Meet the Voices Behind 7 More Walt Disney World Characters
Back in November of 2022, we took a look Behind the Voices of 7 Beloved Walt Disney World Characters. It was so much fun that we continued the story in the Spring 2023 issue of Celebrations in the article “The Stories Behind the Voices in the Parks.” But it turns out that it still wasn’t enough to capture all of the brilliant performers who help bring our favorite characters to life. Especially when we start to look back at some of our favorite attractions from the past.
This week, let’s take a dive into the voices behind seven more Walt Disney World Characters (past and present).
Madame Leota (The Haunted Mansion)
We could spend an entire article talking about the various voices in the Haunted Mansion, but one of the most iconic is certainly Madame Leota. She is famously portrayed by Imagineer Leota Toombs, who provides the voice for the “Little Leota” that urges Mansion Guests to “hurry baaaack!”
Curiously, she did not provide the voice for the ACTUAL Madame Leota. That performance goes to one Eleanor Audley. If the name rings a bell, it should. Not only did she provide the voice for Lady Tremaine in Cinderella, but she also voiced Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty.
A prolific radio and television actress, she was known for programs such as Green Acres, Father Knows Best, Suspect, and Lux Radio Theatre, to name just a few.
Michael (Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room)
As noted above, Thurl Ravenscroft provided the voice of Fritz in Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. In our magazine article about Disney voice actors, we noted that the voice of Jose was provided by Disney Legend Wally Boag. Joining these two eminent Disney performers was Fulton Burley, who took on the role of the Irish parrot Michael.
In 1962, Wally Boag brought Burley to Disney, where he replaced an ailing Donald Novis in The Golden Horseshoe Revue. It’s a role he would maintain for the next 25 years. He would also delight fans by touring in promotion of Disney films.
In 1995, he was named a Disney legend.
Timekeeper (The Timekeeper)
Before the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, Guests in Tomorrowland could pay a visit to The Timekeeper (an attraction that originated as Un Voyage à Travers le Temps at Disneyland Paris). The show was a Circle-Vision 360 film that took Guests on a journey through time.
The host of the attraction was an Audio-Animatronic known as (brace yourself for a surprise) Timekeeper. And the voice actor behind the Timekeeper? The one and only Robin Williams. With a truly legendary career that earned him an Academy Award, two Primetime Emmy Awards, and five Grammy Awards (to name just a few of his accolades) Williams is, of course, best known to Disney fans as the voice of Genie in the 1992 animated classic Aladdin.
9-Eye (The Timekeeper)
While we’re on the subject of The Timekeeper attraction, the second prominent character in the story was 9-Eye. As the assistant to Timekeeper, 9-Eye (also known as Circumvisual PhotoDroid), worked for the Metropolis Science Institute.
Guests who encountered 9-Eye may have had a nagging suspicion that her voice was familiar. In fact, it may have given them the urge to go where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came. That’s because 9-Eye was voiced by 4-time Emmy winner Rhea Perlman, best known for her role as Carla Tortelli in Cheers.
Buff (The Country Bear Jamboree)
Step into the Country Bear Jamboree, and you’re immediately greeted by the wildest, wooliest performers ever to step foot on stage. However, the outsized personalities are not restricted to our ursine friends. There are also the animals whose heads are mounted on the wall.
The largest of these is Buff, the American Bison. He’s the leader of the group, and as such had to have a truly distinctive voice. Fortunately, Walt Disney World knew just the man for the job. Thurl Ravensoncroft, a Disney legend whose voice can also be heard in the Haunted Mansion (as one of the singing busts), and Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room (as Fritz), as well as in Pirates of the Caribbean, lends his deep, sonorous voice to the roll of Buff, playing him to perfection.
Outside of Disney, Ravenscrof sang “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” in the animated classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and voiced Tony the Tiger in Kellog’s Frosted Flakes commercials.
Monorail Safety Spiel
It’s not an attraction per se, unless of course you’re talking to Monorail enthusiast. Then, it’s Walt Disney World’s premiere attraction. Anyone who has ever stepped foot on the Walt Disney World Monorail has heard the safety instructions, particularly the command to, “Please stand clear of the door…Por favor, mantengase alejado de las puertas.” It’s become such an iconic phrase that there are even posters, mugs, flags, and t-shirts emblazoned with the quote.
The voice of the Monorail has changed over the years. From 1971 to 1988, Jack Wagner (known as the “Voice of Disneyland” for his work in California) provided the monorail spiel. He was then replaced by Kevin Miles (who also performed in the Voices of Liberty and the Dapper Dans). In 1997, Matt Hanson took over the role, until it was passed to Joe Hursh in 2004. He kept it for eight years, before Tom Kane took over.
Well, Kane performs the role with one small asterisk. The phrase, “Please stand clear of the door…” is still the one and only Jack Wagner.
Captain Nemo (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage)
Taking another trip in the Wayback Machine, we’ll stroll over to Fantasyland between 1971 and 1994. While there, we’ll take a trip Under the Sea. Not with Ariel and friends, but with Captain Nemo aboard the Nautilus.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage took Guests into the world of Jules Verne’s classic adventure novel (and the subsequent Disney film starring Kirk Douglas and James Mason).
Actor Peter Reneday performed an impersonation of James Mason in the role of Captain Nemo for the attraction. Best known as the voice of Master Splinter in the animated series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Reneday also provided the voice of Henry in the Country Bear Jamboree.