The Haunted Mansion, The Grinch, Elvis Presley, and Tony the Tiger. What do all of these items have in common?
Thurl Ravenscroft. Don’t know who that is?
Yeah, you do.
You’ve probably already sung along with Thurl Ravenscroft. Each Christmas, he can still be heard crooning, He’s a Mean One, Mr. Grinch on every radio station. I bet you can picture his voice right now! His deep, resounding voice gives life to Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger, the mascot for Frosted Flakes, and you likely recognize his baritone in Grim Grinning Ghosts aboard Haunted Mansion.
Ravenscroft founded The Mellowmen Quartet in the late 1940s, through which Ravenscroft sang with legends such as Elvis Presley and Bing Crosby. This quartet also got Ravenscroft’s first gig with Disney in the movie Pinocchio.
Thurl Ravenscroft and Disney
Originally, the quartet was meant to sing a song titled “Honest John,” but it ended up on the cutting room floor (catch it on the 2009 DVD release). Instead, Ravenscroft’s first part in a Disney film does not include his singing voice, but his sound effects, as he voices Monstro the Whale (I bet you didn’t know Monstro had a voice actor!). Look for the scene where Monstro sneezes to hear Thurl!
From there, Ravenscroft landed multiple roles in Disney films. Major character parts include the following: Captain the horse (101 Dalmatians), Black Bart (The Sword in the Stone), Paul Bunyan (Paul Bunyan Short), Billy Bass (The Aristocats), and Kirby (The Brave Little Toaster).
These major character parts pale in comparison to the random assortment of background singers Ravenscroft voiced himself, along with The Mellowmen Quartet.
The quartet was brought in to sing in Lady and the Tramp, which also gave Ravenscroft the chance to voice Al the Alligator (a very small part, but a part all the same).
He gave his voice to the background of The Jungle Book, Cinderella, The Fox and the Hound, Sleeping Beauty, and my personal favorite, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (he’s the black honey pot in the Heffalump scene).
Thurl Ravenscroft did more than just Disney movies though. If you travel to Disneyland or Walt Disney World you can hear his voice in Adventureland, Frontierland and Liberty Square.
Thurl Ravenscroft at Disney Parks
Thurl Ravenscroft is most prominently featured at The Haunted Mansion, where you’ll see not only his name, but his face! He has been immortalized in the Haunted Mansion queue, where his name is inscribed across the ghostly organ—a tribute to his musical contributions.
And you’ll not only hear his voice singing Grim Grinning Ghosts in the ending graveyard scene of the ride, but you’ll see his bust in the graveyard scene—he’s the one knocked over.
In Adventureland, he gives life to Fritz in Walt Disney’s The Enchanted Tiki Room and sings along with multiple pirates in The Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
Over in Frontierland you’ll find him hanging out with the bears in The Country Bear Jamboree, but Ravenscroft is literally hanging, as he is Buff the buffalo head, found on the wall of the theater.
His voice can also be heard on Splash Mountain as one of the bullfrogs (which, I believe, is the bullfrog sitting on the rocking chair as your log goes up the first incline).
As if Ravenscroft didn’t have enough Disney magic in his voice, he had the unique opportunity to be one of the first voices ever heard by people visiting Disneyland, as he is the booming voice that welcomed all of the guests to Disneyland for the first time and officially opened Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
Once you hear Ravenscroft’s voice it’s easy to pick out and impossible to forget.
While I have only covered the surface of Thurl Ravenscroft’s career because he certainly did plenty more for Disney, his work will never be forgotten, as he was named a Disney Legend in 1995.
This day in Disney History marks his death, as Thurl Ravenscroft died on May 22, 2005. In his 91 years of life, he contributed an incredible amount of magic, bringing to life so many popular songs and characters that are part of Disney tradition.
Next time you watch a Disney movie or visit a park, make sure to remember Thurl Ravenscroft and thank him for bringing a bit of magic into your day.