This is a ACF special news bulletin!
James Avery has died right before New Year's Day due to complications after open heart surgery. He was 68 years old.
Avery was best known for two characters he has played. The first was voicing Oroku Saki aka The Shredder from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. The second was playing lawyer turned superior court judge, Phillip Banks on the hit TV show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which jumpstarted Will Smith's career. He also did some other shows and cartoons like voicing War Machine in the first dozen episodes of the 90s Iron Man cartoon and appeared in the short lived UPN TV show, Sparks.
Avery's death mirrors that of another similar situation with another actor who had open heart surgery long ago and that was Tony Jay. Both Mr. Avery's and Mr. Jay's fates were similar in many ways. But I will get to that in a moment.
Remember that Fresh Prince episode where Uncle Phil had a heart attack after eating some fatty foods Will sneaked in by the sly? The difference between Avery and his character is while Uncle Phil survived and live to care for his family and fight for law and order for another day, the actor who played him, he ended up dead because of his weak heart...or so they say.
What I am trying say is, I don't what caused these complications. Is it his poor health or the doctors, who are responsible for the surgery itself, caused more harm than good (e.g. a scalpel accidently scratched his heart causing the complications). Either way, the consequences of open heart surgery should be address. Those doctors should start being more careful when they do this. If they don't take care of their patient when doing the surgery, they will die on the spot, not now, but say, in a few days or weeks. Open heart surgery is no joke, it is not a game. It is a matter of life and death here and both Mr. Jay and Mr. Avery paid the ultimate price for their incompetence and careless procedures.
Anyway, Mr. Avery's death also helped me understand one other thing. Why hasn't anyone in the animation world, voice actor or otherwise, is nothing being acknowledged after their deaths? In the wake of Mr. Avery's death, many people wondered, "Why these people are not getting the respect they so rightfully deserve?". And I will tell you why. The reason animation and those who pioneered it is not being well-respected is because of the following elements: The gutless executives like Stuart Snyder, Cyma Zarghami and Robert Iger, the mindless bureaucrats like our government's FCC and the coddling Moral Guardians who thinks animation as a whole is hazardous to our health. First Lou Scheimer, then Danny Wells, then Christopher Welch and now James Avery. I guess what Trixie Tang said about animation is being the lowest form of entertainment is true. It is so because of what these people I have mention has done to this wonderful genre. I think that the next time someone dies and when this year ends, we demand that those who are pioneers in animation should be acknowledged, if they died of course. We are tired of those who treat animation as an afterthought and leaving those who died un-mourned.
In short, let James Avery's death serve as a reminder that animation should be mentioned in all media, in death or in life. I will never let it get ignored like this ever again. Here's to you James, who gave life to an iconic villain in cartoons and a devoted father/uncle to an then up and rising Will Smith. Godspeed, Uncle Phil. :(
James La Rue Avery
November 27, 1945 - December 31, 2013
This has been an ACF special report. Thank you.