Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Super ‘70s and ‘80s: “Super Friends”—Bill Woodson (narrator)

Introduction to series “Super ‘70s and ‘80s.” 

Introduction to subseries “Super Friends” (including list of interviewees).

How did you get the job on Super Friends?

There was a fellow named the “Voicecaster.” I worked with him out at North American Aviation. They had a television division. This was long before we put a man on the moon! [In fact] I think a bunch of us did a great deal to delay the program, but not deliberately. He said they’re looking for a fellow to replace Ted Knight who’d gone on to bigger and better pay. I met Wally Burr and he said “Make it large.” I could do that and I got the job. I did it in as an exaggerated version of Stan Freberg’s “The March of Time.

What was your background before that?

I worked in theatre in New York. I worked with Helen Hayes and Paul Robeson. I did Cyrano de Bergerac. As I knew then and I certainly know now, I was one of the lucky ones.

Are you from New York?

I’m a Californian but was theatre-struck as a kid. I worked at a couple stock companies. They did a different play every week. This was 1928 and I was 11 years old.

Were you familiar with the Super Friends characters before you got the job?

Not very much. I knew who they were as comic strip characters because I had small sons.

Do you remember when you started?

I do not. Did [voice director] Wally [Burr] know?

I think you started in 1977. Were you with the show till it was over?

Yes. It was a delight to work at Hanna-Barbera.

What challenges were involved in recording SF?

(laughs) Wally Burr! I’m sure at least Michael Bell and at least one or two others mentioned this to you. Wally loved to read every line—every line. It made some more angry than others. (laughs) We’d say “If you really want someone else to play this part, why don’t you trust them a little?” (laughs) Wally said yes [he did trust us]. But it meant the director was being extra creative.

And you’re still friends?

Oh, yes.

Did you do other roles besides the narrator?

I did and I did other cartoons as well and I’d never done cartoons. It was a group of younger people. I always sounded like me.

With the opening of The World’s Greatest Super Friends, you start to pronounce it “See-YOO-per Friends”—how did that come about?

(laughs) By listening to Ronald Colman and others. I’d been told in high school that my speech was terrible. That’s when I stopped saying “super” and started with “see-YOO-per.”

Do you still remember the words to the opening of Super Friends?

All I remember is the panic that was inherent in the work of the narrator. It was always like a Bill Conrad panic. Meanwhile, back at the hall…what was it?

Hall of Justice.

Of course. Hall of Justice.

Of the episodes you were on, do you have a favorite?

At the moment I don’t. I remember with more clarity the people I worked with.

How much time, if any, did you spend with the other voice actors when you weren’t working?

I used to see Danny Dark at other recording sessions. I used to see Michael Bell from time to time. Socially, no.

Did you do any on-camera work?

Virtually none.

Do you have any fan letters from the 1970s or 1980s?

No. I still get letters of questionable intent—a fan from somewhere in Germany but sent from Ohio writing about some obscure vocal appearance on “yabba dabba doo”—what was that dog’s name?


Yes, Scooby-Doo. It’s a kind of scam to get my autographs.

Do you still have any of your SF scripts?

No. Good heavens.

What are you doing these days?

I’m rewriting a musical with some friends that I’d written years ago. Up until [2010] I did six years of promos for the Minnesota Twins.

How close on completing the musical?

Not very close, I’m afraid.

If you have children/grandchildren, how old?

Three grown sons. No grandchildren.

Have any followed your lead and gone into entertainment?

No. They all had a brief go at it and said that’s it.

Do you have the Super Friends DVDs?

No, I don’t.

Has anyone else interviewed you about SF?


Have you ever participated (i.e. signed autographs) at a comic convention? If not, would you be willing to (if the convention paid your way)?


Anything else about the experience I didn’t cover that you’d like to add?

It’s not about Super Friends but the highlight of my recording life was The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. I’m very proud of that job. It occurs to me when you were saying about the influence…I got a lot of work [thanks to] the opening of The Odd Couple.

How aware are you of the influence that SF had on the current generation of comic book writers?

I don’t know of any impact. I don’t see many cartoons these days.

[I told him the impact]

That’s very interesting. Thank you for telling me that. 

11/10/21 addendum: Today I learned that Bill passed away on 2/22/17.


Anonymous said...

An unmistakable voice, he also provided the narration for "Battle of the Planets" and other series. If I'm not mistaken, he had a small, uncredited part in "WKRP in Cincnnati" as the bombastic voice introducing Les Nessman's newscasts. A talented and modest gentleman.

Will Rodgers said...

Bill Woodson also narrated the intro of the Odd Couple in the show's first season. And for Marvel Comics Fans, he was the voice of J. Jonah Jameson in both SpiderMan (1981) and SpiderMan and His Amazing Friends (1981) and in one of those episodes, he also voiced over The SubMariner and Doctor Strange.

Guillermo said...

This is a great interview with The Super Friends narrator. And for a man with 94 years old, he really has a great memory.

hobbyfan said...

Bill also narrated "The Invaders" (1967-8) for ABC, seemingly in a sort-of William Conrad-esque narrative voice.

ACcountryFan said...

In addition to serving as the narrator he made mention that he performed some characters in his real voice. That's partially correct. He voiced a number of incidental characters that either had a couple lines of dialogue or played a vital part in a story and some of those characters he voiced sounded slightly different than his natural speaking voice. One of those is an alien creature in an episode titled "Forbidden Power" from 1977. He added a gravelly tone to his natural voice for that character.

In another episode from 1977, "Coming of the Arthropods", the main villain called Insecta is voiced by Casey Kasem but the Judge that banishes Insecta from their home planet and sends the criminal to planet Earth happened to be voiced by William Woodson.

In a 1978 episode, "History of Doom", he can be heard as a member of a futuristic trio that visits Earth in the aftermath of it's accidental destruction by the Legion of Doom. One of his stand out episodes, as far as playing a character, happens to be a 1977 Aquaman and Black Vulcan adventure called "The Whirlpool" in which he voices a Captain so obsessed with breaking a world's record to Norway by boat that he foolishly believes a whirlpool can't get in his way.

The franchise stopped using voice-over narration during it's final season ("Galactic Guardians", from 1985) except for one episode in which the producers recycled one of his prior episode introductions from a 1981 episode dealing with Bizarro World and inserted it into the opening seconds of 1985's "The Bizarro Super Powers Show".