Of all the memories forged at Disneyland for the generations of youngsters who have converged upon it, perhaps none was more fateful than Russi Taylor’s girlhood encounter with Walt Disney, the visionary entertainment mogul who built the California theme park and gave life to Mickey Mouse and many of the other animated personages who populate it.
She had just stepped off the Mark Twain Riverboat ride with her family when she spotted the mustachioed eminence seated on a bench. Her mother, Ms. Taylor told the Los Angeles Times decades later, did not believe her when she said the man was Disney.
“Honey, it couldn’t be,” her mother insisted. But it was, and her mother sat down beside him. Ms. Taylor, by her account, “squished” herself between them. When Disney inquired what she wanted to do when she grew up, she exclaimed, “I want to work for you!”
“Okay!” he replied.
And so she did, providing the chirpy voice to Minnie Mouse, Mickey’s female counterpart, for more than 30 years.
Ms. Taylor, an Emmy-nominated voice actress who also helped bring to life animated television characters including Huey, Dewey and Louie on “DuckTales,” nerdy Martin Prince and the twins Sherri and Terri on “The Simpsons”, and Gonzo on “Muppet Babies,” died July 26 at her home in Glendale, Calif., at 75. The Walt Disney Co. announced her death in a statement, and spokesman Jeffrey Epstein said the cause was colon cancer.
Mickey Mouse, who was voiced from 1977 to 2009 by Ms. Taylor’s husband, the late Wayne Allwine, was one of the most recognizable characters in the world. Not far behind him — if only for their shared discus-like black ears and prominent widow’s peak — was Minnie, who was rendered feminine by her billowing bow, whisker-length eyelashes, kitten heels and, of course, unmistakable voice.
Mickey and Minnie debuted together in the 1928 animated short “Steamboat Willie,” with Walt Disney, who died in 1966, providing sound for both.
Ms. Taylor was one of several actresses to voice Minnie over the decades. She won the role in 1986 when she was selected from a pool of 200 applicants. She auditioned with an improvised recitation of the balcony scene from the Shakespearean tragedy “Romeo and Juliet,” she said, and made her first major appearance as the mouse in the 1988 TV movie “Totally Minnie.” She also played Minnie in the film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988) and the TV series “Minnie’s Bow-Toons” and “Chip ’n’ Dale’s Nutty Tales,” among numerous other appearances.
While her husband had to jump into the falsetto range to play Mickey, she had what she described as a naturally high voice. Variety magazine compared it to the “lilting tinkling of bells.”
Ms. Taylor was born in Cambridge, Mass., on May 4, 1944. She told Variety that she did film-dubbing in Europe before returning to the United States to begin her work in voice acting.
She made her voice-acting debut in the 1980 TV movie “The World of Strawberry Shortcake.” She and Allwine, then both married, met later that decade during the making of “Totally Minnie.” They wed in 1991 and remained married until his death in 2009. A complete list of her survivors was not immediately available.
A particular skill of Ms. Taylor’s, she said, was a baby’s cry: She provided wails for babies including Ted and Georgette’s infant on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and for baby maggots in the movie “A Bug’s Life” (1998).
Her other characters over the years included Pebbles Flintstone on “The Flintstone Comedy Show” in the early 1980s and TV movies including “A Flintstones Christmas Carol” (1994), various voices on “The Smurfs” and “Paddington Bear,” also in the ’80s, and Duchess the Cat in the movie “Babe” (1995). But Minnie remained the character with which she was forever associated.
“You have to bring yourself to a character,” Ms. Taylor once said, according to the Disney statement. “But because of this particular character, she actually enhances who I am, she really does. In a sense Minnie makes me better than I was before ’cause there’s a lot to live up to.”