Vance DeBar “Pinto” Colvig was a virtual human library of sound effects. In an array of Disney animated films and shorts, Pinto provided spitting for grasshoppers, belching for bugs, and grunting for hogs, among other quirky sound effects. The musician, artist, and former circus clown also lent his voice to Disney’s beloved character, Goofy, from the time of the character’s debut in the 1932 short Mickey’s Revue until Pinto’s death in 1967.
A little “goofy” himself, Pinto was fond of saying, “My mother covered me with a crazy quilt when I was born and I’ve been clowning ever since.”
Pinto’s clowning came in handy when he played the voice of Practical Pig in Three Little Pigs, Grumpy and Sleepy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and the grasshopper in The Grasshopper and the Ants. He even woofed for Mickey Mouse’s dog, Pluto.
Born in Jacksonville, Oregon, in 1892, Vance Colvig was nicknamed “Pinto” because of his freckled face. At an early age, he learned how to make people laugh by making faces and playing puckish pranks. He spent hours mimicking the sounds around him—the rusty gate, farm animals, and village noises. Along the way, he picked up a clarinet and, at 13, began performing at county fairs, carnivals, and in vaudeville acts across the country. In 1911 he enrolled at Oregon State College, but every spring took off to perform with the circus. In 1913, he quit school to perform in the prestigious Pantages Vaudeville Circuit.
Pinto also had a knack for drawing, working for a time as a newspaper cartoonist at the San Francisco Bulletin and, later, the Chronicle. He also dabbled in early animation, starting his own studio, Pinto Cartoon Comedies, which closed when his artists were drafted to serve in World War I.
In 1921 he headed for Hollywood. Before movies became “talkies,” he worked with Mack Sennett, Hollywood’s then-reigning king of comedy, writing story titles, developing gags, and performing bit parts in dozens of comedies. In the 1940s and ‘50s, he was the original “Bozo, the Capitol Clown,” providing narration for a series of storybook albums produced by Capitol Records.
Pinto’s wide range of talents was a perfect match for The Walt Disney Studios. Of the hundreds of voices he lent to a myriad of Disney characters, he said Goofy was his favorite. He once called Goofy “the epitome of all the hicks in the world and the easiest to portray. I guess that’s because I’m a corn-fed hick, myself.”
Pinto Colvig passed away on October 3, 1967, in Los Angeles.