5 Facts About Disney Legend Thurl Ravenscroft

by | Feb 6, 2022 | Disney History, Disney Legends, Disneyland Parks

Learn about Disney Legend Thurl Ravenscroft, born 2/6/1914.

Walt Disney Studios has employed countless talented voice actors for its animated productions over the past century. Talented performers like Sterling Holloway and Jim Cummings have brought many beloved characters to life. 

But one of the company’s most gifted vocal performers was Thurl Ravenscroft, whose distinct bass voice and charisma led to his successful career—and his induction as a Disney Legend in 1995. A contributor to many classic Disney films, Thurl’s deep, distinctive vocalization made him a valuable part of many audio tracks.

Ready to learn more about this recognizable voice? Here are five facts about Disney Legend Thurl Ravenscroft.

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1. Singing His Way to Success

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Disney Legend Thurl Ravenscroft (far right) and the rest of the Mellomen. Photo courtesy of D23

Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft began his career as a singer at an early age. After graduating from the Otis Art Institute in California, he founded the male quartet The Mellomen, in which he provided the bass.

While the Mellomen never became a household name, the group was quite active for over 30 years, providing backup vocals for such famous artists as Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, and Doris Day.

An early contribution in the group’s catalogue was the song “Honest John” for the 1940 animated film Pinocchio. Don’t remember that tune? It was unfortunately cut from the final edit of the film, but it did give Thurl and his ensemble a foot in the door for future Disney productions. You can track down the song if you search online or on the film’s home media releases. 

Thurl also provided the voice for Monstro the Whale in the 1940 motion picture. 

2. Vocalists on Parade

In the following years, Thurl—and sometimes the rest of The Mellomen—sang in the chorus for films like Sleeping Beauty (1959), The Aristocats (1970), and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). He was the vocalist for two songs in Dumbo (1941): “Look Out for Mr. Stork” and “Pink Elephants on Parade.”

Black Bart Thurl Ravescroft Sword in the Stone

Ravenscroft voices Black Bart in The Sword in the Stone. Photo courtesy of Disney

While rarely a leading performer in the studio’s short films or feature-length motion pictures, Thurl’s name frequently popped up in the credits for brief character roles, too. For example, he voiced Sir Bart in The Sword in the Stone (1963), Captain the Horse in One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), and The Potter in The Small One (1978). One of his only leading roles was in the 1958 short film Paul Bunyan as the titular American folk hero. 

Whenever a Disney production needed a deep, booming male voice, the studio turned to Ravenscroft. 

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3. Performances in the Park

In addition to appearing in animated Disney productions, Thurl also helped bring the immersive attractions at California’s Disneyland to life. The man provided his voice for countless audio tracks.

Disney Legend Thurl Ravenscroft Organ Haunted Mansion

A hint at Thurl’s contributions to Disney Parks lurks on this organ at Haunted Mansion. Photo by Cliff Wang

Wander around the Anaheim resort, and you can hear Thurl’s voice all around: as the buffalo head on the Country Bear Jamboree, the bust singing “Grim Grinning Ghosts” in Haunted Mansion, a parrot in the Tiki Room, a drunken pirate on Pirates of the Caribbean, and in the chorus of “it’s a small world.”

Thurl Ravenscroft Haunted Mansion Organ

At Haunted Mansion, play a tune in Thurl’s honor. Photo courtesy of Disney Parks

Learn more about Ravenscroft and the music of Haunted Mansion in our collectible Haunted Mansion attraction special, on sale now.

4. A Real Grinch

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He’s a mean one, Mr. Ravenscroft. Photo courtesy of Warner Home Video

Thurl’s most famous work actually doesn’t have his name attached to it. Despite being a mainstay in holiday playlists every December, this song’s original credits didn’t list him—or anyone—as the lead vocalist.

Remember the opening song on the 1966 animated television production of How the Grinch Stole Christmas? That’s Thurl Ravenscroft singing about the Grinch’s termite-infested smile and empty hole for a heart. 

Because the production’s credits accidentally omitted his name, many people still assume that the singer of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” is Boris Karloff, the story’s narrator. But, in fact, that distinct bass voice is none other than Thurl’s. Luckily, producers Chuck Jones and Dr. Seuss corrected the gaff by running an ad in Variety magazine touting his work. 

Remember that when you watch the cartoon with your family at Christmastime.

5. A Grrrrreat Voice for TV Commercials

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Thurl Ravenscroft expanded beyond Disney cartoons into cereal commercials as Tony the Tiger. Photo courtesy of Kellogg’s

With as distinct and commanding of a voice as Thurl had, it seems to be destiny that his career led him to television commercials. It was practically impossible to ignore the man’s hearty voice when he bellows about a product you’ve gotta buy.

His longest-running gig was as the voice of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes mascot, Tony the Tiger. For over five decades, he encouraged kids to eat the sugar-coated cereal. What other octogenarian could still belt out that signature catchphrase with such enthusiasm?

Thurl also had a stint in the early 1980s as the voice of Geoffrey the Giraffe for Toys “R” Us, and he even contributed to commercials for Kool-Aid and Sara Lee.

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Remembering Disney Legend Thurl Ravenscroft

Thurl had a very fruitful career as a vocal performer and did what he loved all the way up until his death in 2005. If you didn’t know who he was and what he to earn the status of Disney Legend, hopefully our collection of Thurl Ravenscroft facts gave you an appreciation for the man. 

Remembering Thurl Ravenscroft at Disney World

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Posts by Aaron Widmar

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Aaron Widmar is a lifelong fan of the artistic and emotional power of animation to tell stories. He was raised on Disney VHS tapes as a child and even as an adult still loves re-watching his favorites. Aaron is a professional writer in a variety of fields, including the automotive industry. Although he and his wife Vicki don’t travel to Walt Disney World as often as they’d like, he can escape to the Disney-themed room of their house whenever he needs creative inspiration.
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Authored by
Aaron Widmar

Aaron Widmar is a lifelong fan of the artistic and emotional power of animation to tell stories. He was raised on Disney VHS tapes as a child and even as an adult still loves re-watching his favorites. Aaron is a professional writer in a variety of fields, including the automotive industry. Although he and his wife Vicki don’t travel to Walt Disney World as often as they’d like, he can escape to the Disney-themed room of their house whenever he needs creative inspiration.
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