Joseph Barbera and his partner Bill Hanna have entertained millions with Tom and Jerry, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, the Flintstones and hundreds of other cartoons. One reason for their success, Barbera revealed, was in choosing appealing voices for his characters.
“Voices make or break your show,” he said. “When I’m casting a voice, I close my eyes and listen. If you can’t smile when you hear that thing, then you haven’t got a hit.”
Though he was not a Hanna-Barbera creation, Dudley certainly passed the Joe Barbera test. Close your eyes. Listen to Dudley. Do you smile?
His voice combined several cartoonish qualities. It had the goofy tones of Bullwinkle, as if you could hear the echoes in his brain. It had the giddy effervescence of Wally Gator, pitching up and down like a yo-yo. It had the rustic accent of Gomer Pyle. That is, he would sometimes add an extra syllable to words. With Gomer, “Shazam!” was “Sha-ZA-yum!” With Dudley, “Dragon” was “Duh-ra-gon,” “there” was “they-er,” and “tired” was “ti-yerd.”
Said Alex Galatis, “I know the character so well that performing him is like slipping into a comfortable bed. Dudley’s worst quality — though I find it charming — is his tendency to be dramatic, to be a little histrionic. For Dudley, things don’t just taste good, they’re DEE-licious.”
The actor gave Dudley a loopy sense of humor, engaging in one-liners and pithy observations, particularly in the early episodes. Kind of like a spontaneous improv routine. Sally: “We’ll help you find a new home.” Dudley: “Yaayyy.” Sally: “But we don’t know where it is.” Dudley: “Boooo.”
Galatis did more than just perform the duh-ragon. He co-created Dudley’s TV series, served as its story editor and wrote most of its episodes, plus contributed lyrics to some of the songs. The Adventures of Dudley the Dragon was truly creator-driven.
Sources: Digby Diehl, People Weekly, v. 27, n. 11, March 16, 1987, “Joe Barbera: He’s America’s Busiest Baby-Sitter—the Prolific Craftsman of TV Cartooning” ; Justin Smallbridge, Maclean‘s, February 19, 1996, “Dudley is No Dud; Children Love the Goofy Canadian Dragon,” p. 62.