Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft (/ˈθɜrl ˈreɪvənzkrɒft/; February 6, 1914 – May 22, 2005) was an American voice actor and basso profundo best known as the deep voice behind Tony the Tiger's "They're grrreat!" in Frosted Flakes television commercials for more than five decades. Ravenscroft was also known, however 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!.
He also did some voice-over work and singing for Disney in both the films and the attractions at Disneyland (which were later featured at Disney World). The most well known of these attractions are The Haunted Mansion, The Country Bear Jamboree, The Mark Twain Riverboat, The Pirates of the Caribbean 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, 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. 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. 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 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. 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 U.S. and Britain in 1954. He sang on the soundtrack for Ken Clark as "Stewpot" in 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.
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. 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.
Ravenscroft also sang "No Dogs Allowed" in the Peanuts animated motion picture Snoopy, Come Home and I Was a Teenaged Brain Surgeon for Spike Jones.
For more than 50 years, he was the uncredited voice of Tony the Tiger for Frosted Flakes. His booming bass gave the cereal's tiger mascot a voice with the catchphrase, "They're grrrreat!"
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.
Later life and death
Ravenscroft was married once to June Ravenscroft in 1946, they had two children. June died in 1999 from unknown causes. Ravenscroft died in his home on May 22, 2005 from prostate cancer. He was survived by his two children, Ron Ravenscroft 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 ad-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 & some commercials recycle clips of Ravenscroft.
- Dumbo – Singer of "Look Out For Mr. Stork" and "Pink Elephants on Parade"
- Alice in Wonderland – Card Painter
- Jack and the Beanstalk – Singing voices of two villagers
- Peter Pan – Singer, Pirates
- Rose Marie – Medicine Man
- Titanic - Band Member with the trumpet
- Lady and the Tramp – Al the Alligator, Singing Pound Dogs
- Paul Bunyan - Paul Bunyan, vocals
- Sleeping Beauty – Singer
- One Hundred and One Dalmatians – Captain
- Gay Purr-ee – Hench Cat
- The Sword in the Stone – Black Bart
- Mary Poppins – Pig, animal sounds
- Bedknobs and Broomsticks – Singing voice of Russian vendor, various cartoon animal voices
- The Man from Button Willow - Singer, Reverend, Saloon Man
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas! – Singer of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" (uncredited)
- Superior Duck – The Narrator
- The Graduate - Man with the Guests at Benjamin's Backyard
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - (singing voice)
- The Aristocats – Russian Cat
- 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 Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – Singer, Black Honeypot
- The Hobbit – Goblins
- Halloween Is Grinch Night – Singer, Monsters
- The Small One – Potter
- The Brave Little Toaster – Kirby
- Disney Sing Along Songs: Disneyland Fun - It's a Small World - Singer of "Grim Grinning Ghosts"
- The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars – Kirby
- The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue – Kirby
- Lilo & Stitch: The Series – Singer of "Aloha, E Komo Mai"