Thurl Ravenscroft

Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft (February 6, 1914May 22, 2005) was an American voice actor and singer with a deep, booming voice. For 53 years, he was best-known as the voice of Tony the Tiger in more than 500 television commercials for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes (also known as "Frosties"). After his death, Lee Marshall replaced him as the voice of Tony the Tiger in the Kellogg's commercials.

Ravenscroft was the vocalist of the song "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" in the Christmas television special based on the Dr. Seuss classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. His name was accidentally left off of the credits, however, leading many to believe (erroneously) that the cartoon's narrator, Boris Karloff, sang the song. Ravenscroft also sang "No Dogs Allowed" in the Peanuts animated motion picture Snoopy, Come Home.

Disney work

Ravenscroft's voice has been heard in many Disneyland and Walt Disney World attractions, past and present. He is the voice of "Buff," the buffalo head in the Country Bear Jamboree; lead vocalist on the theme song Grim Grinning Ghosts in the Haunted Mansion and Phantom Manor (his face is on the singing bust that many people have mistaken for Walt Disney); both "Fritz," the German-accented parrot, and one of the Polynesian god totems in the Enchanted Tiki Room; Narrator on the Disneyland Railroad (not the voice that announces the train boarding or departing); the original voice of the First Mate on the Mark Twain Riverboat; several singing (and drunk) pirates in the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction; the singing frogs in Splash Mountain and one of the bass voices in the chorus of "it's a small world". He is sometimes mistaken for Paul Frees, who provides the 'Ghost Host' narration for the Haunted Mansion attraction, due to the fact that Ravenscroft was the narrator on Disney's The Story and Song from the Haunted Mansion vinyl record. He also provided narration on the original Pirates of the Caribbean vinyl recording, as well as singing several pirate-themed songs.

One of the computer-animated singing busts in the 2003 film The Haunted Mansion was modeled after his features; another was made to resemble Paul Frees.

Ravenscroft also provided the voice of Kirby in The Brave Little Toaster, the voice of Paul Bunyan in the animated short of the same name, and voiced the animated pig in the "Jolly Holiday" sequence of Mary Poppins. He can be heard in many Disney features, including One Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Sword in the Stone, and The Aristocats, and sang on the soundtracks for Dumbo, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book (singing in Colonel Hathi's March, but does not provide the singing voice for Shere Khan at the end of That's What Friends Are For). While many people make the mistake of crediting Thurl for singing this line, George Sanders, who was an accomplished singer, did both the speaking and singing for the character of Shere Khan.

Ravenscroft was inducted as a Disney Legend in 1995 for his work in Disney animation.

Music career and personal history

Ravenscroft left his native Norfolk, Nebraska, for California in 1933. He achieved early success as part of a singing group called The Mellomen. The Mellomen can be heard on many popular recordings of the Big Band Era, including backup for Bing Crosby, Frankie Laine, Spike Jones, Jo Stafford and Rosemary Clooney. They also contributed to several Disney films, such as Alice in Wonderland and Lady and the Tramp. The group appeared on camera in a few episodes the Disney anthology television series, in one instance recording a canine chorus for Lady and the Tramp, and on another occasion playing a barbershop quartet that reminds Walt Disney of the name of the young newspaper reporter Gallegher.

During World War II, Ravenscroft served as a civilian navigator contracted to the U.S. Air Transport Command, spending five years flying courier missions across the north and south Atlantic. Among the notables carried on board his flights were Winston Churchill and Bob Hope.

Ravenscroft sang on the soundtrack for South Pacific, one of the top-selling albums of the 1950s. His distinctive bass can also be heard as part of the chorus on 28 albums of The Johnny Mann Singers that were released during the 1960s and 1970s. Andy Williams' recording of "The 12 Days of Christmas" features him as well. In the 1980s and 1990s, Ravenscroft was narrator for the annual Pageant of the Masters art show at the Laguna Beach, California Festival of the Arts.

Various record companies also released singles by Ravenscroft, often in duets with little-known female vocalists, in an attempt to turn the bass-voiced veteran into a pop singer. These efforts were commercially unsuccessful, if often quite interesting. The Mellomen released some doo-wop records under the name Big John & the Buzzards, a name apparently given to them by the rock-and-roll-hating Mitch Miller.

He died in his home on May 22, 2005 from prostate cancer. He was buried at the Memorial Gardens at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California.

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."

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