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Heat Miser and the secret ingredient of our childhoods

Since the earliest Christmas I can remember, I have been disturbed by the suspicious resemblance between Heat Miser in The Year without a Santa Claus, and Burgermeister Meisterburger in Santa Claus is Coming to Town. I thought this was some straightforward shadiness on the part of Rankin/Bass, the production company behind the stop-motion holiday shows; sort of a meta-deception behind the puppetry evil. I started poking around in the Bugermeister's background and came across the career of a remarkable actor, as well as a chain of connected childhood flashbacks.

Burgermeister Meisterburger was voiced by Paul Frees. WikiPedia says, "like Mel Blanc, he was known in the industry as 'The Man of a Thousand Voices'". As I scanned the list of his credits, I nearly fell out of my chair. He had voiced, in an uncredited role, Colossus himself in Colossus: The Forbin Project.

Colossus is one of the most overlooked sci-fi classics. Produced prior to 2001: A Space Odyssey, it was considered too depressing to release by studio execs, and shelved until HAL grabbed the insane killer computer first-mover advantage.
Ship early, ship often.

He also voiced K.A.R.R., the evil twin to David Hasselhoff's good-robot car K.I.T.T. in an episode of Knight Rider.

Bryn's aside:

Back in August when John Mark Karr "confessed" to killing JonBenet Ramsey I notice that the AdSense on Topix.net when I searched for "Karr" was all about Knight Rider ring tones and David Hasselhoff. After some searching I discovered that KARR was the evil twin of KITT (the true star of Knight Rider). So either AdSense buyers are very thorough or Google keyword targeting is very advanced. Time for Turbo-Boost.

But that's not all.

Frees also voiced the original Star Wars trailer. Bob says

I was intrigued by this man's ability to be the voice of authority. His voice is so strong and commanding that people would bring him in to lend credibility to the worst examples of writing.

This trailer has the worst copywriting I've ever heard. "It's the story of a boy, a girl, and a universe." "A million years in the making, and it's coming to your theater this summer." and, my favorite, "Somewhere in space, this may all be happening right now."

He sounded a lot like the "Ghost Host" from the Haunted mansion. When I listen to it, I can almost remember some voiceovers for ads as well...maybe Levi's jeans? I'm sure he did a lot of ads, too bad there isn't a site for discovering these.

I remember that Levi's ad! It was on Bob Abel's demo tape. I can remember the voiceover, it did sound just like the star wars trailer voice. Same time period too...could very well have been Frees. Bob Abel did some amazing graphics stuff, including Sexy Robot, which was a superbowl ad for ... cans. As in, paid for by a canned-food industry association. Crazy.

Those graphics look primitive now. When I saw them in 1986 they were still eye-popping. I think Able had something to do with Tron too. Tron never looked good, unfortunately, not even when it first came out.

Paul Frees did the voice-over for your childhood

If you grew up in the 70's, this guy's voice was the secret ingredient in your childhood. Your alter-parent from the TV. The voice behind your personal voice-over track. Buy this. Watch this now. I command you. Just like Colossus. The voice of the commercial state, just like 1984 but instead of run by the govt it's run by cereal companies.

I got so distracted with Frees that I never followed up on the Heat Miser. Will have to save that for next Christmas Eve's post. :-) Merry Christmas!

Comments (4)

c'mon just try and deny that you don't know the words ...

I'm mister heat miser, I'm mister sun,
I'm ister heat miser, I'm mister 101 ...

Paul Frees also did the original voice narration in the hall of the presidents and the voice of george washington, but then I'm a disney geek.


I'm a big fan of the late Paul Frees -- his voice was everywhere on TV and the movies in the 1960s. IMDB has a very complete list, but I do think that he was the voice of the "ghost host" in the Haunted Mansion Disney ride, as well as various pirates in the "Pirates of the Caribbean," and countless other Disneyland attractions. My favorite films where he actually appeared on camera were "War of the Worlds," and original version of "The Thing." I see from the IMDB bio that he was born in Chicago. The only problem was that his voice was so identifiable to me, that it was a source of distraction when watching some film such as "Tora, Tora, Tora" to suddenly hear his voice.

But Abel's Levis commercials were mostly voiced by another Chicagoan Ken Nordine, who also did a number of albums and a Chicago radio program called "Word Jazz." You can find a ton of his beat-poet-like material on YouTube. I became familiar with Ken Nordine in the late 1960s, but then in college my film teacher showed us a film he had done that was voiced over by Ken Nordine. When I made my student film, I wrote to Nordine and asked if he could narrate my student film -- for no money! Needless to say, I never heard back from him. But I ended up seeing him speak several years later, and came to the conclusion that he was a pretty cool dude, even if he didn't want to provide free narration for my student film!

Race Bannon:

Heatmiser was voiced by actor George S. Irving! Irving was also heard as the narrator on the Underdog cartoon from 1964! As I recall, George S. Irving can be "seen" in an All In The Family episode from season five where his character's name is Russell DeKuyper! He was a New York based Broadway actor in the sixties and did voiceovers for many TV commercials in the sixties and seventies! If you watched TV during those years, his voice will be unmistakenly familiar!

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