The actor we are highlighting today is a name that many people probably do know, but the unKNOWN comes in when you see just how much you may know this man from! Paul Frees, Born June 22, 1920 in Chicago and died November 2, 1986, had an amazing voice that brought to life such characters as Ludwig Von Drake, Boris Badenov from Rocky and Bullwinkle and Morocco Mole and Squiddily Diddly in The Secret Squirrel Show.
I am doing Paul this time of year for a very specific reason; he is known for being a voice actor for some of the most popular and classic Christmas Specials in the history of Christmas specials! All of those stop-motion classics that we love to watch every Christmas, Paul had a big hand in several of them. Before we get to his Disney feats, lets take a quick look at his Christmas special history, since it is the season for it!
His first Christmas special was in 1968 in The Little Drummer Boy, providing the voices for Aaron’s father and the Magi.
The following year, Paul was the voice of Santa, the Traffic Cop and other additional voices in the cartoon classic Frosty the Snowman.
1970 brought his next hit, and one of my personal favorites, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. Paul was the voice of the villain Burgermeister Meisterburger, Grimsby, and the soldiers and some townspeople. Oh, and why is this my favorite do you ask? Next time you watch it, pay attention to the school teacher’s name, the one who eventually becomes Mrs. Claus.
After a few years, Paul came back in 1976 for Frosty’s Winter Wonderland to provide the voice for Jack Frost. The same year, he did several characters in Rudolph’s Shiny New Year, including Santa Claus, Eon, General Ticker, and Seventeen Seventy Six, aka “Sev”.
The next year brought his next Christmas classic, Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, where Paul voiced Olaf and the Donkey Dealer.
His last two Christmas Specials came in 1979. The first was Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July for which he was the voice for Winterbolt, Jack Frost and a policeman. His final special was Jack Frost where, surprisingly, he was not the voice for Jack himself, even after portraying him a couple times in past shows. In this Jack Frost, he was the voice of the villain Kubla Kraus and for Father Winter.
Wow, this is a lot that the guy has done, and we haven’t even gotten to his Disney Contributions yet!
Paul Frees first Disney contribution started long before he was in any Christmas specials. All the way back to 1950, where he did some voicework for some of the Disney Shorts, including the Pluto short, Primitive Pluto.
His first movie was in 1959, where he actually acted as the Narrator and J.W. Glavin, Psychiatrist in The Shaggy Dog. The same year, he did the voice of the Narrator and the True Spirit of Adventure in the very popular short Donald in Mathmagic Land.
In 1961, One Hundred and One Dalmatians came out with Paul voicing Dirty Dawson. He also did some voice work the same year for The Absent Minded Professor, being the Loudspeaker voice and the Air Force Dispatcher.
Paul’s next Disney roll was in Mary Poppins (1964), bringing the Barnyard Horse to life on the big screen.
Throughout his time with Disney, from 1957 to 1986, Paul did voicework for The Wonderful World of Color, doing various Narrators and at one point, doing the voice for a “Fake” Donald Duck. His biggest part throughout this series though was giving a voice to the bubbly Professor Ludwig Von Drake. He even sang a song about the colors, called The Spectrum Song, that was a favorite of my co host and mine on my University Disney show.
Not only did Paul do all of this, he also did some voice work for Disney’s parks! His first was being the Narrator for Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, the very first version which was seen at the 1964-1965 World’s Fair.
One other now extinct attraction that Paul had a part of was Adventures through Inner Space, which was around from 1967 to 1985 and for which he provided the narration.
Today in the Disney parks, you can find Paul Frees voice in two distinct places. The first is in Adventureland; he is the voice of many different pirates, including the Auctioneer in Pirates of the Caribbean. His more known role in the parks though is the eerie voice of the ominous Ghost Host in Haunted Mansion.
Phew! Wow did Paul do a lot in his lifetime! His being honored as a Disney Legend in 2006 is definitely a deserved honor and I hope this information will help for you to hear his vocal talents and appreciate them in all of his many roles.
If there is an actor in Disney history that you would like me to cover, send me an email and let me know, I would love to do some research on it!