(Pictured far right.)
Although Thurl Ravenscroft’s name may not be familiar to Disney fans, his voice is. Probably best known to television audiences as the voice of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger, a character he played from 1952 until 2005, Thurl was a favorite among Disney vocal performers. His voice has been featured in Disney theme park attractions such as the Country Bear Jamboree; on television programs, such as Zorro; and in animated films, including Lady and the Tramp. In fact, Walt Disney selected Thurl and his quartet, The Mellomen, to croon, as well as bark, whine, and howl like canines in the delightful 1955 classic.
Thurl later recalled, “The most fun we ever had was singing barbershop for Tramp and the other dogs. Walt wanted the dogs to sing ‘Home Sweet Home’ from their prison cell—a kennel. But we had to sound like dogs, not people singing like dogs.”
Born in Norfolk, Nebraska, on February 6, 1914, Thurl headed for Hollywood in 1933 to attend the Otis Art Institute. In 1937, he joined The Sportsmen Quartet, performing on the popular Jack Benny radio show. He later formed The Mellomen, which appeared with such popular artists as Elvis Presley, and in such films as The Glenn Miller Story, starring James Stewart.
The Walt Disney Studios often hired Thurl and his quartet to sing in its animated films, including Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella, and television programs, including Cavalcade of Songs and The Legend of Elfego Baca. Other classic Disney films that Thurl lent his voice to include One Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Sword in the Stone, Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Pete’s Dragon, and The Fox and the Hound.
At Disneyland, his resonant voice can be heard singing in it’s a small world, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Splash Mountain; in the Enchanted Tiki Room, he performs the voice of Fritz, the German Audio-Animatronics® parrot. Thurl is heard and seen in the Haunted Mansion; guests often mistake his mustachioed face, featured on a broken bust in the graveyard scene, for that of Walt Disney.
Thurl also performed on Disneyland Records, including Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. In 1990, he sang a version of the Haunted Mansion’s whimsical theme song, “Grim Grinning Ghosts,” on Disney’s Sing Along Songs—Disneyland Fun.
Among Thurl’s many non-Disney credits are several Dr. Seuss television specials. His voice can be heard in How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” for which he sang the memorable “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” He also played the voice of Kirby, the vacuum, in The Brave Little Toaster, which aired on The Disney Channel.
Thurl passed away on May 22, 2005. In the June 6, 2005, issue of the ad industry journal Advertising Age, Kellogg’s ran an ad commemorating Ravenscroft. The headline read: “Behind every great character is an even greater man.”