Friday, January 24, 2014

Alan Young Interview, Part IV

We conclude our interview with Alan Young (born 1918) as he reminisces about his dealing with Disney, and the creation of Scrooge McDuck.

Let's go to Disney for a moment and your voice work for Scrooge McDuck, for Mickey's Christmas Carol.

I wrote Mickey's Christmas Carol in the 1970s as a recording for children. I did it for Disney. I played Mickey, and Goofy, and, of course, Scrooge, because that was my old accent. Then it became a movie, and then it became Duck Tales. So I stayed with it.

Are you happy with the association?

I'd rather let that pass. I had a lawsuit with them, because they weren't supposed to make a movie without my permission, and I didn't realize that in my contract. And my partner, on his deathbed, said to his girlfriend, "Tell Alan that Disney should not have made that movie without his permission!" So I got a lawyer and we sued, but the statute of limitations had just run out, it was just seven years!

I'm so sorry!

I talked to Peggy Lee, and she said: "Al, it's not worth it. They fight you to the bitter end. I ended up getting $2 million, and the lawyers got all of it." I was very happy to settle out of court.

You were also the voice of Faversham, the toy maker, in The Great Mouse Detective. Any memories of working with Vincent Price?

Why, I didn't work with him! As a matter of fact, here we go again with an operation that's kind of confusing. I went in to audition for it, and I did all the lines, and left thinking it was a nice audition -- I'd never had a longer audition in my life. It went on and on! And they used that for the part in the picture! I wish I had known, I would've done it a little louder.  (Laugh.) It was quite amazing! So I never met anyone, it was just myself, working alone.

So, it was just an audition! Did they use any of your performance or body language when drawing the character?

They may have. There were a lot of artists there, and they may have been making sketches, which is the right way to do it. But I knew Vincent from other things we had worked on together.   In the late 50s, when we were all out of work, just playing guests spots wherever we could, Peter Lorre, Vincent Price, and myself were supporting a Western star, who will remain nameless, who was doing a real classic. He was very hot at the time, but he couldn't act! And we were all sitting there, watching him, and talking about what it was like to support somebody who was telling you what to do, but doesn't know what he's doing himself! But I figured I was in good company with Peter Lorre and Vincent Price. If they have to play second fiddle, I figured it was fine to play third fiddle with that company. Peter Lorre gave me lessons in eye contact -- he was so marvelous, such a great performer. So, there I was, taking lessons from Peter Lorre and having marvelous conversations with Vincent Price... we had a great time.

I find it impossible to picture you, Vincent Price, and Peter Lorre in the Old West.

Oh, it wasn't a Western! It was King Arthur's Court! It was a very funny court, with Vincent playing so grand, and me playing a sort of cockney villain. So, it was quite a mixture. Didn't go over too well, as I recall.

Are you happy doing the voice-over work now?

I love it. Love it. It's like going back to radio.

Do you miss radio?

No, I still do radio. I do two or three shows a month. It's called Focus on the Family. I do it for the fun of it, keeps your muscles working. It's like Carleton Morse's One Man's Family. It's a nice family program.

What are your future plans?

To keep on working! We're working on an Irish musical now, and it's going to take some time to get it in shape.

Any final thoughts for our readers?

No, just that people all the time ask me if I'm tired talking about Mr. Ed. I'm not. He was the greatest actor I ever supported in my life! He was also the only actor I ever rode, so I'm very grateful to him.  I learned to ride on Ed, and I learned to listen to him, and met some lovely Western people, basic American people, and it was great. Those memories will never leave.

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