Ever Wonder About The Voice Behind The Toy? Peter Hartlaub, a pop critic at the San Francisco Chronicle, has given himself a year to track down the voices behind his children's talking toys.
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Ever Wonder About The Voice Behind The Toy?

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Ever Wonder About The Voice Behind The Toy?

Ever Wonder About The Voice Behind The Toy?

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(Soundbite of music)

Mr. CHARLIE IBSEN (Voice Actor): (as Scout the Dog) (Singing) Me and my friend Milo...

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

If you are the parent of a young child or a child yourself, you might recognize this voice.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. IBSEN: (as Scout the Dog) (Singing) ...we're the best of friends.

NORRIS: That's 11-year-old Charlie Ibsen as the LeapFrog toy Scout the Dog. Well, San Francisco Chronicle writer Peter Hartlaub has made it his mission to track down the real people behind the voices of his children's toys. He calls this the Talking Toy Project, and Peter Hartlaub joins us to talk about it. Welcome to the program.

Mr. PETER HARTLAUB (Pop Culture Critic, San Francisco Chronicle): Thank you for having me.

NORRIS: How did you start on this adventure to track down the voices behind your kids' toys?

Mr. HARTLAUB: I think it went way back. I remember probably 20 years ago when I found out that the voice of Bart Simpson was actually a grown woman. I started to get suspicious...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HARTLAUB: ...every time I heard an animated character. And then my children started getting talking toys as gifts. And, you know, they loved the talking toys. If it was up to me, I would have just, you know, whittled all of their toys from logs in the backyard. I didn't want anything talking in my house except me and my wife and my kids. But they got the toys and they loved them, and that suspicion continued.

BLOCK: And you ultimately, starting with Scout the Dog, this green floppy-eared dog, tracked down the voices inside Scout, and you find it's Charlie Ibsen, 11 years old.

Mr. HARTLAUB: And I have always thought that they were all 45-year-old women, and then to find out that he was actually a kid was a surprise for me.

BLOCK: Well, Scout the Dog can be programmed to say your kid's name, a favorite food or animal in Charlie's voice, which means he has to go in and record those names, right?

Mr. HARTLAUB: Yeah. And I went in and he was recording, I think, Rush(ph) and Dillon.

BLOCK: Let's listen. We have some audio from that recording session when he's recording these names.

(Soundbite of recording session)

Unidentified Man #1: All right. We're going to do Dillon. Then we're going to do Rush. Ready?

Mr. IBSEN: Yup. Dillon.

Unidentified Man #1: Perfect. Nice to meet you.

Mr. IBSEN: Dillon.

Unidentified Man #1: That was the winner, Charlie.

Mr. IBSEN: Rush.

Unidentified Man #1: Good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: He's good at what he does.

Mr. HARTLAUB: Yeah. He was in-one-take Charlie. They're all in awe of him. He's like a rock star when he walks into LeapFrog.

BLOCK: Well, Peter, you have tracked down the voice of Scout the Dog, so that's one checked off your list. Who else are you trying to find? What other voices inside your kids' toys?

Mr. HARTLAUB: The next one I've got is the Fridge Farm Magnetic Animal Set, Tad the Frog, who I have located. That's going to be the next one that I do. She's in Los Angeles. I'm planning on a road trip.

BLOCK: OK. Now, you brought the Fridge Farm Magnetic Animal Set there with you into the studio in San Francisco.

Mr. HARTLAUB: Yes, I have it.

BLOCK: Can we hear it?

Mr. HARTLAUB: Yes. Here you go.

(Soundbite of talking toy, Fridge Farm Magnetic Animal Set)

Unidentified Woman (Voice Actress): (as Farmer Tad) Hi, I'm Farmer Tad. Listen to my banjo.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: OK. So you're going to meet her.

Mr. HARTLAUB: There you go.

BLOCK: Who else is on your list?

Mr. HARTLAUB: I've got Iron Man.

(Soundbite of talking toy, Iron Man)

Unidentified Man #2 (Voice Actor): (as Iron Man) I am Iron Man.

BLOCK: Oh, wow.

(Soundbite of toy, Iron Man)

Unidentified Man #2: (as Iron Man) Repulsor blast.

(Soundbite of Iron Man's repulsor blast)

BLOCK: Do you think that's a real person behind there?

Mr. HARTLAUB: I do. I'm betting they don't look like Robert Downey Jr.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HARTLAUB: It could be a woman. It could be anything.

BLOCK: OK. So anybody else on your list of voices you need to find?

Mr. HARTLAUB: Yeah. This is the Radio Flyer Retro Rocket.

(Soundbite of talking toy, Radio Flyer Retro Rocket)

Unidentified Man #3 (Voice Actor): (as Radio Flyer Retro Rocket) All systems go, Retro. We're looking good. Three, two, one. Blast off.

(Soundbite of Radio Flyer Retro Rocket blast off)

Mr. HARTLAUB: I just envision this guy with huge deltoids, Retro Rocket. And I know I'm going to be just completely shocked when I find out who it really is.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: As someone who works in radio, let me tell you, you may be sorely disappointed.

Mr. HARTLAUB: Who knows? It could be anybody. That's what's part of the fun of this.

BLOCK: Well, Peter Hartlaub, good luck on your quest. Sounds fun.

Mr. HARTLAUB: Thank you so much.

BLOCK: Peter Hartlaub is the pop culture critic at the San Francisco Chronicle. He writes the parenting blog "The Poop," and he's spending this year tracking down the voices behind his children's talking toys.

(Soundbite of talking toy, Scout the Dog)

Mr. IBSEN: (as Scout the Dog) (Singing) Me and my friend Milo, we like to do everything together. Let's jump up and down. Jump, jump, jump. Let's wag our tails. Wiggle, wiggle, waggle. Let's snuggle up. Snuggle, snuggle, snuggle. Me and my pal Milo, we're the best of friends.

(Soundbite of music)

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