As we mentioned yesterday, today would have been Phil Hartman’s 66th birthday. His tragic death continues to be an open wound felt 16 years later, and not a day goes by that we don’t mourn the loss. And while he’s most prominently remembered by his varous roles on Saturday Night Live, NewsRadio, and The Simpsons, what many people don’t realize is that Phil Hartman also played a not unsubstantial role in our childhoods as well.
Hartman, who was a family man and loved children, starred in or made appearances on over a dozen children’s programs and animated series throughout his career. If you watched cartoons as a kid anytime between the mid ’80s to mid ’90s, chances are you witnessed Phil Hartman at work and didn’t even know it.
Not counting generic “voice” credits on series such as Smurfs, Scooby Doo and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures, here are some of the places you most likely saw Phil Hartman. Unfortunately, since clips and streaming for most of these series are not available online, I’ve done my best to cobble the pieces together.
Pee-wee’s Playhouse — Captain Carl — 1986
This is, of course, Phil Hartman’s most prominent children’s role, playing Captain Carl, the “gruff and gritty sea captain” who befriended Pee-wee Herman and would sometimes show up at his house. Prior to Pee-wee’s Playhouse, Hartman would accompany Pee-wee during his stage shows, which were less geared towards children early on. Here’s a clip from one of those shows:
DuckTales — Captain Frye — 1987
Unfortunately I can’t find a lot out about Phil Hartman’s part in this episode of my beloved DuckTales, since Disney after school cartoons from the ’80s and ’90s are criminally not to be found on Netflix. But apparently the episode is about Scrooge McDuck adopting a pet lemming, and Phil Hartman plays a character called “Captain Frye.” That is a picture of the lemming, and not Captain Frye, sadly.
TaleSpin — Ace London — 1991
Ace London was a billiards-playing cool guy wolf character who went to flight school with Baloo and eventually became his rival. Also he was in possession of the coolest name a cartoon character has ever had. (SORRY, MAX POWER.) Ace London only appears in one episode, in which hijinx ensue and it turns out that Ace London is not as cool as he presented himself to be. Whatever, Ace London is still 1000 times cooler of a name than “Baloo.”
In his short tenure, the character was popular enough to land a role in the NES adaptation of TaleSpin:
DarkWing Duck — Paddywhack — 1992
On DarkWing Duck, Hartman played a character named Paddywhack, a “supernatural entity who inhabits a haunted jack-in-the-box” who was also featured a few times in the comics series. While most of these episodes are pretty fuzzy, I actually remember Paddywhack and thinking that the character seemed a bit creepy for a children’s Disney cartoon. According to the Wiki page for the character: “Paddywhack feeds off of negative emotions and always exhorts others to ‘Please play with me!’, enticing them to join him in his various acts of mayhem.” Yep, nope. That was all Phil Hartman though. I was able to find YouTube footage but unfortunately it quickly turns into some bullcrap fan-made video.
Tiny Toon Adventures — Octavius — 1990
Phil Hartman played the captain of the Octopi Pirates and some character called “Gotcha Grabmore’s” right-hand man in an episode of Tiny Toons called “Whale’s Tales.” If you’re noticing a trend here, this is his third role as a sea captain. He was not a nice octopus though, as he wanted to kidnap a mom whale and turn her baby to make into cosmetics, as one did in the ’90s.
Animaniacs — Dan Anchorman — 1993
As a Sam Donaldson knockoff, Phil Hartman plays “Dan Anchorman,” an anchorman who becomes a foil for the Warners. His name was originally supposed to be “Slam Fondlesome” until it was censored on both Fox and WB Kids. Here’s a really grainy clip: