Gone to the dogs: Robert Irwin voices a character on 'Bluey'

NEW YORK (AP) — Robert Irwin has long acted as a voice for animals. Now he's actually voicing an animal.

The 17-year-old son of the late conservationist Steve Irwin is lending his voice to a character on the popular animated children's TV show “Bluey.”

“I’ve had so many hilarious and awesome and scary and fun and exciting adventures with animals. But I’ve never gotten to actually be an animal before or be the voice of an animal,” he tells The Associated Press from his native Australia.

The Brisbane-produced “Bluey,” which centers on an eponymous 6-year-old Blue Heeler pup, her sister Bingo and their parents, Chilli and Bandit, has in just a few years grown into a worldwide phenomenon.

The show has been praised for its ability to speak honestly about parenting and childhood, with realistic dialogue and creative games. It won an International Emmy Kids Award for best preschool program. It's available on Disney Channel, Disney Junior and DisneyNOW.

In the upcoming season two episode called “The Quiet Game,” Irwin voices a clerk named Alfie on his first day at work in a toy store when Bluey, Bingo and Bandit come in looking for a birthday gift for a friend of the kids.

The trouble is that dad has earlier persuaded his kids to play silently and their fierce commitment has now backfired, forcing him to use charades to figure out which toy to buy. That's when Alfie comes it, expertly translating the kids' clues. “Alfie, you rock star!” says dad after the right toy is picked.

Irwin, who works at Australia Zoo, a 700-acre facility on the continent's Sunshine Coast established by his “Crocodile Hunter” dad, tapped into his knowledge of dingoes at the zoo and his own pet pug to get into character.

“I feel like I have a lot to draw from,” he said. “I definitely know the mind of a dog quite well. And it was fun to sort of step into those shoes.”

Irwin says Blue Heelers — also know as Australian Cattle Dogs — are an iconic breed from the outback who are smart and natural herders.

“They’re really these amazing, intelligent, loyal working dogs,” he said. “If you’re going to adopt a Blue Heeler, you definitely want to be ready for for a very energetic dog.”

Irwin, who was only 2 when his father died in 2006, has continued Steve Irwin's work protecting wildlife and education efforts about the environment, together with his mom, Terri, and sister, Bindi. He usually makes documentaries, but leapt at the chance to reach a different audience with “Bluey” and expand his family's voice.

“For me, it feels like an immense honor and and a responsibility in a way, but not a burden in any sense. It feels like a privilege to be able to continue this legacy,” he said.

“It feels like the most amazing honor every day to make sure that the incredible work that my mum and dad started continues, especially after we lost dad. I know that for us, our biggest priority was to make sure that everything that he lived and died for continues.”

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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