|Its a well-known fact that later in his career, legendary actor-director Orson Welles frequently lent his distinctive voice to commercials. During one recording session for a line of frozen food products, Welles seemingly lost his patience with the ads script and director and stormed out of the studio. The resulting blooper tape is almost unbearably funny and has been widely circulated via bootleg tapes and the Internet.
The "Frozen Peas" tape (also known as "In July" or "Yes, Always") is an edited collection of audio outtakes from a series of TV ads by a company called Findus. In it, we hear Welles grow increasingly exasperated with his working conditions while trying to shill frozen meat and vegetables. Its a wonderfully enjoyable tirade, in which we wince with sympathy for the terrorized booth staff, while simultaneously cheering Welles on for railing against the banalities of advertising. Welles calls the crew "pests" and describes the copy as "wearying," "unpleasant to read" and "unrewarding."
At one point he trails off, mid-delivery, and remarks "This is a lot of shit, you know that?" When the director foolishly asks him to emphasize the first word in a sentence beginning with the phrase "In July
," Welles snaps. "Why? That doesnt make any sense! Sorry, theres no known way of saying an English sentence in which you begin a sentence with In and emphasize it. Get me a jury and show me how you can say In July, and Ill go down on you!"
By the end of the briskly edited four-minute tape, Welles is on a roll. "What is it you want?" he pleads. "In the depths of your ignorance, what is it you want?" As the great man exits the studio, we hear him mutter "No money is worth this."
Once heard, the "frozen peas" rant is never forgotten, and many cartoons and comedy sketches have made reference to it, going as far back as 1982 when John Candy threw a few "frozen peas" bits into his Welles impression on SCTV. The tape has become a particular favourite of voice actors, who can presumably relate to Welless disgust at being forced to read bad copy. One of the many cartoons to pay homage to the tape is Pith Possum: Super Dynamic Possum of Tomorrow Disneys brilliant superhero parody from the wonderful but short-lived Shnookums and Meat Funny Cartoon Show (1993). In it, the crusading Possum faced a bevy of peculiar supervillains each week, including "Supper Squirrel," a megalomaniacal glutton with a buttery Welles-style voice provided by voice actor Jim Cummings. The evil rodents dialogue is peppered with familiar little snippets like, "Come on fellas, youre losing your heads!" and "This is
unrewarding." As an extra bonus for Welles fans, the cartoons soundtrack includes bits of the Harry Lime theme from The Third Man (1949).
Toronto-born voice actor Maurice LaMarche has become well-known for his remarkable Orson Welles impression, which can be heard in the motion picture Ed Wood (1994). He voiced Welles again in an episode of the animated comedy The Critic (1994), in a brief parody of the frozen peas commercial. In it, the animated Welles says, "Rosebuuudddd
..Yes, Rosebud frozen peas. Full of country goodness and green pea-ness, (pause, as he realizes the double entendre)
Wait, thats terrible. I quit."
LaMarche is a big fan of the "Frozen Peas" tape and has been known to recite it prior to recording sessions as a warm-up. You can hear him do the whole thing as an extra on the Comic Book: The Movie (2004) DVD.
Its widely recognized that LaMarches super-intelligent laboratory mouse character, "The Brain," from the animated series Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain, uses a version of his Welles voice, with just a smidgen of Vincent Price and Peter Lorre thrown in for good measure. In one episode, The Brain is recruited to voice some frozen food commercials and LaMarche gets to quote the entire tirade, almost verbatim. "Get me a jury and show me how you can say In July, and Ill
get you some cheese." (Hey, its a family show). Those who get the reference find this sequence hilarious, but its a bit puzzling for everybody else. If you found yourself scratching your head over The Brains shtick the first time round, familiarize yourself with the original rant and then watch it again.