Teen gets big break in holiday cartoon

ASHLAND — Fifty years from now, if 14-year-old Bronson Bush looks back on a show business career, he won't mind a bit saying he got his start with a bit part in a cartoon.

"Just as long as I get my start," he said. "The whole business is being in the right place at the right time, with the right people and singing the right song."

The big break seemingly came Saturday morning. At a time when most kids his age are digging into their second bowl of Froot Loops, Bush was sitting on the stage of the Paramount Arts Center with an assemblage of Hollywood talent, preparing for the premiere of an animated feature called Elf Sparkle Meets Christmas the Horse.

His part is minor, voicing one of Santa's helper elves singing one of the cartoon's musical numbers. But it was enough to bring the premiere and some of the principal actors to Ashland and the Paramount.

The premiere kicked off on the first day of the Paramount's Festival of Trees and Trains, with introductions of some of the actors to polite applause. The clapping kicked up a notch when Bush, clad in black tux, red vest and red tie, stepped through the curtain and sang his cartoon number, Christmas in Our Village.

He got his part in the cartoon when Nashville, Tenn., vocal coach Jessica Ford suggested him to Beth Roose, the producer and screenwriter. Roose, who originally is from Owensboro, said Bush was right for the part. "He's so full of energy, and heaps, loads and bounds of talent," she said.

Roose developed the plot from stories she created as a volunteer for the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in northern Ohio, which re-creates The Polar Express at Christmastime.

A ranger in the national park where it operates suggested she compile her stories and make them into cartoons. "Thus the series was born," she said.

In casting, she looked for actors with "wholesome family appeal." Among them are Jon Provost, whom readers of a certain age will remember as Timmy, rescued from certain death on a weekly basis by Lassie; Margaret O'Brien, an Academy Award winner who appeared in the Judy Garland classic Meet Me in St. Louis; and John de Lancie, whom some will recognize for his portrayal of the quirky "Q" in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Provost and de Lancie didn't make it to Ashland but sent video greetings for the premiere. One who did make the trip was Edward Faulkner, whose name might not be immediately recognizable but whose face is, at least to anyone who watched TV just about anytime in the 1960s or 1970s.

A versatile character actor who appeared in scores of sitcoms, hourly dramas and movies with the likes of John Wayne and Elvis Presley, Faulkner is no stranger to Kentucky. Born and brought up in Lexington, he graduated from the University of Kentucky before heading to Hollywood. "Kentucky holds a deep spot for me," he said.

The cartoon will air three more times on Friday at the Festival of Trees and Trains and will have its TV premiere on Nickelodeon during next year's holiday season.