Will Ryan (middle) and his Cactus County Cowboys.
Local musician Will Ryan specializes in western swing music. But this weekend, he and his band, the Cactus Cowboys, will be playing a special set that’s likely to be a big hit with animation buffs.
The Animazing Music Show will highlight Ryan’s talents as a cartoon voiceover artist. He’ll be joined by fellow voiceover artists — including Tony Anselmo, who currently provides the voice of Donald Duck. Anselmo says that some words are pretty tough to quack.
“Long words like ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’ are very clear because they’re hard consonants,” said Anselmo about his Donald Duck impression. "And small words like ‘rules’ and ‘along’ with soft consonants are completely lost.”
As a kid, Anselmo never imagined he would be working in the voice over industry.
“I was always a class clown and always imitating the teachers, but [doing voice over work] was not my intention,” he said.
He stumbled into the business when he started working for Disney as an animator in the 1980s: “[I] worked on Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King," Anselmo listed off. "And we would do scratch lines for the films, so I did various voices.”
Anselmo began to do to the Donald impression for fun and was personally trained by Clarence Nash — the original Donald Duck. After Nash died in 1985 of leukemia, Anselmo took up the voice, per Nash’s last wishes.
Around the same time, Ryan started at Disney voicing miscellaneous characters: “They needed somebody to do Peg-Leg Pete, who’s usually the villain in the Mickey and Donald Cartoons.”
As for the Cactus County Cowboys, Ryan said they started performing at the Allen Theatre in Hollywood four years ago. They’ve since taken the variety show on the road across Southern California and added more characters to their lineup along the way.
“As often as not, in the audience there would be Oscar-winning actors, or famous directors, or pals who were in the animation business. After a while it seemed kind of silly to leave all these people in the audience,” Ryan said.
This Sunday, in addition to Anselmo, Bill Farmer, who voices Goofy, will also perform with Will Ryan at Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena.