Today would have been the birthday of Kelly Asbury (b. 1960) but for the fact that he passed just recently, in mid-2020 in the depths of the pandemic’s first wave (though the cause was stomach cancer). Asbury may not been a household name but he was a big man in the animation field for nearly 40 years. His biggest credits were having directed Gnomeo and Juliet (2011), Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017), and UglyDolls (2019) and co-directed Shrek 2 (2004) and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002). But he also had a very long list of important credits on major animated films going back to 1983, as an artist, writer, and voice-over actor, and variations thereupon.
But none of that is why we mark him today. Asbury (not too surprisingly) was also a ventriloquism buff. In 2003 his book Dummy Days: America’s Favorite Ventriloquists from Radio and early TV was published, featuring profiles on Edgar Bergen, Senor Wences, Paul Winchell, Jimmy Nelson, and Shari Lewis, with a foreword by Leonard Maltin. NPR’s Morning Edition did a nice piece on the book; perfect winter weekend listening! Asbury was also one of the talking heads in the 2009 documentary I’m No Dummy we reviewed here.
Sorry this is just a shade to late to benefit your holiday shopping efforts but on the bright side, if you were planning on giving gifts for World Puppetry Day (March 21) or International Ventriloquism Day (May 13), you need no longer wrack your brain for a suitable present.