A Little Chat With The Cheshire Cat!

Mariah, who runs the myspace page, was lucky enough to get in contact with Richard Kuhlman, who voiced the Cheshire Cat. She has kindly allowed me to post it here for all to see, but I'd appreciate it if you gave the myspace page a look, and if you've got a myspace, don't forget to add it!

Q: How did you come to audition for AIW?

A: The call went out from Disney's producers to agents and my agent sent me in, because I do a lot of voices. They liked one or two of my voices for the Cheshire Cat's possible voice. So I came in a few times and met more and more executives and decision makers. Finally I came in and there was the Cat, waiting for me, and I had to learn to work the controls for his mouth and lips and to speak lines at the same time. And I practiced it and kept getting better. And on the day of the final audition, the room was full of Disney decision makers.... and I screwed up. I just could not get my hands and the controls and my voice to sync up. So, I finished and they said Thank You, and I sat there and said, I wanna do this again, one more time. Which was rather unorthodox but they saw that I needed to do it again. And I did. And I nailed it. And I got the job. Months later, when we were shooting the episodes down in Orlando at Disney World, the head puppeteer (and the Cat's designer) told me, at my audition, that they were disappointed that I could not get it, and then when I tried again they were so happy because they really wanted my voice. So it was a lesson for me, to really believe in myself and abilities, and to never give up when I know that I can do something right.

Q: Did you originally audition for the Cheshire Cat?

A: I think I read for the Rabbit and the Hare as well, but they narrowed my audition down to the Cat. I had socially met John Hoffman (Mad Hatter) through a mutual friend before we worked together on AIW, and I had "dated" Patrick Richwood (White Rabbit)'s sister, Blair, before we began AIW.

Q: How much contact did you have with the other cast members during shooting?

A: I had to be there on set for every scene the Cat was in. I would read my lines and the other characters had to look to the places where the Cat would be appearing in the scene; floating above everyone, or in his tree, or wherever. The timing had to be right, because then later I would go by myself and the producer into the Todd AO studio and lay down the voice track. It had to fit into what the others had shot on camera by this time. And I had to match the mouth and the voice of the Cat together. It was unique to be both a Techie and an actor. On Friday's we would shoot all of the Cat's appearances separately on a Green Screen. But it was normally a Blue screen, but the Cat was blue and so it had to be made up of another primary color that the camera could identify and erase. There were a few of us puppeteers who operated the Cat. One guy was just in charge of controlling his Tail's movements. Another did his paws. (John Lovelady was my Paw Man, and he also did the Door Mouse). Another guy wore a green body suit and stood next to the Cat with his whole arm inside to create the body movements. Another puppeteer sat next to me at the controls, and while I did his voice and moved his mouth, he operated the Cat's eyes. It was quite a co-ordinated process. Then the Cat was added to scenes afterwards, as a finished character.

Q: Was "Noses Off" the only episode you appeared in as a character other than the Cheshire Cat?

A: I was a Reporter in Noses Off, and I thought I was another guy some other time, but I cannot recall. I only have pictures of that episode's character, but some other time rings a bell in my head, but I can't remember.

Q: Do you still keep in contact with any of the other cast members?

A: Patrick now lives in NYC and I get emails from him every once in a while. We saw each other a few times when he lived out here in LA, and had lunch and a few parties at his place. He gave a lot of parties. I also went a number of times to John Hoffman's gatherings at his home. That's where we would all see each other; Patrick, Reese, Armelia, Wes. Robert Fleming was in LA Confidential and that was fun to see him, but I have not seen him since. I saw "Alice"/ Elizabeth all grown up on a show, she's such the Pro now, and so beautiful.

Q: What was your favorite AIW episode?

A: There was an early episode where the Cat had a song, and that was fun and challenging. But it took a lot of time technically to shoot, and it was expensive to recreate and to do the whole number, so they didn't write any more Cat songs after that. I always liked to have a lot of acting to do in an episode, and in some of them, like Big Tooties (?) I had a bunch of scenes, and the Cat was a real prankster, which I loved.

Q: Can you recall any funny mess-ups that happened on set? (bloopers and stuff)

A: There were TONS of Bloopers. When we would shoot the Cat on Fridays, there would be down time between takes and scenes. And I was making the Cat say anything I wanted. And the other puppeteers would go right along and bring Him to life. And many times the directors would record the Improvising and then we'd show the tape at Christmas and wrap parties. The Cat could become quite the potty mouth. There were a lot of cuss words that would fly out of a character's when someone would forget a line or screw something up while filming. Armelia was notorious for screwing up her lines, probably 75% of the time. She spoke really fast and had a lot to do, and sometimes it took a while to get it right. It was always hilarious, and terribly inappropriately out of context to see the Queen, or any of the other sweet innocent characters go off.

Patrick was always rollerblading into set pieces and other characters. He passed out once on set because he was SO hot in all that costume and activity. We were always pulling gags on each other. Gary Halverson was a constant director on our show, he shot a lot of the episodes and he was always encouraging us. He set up things not to work properly, sabotage!... and would do practical jokes whenever he would be shooting on or ahead of schedule.

We had famous guest stars in our later episodes. We shot one hundred episodes, but only 99 will ever appear. Because one episode was when our guest star was O.J. Simpson. He came on the show to help the White Rabbit be a good citizen. That episode will never leave the Disney vaults.

Q: Do you have any AIW memorabilia? Any cool photos I can talk you into sharing?

A: I'll look around in some albums I have from then, and I guess I would then scan them into my computer. It may take a while, the boxes are out in the garage.

Adventures in Wonderland is (C) Disney
The graphics were made by SeltzerAddict and can only be used with permission.
Much of the screenshots were obtained from the AiW Myspace page
Song files were contributed by Lauren