even if the new seasons suggest otherwise. Now that the show is on Disney+ and has been fully integrated into the house of mouse, it has seemingly completed its transformation into exactly the kind of commercialized pop culture product it once so deftly lampooned. But while it's easy to take shots at a show that's been on the air since the late-'80s (fun, too) one thing you simply can't knock is the voice acting talent.

Since 1989, the central cast has remained unchanged, with Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith, Julie Kavner, and Nancy Cartwright giving voice to Matt Groening's original vision of the modern American family for 34 seasons straight. But back when "The Simpsons" was getting started, none of the cast could have known what they were signing up for. As Cartwright remembered it, "To me honestly it was like no big deal, it was like another audition." That audition would obviously turn out to be one of the most important moments of her life. And having gone in to read for Lisa, it was only after she asked to read for Bart that she was hired on the spot.

That instinct to push for the character she really wanted is a trait Cartwright had carried with her since before she became a voice actor. In fact, it was only because of her enterprising nature and willingness to take a chance that she had a career in voice acting in the first place. And all it started with a phone call to a voice-acting legend.

The Road To The Simpsons

Cartwright, who these days also provides dozens of voices for shows such as "Rugrats" and "Animaniacs," grew up in Ohio, which happened to be the home state of voice acting star Daws Butler. The man behind a slew of classic cartoon characters, from Huckleberry Hound to Yogi Bear and Quick-Draw Mcgraw, Butler was somewhat of a hero to Cartwright, who, in 1977 at the age of 20, was working at a radio station in Dayton, Ohio. As she explained in a short clip, it was there that she came across Butler's contact information and reached out, only to find that the famed voice actor was more than willing to be her mentor.

For a year, the pair exchanged cassette tapes, with Butler sending his new protégé scripts and providing feedback on her performances until eventually, she made the move to L.A. where her mentor was living. The actress recalls her early years in the city on her website:

"On Sundays, I would catch the number 86 bus into Beverly Hills to work with Daws. He and I were to do a one-hour lesson, working with his own material — reading, changing, adjusting, working with the microphone, editing — just having a great time."

That meeting would stretch far beyond an hour and would be the start of an ongoing practice that continued for some time before Butler began bringing Cartwright to recording sessions at Hanna-Barbera. Over time, Cartwright would start auditioning and eventually landed her first role as Gloria in the animated series "Richie Rich." It would be some time before she went in to read for Bart, but thanks to Butler, who passed in 1988, the year before "The Simpsons" debuted, she was well prepared when she did finally meet with Groening and co.

'Hitch Your Wagon To A Winner'

That Cartwright just took a chance by calling Butler up one day sounds like something out of a movie. But that seems to be her story all-round. No one would have thought Butler would be so amenable to helping a young aspiring voice actor from Ohio, and no one could have predicted the massive success of "The Simpsons," but it all happened. And having such an esteemed mentor to guide her through the process was always going to give Cartwright an advantage. Talking to The Simpsons Archive, Cartwright explained:

"He didn't teach me how to do voices. He taught me how to make it your own, how to take the author's words and personalize it. He taught me how to vary your pitch and your energy. I would learn through practices with him different techniques I could use on the microphone."

The actress has taken a similarly altruistic approach since becoming a star, providing numerous resources on her website and giving advice to up-and-coming voice actors whenever she gets a chance. And it seems Butler's leadership remains with her to this day, with Cartwright providing a host of advice on her website that could only come from years of doing the job and having the kind of guidance she benefitted from. Aside from reminding actors to make each line read sound like it's the first time they're saying the words, and to stay quiet between takes, perhaps the most crucial direction she gives is what helped her the most: "Hitch your wagon to a winner."

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The post The Simpsons' Nancy Cartwright Learned Her Craft From Legendary Yogi Bear Voice Actor, Daws Butler appeared first on /Film.