Jump to content

Thurl Ravenscroft

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thurl Ravenscroft
Ravenscroft in 1967
Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft

(1914-02-06)February 6, 1914
DiedMay 22, 2005(2005-05-22) (aged 91)
Resting placeCrystal Cathedral Memorial Gardens, Garden Grove, California
Alma materOtis College of Art and Design
  • Actor
  • singer
Years active1939–2005
June Seamans
(m. 1946; died 1999)

Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft (/ˈθɜːrl ˈrvənzkrɒft/; February 6, 1914 – May 22, 2005) was an American actor and bass singer. He was well known as one of the booming voices behind Kellogg's Frosted Flakes animated spokesman Tony the Tiger for more than five decades. He was also the uncredited vocalist for the song "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" from the classic Christmas television special, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas![1]

Ravenscroft did voice-over work and singing for Disney in various films and Disneyland attractions (which were later featured at Walt Disney World), the best known including The Haunted Mansion, Country Bear Jamboree, Mark Twain Riverboat, Pirates of the Caribbean, Disneyland Railroad, and Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room.

His voice acting career began in 1939 and lasted until his death in 2005 at age 91.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Ravenscroft left his native Norfolk, Nebraska, in 1933 for California, where he studied at Otis Art Institute. In 1939 he joined a singing group formed by tenor Bill Days called The Merry Men: Days, Johnny Rarig, Max Smith, and Ravenscroft. They served as backup singers to vocalist Marie Greene on the Okeh record label (credited as "Marie Greene and Her Merry Men"). The quartet also contributed to a Disney feature, Pinocchio (1940), singing "Honest John". This was deleted from the film, but can still be heard in the supplements on the 2009 DVD.

The group, billed as The Four Merry Men, appeared in three-minute musical films, produced in 1941 by the Featurettes company, for coin-operated jukeboxes.[3] That same year the Four Merry Men left Featurettes for the more successful Soundies company, and made more jukebox musicals; they were now billing themselves as "The Four Sportsmen".[4] They were also very popular on radio and in live nightclub appearances.

In 1942 Thurl Ravenscroft left the Sportsmen quartet to serve in the armed forces. He served as a keeper 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."[5]

When he returned from the service, he found that his place in The Sportsmen had been taken by bass singer Gurney Bell, and Bell was unwilling to relinquish the job to Ravenscroft. Undaunted, Ravenscoft formed his own quartet, The Mellomen.[6] The Mellomen 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 Gallagher.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. He also backed The DeCastro Sisters on their 1955 top 20 hit, "Boom Boom Boomerang."[7] He sang "King of the River," as the character Mike Fink, on a Golden Record released in 1956. [8] Singing with the Johnny Mann Singers,[9] 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. His work with Spike Jones included singing "(I Was a) Teenage Brain Surgeon" for the 1959 album Spike Jones in Stereo.

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".[10]

His voice was 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.[11] 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, as well as the tree-like Tangaroa tiki god in the pre-show outside the attraction. 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, a spokesalien for Tokyo Disneyland's Pan Galactic Pizza Port restaurant, and the American bison head named Buff at The Country Bear Jamboree.[12]

Later career[edit]

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 omitted from the credits, leading many to believe that the cartoon's narrator, Boris Karloff, sang the song, while others cited Tennessee Ernie Ford as the song's signature voice.[1] The song, now credited to Ravenscroft, peaked on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart at number 32 for the week ending January 2, 2021. Thanks to "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch", Thurl Ravenscroft has officially hit the Top 40 as a solo artist.[13]

Ravenscroft sang "No Dogs Allowed" in the Peanuts animated motion picture Snoopy Come Home.

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 "They're g-r-r-r-eat!!!!".[14]

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.

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.

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.

Later life and death[edit]

Ravenscroft married June Seamans in 1946 and they had two children. June died in 1999.

Ravenscroft died at his home on May 22, 2005, from prostate cancer. He was buried at the Memorial Gardens at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. He was 91 years old.[2]

In the June 6, 2005, issue of the advertising industry journal Advertising Age, Kellogg's ran an advertisement commemorating Ravenscroft, the headline reading: "Behind every great character is an even greater man."



Year Title Role Notes
1940 Pinocchio Monstro the Whale Voice
Isle of Destiny Sportsman Quartet Member
Little Blabbermouse Bad Tobacco Face Voice
Prehistoric Porky Bass Lizard
1941 Dumbo Singer of "Look Out For Mr. Stork" and "Pink Elephants on Parade"
The Nifty Nineties Singer
1942 Wacky Blackout Carrier Pigeon singing
Saludos Amigos Singer of the main title theme
1944 Springtime for Pluto Singing Caterpillar Short, Voice
1948 Melody Time Singer Voice
1951 Alice in Wonderland Card Painter
Rooty Toot Toot Jonathan Bailey a.k.a. "Honest John the Crook"
1952 Jack and the Beanstalk Singing voices of two villagers
1953 Peter Pan Singer / Pirates Voice
Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom Singer
1954 Rose Marie Medicine Man
1955 Daddy Long Legs Daydream Sequence Song Short, Voice
Lady and the Tramp Al the Alligator / Singing Pound Dogs Voice
1956 Design for Dreaming (singer)
Hardy Boys Theme Song
1958 Paul Bunyan Paul Bunyan Short, Voice
1959 Sleeping Beauty Singer
1961 One Hundred and One Dalmatians Captain the Horse Voice
1962 Gay Purr-ee Hench Cat
1963 The Sword in the Stone Sir Bart
1964 Mary Poppins Banker / Pig
1965 The Man from Button Willow Singer / Reverend / Saloon Man
1966 How the Grinch Stole Christmas Singer of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"
1967 The Jungle Book Colonel Hathi's crew
The War Wagon Backup singer on main theme
Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Black Honeypot
1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Singing Voice performed "South American Getaway"
The Trouble with Girls Bass Singer with the Bible Singers Quartet (The Mellomen)
1970 Horton Hears a Who! Wickersham Brother
The Phantom Tollbooth Lethargians
The Aristocats Billy Bass - Russian Cat Voice
1971 The Cat in the Hat Thing One Voice
Bedknobs and Broomsticks Singing voice of Russian vendor / Various cartoon animal voices
1972 Snoopy Come Home Singer of "No Dogs Allowed" Voice
The Lorax Singer Voice
1977 The Hobbit Goblins/Chorus Voice
Halloween Is Grinch Night Singer / Monsters Voice
Donny & Marie Darth Vader / Narrator Star Wars Segment
1978 The Small One Potter Voice
1987 The Brave Little Toaster Kirby Voice
1990 Disney Sing Along Songs: Disneyland Fun – It's a Small World Singer of "Grim Grinning Ghosts"
1996 Superior Duck The Narrator Voice
1997 The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue Kirby Voice
1998 The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars


Year Title Role Notes
1995 The Baby Huey Show General Does-Little Voice; ep. "Target...Huey!"

Theme Parks[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1955 Mark Twain Riverboat Bosun Voice
1963- The Enchanted Tiki Room Fritz the Parrot, Tangaroa
1967- Pirates of the Caribbean Pirates/Chorus, Singing Dog
1967-1987 Adventures Thru Inner Space Chorus
1969- The Haunted Mansion Uncle Theodore
1971- Country Bear Jamboree Buff the Buffalo Voice
1984- Country Bear Christmas Special
1986 Country Bear Vacation Hoedown
1989-2023 Splash Mountain Brer Frog
1988-2002 Disneyland Railroad Announcer


Year Title Role
late 1970s-early 1980s Toys R Us Geoffrey the Giraffe
1953–2005 Kellogg's Frosted Flakes Tony the Tiger

Partial solo discography[edit]

  • Mad, Baby, Mad – 1955 (Fabor)
  • I Ain't Afraid – 1956 (Bally)
  • You Wanna Talk About Texas – 1956
  • Wing Ding Ding – 1956
  • Big Paul Bunyan – 1962 (Globe)
  • Gold Dubloons and Pieces of Eight – 1962 (The Hardy Boys: Mystery of the Applegate Treasure)
  • The Headless Horseman – 1965 (Disney)
  • Great Hymns In Story And Song – 1970 (Light)
  • Nathaniel the Grublet (In Direwood) – 1979 (Birdwing)
  • Psalms and Selahs – 2002


  1. ^ a b McCracken, Elizabeth (December 25, 2003). "Our Cereal Hero". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 4, 2019. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Thurl Ravenscroft, Voice of Tony the Tiger, Dies at 89". The New York Times. Associated Press. May 25, 2003. Retrieved March 23, 2012.
  3. ^ Scott MacGillivray and Ted Okuda, The Soundies Book, iUniverse, 2007, p. 380.
  4. ^ MacGillivray and Okuda, p. 95.
  5. ^ Heintjes, Tom (November 14, 2012). "He's Grrrrreat! The Thurl Ravenscroft Interview". Hogan's Alley. Archived from the original on April 5, 2013. Retrieved December 27, 2022.
  6. ^ Thurl Ravenscroft to Mark Voger, Asbury Park Press, Nov. 12, 2002, p. 153.
  7. ^ "1955 HITS ARCHIVE: Boom Boom Boomerang - De Castro Sisters". YouTube.
  8. ^ "King Of The River / Yaller Yaller Gold". Disneyland Records.
  9. ^ "560 KSFO Radio - the Sound of the City". Archived from the original on January 17, 2014. Retrieved December 17, 2013.
  10. ^ Disneyland Record "All About Dragons", DQ-1301.
  11. ^ "Listen to the Unmistakable Voice of Thurl Ravenscroft". 365 Days of Magic. June 6, 2013. Archived from the original on November 4, 2013. Retrieved December 27, 2022.
  12. ^ "Insider - Oh My Disney". Oh My Disney.
  13. ^ "The Hot 100 Chart". Billboard.
  14. ^ Breton, Marcos (May 3, 1987). "He's 'G-r-r-r-eat!!!' : Tony the Tiger Voices Pleasure". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 23, 2012.

External links[edit]