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Animation voice Maile Flanagan '87

Photo by Edward Carreon

Photo by Edward Carreon

Maile Flanagan landed the star role in PBS's new Sunday morning cartoon series Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks over stiff competition. "They went to Ireland and interviewed 400 Irish boys for the part," she says. "Luckily they didn't find one they liked better than me."

Flanagan momentarily assumes the role of the young pig. Her voice becomes raspier, her mouth curls to one side, her left eye squints closed. She sweeps her hand across her face as if to shape the sounds and she speaks a few feisty sentences before resuming her normal demeanor. In animation, she says, "You have to be able to make an alarmed sound, then a scared sound, and then a running away sound. It's like you're crazy. You have to be able to do burps, falling down noises, a noise where you're climbing up a tree. Eating, breathing noises. Listen to how much is verbal but not words, especially on little kids' cartoons. We crack up the entire time we do the show."

Flanagan arrived at Boston College directly from a childhood spent overseas in Europe and Asia; her father worked for U.S. military intelligence. "I hadn't lived in the States since I was four and a half. It took me three years to acclimate. I have used some of this in my characters—the wide-eyed wonder."

One of her early characters was The Hobbit's Bilbo Baggins, whom Flanagan played on a Minneapolis stage in the comedy troupe Every Mother's Nightmare, an outgrowth of BC's My Mother's Fleabag. Later, in Chicago, her offbeat performances, including Maile Flanagan's One-Woman Sound of Music ("I do all the characters in a 50- minute send-up"), were well received. In Los Angeles since 1996, Flanagan has been building her career from a mix of movies (The Station Agent, directed by Fleabag/Nightmare colleague Tom McCarthy '88), television (the HBO baseball docudrama 61*), commercials, and, of course, animation (Men in Black, Jackie Chan, Tom and Jerry: The Magic Ring).

What's the hardest part of being a "voice"? Simply getting the part, she says. "Everyone wants to do it."

Suzanne Mantell


Suzanne Mantell is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.


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