Mary Kay Bergman
Mary Kay Bergman
Bergman in 1992
|Born||June 5, 1961|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||November 11, 1999 (aged 38)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Suicide by gunshot|
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles|
|Other names||Shannen Cassidy|
|Alma mater||University of California, Los Angeles|
|Occupation||Voice actress, voice-over teacher|
Mary Kay Bergman (June 5, 1961 – November 11, 1999), initially credited as Shannen Cassidy, was an American voice actress and voice-over teacher. Bergman was the lead female voice actress on South Park from the show's 1997 debut until her death. Throughout her career, Bergman performed voice work for over 400 television commercials and voiced over 100 cartoon, film, and video game characters.
Born in Los Angeles, she had an interest in fantasy and animation early in her life. She acted in plays during high school and also studied theater at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). After struggling to secure on-screen acting jobs, she began taking work as a voice-over actress. In 1989, she began voicing the Disney character Snow White. In the 1990s, she voiced Daphne Blake in three films from the Scooby Doo franchise.
Mary Kay Bergman was born on June 5, 1961, in Los Angeles. She was the only child of musicians David "Dave" Bergman and Patricia Paris "Pat" McGowan. She grew up around the corner from the home of Adriana Caselotti, the original voice of Snow White.
Her parents performed as a singing duo at lounges and clubs in Reno and Las Vegas and in Los Angeles. They settled in Los Angeles after her mother became pregnant. Characterizing her mother's previous work inking and painting cels for Fleischer, Bergman said it was a mechanical task, but it piqued her mother's interest in animation that was shared with Bergman years later by watching Saturday morning cartoon series with her. Among Bergman's favorite series were Jonny Quest, The Flintstones, and Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, which she considered a "precursor to The Simpsons."
Bergman attended Le Conte Middle School and Hollywood High School, graduating in June 1978 with top academic honors. Following in the steps of one of her idols, Carol Burnett, Bergman attended University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and studied theater arts from 1978 until 1981. She was a classmate and friend of future The Simpsons voice actress Nancy Cartwright.
Her parents were Jewish, but Bergman was non-practicing and converted to Roman Catholicism after exploring several Christian denominations; however, she still remained proud of her Jewish heritage.
After getting cast in an equity-waiver play outside of school, Bergman decided to leave UCLA. Having started acting in high school plays, she got an agent for on-camera commercials, film, and television and studied privately with acting coach Harry Mastrogeorge for several years. At age 16, Bergman received her first professional acting job in the TV movie Return Engagement, which starred Elizabeth Taylor. After leaving school, Bergman joined a small agency that had started six months earlier. She had an audition for an exercise program that was going to be on TV and got the role. She was hired because she had a "nice figure" but could also be a dancer, comedian, singer, or impressionist. However, less than a week after she got the job, the agency closed. Bergman said, "Everything fell apart. I thought, 'I'm really not getting anywhere. Maybe I should give up this silly dream of mine about becoming this great star and actually get a real job.'"
Bergman's next post was as a receptionist for the Boy Scouts of America. She enjoyed the job and was pleased to work with the people of the organization. Bergman commented, "All the time I kept hearing, 'Gosh, you have a lovely speaking voice. You should do something with that.'" She worked as a receptionist for an insurance company and from there she moved up the ranks to become an assistant underwriter, which she found extremely boring. To break the monotony, Bergman thought about becoming a disc jockey but could not find information about where to take classes and considered a career in the Air Force.
The origins of Bergman's voice acting can be traced to when she attended a housewarming party at one of her co-workers' houses. Someone brought a karaoke machine to the party and Bergman started "going wild", using several different voices. One of the guests at the party was studying with voice-over coach Kat Lehman and suggested she take a class with his teacher, which she did.
Bergman took many voice-over classes in order to do many different styles and voices. Some specialized in animation, some in ADR/looping, and others in commercial and improvisation. Bergman studied the voice of a character if she was matching a voice. Bergman stated that accents came very easily to her. She stated that she enjoyed doing accents such as Chinese, Japanese, Australian, English, American, French, German, Spanish and Italian.
In 1994, Bergman started teaching the technique of doing voice-overs for animation at the Kalmenson and Kalmenson Studios in Burbank, California. After voicing the villain Dr. Blight on the series Captain Planet and the Planeteers, replacing Meg Ryan, she acquired a reputation for voice matching and began doing these matches for other actors such as Jodie Foster, Gillian Anderson, Helen Hunt, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Tilly, Emma Thompson, and Alfre Woodard.
After her first voice role as a frightened woman in a radio commercial for a small home security company on a local station in 1986, and a few more radio spots in 1989, Bergman was not making enough to earn a living, so she worked part-time at Robinsons department store. During this time, she got the role with Disney as the voice of Snow White on tape, replacing Adriana Caselotti. She told her boss she needed the day off for the recording, but he refused and she left the post.
Disney was pleased with her performance, but she agreed to accept future jobs only when Caselotti was unavailable. She later learned that Disney had different plans. When Disney was releasing a restored version of Snow White, Caselotti was brought back in to record a scene that was missing its audio track. After the studio executives listened to her work, they chose to have Bergman record the scene instead. Caselotti was unaware her voice had been replaced until the 1993 Academy Awards, when she heard Bergman as Snow White presenting an award for best animated short subject. Disney received hundreds of complaints after the ceremony, noting the changes to the Snow White character that Jeffrey Katzenberg had made. Katzenberg apologized, and Bergman did not publicly admit to voicing Snow White while Caselotti was still alive.
Bergman was the original voice for most of the female characters for South Park and the feature film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999). Her characters included Liane Cartman, Sheila Broflovski, Shelly Marsh, Sharon Marsh, Carol McCormick and Wendy Testaburger. She was originally credited as Shannen Cassidy (taken from stars Shannen Doherty and David Cassidy) out of concerns regarding possible conflicts with her continued work as Disney's official Snow White voice. "It was a conscious decision to be anonymous at first, because none of us knew the show would be a hit, and if anyone tells you they did, they're lying", she said. "Then it did hit, and Shannen Cassidy was getting mail like Santa Claus, so we transitioned out of it." Bergman credited South Park for pulling her out of a typecasting rut. "I'm known for these sweet, cute little characters", she said, noting her roles in various Disney films. "So I've been doing them forever. My agents were trying to submit me on shows that are edgy, and they're laughing, 'Mary Kay, are you kidding? No way!'" After Bergman's death, the two episodes "Starvin' Marvin in Space" (the final episode for which she recorded original dialogue) and "Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics" (the final episode in which her voice was used via archive footage) were dedicated in her memory.
Bergman worked on over 400 television commercials, including the voice of Mrs. Butterworth in Mrs. Butterworth's syrup commercials. She had roles in many Disney films, including Beauty and the Beast, as the Bimbettes; The Hunchback of Notre Dame, as Quasimodo's mother and Djali; Hercules, as several female characters; Mulan, as the female ancestors; and the posthumously released Toy Story 2, in which she is credited under "additional voices." Her appearances in video games included The Curse of Monkey Island.
She worked on other series including Jay Jay the Jet Plane, Oh Yeah! Cartoons, The Fairly OddParents, and several female voices in The Tick animated series. She also provided the voice of Gwen Stacy in the final episode of Spider-Man. Bergman voiced the Scooby-Doo character Daphne Blake in Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998), Scooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost (1999) and Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders (2000), this last one being a posthumous release and final film role, dedicated to her. Her other film role was in Balto II: Wolf Quest (2002), released three years after her death, in which she voiced a vixen and a wolverine.
Originally I had Mary Kay come in to sing the whole song. I basically wanted her to do the voice of Kyle's mom from South Park. Her agent wouldn't let her do it (thinking that it might get her in trouble with Comedy Central)—so Mary Kay wound up doing kind of a squeaky voice instead. Later, I decided that the "squeaky voice" thing really wasn't what I was looking for, so I called in my old friend Tress to do her Fran Drescher impersonation instead. The part that you can still hear Mary Kay on is the line in the middle of the song where she does the very Gentile-sounding "for a Rab-bi...".
Bergman suffered from generalized anxiety disorder, which she hid from her family, friends and co-stars. When her mother was diagnosed with cancer, Bergman's depression was mistaken as a reaction to her mother's illness along with job-related stress. Andrade said that he found herbal mood medications that Bergman had hidden in their home.
Bergman had privately confessed to her husband that she was "afraid of losing her talent," as sessions were not going well, and worried it would end her career after people discovered she had lost her abilities. Andrade later regretted that Bergman had told nobody about her distress. As time progressed, Bergman's fears seemed to lessen as her mother was doing better. Bergman and her husband were also planning to purchase a new house within a year, but she still suffered physically. Because of this, she and her husband decided to have an elaborate vacation in Las Vegas, which they had planned a week before her death.
On the morning of November 11, 1999, Bergman contributed to a radio program celebrating Disneyland's 45th anniversary. She was last seen alive at 9 p.m. PST, while she was talking to her friend on the phone. Approximately an hour and 20 minutes later, her husband and his friend, John Bell, returned home to find that she had fatally shot herself with a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun. A police officer pronounced her dead at 10:18 p.m. PST.
Memorials and legacy
Dino Andrade established the Mary Kay Bergman Memorial Fund, which contributes to operation of the Suicide Prevention Center at the Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center. To benefit the Mary Kay Bergman Memorial Fund, a Memorial Celebration and Concert was held in March 2000. Many industry voice actors came to the event including Jane Jacobs, Mona Marshall (who would be one of her South Park successors), Barbara Goodson and Diane Michelle, all of whom sang in the choir. The service was held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in the Blossom Room, where the first Academy Awards was presented in 1929. Also contributing to the memorial fund was March 28, 2000's Los Angeles edition of the Daily Variety magazine, which ran a full-page Oscar version of the Open Letter to All by Andrade.
Bob's Video, made by Mary Kay & Dino's production company, Klaxon Filmworks, had been completed before Bergman died but was posthumously shown at the HBO Urban World Film Festival, at the Blue Sky Festival, and at a Mary Kay Bergman memorial screening. This included her only live-action role, a few voice roles, still photography, and work as executive producer for the film.
Al Lowe, who had worked with Bergman on three Leisure Suit Larry video games, posted a tribute to her on his website. He stated, "Mary Kay was the sort of person who could light up a room just by entering. She was a joy to work with and made me look good as a novice voice-over director. It was therefore even more shocking when I learned that she had taken her own life."
She was just the sweetest, most wonderful person in the world... and then she killed herself. Her husband came and stayed with me at my house, because he said, "I can't stay over there, it's too painful." And about a week later, they asked me to audition for Daphne ... and I didn't know what to do, because I just thought, "Gosh, I just don't know if I can do that." I told him, "They asked me to audition, but I'm not going to audition, because it's just weird." And he said, "Grey, you have to do it, because Mary Kay would've wanted you to do it. You were her star student, she loved you, and she would've wanted you to do Daphne. Somebody's going to do it. It might as well be someone who loved her." And I was, like, "I didn't really think about it like that." So I went in, and I didn't study it, because I just thought, "You know what? I’m just going to go in, and I’m just going to do my best interpretation of the character. I'm not going to try and sound-match her, because it would just be too sad to listen to her voice." So I went in, and Eddie – the engineer at the time – and Collette Sunderman, the director, she just said, "When you came in, Grey, it was just eerie. It was like there was some other hand in it, because you sounded exactly like Mary Kay." So I guess it was meant to be, because I didn't try. It just came out that way. They wanted me to speak at her memorial, and her husband really wanted me to speak, but I just couldn't talk. I just kept crying and crying and... oh, would you look at me with the crying? Here I am talking about crying again. (Laughs) You're thinking, "This girl's a mess!" But, yeah, it was an interesting turn of events to get to play Daphne, but I'm so glad that I have the role, and I was glad that I was able to carry that on for her. She set the bar very high.
We kind of realized right away that one person wasn't going to do it, cause that's what she was amazing at, which was she could do so many different voices, and we had her just do all of them cause she could. And so we knew, and we know, we're still in the process of finding a lot of talented voice people there that can do one or two of the voices that she did. But it's going to take four to five people to replace her. ... Because we are in this thing where we do shows two weeks ahead of time, when it happened it was really tough because we had three shows to do ... and we knew we weren't going to find anyone at the time, so we just wrote three episodes with no female characters in them.
Voice actress Tara Strong, who was one of Bergman's friends, received a pet dog from Bergman for her 26th birthday. In tribute to her, Strong replaced Bergman as the voice of Timmy Turner in the Nickelodeon cartoon The Fairly OddParents, redubbing Bergman's lines from the Oh Yeah! Cartoons era.
|1991||Beauty and the Beast||Bimbette|
|1996||The Hunchback of Notre Dame||Quasimodo's Mother / Djali|
|1997||Hercules||Earthquake Lady / Wood & Water Nymphs / Teenage Girls / Athena|
|1998||Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero||Barbara Gordon / Batgirl||Direct-to-video|
|1998||Kiki's Delivery Service||Old Woman||English version|
|1998||Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island||Daphne Blake|
|1998||Rusty: A Dog's Tale||Myrtle the Duck|
|1999||South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut||Liane Cartman / Sheila Broflovski / Sharon Marsh / Wendy Testaburger / Clitoris|
|1999||Deep Blue Sea||The Parrot||Uncredited|
|1999||The Iron Giant||Additional voices|
|1999||Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein||Mother||Direct-to-video|
|1999||Scooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost||Daphne Blake||Direct-to-video|
|1999||Toy Story 2||Additional voices|
|2000||Christmas in South Park||Sheila Broflovski / Shelly Marsh / other women||Direct-to-video|
|2000||The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus||Martha / Nymph / Tycus||Direct-to-video|
|2000||Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders||Daphne Blake||Direct-to-video|
|2001||Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure||Si the Siamese Cat||Direct-to-video|
|2002||Balto II: Wolf Quest||Fox, Wolverine #3||Direct-to-video, final film role|
|1983||Alvin and the Chipmunks||Episode: "The C-Team/The Chipettes"|
|1990||Tiny Toon Adventures||Episode: "The Looney Beginning"|
|1992–1996||Captain Planet and the Planeteers||Dr. Blight, Blight-5, Betty Blight||26 episodes|
|1994||Fantastic Four||Princess Anelle||Episode: "Behold, a Distant Star"|
|1995||The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat||Tickets / Mermaid / Girls||Episodes: "Noah's Nightclub/Felix's Gold Score/Forever Rafter" and "Felix in Nightdrop Land/Shocking Story"|
|1995–1996||Gargoyles||Additional voices||15 episodes|
|1995||Annie: A Royal Adventure!||Miss Hannibal / New York Children / British Children||Television movie|
|1997–1999||South Park||Liane Cartman / Sheila Broflovski / Sharon Marsh / Wendy Testaburger/ Veronica Crabtree / Principal Victoria / Carol McCormick / Mayor McDaniels / Shelly Marsh / Various||Seasons 1–3|
Credited as Shannen Cassidy
|1997–1998||The New Adventures of Zorro||Additional voices||26 episodes|
|1997||Extreme Ghostbusters||Banshee||Episodes: "Sonic Youth" and "Slimer's Sacrifice"|
|1998||Spider-Man: The Animated Series||Gwen Stacy||Episode: "Spider Wars, Chapter 2: Farewell, Spider-Man"|
|1998||Adventures from the Book of Virtues||Marla / Gabriela / Princess / Old Woman||Episode: "Selflessness"|
|1998–2001||Oh Yeah! Cartoons||Timmy Turner||10 episodes|
Redubbed by Tara Strong in reruns
|1998–2001||Jay Jay the Jet Plane||Jay Jay the Jet Plane, Herky, Savannah, Revvin' Evan||52 episodes|
|1998||Rugrats||Spokes / Friendly Boy||Episode: "Uneasy Rider/Where's Grandpa?"|
|1999–2000||Men in Black: The Series||Queen Bug||3 episodes|
|2000||Family Guy||Sherry||Episode: "Let's Go to the Hop"|
|2000||Buzz Lightyear of Star Command||Alien Mom / Alien Kid||Episode: "A Zoo Out There"|
|2001||Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot||Pierre||Episodes: "Donovan's Brainiac" and "Nephew of Neugog"|
|1978||Return Engagement||Mary||TV movie|
|2000||Bob's Video||Lady in Red / Telephone Voice / Radio Dispatcher|
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- David Perlmutter (6 March 2014). America Toons In: A History of Television Animation. McFarland. pp. 313–315. ISBN 978-0-7864-7650-3.
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