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Don LaFontaine King of Movie Trailers Dies

Don LaFontaine, the man who popularized the catch phrase "In a world where ..." and lent his voice to thousands of movie trailers, died Sept. 2, 2008, at 68.

Some words from Don la Fontaine

"My history begins as a recording engineer at the National Recording Studios, where I had the opportunity to work with Floyd Peterson producing promo spots for Dr. Strangelove. Peterson incorporated many of my ideas for the spots, and not long after, we went into business together. While working on the 1964 western Gunfighters of Casa Grande, I had to fill in for an unavailable voice actor to finish a client’s presentation. Not long after, the client bought the spots, and my career as a voice actor had been sealed. Prior and into the 1970s, I developed my signature style of a strong narrative approach, and heavy melodramatic coloration of my voice work. Thankfully, my signature voice has commanded a busy schedule. I could voice about 60 promotions a week, and as many as 35 in a single day. It has been said that my voice-over can add prestige and excitement to what may otherwise be a snoozer movie. Most studios are willing to pay a high fee for my service, thanks in no small part to my rigorous efforts and golden voice. "

(Courtesy Of Hollywood Insider).... Famous for being driven to voice-over jobs in a personalized limo with a full time driver, so as not to waste time parking and going from job to job, more recently he has begun recording many promotions from his own palatial estate in the Hollywood Hills, saving the time from traveling to many high-profile recording studios. This is mainly due to the advent of the Internet where a file can be recorded and e-mailed to a studio within seconds. Virtually all audiences in Hollywood have heard LaFontaine’s voice, never having met him, or even knowing his name. Similar voice actors Tex Brashear, Hal Douglas and Peter Cullen have all been categorized as being a close copy to the style of LaFontaine, and are sometimes confused with LaFontaine.

ome noticeable spots of his work are in the trailers to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and various segments on Jeopardy!, in categories such as DR. SEUSS AT THE MULTIPLEX, COMING SOON… HISTORY!, FOOD A LAFONTAINE, andNURSERY RHYME PREVIEWS. Most recently he has been featured in a GEICO commercial that began airing in August 2006, where he is introduced as, "that announcer guy from the movies". He also appeared on NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, where he played "Not my job" (a game in which famous people have to accurately answer questions totally unrelated to their chosen professions). The prize (for a listener, not the contestant) is "Carl Kassel's voice on your home answering machine". LaFontaine did not win the game, and offered to do the answering machine message himself instead. LaFontaine and fellow voiceover pro Joe Cipriano were interviewed on The Paul Harris Show on May 5, 2005 on the St. Louis radio station KMOX 1120AM. They discussed their careers, tips for others, and their contributions to Joan Baker's book, Secrets of Voiceover Success. Neither LaFontaine nor Cipriano was in the studio with Harris — they were each in their own home studios in Los Angeles, connected to the show via ISDN lines.

Don LaFontaine was a native of Duluth, Minnesota. After graduating from High School, he joined the army and eventually was stationed at Fort Meyer, Virginia, outside of Washington DC. He was assigned to the United States Army Band and Chorus as a recording engineer. After his discharge from the service, he moved to New York City where he found work at National Recording Studios as a sound engineer/editor. Late in 1962, he was assigned to a young radio producer named Floyd L. Peterson, who was creating radio commercials for "Dr. Strangelove". They worked so well together that, in January of 1963, LaFontaine joined Floyd Peterson, making it a two man operation, working out of Floyd's apartment. Over the next couple of years, the company rapidly grew to employ thirty people and expanded into its own building; a carriage house on west 57th street. Floyd L. Peterson, Inc. was one of the first companies to work exclusively in motion picture advertising. Prior to that time, most film promotion was done in-house by the studios. It was during this period that the format for the modern Trailer (Previews of coming attractions) was developed, and LaFontaine and Peterson were among the first to create the catch phrases that still dominate trailers; "In a world", "A one-man army", "No where to run, no where to hide and no way out" etc. In 1965, a mix-up in scheduling prevented an announcer from making a session, and LaFontaine was forced to create a "scratch" narration for radio spots for the film "Gunfighters Of Casa Grande" in order to present something to the client, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. To his surprise, they bought his performance, and over the next 16 years he voiced thousands of spots and hundreds of trailers. He spent a number of years as a head of production for Kaleidoscope Films, Ltd; one of the premiere trailer production houses. In 1976, he started his own production company, Don LaFontaine Associates. His first assignment as an independent was "The Godfather, Part II." In 1978 he was asked to join Paramount Pictures, heading up the trailer department. Over the next three years, he became literally the "Voice" of Paramount. In 1980 he was named Vice President, but he missed being involved in active production. He left Paramount in 1981 and moved from New York to Los Angeles, again as an independent producer. One of his first phone calls was from a young agent named Steve Tisherman, who urged LaFontaine to pursue voice-overs more aggressively. He signed with Steve Tisherman, and never looked back. Over the past 25 years, LaFontaine cemented his position as the "King of Voice-overs." Aside from his continuing work in the trailer industry, he has also been the voice of NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox and UPN, in addition to TNT, TBS and the Cartoon Network. By conservative estimates, he has voiced hundreds of thousands of television and radio spots, including commercials for Chevrolet, Pontiac, Ford, Budweiser, McDonalds, Coke, and many other corporate sponsors. At last count, he has worked on nearly 5000 films, including appearances as the in-show announcer for the Screen Actors Guild and Academy Awards. Based on contracts signed, he has the distinction of being perhaps the single busiest actor in the history of SAG. LaFontaine was married to Singer/Actress Nita Whitaker, and lived in Los Angeles.

His voice has been the subject of parody and satire, as seen in a Cartoon Network commercial for The Powerpuff Girls, the stand-up comedy of Pablo Francisco, and on the popular web-cartoon site Homestar Runner. Comedian-actress Janeane Garofalo formerly performed "an impression of every movie trailer ever made" with the words, "In a WORLD!..." saying that every movie trailer seems to begin with LaFontaine saying, "In a world..." or "In a town..." LaFontaine has also participated in some of his satire, as evidenced by his voice in "North by North Quahog", an episode on the FOX animated series Family Guy. His voice has also been featured in musical tracks, such as on DJ Dieselboy's albums, Project Human, and The Dungeonmaster's Guide.
Watch this hilarious Geico spot!


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