Christine Cavanaugh Tribute
|She Does Chuckie Proud
by Liz Broun
November 16, 2000
Chuckie Finster needs a new mom. That's a major plot point in the second Rugrats movie -- Rugrats In Paris -- and kids who love little Chuckie from the TV show know his wooly red hair and thick specs and adenoidal pronouncements.
Well ... hmmm ... how to break this news ...
Chuckie Finster is a girl! A grown-up girl, in fact!
Don't tell your children.
The voice of two-year-old Chuckie, all nasal and quavering, belongs to thirtysomething actress Christine Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh, who proves to be highly animated in person, which is fitting, is also the voice of Dexter on Dexter's Laboratory, and has voiced characters on Darkwing Duck, Balto and Sonic The Hedgehog. She was the voice of Babe, the famed pig, in the movie of the same name.
Cavanaugh, who was in Toronto yesterday to promote Rugrats In Paris, explained that her extensive voice-over work came to her by accident.
The Utah native moved to Los Angeles to work as an actress. Almost as soon as she arrived, she helped out a friend who was making an animated movie for a film school thesis.
Cavanaugh did some voices on the film as a favour to her friend. That was the start. She's worked steadily ever since.
Mind you, she's still an actress. "I'm a character actress, known only for small parts," she said. "You know, I'm the waitress -- Mona. I think I've played someone called Mona, like, 10 times." Cavanaugh laughs a lot and talks fast. She's quick and funny and there's a little midwestern thing in her voice, in her delivery, that adds to a general air of trustworthiness about her. You should know she has several pets, including a three-legged dog named Nub. Seriously.
There's plenty for adults to laugh at in Rugrats In Paris, including the movie's send-up of Disney, EuroDisney and Disney animated films. "That was our homage to Disney," said Cavanaugh, deadpan. "Or maybe our french fromage."
This woman loves her work. There isn't the same cutthroat stuff going on in her end of the business, said Cavanaugh. "It's a lot friendlier. The competition is different." It's also a plum job to have a voice on Rugrats, just as it is on The Simpsons or on any other long-running, successful animated series.
The people who voice the Rug-rats babies -- Lil and Phil, Tommy and little Dil and Angelica -- are all women. Their work is done a little like theatre, in that they interact as if they really were a bunch of tots. "When you see a roomful of women acting like babies," said Cavanaugh, laughing again, "and
you see their faces -- they look like what they're doing." To be the voice of Angelica, the Rugrats' really brutal little three-year-old, actress Cheryl Chase has to go into a room by herself so she can flail around and put some gusto into her performance. Just to do the voice of Chuckie, which she demonstrated for us yesterday, Cavanaugh uses her whole body. It's an amazing transformation.
"It's so unattractive," said Cavanaugh, who tends to snort when she starts laughing madly enough. "You can't stand still and be a kid."
One of several kids from a big family and a very small town, Cavanaugh reckons her humour comes from family.
"It's how you get along," she said. "The only way for me to get my say in my family was to crack a joke." As for her work in Hollywood, her hard-working kin are not that impressed. She flattens her voice a bit to imitate their plain speaking. "They just say, 'That's your crazy Aunt Chris. We all know what
she's like. If she weren't doing what she does she'd still be here. She'd still be a waitress.' " In her own voice Cavanaugh added, "Potty humour is big in my family. I fit right in with the Rugrats gang."