Janet Waldo: The Sound of Youthful Joy – Animation Scoop

Janet Waldo: The Sound of Youthful Joy

We are saddened to learn of the passing of veteran voice actress Janet Waldo. She was 94, cause of death was a brain tumor. Ms. Waldo was a fixture on old-time radio – in particular as the lead in Meet Corlis Archer, and had appeared in bit parts, small roles, and as a B-Western leading lady (in the late 1930s-1940s) before devoting her full time career to voice over.

judy-jetson-90-1For many of us, Janet Waldo was our first cartoon crush. I fell in love with her on March 30, 1966, when ABC broadcast one of Hanna-Barbera’s best efforts, Alice in Wonderland, or What’s a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This? There was always something magical about that voice—a golden timbre unlike any other. It remained young and vibrant, literally from one century into the next, until a long illness took her from us this week.

To most cartoon fans, Janet Waldo was best known as the voice of Judy on the classic prime time animated sitcom, The Jetsons. It was a voice she would continue to perform for decades, most recently in commercials for Electra-Sol dishwasher detergent. To I Love Lucy fans, she was lovestruck Peggy, infatuated with Ricky Ricardo. Janet was as marvelous on camera as well as behind the microphone.

janet-waldo-1Over the last several years, Janet appeared on episodes of Stu’s Show. She recalled her days as Emmy Lou on radio’s The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (crediting Ozzie with helping her develop her comic timing and the famous “Oooooooh!” squeal that also became part of Judy Jetson’s repertoire). On radio, she starred in the teen comedy Meet Corliss Archer, but could also be heard in numerous roles in other shows, including those written by the man who became her husband, Robert Edwin Lee—who with writing partner Jerome Lawrence, also wrote Auntie Mame and won the Pulitzer Prize for Inherit the Wind.

She became one of the house voices at Hanna-Barbera, voicing Fred Flintstone’s mother-in-law (after Verna Felton); groovy little old Granny Sweet (whose dog Precious Pupp, played by Don Messick, wreaked havoc behind her back); Penelope Pitstop of Wacky Races and its spinoff, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, and Josie in two H-B series based on the Archie comic book series, Josie and the Pussycats.

Waldo with Tim Holt in "Bandit Trail" (1941)

Waldo with Tim Holt in “Bandit Trail” (1941)

When Hanna-Barbera made occasional ventures into big screen ventures, she voiced characters in Once Upon a Forest and Heidi’s Song. However, fans are still smarting about her replacement in Jetsons the Movie with pop star Tiffany. Joe Barbera profusely expressed his regret for allowing MCA to pressure the change and apologized profusely to Janet afterward.

Even though she wasn’t a singer, Janet Waldo’s voice was very musical. The bell-clear tone of seemingly endless youth stayed with her well into the 21st century, as she continued voicing cartoons, commercials and participating in such projects as the California Artists Radio Theatre (CART). She co-starred with Alan Young, who we also recently said goodbye to on TV’s Battle of the Planets and played his wife on the long-running children’s radio series Adventure in Odyssey.

josie-rightYoung and his writing/producing partner Alan Dinehart cast her as Daisy Duck in the role of Isabel for the Disneyland album, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (which was adapted as the featurette, Mickey’s Christmas Carol) When the Walt Disney World version of the Carousel of Progress was revised, she voiced the grandmother as well as a neighbor who complains when the electricity goes out. The attraction was revised again with another actor as the grandmother, but Janet’s cranky neighbor remained. She even voiced the evil Maleficent for a Hollywood Bowl stage production. She even played a modern-day Alice again, when Burbank Films produced a version of Alice Through the Looking Glass in 1987.

To those of us who grew up at the same time as television itself, hearing Janet Waldo speak even a few words can bring those days rushing back. She gave us so much more than great voices; she became part of who are.

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Greg Ehrbar

Greg Ehrbar

Greg Ehrbar is a freelance writer/producer for television, advertising, books, theme parks and stage. Greg has worked on content for such studios as Disney, Warner and Universal, with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. His numerous books include Mouse Tracks: The Story of Walt Disney (with Tim Hollis). Visit gregehrbar.com for more.
Greg Ehrbar
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  • I love “The Young Fans” from I Love Lucy. While reading this, I’m still worried about June Foray (She’s 98 and outlived Alan Young).
    Also, various sources are claiming that she was 96, not 94.

  • Walt Mitchell

    Thank you, Greg, for a fine tribute to this wonderful lady!

  • Ariel Schudson

    Thanks for such a lovely piece. My grandmother played Janet’s mother on MEET CORLISS ARCHER & Janet was a real wonderful lady. I remember her husband Bob being super great too.

  • JodyMorgan

    I actually recorded The Bandit Trail just because it had Janet Waldo in it. While her role was fairly small, she was still quite appealing, and the movie as a whole is good enough for me to recommend watching if you have a chance to do so.