Kenneth Mars in 1967
April 4, 1935|
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||February 12, 2011
Granada Hills, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Pancreatic cancer|
|Other names||Ken Mars|
|Alma mater||Northwestern University|
|Occupation||Actor, voice actor|
|Spouse(s)||Barbara Newborn (m. 1977; his death 2011)|
Kenneth Mars (April 4, 1935 – February 12, 2011) was an American television, film and voice actor, who specialized in comedic roles. He may be best-remembered, albeit not by name, for his roles in two Mel Brooks films: as the insane Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind in The Producers (1968) and as the relentless Police Inspector Hans Wilhelm Friedrich Kemp in Young Frankenstein (1974).
Mars appeared in two seasons of Malcolm in the Middle as Otto, Francis's well-meaning but dim-witted boss. He was well known as the voice of King Triton, Ariel's father, in the 1989 Disney animated film The Little Mermaid and its sequel, the television series and the Kingdom Hearts series. He also did several other animated voice over film roles such as Littlefoot's grandfather in the Land Before Time series and that of Professor Screweyes in We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story (1993), and King Colbert (Prince Cornelius's father) in Thumbelina (1994).
After graduation he began acting in the early 1960s, then did small roles in theatre followed by TV and film. In 1977, he married Barbara Newborn. They had two daughters, Susannah and Rebecca, and six grandchildren. The marriage lasted until his death in 2011.
Mars made his acting debut in 1962 as a book publisher on Car 54, Where Are You?. He later appeared on such television series as Gunsmoke, Get Smart, McMillan & Wife, and The Bob Crane Show. He also appeared in dramatic roles, such as Will Turner, a former FBI agent, in Warren Beatty's The Parallax View.
Mars played Harry Zarakartos on the Richard Benjamin-Paula Prentiss sitcom He & She. He was featured in a number of small roles in broadcasts such as the Misfits of Science pilot episode and the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Shadowplay". He was cast opposite Bette Davis in Hello Mother, Goodbye!, a 1973 television pilot aired by NBC but never picked up as a series. From 1970-74 Mars guest starred in five episodes of Love, American Style, playing various characters. Although he often played comic-looking oddball characters, his appearances on Love, American Style showed he was actually a tall, good-looking man.
In 1977, Mars became a series regular on both the Sha Na Na variety series and on Norman Lear's talk show parody Fernwood 2-Night in the memorable recurring role of William W.D. 'Bud' Prize, appearing the following year on America 2-Night in the same role. In 2001 Mars portrayed a comedic famous but washed-up photographer on Just Shoot Me. Before his death, his final television roles were Otto, the German dude ranch owner on Fox's Malcolm in the Middle, an appearance on Disney Channel's Hannah Montana, and a reprise of his role as Grandpa Longneck in The Land Before Time television series.
Stage and film roles
Mars often played characters with exaggerated accents. He was German in The Producers and Young Frankenstein, and played the Croatian musicologist Hugh Simon in What's Up, Doc?. His first broadly accented character was that of Sir Evelyn Oakleigh in the 1962 Off-Broadway revival of the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes. He also appeared in the 1962 Broadway play, The Affair.
In 1975, ABC/Dunhill released a comedy LP produced by Earl Doud, Henry the First, featuring Mars in a number of comedy bits as Henry Kissinger, including a cover version of the Bachman–Turner Overdrive song, "Takin' Care of Business".
Voice acting roles
Mars cultivated a lengthy voice acting career, launching it by voicing several characters on Uncle Croc's Block. He voiced the roles of Ariel's father King Triton in The Little Mermaid and the villainous Professor Screweyes in We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story, as well as voicing Triton in Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II.
He voiced Littlefoot's Grandpa Longneck in The Land Before Time movie series and the spin-off television series. He played some minor roles on the popular radio show, Adventures in Odyssey. He played Sweet William in Fievel's American Tails, which took place after An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. He voiced characters on many animated television series, such as The Smurfs, The Biskitts, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, Tale Spin, and Animaniacs, as well as video games, such as Fallout and Kingdom Hearts.
Pancreatic cancer diagnosis and retirement from acting
In 2008, Mars was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer which had already spread beyond his pancreas. His cancer made him so ill that he could not reprise his role as King Triton for "The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning", so Jim Cummings took over the role. As well as not being able to voice Triton, he could not voice Grandpa Longneck in "The Land Before Time", and so the latter character did not appear in the latest The Land Before Time media campaign, and he retired from acting in the same year.
Mars died from pancreatic cancer on February 12, 2011, at the age of 75, after suffering from the disease for three years (normally, pancreatic cancer kills its victims six months after they have been diagnosed). He is survived by his wife, Barbara Newborn Mars, to whom he had been married for 34 years, his two daughters Susan and Rebecca, and his six grandchildren.
- The Land Before Time (TV) (2007–08) – Grandpa Longneck
- Hannah Montana (TV) (2007) – Gunther the Innkeeper
- Kingdom Hearts II (VG) (2006) (voice) – King Triton
- Kingdom Hearts (VG) (2002) (voice) – King Triton
- Malcolm in the Middle (TV) (2002–04) – Otto Mannkusser
- Just Shoot Me (TV) (2001) – Horace (1 Episode)
- Becker (TV) (2001) – Melvin (3 episodes)
- The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (voice) (2000) – King Triton
- Fallout (voice) (1997) – Vault 13 Overseer
- Citizen Ruth (1996) – Dr. Charles Rollins
- Batman: The Animated Series (voice) (1995) – M2 (In the episode "The Lion and the Unicorn")
- Freakazoid! (TV) (voice) (1995) Dr. Gunter Hunter Hanker
- The Land Before Time series (II-XIII) (voice) (1994–2008) – Grandpa
- Thumbelina (voice) (1994) – King Colbert
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1994) – Colyus
- Felidae (1994) – Preterius (English dub)
- Batman: The Animated Series (voice) (1994) – Richard (episode: "Sideshow")
- Animaniacs (voice) (1993) – Ludwig van Beethoven (episode: "Roll Over Beethoven")
- Swat Kats: The Radical Squadron (voice) (1993) – Dr. Wally Gilbert Kenrousch
- We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story (voice) (1993) – Professor Screweyes
- The Little Mermaid (voice) (1992–1994) King Triton
- Shadows and Fog (1992) – Armstead the Magician
- Fievel's American Tails (1992) – Sweet Williams (6 episodes)
- A Different World (1992) – Homeless Man
- Darkwing Duck (TV) (voice) (1991–95) – Tuskerninni
- Timeless Tales from Hallmark (1991)
- Tale Spin (TV) (voice) (1990–94) – Heimlich Menudo, Prof. Buzz
- Tiny Toon Adventures (TV) (Voice) (1990) – Flavio (episode: "Hollywood Plucky")
- The Little Mermaid (voice) (1989) – King Triton
- Asterix and the Big Fight (voice) (1989) – Fishstix (American voice dubbing)
- Police Academy 6: City Under Siege (1989) – The Mayor/The Mastermind
- Get Smart, Again! (1989) (TV) – Cmdr. Drury
- The Smurfs (1989) season (TV) – additional voices
- Rented Lips (1988) – Rev. Farrell
- For Keeps? (1988) – Mr. Bobrucz
- Illegally Yours (1988) – Hal B. Keeler
- A Pup Named Scooby-Doo (TV) (voice) (1988–91) – Dogcatcher Ghost
- Radio Days (1987) – Rabbi Baumel
- The Adventures of the American Rabbit (voice) (1986) – Walt/Vultor the Buzzard
- Prince Jack (1985) – Lyndon B. Johnson
- Misfits of Science (TV) (1985) – Sen. Donner
- Beer (1985) – Adolphe Norbecker
- Fletch (1985) – Stanton Boyd
- The Biskitts (1983) – King Max
- Yellowbeard (1983) – Mr. Crisp and Senior Verdugo
- Full Moon High (1981) – Coach Cleveland/Principal Cleveland
- Hart to Hart (TV) (1980) Episode "Murder is a Man's Best Friend"
- Carol Burnett & Company (TV) (1979)
- The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979) – Marshal Woolly Bill Hitchcock
- Heaven Only Knows (TV) (1979)
- Goin' Coconuts (1978)
- America 2-Night (TV) (1978) William W.D. "Bud" Prize (3 episodes)
- Baa Baa Black Sheep (TV) (1977) Episode "Five the Hard Way"
- Fernwood 2 Night (TV) (1977) William W.D. "Bud" Prize (8 episodes)
- It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman (TV) (1975) – Max Mencken
- Night Moves (1975) – Nick
- The New Original Wonder Woman (pilot) (1975) – Colonel Oberst Von Blasko (1 episode)
- Young Frankenstein (1974) – Police Inspector Hans Wilhelm Friedrich Kemp
- The Parallax View (1974) – Former FBI Agent Will
- Guess Who's Sleeping in My Bed? (1973) (TV) – Mitchell Bernard
- What's Up, Doc? (1972) – Hugh Simon
- Desperate Characters (1971) – Otto Bentwood
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) – Marshal
- The April Fools (1969) – Les Hopkins
- The Producers (1968) – Franz Liebkind
- He & She (TV) (1967–68) – Harry Zarakartos
- The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (TV) – (1968–70) (2 episodes)
- "Kenneth Mars, veteran screen and voice actor, dies at 75". Los Angeles Times. February 15, 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-23.
- "Kenneth Mars obituary". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. February 15, 2011.
- Kenneth Mars at the Internet Movie Database
- Profile, chicagotribune.com; accessed June 27, 2015.
- Kenneth Mars at Find a Grave