Tony Jay, unfortunately, passed away in August 2006, but he has left behind a series of performances that will be enjoyed by audiences for ages to come. The quality of his voice assured him various villainous roles, both on-screen and in animation, but he was a multi-talented performer who could embrace a variety of roles.
I first became aware of Jay through "Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends" (and the film from which it was launched, "Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Kids," based upon the events of the book by the same name) in his role as the seemingly-villainous Spiderus. In the film, Spiderus is first portrayed as a villain, who will seemingly stop at nothing to steal Miss Spider from her new husband, Holley. "What does she see in him?" he wonders. Miss Spider, however, shows him that even he can find love, showing him that he knows its true when he feels "butterflies" for a charming spidress named Spindella. I was really impressed with the development of this character throughout the series. He learned compassion, he learned to relax and be friends with others, and, perhaps most interestingly of all, he became a father to three young spiderlings. Along the way was Jay, in a role truly suited to his talents. He even got to sing! I don't know yet who, if anyone, will take over the role. The Spiderus character was not featured in the most recent of the show's specials, "The Prince, the Princess and the Bee," though I know not if this was because Jay was unavailable due to his health, or he simply wasn't scripted into it.
The other main role I know Jay from is his work on the TV series "Beauty and the Beast," which I have recently had the pleasure of enjoying on DVD. He played a truly villainous character, Paracelsus, who comes into direct conflict with the show's two main characters, Vincent (the "Beast") and Catherine. Not only that, but Jay was also one of the voices in the Disney film version of "Beauty and the Beast," which I adore. In fact, I'm not certain, but I think he may be the only actor to have that distinction (to have been on both the TV series and the Disney film.)
Jay also voiced characters on several other series that I enjoy, or did enjoy, including "Reboot" and "Darkwing Duck." He even did the "Star Trek" thing, appearing in an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." I admire his industry, talent, and innovation.
Replacement? Nobody can truly replace him, though I think Alan Rickman (the actor who plays the seemingly-sinister Snape in the "Harry Potter" films) has a similar quality of voice and might not be a bad choice. Others have suggested Peter O'Toole, most recently the voice of the critic Anton Ego in the film "Ratatouille." Well, whoever replaces his voice in those cases where it needs replacing, let's not forget Tony Jay.