Kenneth Mars (April 4, 1935 – February 12, 2011) was an American television, film and voice actor, who specialized in comedic roles. He may be best-remembered, albeit not by name, for his roles in two Mel Brooks films: as the insane Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind in The Producers (1968) and as the relentless Police Inspector Hans Wilhelm Fredrich Kemp in Young Frankenstein (1974).
Mars appeared in several seasons of Malcolm in the Middle as Otto, Francis's well-meaning but dim-witted boss. He was well known as the voice of King Triton, Ariel's father, in the 1989 Disney animated film The Little Mermaid and its sequel, the television series and the Kingdom Hearts series. He also did several other animated voice over film roles such as Littlefoot's grandfather in the Land Before Time series and that of Professor Screweyes in We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story (1993), and King Colbert (Prince Cornelius's father) in Thumbelina (1994).
Mars was born in Chicago. His father, Bernard "Sonny" Mars, was a radio and television personality. He studied fine arts and acting at Northwestern University.
After graduation he began acting in the early 1960s, then did small roles in theatre followed by TV and film. In 1977, he married Barbara Newborn. They had two daughters, Susannah and Rebecca, and six grandchildren. The marriage lasted until his death in 2011.
Mars made his acting debut in 1962 as a book publisher on Car 54, Where Are You?. He later appeared on such television series as Gunsmoke, Get Smart, McMillan and Wife, and The Bob Crane Show. He also appeared in dramatic roles, such as Will Turner, a former FBI agent, in Warren Beatty's The Parallax View.
Mars played Harry Zarakartos on the Richard Benjamin-Paula Prentiss sitcom He and She. He was featured in a number of small roles in broadcasts such as the Misfits of Science pilot episode and the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Shadowplay." He was cast opposite Bette Davis in Hello Mother, Goodbye!, a 1973 television pilot aired by NBC but never picked up as a series. From 1970-74 Mars guest starred in five episodes of Love, American Style, playing various characters. Although he often played comic-looking oddball characters, his appearances on Love, American Style showed he was actually a tall, good-looking man.
In 1977, Mars became a series regular on both the Sha Na Na variety series and on Fernwood 2-Night, where he played William W.D. "Bud" Prize on the fictional comedy talk show, later appearing on America 2-Night in the same role. In 2001 Mars portrayed a comedic famous but washed-up photographer on Just Shoot Me.
Before his death, his final television roles were Otto, the German dude ranch owner on Fox's Malcolm in the Middle, an appearance on Disney Channel's Hannah Montana, and a reprise of his role as Grandpa Longneck in The Land Before Time television series.
Stage and film roles
Mars often played characters with exaggerated accents. He was German in The Producers and Young Frankenstein, and played the Croatian musicologist Hugh Simon in What's Up, Doc? His first broadly accented character was that of Sir Evelyn Oakleigh in the 1962 Off-Broadway revival of the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes. He also appeared in the 1962 Broadway play, The Affair.
In 1975, ABC/Dunhill released a comedy LP produced by Earl Doud, Henry the First, featuring Mars in a number of comedy bits as Henry Kissinger, including a cover version of the Bachman–Turner Overdrive song, "Takin' Care of Business."
Voice acting roles
Mars cultivated a lengthy voice acting career, launching it by voicing several characters on Uncle Croc's Block. He voiced the roles of Ariel's father King Triton in The Little Mermaid and the villainous Professor Screweyes in We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story, as well as voicing Triton in Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II.
He voiced Littlefoot's Grandpa Longneck in The Land Before Time movie series and the spin-off television series. He played some minor roles on the popular radio show, Adventures in Odyssey. He played Sweet Williams in Fievel's American Tails, which took place after An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. He voiced characters on many animated television series, such as The Smurfs, The Biskitts, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, Tale Spin, and Animaniacs, as well as video games, such as Fallout and Kingdom Hearts.
Pancreatic cancer diagnosis and retirement from acting
In 2008, Mars was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His cancer afflicted him with symptoms so severe it prevented him from voicing King Triton in the third Little Mermaid film (which makes The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea the final animated franchise where he voiced King Triton) so Jim Cummings took over as the voice of Triton in the prequel) and due to his absence, Grandpa Longneck was absent from the recent The Land Before Time media campaign, and he retired from acting in the same year.
Mars died at home in Granada Hills on February 12, 2011, aged 75, after a three year battle with pancreatic cancer, which usually kills its victims within six months of being diagnosed. He is survived by his wife, Barbara Newborn Mars, to whom he had been married for 34 years, his two daughters Susan and Rebecca, and his six grandchildren. After a private funeral, Mars' body was privately cremated.
The Land Before Time (TV) (2007–08) – Grandpa Longneck
Hannah Montana (TV) (2007) – Gunther the Innkeeper
Kingdom Hearts II (VG) (2006) (voice) – King Triton
Kingdom Hearts (VG) (2002) (voice) – King Triton
Malcolm in the Middle (TV) (2002–04) – Otto Mannkusser
Just Shoot Me (TV) (2001) – Horace (1 Episode)
Becker (TV) (2001) – Melvin (3 episodes)
The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (voice) (2000) – King Triton
Fallout (voice) (1997) – Vault 13 Overseer
Citizen Ruth (1996) – Dr. Charles Rollins
Batman: The Animated Series (voice) (1995) – M2 (In the episode "The Lion and the Unicorn")
Freakazoid! (TV) (voice) (1995) Dr. Gunter Hunter Hanker
The Land Before Time series (II-XIII) (voice) (1994–2008) – Grandpa
Thumbelina (voice) (1994) – King Colbert
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1994) – Colyus Felidae (1994) – Preterius (English dub)
Batman: The Animated Series (voice) (1994) – Richard (episode: "Sideshow")
Animaniacs (voice) (1993) – Ludwig van Beethoven (episode: "Roll Over Beethoven")
Swat Kats: The Radical Squadron (voice) (1993) – Dr. Wally Gilbert Kenrousch
We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story (voice) (1993) – Professor Screweyes
The Little Mermaid (voice) (1992–1994) King Triton
Shadows and Fog (1992) – Armstead the Magician
Fievel's American Tails (1992) – Sweet Williams (6 episodes)
A Different World (1992) – Homeless Man
Darkwing Duck (TV) (voice) (1991–95) – Tuskerninni
Timeless Tales from Hallmark (1991)
Tale Spin (TV) (voice) (1990–94) – Heimlich Menudo, Prof. Buzz
Tiny Toon Adventures (TV) (Voice) (1990) – Flavio (episode: "Hollywood Plucky")
The Little Mermaid (voice) (1989) – King Triton
Asterix and the Big Fight (voice) (1989) – Fishstix (American voice dubbing)
Police Academy 6: City Under Siege (1989) – The Mayor/The Mastermind
Get Smart, Again! (1989) (TV) – Cmdr. Drury
The Smurfs (1989) season (TV) – additional voices
Rented Lips (1988) – Rev. Farrell
For Keeps? (1988) – Mr. Bobrucz
Illegally Yours (1988) – Hal B. Keeler
A Pup Named Scooby-Doo (TV) (voice) (1988–91) – Dogcatcher
Ghost Radio Days (1987) – Rabbi Baumel
The Adventures of the American Rabbit (voice) (1986) – Walt/Vultor the Buzzard
Prince Jack (1985) – Lyndon B. Johnson
Misfits of Science (TV) (1985) – Sen. Donner
Beer (1985) – Adolphe Norbecker Fletch (1985) – Stanton Boyd
The Biskitts (1983) – King Max
Yellowbeard (1983) – Mr. Crisp and Senior Verdugo
Full Moon High (1981) – Coach Cleveland/Principal Cleveland
Carol Burnett and Company (TV) (1979)
The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979) – Marshal Woolly Bill Hitchcock
Heaven Only Knows (TV) (1979)
Goin' Coconuts (1978)
America 2-Night (TV) (1978) William W.D. "Bud" Prize (3 episodes)
Baa Baa Black Sheep (TV) (1977) Episode "Five the Hard Way"
Fernwood 2 Night (TV) (1977) William W.D. "Bud" Prize (8 episodes)
It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman (TV) (1975) – Max Mencken
Night Moves (1975) – Nick
The New Original Wonder Woman (pilot) (1975) – Colonel Oberst Von Blasko (1 episode)
Young Frankenstein (1974) – Police Inspector Hans Wilhelm Friedrich Kemp
The Parallax View (1974) – Former FBI Agent Will
Guess Who's Sleeping in My Bed? (1973) (TV) – Mitchell Bernard
What's Up, Doc? (1972) – Hugh Simon
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) – Marshal
The April Fools (1969) – Les Hopkins
The Producers (1968) – Franz Liebkind
He and She (TV) (1967–68) – Harry Zarakartos
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (TV) – (1968–70) (2 episodes)
1. "Kenneth Mars, veteran screen and voice actor, dies at 75". Los Angeles Times. February 15, 2011.
2. "Kenneth Mars obituary". The Daily Telegraph (London, UK). February 15, 2011.
3. Kenneth Mars at the Internet Movie Database 4. Profile, chicagotribune.com; accessed June 27, 2015. 5. Kenneth Mars at Find a Grave