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Ravenscroft in 1967
|Born||Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft
February 6, 1914
Norfolk, Nebraska, U.S.
|Died||May 22, 2005
Fullerton, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Prostate cancer|
|Resting place||Crystal Cathedral Memorial Gardens, Garden Grove, California|
|Alma mater||Otis College of Art and Design|
|Occupation||Voice actor, singer|
|Spouse(s)||June Seamans (m. 1946; d. 1999)|
Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft (/ /; February 6, 1914 – May 22, 2005) was an American voice actor and bass singer known as the booming voice behind Tony the Tiger's "They're grrreat!" in Kellogg's Frosted Flakes television commercials for more than five decades. Ravenscroft was also known, albeit uncredited, as the vocalist for the song "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" from the classic Christmas television special, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Ravenscroft did some voice-over work and singing for Disney in both the films and the attractions at Disneyland (which were later featured at Walt Disney World). The best known of these attractions are The Haunted Mansion, Country Bear Jamboree, The Mark Twain Riverboat, Pirates of the Caribbean, Disneyland Railroad, and Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room. His voice acting career began in 1940 and lasted until his death in 2005 at age 91.
Early life and career
Ravenscroft left his native Norfolk, Nebraska, in 1933 for California, where he studied at Otis Art Institute. 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. Their earliest contribution to a Disney film was for Pinocchio (1940), to which they contributed the song "Honest John." This was deleted from the film but can still be heard in the supplements on the 2009 DVD. Despite the song being cut off, Ravenscroft lent his voice to Monstro the whale in the film. They also contributed to other Disney films, such as Alice in Wonderland and Lady and the Tramp. The group appeared on camera in a few episodes of the Disney anthology television series; in one instance recording a canine chorus for Lady and the Tramp and in another as a barbershop quartet that reminds Walt Disney of the name of the young newspaper reporter Gallegher. Ravenscroft is also heard with the quartet on some of the Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes with Mel Blanc at Warner Bros. as well as on radio "driving Jack Benny crazy" on The Jack Benny Program. 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. As he told an interviewer: "I flew Winston Churchill to a conference in Algiers and flew Bob Hope to the troops a couple of times. So it was fun."
Ravenscroft sang bass on Rosemary Clooney's "This Ole House", which went to No. 1 in both the United States and Britain in 1954, as well as Stuart Hamblen's original version of that same song. He sang on the soundtrack for Ken Clark as "Stewpot" in South Pacific, one of the top-selling albums of the 1950s. Singing with the Johnny Mann Singers, his distinctive bass can also be heard as part of the chorus on 28 of their albums that were released during the 1960s and 1970s. He was also the bass singer on Bobby Vee's 1960 Liberty hit record "Devil or Angel". 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.
He sang the opening songs for the two Disney serials used on The Mickey Mouse Club, Boys of the Western Sea and The Hardy Boys: Mystery of the Applegate Treasure.
He sang the "Twitterpatter Song" and "Thumper's Song" on the Disneyland record Peter Cottontail and other Funny Bunnies.
On the Disneyland record All About Dragons, he both provided the narration and sang the songs "The Reluctant Dragon" and "The Loch Ness Monster".
His voice is heard during the Pirates of the Caribbean ride as well as the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland as Uncle Theodore, the lead vocalist of the singing busts in the cemetery near the end of the ride. He also played the Narrator in The Story and Song From the Haunted Mansion. Ravenscroft is also heard in the Enchanted Tiki Room as the voice of Fritz the Animatronics parrot. He was also the voice of the Disneyland Railroad in the 1990s. Further roles include that of The First Mate on The Mark Twain Riverboat and of the American bison head named Buff at The Country Bear Jamboree.
One of Ravenscroft's best-known uncredited works is as the vocalist for the song "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." His name was accidentally left out of the credits, leading many to believe (erroneously) that the cartoon's narrator, Boris Karloff, sang the song, while others cited Tennessee Ernie Ford as the song's signature voice.
For more than 50 years, he was the uncredited voice of Tony the Tiger for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes. His booming bass gave the cereal's tiger mascot a voice with the catchphrase "Good? They're grrrreat!".
Various record companies, such as Abbott, Coral, Brunswick, and "X" (a division of RCA) 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. He was also teamed up with The Andrews Sisters (on the Dot Records album The Andrews Sisters Present) on the cover of Johnny Cymbal's "Mr. Bass Man". 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. His lifelong dream, which he shared in an interview in 1999 with Peter Anthony Holder, was to record the entire Bible on tape, but a big name actor "beat him out". However, being a devoted Christian, he appeared on many religious television shows such as The Hour of Power. In 1970, he recorded an album called "Great Hymns in Story and Song", which featured him singing 10 hymns, each prefaced with the stories of how each hymn came to be, with the background vocals and instrumentals arranged and conducted by Ralph Carmichael.
Later life and death
Ravenscroft married June Seamans in 1946, and they had two children. June died in 1999 from unknown causes. Ravenscroft semi-retired and did not work at any other studio anymore, but he continued to voice Tony The Tiger through 2004 (with limo transportation by Kellogg's and sometimes from his apartment home) and also submitted to an interview that year by the Disney "Extinct Attractions Club" website. He died in his home on May 22, 2005, from prostate cancer. He was survived by his two children, Ron Ravenscroft (who died in 2008 at age 54) and Nancy Ravenscroft. He was buried at the Memorial Gardens at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California.
In the June 6, 2005, issue of the advertising industry journal Advertising Age, Kellogg's ran an ad commemorating Ravenscroft. The headline read: "Behind every great character is an even greater man." After his death, Lee Marshall replaced him as the voice of Tony the Tiger in the Kellogg's commercials, but some commercials still recycle clips of Ravenscroft.
- Isle of Destiny (1940) - Sportsman Quartet Member
- Dumbo (1941) – Singer of "Look Out For Mr. Stork" and "Pink Elephants on Parade"
- The Nifty Nineties (1941) - Singer
- Saludos Amigos (1942) - Singer of "Saludos Amigos Theme Song"
- Melody Time (1948) - Singer
- Alice in Wonderland (1951) – Card Painter
- Jack and the Beanstalk – Singing voices of two villagers
- Peter Pan (1953) – Singer, Pirates
- Rose Marie (1954) – Medicine Man
- Lady and the Tramp (1955) – Al the Alligator, Singing Pound Dogs
- Paul Bunyan (1958) - Paul Bunyan
- Sleeping Beauty (1959) – Singer
- One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) – Captain the Horse
- Gay Purr-ee – Hench Cat
- The Sword in the Stone (1963) – Black Bart
- Winnie the Pooh - Singer, Black Honeypot
- Mary Poppins (1964) – Someone's voice of banker, pig, animal sounds
- The Man from Button Willow - Singer, Reverend, Saloon Man
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966) – Singer of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"
- The Jungle Book (1967) - Colonel Hathi's crew, Shere Khan's singing voice
- The War Wagon (1967) - Backup singer on main theme
- Superior Duck – The Narrator
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) - (singing voice)
- The AristoCats (1970) – Russian Cat (voice)
- Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) – Singing voice of Russian vendor, various cartoon animal voices
- The Phantom Tollbooth – Lethargians
- Horton Hears a Who! – Wickersham Brother
- The Cat in the Hat – Thing One
- Snoopy, Come Home – Singer of "No Dogs Allowed"
- The Lorax – Singer
- The Hobbit – Goblins, chorus
- Halloween Is Grinch Night – Singer, Monsters
- Donny & Marie - Darth Vader/Narrator (Star Wars Segment)
- The Small One – Potter
- The Return of the King (1979/1980) – Goblins, chorus (voices, uncredited)
- The Brave Little Toaster (1987) – Kirby (voice)
- Disney Sing Along Songs: Disneyland Fun - It's a Small World (1990) - Singer of "Grim Grinning Ghosts"
- The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue (1997) – Kirby (voice)
- The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (1998) – Kirby (voice)
Partial solo discography
- Mad, Baby, Mad – 1955 (Fabor)
- I Ain't Afraid – 1956 (Bally)
- Big Paul Bunyan – 1962 (Globe)
- The Headless Horseman – 1965 (Disney)
- Great Hymns In Story And Song – 1970 (Light)
- Nathaniel the Grublet (In Direwood) – 1979 (Birdwing)
- Psalms and Selahs – 2002
- McCracken, Elizabeth (December 25, 2005). "Our Cereal Hero". The New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2009.
- "Thurl Ravenscroft, Voice of Tony the Tiger, Dies at 91". The New York Times. May 25, 2005. Retrieved March 23, 2012.
- "He’s Grrrrreat! The Thurl Ravenscroft Interview," Hogan's Alley #12, 2005
- Disneyland Record "All About Dragons", DQ-1301.
- 365 Days of Magic blog
- Disney Insider Ravenscroft biography
- Breton, Marcos (May 3, 1987). "He's 'G-r-r-r-eat!!!' : Tony the Tiger Voices Pleasure". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 23, 2012.