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Salacious B. Crumb and the Gremlins Revealed!

A world premier interview revealing the voice behind Salacious B. Crumb and the Gremlins,  
Mark Dodson!

Conducted/Edited by L. Mangue (May 3rd, 2005)

LM: I'd like to thank you for so much for your time and for granting (now .com) the opportunity to let people know about the voice behind Salacious B. Crumb, and the Gremlins!

MD: Believe me it's my pleasure!

LM: First, we'd like to know a little bit about you, how it all began for Mark Dodson and when did you first realize that you were interested in performing?

MD: Well, I was born in 1960 (St. Louis, MO). I was pretty much a ham when I was a kid, I was always into characters when I'd watch cartoons and movies. I always liked the Warner Bros. characters and their voices I wanted to know who did the voices.  While most kids at that age (9 or 10) didn't really question that too much, I was really interested.

Who were your outside influences while growing up and beyond? 

MD: Blanc, Frees, Brooks, Hitchcock & mom

I loved Mel Blanc's characters. There was another voice that I always really liked. 

I went to Disneyland when I was 10 years old, went in the Haunted Mansion and heard Paul Frees (The Ghost Host) and THAT was the voice that I really thought 'ooh, I wish I had a voice like that'.  Paul Frees did the voices for many of the rides at Disneyland (Adventures thru Inner Space, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, etc.) and he did the voice of Boris Badanoff (Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon) and so many characters...I can't name them all (Two:: nearly 30 years as the Pillsbury Doughboy; Toucan Sam for Fruit Loops ) That was when I first knew that I liked characters and thought it would be neat to do voices.

Then I was really interested in being a director and producer, that was what I thought I would do. I set out for Los Angeles from St. Louis with the intention of being...ready for this? ...the next Mel Brooks or Alfred Hitchcock. I know, two total opposites, but that was what I wanted to do, either comedy, wanting to make people laugh, or scare them hell out of them. Either one was just as much fun for me.  As a kid I remember I used to scare the hell out of my mom when I wanted to and I used to make her laugh when I wanted to. So, that's how that came about.

LM: How did you find your way to Lucasfilm and the audition for Salacious?

MD: Love, Labor, Little Creatures and Lotsa Timing

I came to Los Angeles in 1978 and after a couple of years there I met someone who worked for Lucasfilm, her name was Rita Bosik and we fell in love. She was being moved to Northern California from the Egg Company (the cover designation for Lucasfilm South), she was in charge of all the toys. We wanted to stay together so I told her I wanted to GO together. Maybe I could get a job with Lucasfilm up in Northern California.

Once we got there the only thing that they had available was working for Skywalker development which was out at the Ranch building Lucasfilm...building Skywalker. I decided I needed something and something else would turn up while I was working out there.

I had been a laborer and a carpenter while in Los Angeles on the side and, oh I did many things while in LA at first. But, I went to the interview and got the job at first at the Kerner Company (San Rafael, CA), where they were building the sound studios for Ben Burtt , Sprockets was the name of it.   I worked as a laborer and I was moved up to being a carpenter, but that wasn't really what I wanted. I wanted to be moved into being in the production end of things, just as a production assistant.

I was walking around one day and playing around with some of my silly voices, just being goofy and somebody said, "Hey, you know, Ben Burtt is always looking for voices..." Somebody had heard me doing Popeye and said, "...why don't you call him up..."   I thought, I can do a lot of different voices, I guess I'll check that out. So, I called Ben. At about the same time it just so happened that Ben Burtt had put a notice on the computers at Lucasfilm, he was wondering if anybody knew anybody who had a baby raccoon, he wanted to record some raccoon sounds. My wife at the time, Rita, saw that on the computer and said, "...we have a raccoon..", matter of fact we had a baby raccoon that I had gotten, her name was Mabel, and we told Ben that we had the raccoon and he could record some sounds.

Ben came out to our place, he wanted to get the raccoon in it's natural habitat, he tried to get the raccoon to do something but it didn't. So, Ben left a Sony reel-to-reel at our house and said, "whenever your raccoon makes some good noises try to get it recorded." We did, and I took the recording to him and said , "by the way, I do voices just as well as my raccoon" *laughs* ...and could I try out for anything that he was working on. Burtt said, "sure! Come on in."

I went in and the first thing I tried out for was...well, I didn't know what it was, all secretive. Burtt wanted me to say, "be good" and "phone home" and yell this little boy's name "Elliott!"..say it all different ways. I did. He ended up not using my stuff but he did use my raccoon. I didn't even know what I had done until we went to a screening of E.T. and when that scene came up I told my wife, "Hey, that's what I was trying out for! It was THAT voice" That's what our raccoon was used for

Anyway, some time went past and I continued working as a carpenter for Skywalker, they were working on Return of the Jedi, and I contacted Ben and said, "Hey, Ben, could I come over and try out for some characters again?" he said "sure!", Ben is very nice that way. He had me come over and as a matter of fact it was in the studio that I had worked to build, I had literally been a laborer in that studio and helped build that studio.  

Burtt gave me the script for Admiral Ackbar. I didn't do a very good job, I was pretty green at the time and I was overwhelmed by the script that I was reading, so I told Ben, "Just a minute, I'm really uptight, nervous, let me loosen up" I stepped back away from the mic and just started yellin' *laughs* kinda screaming and *makes noises*, making sounds and *other sounds* laughing like a cacklin' a witch. Ben said, "wait a minute, do that cackle again"   I did the *cackles* again, and he said "I think I can use that for something, let's do some stuff with that" 

Ben told me what was going on in the scene and as described it, ..."you're kinda part bird, part monkey, part rat, you're sitting on a big animal's table and you're eating cheese...make some sounds!"  I just started making sounds in that *in character* "in that kinda voice" then he described it, "...and now you're being...the creature has seen you and you're scared!" Then I screamed like I was scared in that voice.  "Now you're running from the creature.." *laughs* and I was running! Ben says, "He's got you by the tail" I just did all sorts of screams. This is happening, that is happening...he said it was great, that he would probably use it, that he'd let me know.

It wasn't too long, probably only a month before Return of the Jedi was coming out, that we went to a screening of Return of the Jedi with everyone, we're sitting in the audience and all of a sudden that Salacious Crumb started cackling...and I looked over to my wife and said, "That's me!" she said, "What do you mean that's you?" I said, "That's my voice! That's what I did!" I was really excited.

After the screening I went to the party, the big wrap party, walked up to Ben and said, 'Hey, Ben did you use...?" He says, "Oh yeah! What'd you think of it?, did you know who you were?" I told him.  "You're right! It was you, it worked out great..." he said.  As a matter of fact when George heard it he like the way that the voice worked so well with Salacious that he decided to use it even more, they went back and put a lot more scenes in with some close ups of Salacious Crumb.

So, thanks to Tim Rose and his puppeteering and my voice, the two of them came together just right and it worked, the creature came alive. Salacious Crumb has been my favorite ever since then, because it was my first and it was so cool to work with Ben Burtt.

LM: The obligatory Star Wars question: Had you seen Star Wars or the Empire Strikes Back?

MD: Yes, I had seen Star Wars, I saw it when it came out at the movie theatre,  I guess I was about 18 when that came out, saw it that summer and thought it was great.  I saw the Empire Strikes Back the year it came out.

LM: Whom did you meet while at Lucasfilm?

MD: I had met George Lucas on several occasions, not because of Salacious just being a part of the company. He was always pretty easy to meet him at the functions, there was the 4th of July party out at the Ranch and, the Christmas party the year of Return of the Jedi.

Ian Bryce (production: Return of the Jedi, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom/Last Crusade; Who Framed Roger Rabbit; Ewoks: Battle for Endor) somehow saw to it that I sat at the table with Anthony Daniels, I think he did it to be funny.  Ian and Anthony are good friends and he knew that Anthony did not like Salacious Crumb at all. He somehow set it up where I was sitting at Anthony's table at this Christmas party and made it a point to introduce me to Anthony and told him that I was Salacious Crumb. I remember the first thing Anthony did was give me a look that coulda killed *laughs*, he looked at me and said, "Oh, I didn't like you at all" he laughed about it and talked about how he didn't appreciate at all that I defaced his character (because of the scene where I attack him and pull an eye out). But, he was really nice and that was cool.

I also got to meet the monster makers who made Salacious and that was Chris Walas (Return of the Jedi; Ghost; Gremlins; Raiders of the Lost Ark) and Tony McVey (Return of the Jedi; Gremlins; Phantom Menace; Attack of the Clones), when I met them I said, "wouldn't it be great if someday they did a movie where they went to Salacious' planet and it was all Salacious Crumb's on the planet?" you know, kinda self serving though *laughs* they thought that would be cool too!

There was a lot of people at the parties and the picnics, you meet everybody. I got to meet and work with a lot of neat people. I think one of the coolest things, for me anyway, being involved with a film that...well, I'm in a movie with Darth Vader! That's pretty cool!

LM: Can you tell us how much you were paid for voicing the mischievous, Kowakian Monkey-Lizard?

MD: Yeah, I have recently divulged that I was paid a hundred dollars for that part.

LM: Frequently a large production, such as Return of the Jedi, can lead to work in similar productions and other interesting projects. What kind of work did you get as a result of Mr. Crumb and what were you involved with after Return of the Jedi?

MD: Gremlins, Sloths and Ewoks, oh my!

It wasn't too long after Jedi that Chris Walas and Tony McVey came up to me and said we needed to get together for lunch to discuss something they were working on. We got together and they told me, "Remember when you said it would be great if they went to a Salacious Crumb planet?" I said, "Yeah, are they doin' it?" They said, "well, kinda, but they're all on earth". I asked them to tell me about it. Chris and Tony were making 'them' and calling them Gremlins...going to be a Spielberg film with Joe Dante directing.

Steven had actually asked them if they knew who did the voice of Salacious Crumb. They said yes and Spielberg asked if they could get a hold of him, though that would be the perfect voice for the Gremlins as well. So they did, they got a hold of me., we went over and worked on Gremlins. That's what Salacious led to and since that time Gremlins has done very well for me, I of course did Gremlins 2.

In Gremlins I did most of the Gremlins, I worked with Frank Welker  and Howie Mandel and I got to sing with the Seven Dwarfs...I mean, those guys are cool!.  On Gremlins 2 again I was Daffy, Lenny and George (created from Gizmo), and a whole bunch of the background Gremlins/Mogwais (I sure would like to do a Gremlins 3!)  Also,  Christopher Lee (in Gremlins 2) was always my favorite vampire, of course he ended up being in the other Star Wars movies.

 Mark with Daffy...Mogwai lurking in the background
Lenny and George

It was shortly after Return of the Jedi that following year that George decided he needed a break, understandably. I was one of the many, many who were laid off. I went back to Los Angeles. I had decided that since I had done voice work...rather than look for directing/producing and getting into that business at that point I may as well stay with my voice work.

I went to Warner Bros. and Disney (did a lot of Disney records) and Hanna Barbera, did a lot of incidental characters for things. Darkwing Duck with Warner Bros. I did a show, Fitness & Me, I was Sir Sloth, that character was big *does Sloth voice* that character needed to wake up, got to sing in his voice.  I did a pilot for Viacom, Wishman, I was the voice of Wishman.

Later on I was called back to do a lot of the Ewoks and Phlogs for the Ewok Adventures. I went on to do a lot of voice over work for commercials, I did McDonald's, I did Sears, a ton of commercial work.

LM: How did you get involved with Radio Works Central?

MD: Radio Works Central came because after a while doing voice over work in Los Angeles I decided I didn't want to live there anymore, pretty much a country boy.  I decided I would go into radio.  I could use my voice there and I'd also be able to go pretty much, and live, wherever I wanted to so I wouldn't be tied to Los Angeles.

I got into radio with the Unistar Radio Network (used to be RKO Radio Network) and ended up working for Dick Clark. In fact met him, went to his house for dinner one time with a whole group. I was a DJ for format 41(Adult Contemporary, Country and Oldies Channels) out of LA, they're now owned by Westwood One. After a while I figured I had my credits together and moved back to St. Louis where my family was. I remarried, had two children and came back to St. Louis and went to work in country radio. I also found someone who was doing radio syndication out of St. Louis and did voice work for them, characters for their radio. That went real well and I decided as much work as we were doing why not start our own?

Eleven years ago (spring of 1994) we started The Heartland Radio Network with the Bunkhouse Gang and a show called, Country Spotlight.

Since that time for Country Spotlight I interviewed country artists and hosted that show. I've interviewed everyone from Willie Nelson, in person at their shows, Alan Jackson, Shania Twain...pretty much any artist, you name them, I've probably interviewed them.

What I really have fun doing is the comedy for Bunkhouse Gang, I write most all of that. You can check out what we do, we put out a CD every two weeks, been doing that for eleven years and there are 70 cuts on a CD. You can see a very small portion of what we do at: (EDIT: Link no longer active) 

I continue to do voice over work for commercials and radio stations.
In closing I'd like to say that I'm really looking forward to seeing the new Star Wars movie, Revenge of the Sith...I see George finally decided to use the word "Revenge" in the title *laughs*...and maybe, if they invite me, showing up at a Star Wars convention sometime and getting to meet people.

Thanks to Leah and everyone out there who keeps the Force alive!

Thank you, Mark!

Some special treats that Mark and the Bunkhouse Gang put together in honor of the release of Revenge of the Sith, and for father's day!:

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