TMZ is reporting the death of Dick Tufeld, the prolific announcer and voice actor who contributed the narration and intros to dozens of television and radio broadcasts, and who is best remembered as the voice of the Robot on Lost In Space. Tufeld was a cancer survivor who also suffered from Parkinson’s disease, and according to his former co-star Billy Mumy (who announced his death via Facebook), Tufeld “lost his pep” following the death of his wife, to the point where “everything just caught up to him.” Tufeld was 85.
Tufeld got his start in radio, working for such ABC shows as The Amazing Mr. Malone, Falstaff’s Fables, and Space Patrol before branching out into TV news as the anchor of L.A.’s The Three Star Final. In the ’50s, he became one of Disney’s go-to announcers, most famously working on shows such as Zorro and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World Of Color, while also setting up TV programs such as Surfside 6, The Hollywood Palace, The Gallant Men, and The Julie Andrews Hour. Later he developed a close working relationship with producer Irwin Allen, providing the narration for shows such as The Time Tunnel and Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, where Tufeld’s voice was often the first thing audiences heard.
That partnership flourished with Lost In Space, where Allen recruited Tufeld to not only intro the show, but provide the voiceover for one of its most memorable characters. As the Jupiter 2’s Rambler-Crane Series Robot, Model B9—better known as simply “Robot”—Tufeld gave recognizably human characteristics to that hunk of glowing machinery, whether playing straight man to Dr. Smith, contributing his own deadpan wit, laughing and singing songs, or most importantly, forging a unique bond with Mumy’s young Will Robinson. He also delivered some of the series’ most lasting and memorable quotes, including, “That does not compute,” “Warning! Warning!” and of course, “Danger, Will Robinson!” Tufeld would go on to reprise the role of the Robot in the 1998 Lost In Space feature film, as well as in two episodes of The Simpsons, the latter of which would end up being his final credit.
Tufeld’s other voiceover work included narrating the 1978 Fantastic Four cartoon, 1980’s Thundarr The Barbarian, and 1981’s Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends.
He also had a rare on-screen appearance as himself on It’s Garry Shandling’s Show (where he doubled as announcer), turning up in the episode “The Fugitive” to enter the “Name The Schumacher Baby” contest—Tufeld’s entry was “Zip”—and deliver his impromptu rendition of The Fugitive’s intro with typical verve. For many years, Dick Tufeld was the voice of adventure and excitement—and judging by Mumy’s note that he was also “close friends with Miles Davis,” that adventure probably carried over into his off-screen life as well.
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