Join 3,375 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


RIP, Lucille Bliss: Voice of Smurfette and Crusader Rabbit
November 15, 2012 2:47 PM   Subscribe

'TV historians will tell you that “Felix the Cat” was one of the first images ever broadcast on television (when RCA broadcast a Felix doll in 1928 on experimental station W2XBS) — but it wasn’t until the late ’40s that the first animated character was created expressly for TV. Crusader Rabbit appeared for the very first time on KNBH (Los Angeles) on August 1, 1950, and featured a Don Quixote-like title character aided by his friend Ragland T. “Rags” Tiger as they pursued adventures in serial (i.e. cliffhanger) installments.' On November 8th, the voice of Crusader Rabbit, Lucille Bliss, passed away at the age of 96. Ms. Bliss may be more familiar to younger fans as the voice of Smurfette, from The Smurfs, or as Ms. Bitters on Invader ZIM.

"Actors from her generation who came up in live radio, you'd do one or two takes with Lucille and she'd just nail it," said David Scheve, who owns TDA Animation and worked with Bliss. "She could do three or four characters in one [scene] and you'd never know they were all her. She was terrific."
"[After Crusader Rabbit,] Bliss went on to hundreds of voiceover jobs in both feature film and TV animation, with some of her best-known roles being the ugly stepsister Anastasia in Disney’s Cinderella.... She also had roles in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and 101 Dalmatians; Hanna-Barbera’s The Flintstones and Space Kidettes; Don Bluth’s The Secret of NIMH; MGM’s “Robin Hoodwinked” and “Droopy Leprechaun”; and Fox/Blue Sky’s Robots.
Ms. Bliss spoke about being Smurfette back in 2006 to the Archive of American Television.

The Crusader Rabbit show was broken into 10 "Crusades", each made up of a different number of serialized episodes that were about four minutes long. From 1949 - 1951, ten crusades totaling 195 episodes were produced. But unless you're in your 40's or older, there's a good chance you've never heard of the show. The first 34 Crusader Rabbit episodes (two full "Crusades") can be seen in a YouTube playlist.
posted by zarq (18 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
(\_/)
(-.-)
(__)0
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:54 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ms. Bliss also was the original Elroy Jetson, on The Jetsons. After she was hired, Hanna Barbara wanted to hide that a woman was playing the voice of Elroy, and credit her as "Little Lou Bliss." In the full Archive of American Television video, which is unfortunately no longer on line, Ms. Bliss explains:
"The Jetsons came along and everything was going wonderful. They loved me. But… who was the director on that? Oh God. He was the son of this movie actor. I can’t think… it may come to me before the end of the show. I never thought of bringing it up so I didn’t think of it. But he said to me, “they think you’re a little boy, Lucy. Madison Avenue wanted a real little boy and we sent your tape in and we called you Little Lou Bliss. L-O-U, Little Lou Bliss. You should see the letters. They’re all crazy about this apple-cheeked little 6 year old boy, little Lou Bliss. But you must never, ever, ever divulge your name. You’ll lose your job.” “My God,” I said. “I’ll never divulge. I’ll never go to New York anyway for the show, but I won’t divulge. Not to my best friend.” So, what happened is Myles (my agent) said, “what the hell is this Little Lou Bliss crap?” He says, “you’ve made your name as Lucille Bliss. What are they doing to you calling you Little Lou Bliss? He’s going to get big and famous and who the hell is he? It’s you. That can’t go on.” I said, “Myles, please, Myles, just leave it alone. I’ll lose my job.” “Ah, you won’t lose your job.” “Yes,” I said, “I will. I heard it from the director himself. He said it must be a secret and Hanna-Barbera’s keeping it a secret. Don’t tell them, please.” He said, “no, that’s ridiculous.” I said, “Myles, I want to work. I don’t want to lose the series. I got a lead in it, for God sakes, leave it alone.” He didn’t. He went to Hanna-Barbera and said, “first of all she gets more money. Secondly, I want to see Lucille Bliss on there.” I got the pink slip two weeks later. It broke my heart.

posted by zarq at 3:03 PM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


But unless you're in your 40's or older, there's a good chance you've never heard of the show.

Though Crusader Rabbit characters did feature in a series of Saturday morning commercial bumpers on Fox television in 1990.

And I've just used the Internet to verify yet another obscure memory from my early childhood.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 3:10 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I remembered that there had been a Crusader Rabbit, and it was once an awesome star in my world. But, I sorta hadn't actually seen it for... a while.

Very different from cartoons now, to say the least. It sort of explains a lot.
posted by emmet at 3:20 PM on November 15, 2012


RIP, Lucille.

The creator of Crusader Rabbit was Alex Anderson, who co-produced it with a guy named Jay Ward, better known for Rocky & Bullwinkle and Dudley Do-Right (early versions of which Anderson created for a show Ward was unable to sell; then Anderson got out of the business after they lost the rights to Crusader Rabbit so Ward teamed with another underrated creative guy, Bill Scott). It's all especially notable since Lucille Bliss was the only living voice actor older than the legendary June Foray (previously here), the voice of the similarly-characterized Rocky Squirrel. Also still alive and kicking: Janet "Judy Jetson" Waldo. The legendary women in cartoons totally outlived the men (Mel Blanc, Paul Frees, Daws Butler and Bill Scott - did you know he voiced Bullwinkle and Dudley DoRight?).

Yes, the ownership of Crusader & Rags has been a long, rocky road (pun semi-intended), and their use on Fox Saturday Mornings was apparently just to make sure NewsCorp's copyright remained 'current'. While the Crusader cartoons debuted on the NBC station in New York, I remember them on LA's then-independent Channel 11, as part of "Sheriff John's Lunch Brigade" (a local legend). That station's group, Metromedia, ended up acquired by Fox for its network, along with some eclectic intellectual properties.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:22 PM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well, what do you know, it wasn't my TV it really was in B&W.
posted by tommasz at 3:25 PM on November 15, 2012


zarq, I don't know if the full interview you referenced is online, but some of it seems to be here (via Mark Evanier a few days ago)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:44 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


All of those shows have sort of run together in my mind, but I think that Crusader Rabbit's base of operations was Zero Zero Island, a fictitious island off Africa with those geographical coordinates. Every time I see an image of the Africa continent, I think of that island.
posted by Danf at 3:48 PM on November 15, 2012


Thank you for this--my family had a beloved cat named Ragland T. Tiger, called Rags, and I never knew where my dad got that name!
posted by leesh at 3:48 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


.
posted by radwolf76 at 3:50 PM on November 15, 2012


All of those shows have sort of run together in my mind, but I think that Crusader Rabbit's base of operations was Zero Zero Island, a fictitious island off Africa with those geographical coordinates. Every time I see an image of the Africa continent, I think of that island.

Oh Snap! It was Col. Bleep. Whom I have no memory of at all.
posted by Danf at 3:53 PM on November 15, 2012


MCMikeNamara: "zarq, I don't know if the full interview you referenced is online, but some of it seems to be here (via Mark Evanier a few days ago)"

Ah HA! Thank you!

The Archive of American Television made them unlisted videos, but you can find the urls for each of the six parts by clicking the "Interview" tab at that page and selecting which part you want. So here's the whole video:

Parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
posted by zarq at 3:54 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:12 PM on November 15, 2012


"And where that made-for-TV animation is, before Crusader Rabbit, there was NOTHING!"
posted by lekvar at 4:42 PM on November 15, 2012


.

I had no idea; thanks for posting this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:54 PM on November 15, 2012


I am so blown away right now by the thought that Smurfette and Ms. Bitters were the same person.

.
posted by DingoMutt at 7:30 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


.

One of my favorite parts of the Invader Zim DVDs is the commentary. Jhonen Vasquez and the rest of the crew would be talking about the design, or a particular gag, or getting screwed over by Nickelodeon, and whenever Ms. Bitters would appear, they'd stop and applaud Lucille Bliss.
posted by MrBadExample at 7:43 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


.
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 8:50 PM on November 15, 2012


« Older We have previously discussed private railcars on A...  |  Bob Dylan says, "Betcha can't ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments