Welcome to a very special edition of OPIOW. Today I want to pay a tribute to Tony Jay. You may not have heard of him, you may not recognize his face, but you probably would know his voice if you heard it. Tony Jay was an amaaaaazing voice actor. I say “was,” because sadly, he passed away in 2006. It’s still a little weird to think that I won’t hear his voice popping up anywhere new. Let’s take a moment and look at some of my favorite characters that Tony Jay has voiced. He’s known mostly for animation and video games, but I have zero gamer cred, so I’m going to stick with just animation.
Shere Khan from Talespin and The Jungle Book 2
I admit I never watched Talespin when I was younger. Apparently, though, it was quite awesome. Tony Jay voiced none other than Shere Khan, who, if I understand correctly, was presented as an evil corporate CEO type. He also voiced Shere Khan in the sequel to The Jungle Book, which I also haven’t seen, but kind of want to, just for him. The original Shere Khan was voiced by George Sanders, who had such a distinctive voice, it seems impossible that he could ever be succeeded. Only Tony Jay could have followed up the character so gracefully, bringing that calm menace that Sanders did in the original. And because hearing that voice is the entire point, here’s a compilation of Shere Khan scenes in The Jungle Book 2.
Monsieur D’arque from Beauty and the Beast
This was one creepy dude, and the voice only makes him creepier. If you listen to the commentary on the special edition DVD, you’ll find out that this is Tony Jay’s “Masterpiece Theatre voice.” That would be one sinister episode of Masterpiece Theatre. You’ll also find out that what you hear in the movie is actually Tony Jay’s audition voiceover. Yeah. They only needed him to say it all once. Fast forward about 30 seconds (or don’t–it’s Beauty and the Beast!) and relive the creepy.
Dr. Lipschitz from Rugrats
Remember him??? The child psychology doctor that Tommy’s mom was always talking about? And then he was in one episode and…stuff happened? Yeah, that’s Tony Jay. He’s a versatile guy. One moment, he’s playing villans, the next he’s playing wacky European doctors. I didn’t even know he was Tony Jay for a long time, and I’ve been weirdly aware of Tony Jay ever since I was a kid. (Thanks, Disney Adventures magazine!) Just goes to show you how much this man’s voice has become part of pop culture without you even realizing it.
Virgil from Mighty Max
Oh, Mighty Max. It was a show for kids in the 90s. No one seems to remember this show except for me, but I know it existed, because it’s now on YouTube. It was a suprisingly awesome show, from what I remember. This was in part because of Max’s two sidekicks, Norman the warrior guy and Virgil, the fowl (he gets angry if you call him a chicken). Virgil was the wise mentor/advisor type, voiced, of course, by Tony Jay. It’s kind of amazing how a voice that could freak you out so much in Beauty and the Beast can sound so trustworthy and wise on this show.
I saved the best for last.
Judge Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame
It’s a shame Tony Jay didn’t voice more Disney villains, because he did it damn well. Hunchback is woefully under-appreciated, and it’s a shame in part because there are some fantastic vocal performances in the movie. I’m gonna claim that Tony Jay’s portrayal of the lecherous, self-righteous Frollo is the best. This is a tricky character. There’s a lot of creepiness and a lot of evil, but there also needs to be a sense of reality–this is not an over-the-top villain. I could gush about Hunchback all day, so I’m going to stop myself and let the video speak for itself. If you only watch one video clip from this page, make it this one. “Hellfire” is a beautiful sequence and one of the best (if not THE best) Disney villain songs ever. Yes, yes, it’s creepy as all hell, but the animation is gorgeous, the music is amazing, and the it’s all just so intense and powerful. This is in part thanks to Tony Jay’s amazing voice. I’m really gonna miss hearing that voice.