Larry Moran, ‘funny voice man’ in Parkay, Kibbles ‘n Bits, Raid ads, dead at 78

on Jan12

12 January 2018 | 5:42 pm

Larry Moran, one of the most successful voice actors in Chicago, has died.

The Pillsbury Doughboy expressed his condolences.

He “was one of the best voiceover artists in the business,” said JoBe Cerny, 70, a Cicero native who, in addition to doing the Doughboy in commercials, also was the voice of the original Scrubbing Bubble.

The two men often read for the same parts in commercials. Mr. Moran was a tough competitor, according to Cerney. He “had a great sense of character and won many auditions,” Cerny said. “He was a great talent.”

Voice actor Larry Moran. | Provided photo

Mr. Moran, 78, died Dec. 28 in New Buffalo, Michigan, where he’d retired, according to his former wife Janet Gilleland. The cause was believed to be a heart ailment.

He had as many voices as Scheherazade had stories, playing everything from a Keebler elf to a Raid bug to Parkay margarine.

Frequently, he did every role in a commercial — sometimes as many as half a dozen characters. He’d run from one studio or ad agency to the next, nailing performances for many different products in a single day.

He created a variety of doggie voices — from frisky terriers to portly Bulldogs — who chanted for their “Kibbles ’n Bits.”

In just a couple of syllables, he made a container of Parkay sound contrarian yet kittenish while insisting it was “butter” — not margarine.

Mr. Moran did voiceovers for Cadillac, Velveeta, Reebok, Gonnella bread and Cap’n Crunch. He portrayed Grimace and Mr. Monopoly in McDonald’s commercials and Dig’Em the Honey Smacks frog. He voiced a chef for a microwave commercial starring golfer Jack Nicklaus and pitched Parkay to football Hall of Famer Deacon Jones.

“It’s fun,” he once told the TV show PM Magazine. “I can be anybody.”

He also mentored many fledgling voice actors, said Tim Dadabo, who plays 343 Guilty Spark in the video game Halo and Bebop in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game.

Mr. Moran urged Dadabo to work on his craft each day: “He’d say, ‘Did you sit down and practice voices for at least an hour? Did you listen to cartoons? Did you listen to the voices you heard on TV and radio? Did you buy any motivational books, motivational tapes, that tell you how to sell, and market, and act and talk?’ ”

“Start reading the Bible,” he said Mr. Moran told him. “If you can quote the Bible — and sound like you’re just talking — you can read anything.”

Mr. Moran would study cartoons featuring “The Man of 1000 Voices,” Mel Blanc, who did  classic characters including Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Sylvester, Tweety Pie and Daffy Duck.

Seen here in 1992, Larry Moran’s commercial voiceover work including being the voice of the dog in Maytag ads. | Sun-Times files

“He absolutely was one of the premier voiceover talents in this town, and the thing that was really great about him is, even to a really green copywriter, he was incredibly kind,” said Ross Buchanan, founder of the ad agency Octane Chicago.

Mr. Moran did hundreds of commercials for J. Walter Thompson, according to Johnny Zwierzko, who was a voiceover producer for the agency. “He sold everything. He sold himself. He sold whatever he was attached to.”

“He was sort of the jack of all trades — and master of all,” said David Lewis of David Lewis Creative Radio.

A North Side native, young Larry went to Lakeview High School and later was a sales representative for Whitaker-Carpenter Paper Company.

While performing in community theater with the Oak Park Village Players, he was encouraged by other actors to pursue a career in performing arts.

Among his other roles, he did voices for the Jewish educational program “The Magic Door,” beloved by those born during the Baby Boom, when it was Chicago’s only Sunday morning kids’ show in the days when there were just a few TV channels.

Auditioning, he’d present producers and other actors with a box of cashews — with the joke that “he was a little nuts,” said his son Matthew Moran, who said there was a method to his nutty madness. The gifts helped people remember him.

Larry Moran frequently performed in the Pacific Garden Mission’s long-running radio drama “Unshackled.” | Provided photo

Mr. Moran started a group for voiceover artists where members networked for jobs and professional development.

He also performed plays for the long-running radio drama “Unshackled!” at Chicago’s Pacific Garden Mission.

“He was such a cool, caring dude,” Dadabo said.

In addition to his son Matthew, Mr. Moran is survived by daughters Nancy McLaughlin and Erika Moran, sons Mark, Todd and Colin Shaughnessy, 12 grandchildren, one great-grandchild and his friend Catherine Duffy. Services have been held.

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