So far in this series, I have focused on voice actors from Disney movies who most Disney fans may not know. This is probably not the case with this next actor. Thurl Ravenscroft is a name not only known throughout Disney movies, within Disney theme parks and even outside of the Disney name!
Let’s begin with the couple big things outside of Disney that Thurl is known for. In 1966 version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the deep singer of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” is Thurl, though he was not in the credits of the film. The other voice that he is famous for is Tony the Tiger from the Frosted Flakes commercials with the trademark quote “They’re grrrrrrrrreat!”
While these two roles are larger roles, he got his start much earlier than that, especially in the Disney area.
Thurl’s deep bass voice is what makes him recognizable and while he did do several speaking parts, he is best known for his singing roles in many Disney films. These singing roles started out in shorts, including the popular short “The Nifty Nineties” (1941). There was even one short where Thurl had a speaking part, and that was as Paul Bunyan in 1958’s Paul Bunyan.
After doing some shorts, Thurl was put into some full length animated features as a singer, including Dumbo (1941), Make Mine Music (1946), and Cinderella(1950).
Alice in Wonderland was the first movie that featured Thurl with The Mellomen, a quartet that he helped form that became very well known as back up singers for several artists and appeared in movies. In Alice in Wonderland, Thurl and the Mellomen were the voices for the card painters who were “Painting the Roses Red”. The Mellomen were also featured as background singers in Peter Pan (1953), Lady and the Tramp (1955) and Sleeping Beauty (1959).
The first large character voice that Thurl had was in 1961’s One Hundred and One Dalmations as Captain, the horse in the barn by the De Ville Mansion.
In 1963, he was the voice for Black Bart, a knight fighting to become king in The Sword and the Stone.
In Mary Poppins (1964), Thurl did the voice for the singing Hog during “Jolly Holiday”.
I think now is a good time to point out that Thurl was quite good at making dog noises. The howling song of “Home Sweet Home” in Lady and the Tramp was…howled by Thurl, in Mary Poppins he did the wimper noises made by Andrew, he made dog sounds for The Fox and the Hound, and in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s versions of Pirates of the Caribbean, the dog that is singing along with “Yo Ho, A Pirates Life for Me” is Thurl. Interesting, no?
In 1967, Thurl was in The Jungle Book and many believe him to be the voice of the ruthless tiger, Shere Khan. This is completely false! He did not do Shere Khan’s voice, not even the low singing voice. That was done by George Sanders. Thurl did sing however in the movie, he can be best heard singing Captain Haiti’s March.
The Artistocats (1970) had Thurl doing the voice of the Russian bass-playing cat, Billy Bass. In the 1971 movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks, he is a background singer and he even has a solo line in the song “Portobello Road”. Thurl’s deep voice can be heard singing songs in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977).
One of the last voices that Thurl did was the voice of Kirby from The Brave Little Toaster. While this movie is not labeled as Disney, it was produced by Hyperion Pictures, which is a Disney owned company.
Wow, this is a long history huh?? I haven’t even touched on Thurl’s appearance in the Theme Parks! I am going to take a break and I will post a second part of this unKNOWN Actors article soon.