ANIMATION SPIN
August 6, 2019 posted by Greg Ehrbar

Animation Spin Special: Remembering Russi Taylor

Should Russi Taylor’s vast voice acting artistry be “Minnie-mized” with a single credit? Gosh, no! Let’s start our tribute with another iconic role she also played for years.

Disney’s CINDERELLA: SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS (Cendrillon: C’est Noël)
Walt Disney Records Canada #5008-61359 (CD with Book / English and French)

Released in the U.S. by Walt Disney Records as part of Disney’s Princess Holiday Collection (#61295-2) with Beauty and the Beast; One Magical Christmas and The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Christmas Under the Sea.

Released in 2004. Executive Producer: Ted Kryczko. Producer: Randy Thornton. Original Story: Gregory Ehrbar. Art Direction: Jordan Foley, Steve Runciman. Cover Design: Russell Schroder, Kathryn Alice. Illustrations: K. White Studios. Running Time: 15 minutes.

Voices: Russi Taylor (Narrator/Fairy Godmother, Countess LaRue, Drizella); Jennifer Hale (Cinderella); Suzanne Blakeslee (Stepmother); Corey Burton (Francois, Gus); Rob Paulsen (Jaq); Gina Tuttle (Anastasia).

Instrumentals: “Away in a Manger,” “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” (public domain).

 
In this prequel to the 1950 Walt Disney classic, Lady Tremaine is determined to throw a holiday party to outdo the enigmatic Countess LaRue. When Cinderella presents them with her early gifts, handmade jewelry, the Stepmother assumes she has too much free time and the stepsisters ridicule the worthlessness of gifts that are not store bought. After throwing her gifts out the window, Cinderella is told she can attend the party if she does all her work, plus handles all the preparations.
 
Naturally, she is made the server. Lucifer causes chaos with the mice, Cinderella is blamed and made a public disgrace in front of the Countess and guests. Cinderella retreats to the barnyard, where the party musicians had also been discarded outside. As they softly play, the Countess joins Cinderella in the barnyard, where she spots something sparkling on the ground…
 
This read-along holds special personal value to your author because it is based on a real-life childhood incident and because one of the most talented and kindest persons one could ever meet provided narration and voices. I was able to share this with Russi during our frequent get-togethers in Florida and she was delighted and touched to be part of it. She loved when the voice work she did meant something to people.
 

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Countess Makes the Stepmother Say Thank You”

Listen for the simple, elegant musical score, which was created especially for this recording in place of the more familiar read-along library music. I was delighted not only to have Countess LaRue say things to the Stepmother that she deserved to hear, but this may the only time when the Stepmother was forced to actually thank Cinderella! Suzanne Blakeslee makes the words practically choke in the Stepmother’s throat. You can also sense the disdain the Countess has for the stepfamily. Also, in addition to Jaq and Gus, mice Suzy, Perla and Mary are mentioned.

 


I first got to know Wayne Allwine and Russi Taylor during the salad days of the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts press events. Though they are still very much a thriving enterprise, there is no way to describe how lavish and opulent they were when thousands of television, radio and print journalists were situated, one after another, in multiple Disney Theme Parks, resort hotels, water parks and other entertainment venues—all at once. Even seeing Hollywood press events today seem teeny tiny in comparison.
 
Radio stations loved talking with characters, so Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Max, Snow White, Grumpy, Cinderella—you name it—were often brought in to chitchat with their pals in the press. Among my duties was also to be interviewed on various Disney subjects hundreds of times by stations all over the world. When they were not specifically assigned, interview subjects would be assigned times to be in “bullpens” in case they were needed. Since I was a handy utility Disney person, the bullpens became a second home.
 
Working with two such pros was a pleasure. Not only would they bring my script words to life, but they also made great suggestions that made them better. They were Mickey and Minnie, for golly gosh sakes! And they were Wayne and Russi. No agendas, it was all about the work, the true soul of characters and Disney quality.
 
You could also tell Russi was the real deal by how she responded to the many projects that came her way. I had to ask about personal favorites and without hesitation one of them was the 1991 album Disney’s Twelve Days of Christmas. A stellar cast playing like a symphony orchestra—Wayne, Russi, Alan Young, Bill Farmer, Jess Harnell and others, with great songs and superb production by Robin Frederick—this is one of the all-time best. Russi loved it because they were allowed a lot of freedom to make the kind of album they felt especially good about and the spirit shows. More about that album the second half of this Spin from 2015.
 
I was a Russi Taylor fan long before her Minnie days, ever since I saw her mentioned in a magazine called “The Fabulous Flintstones Fun and Game Book,” which was free with any Texize purchase at the grocery store. Russi and I talked Hanna-Barbera and other characters as well as Disney.
 
Sally Struthers had long departed Bedrock to become Gloria Bunker on All in the Family when Russi took on the role of teenage Pebbles on CBS’ 1980 Flintstone Comedy Show (preceded by Mickey Stevens in 1972 on The Flintstone Comedy Hour). She continued to do Pebbles in various projects for decades, including a younger version in the 2015 direct-to-video feature, The Flintstones & WWE: Stone-Age Smackdown. Here is Russi as Pebbles back in 1980:
 


 
One of her earliest projects was the lead role in the enormously successful Strawberry Shortcake series. We explored the world of Strawberry and her friends, the specials as well as some of the soundtrack albums, in this Spin.

In 1987, Russi became the voices for Huey, Dewey, Louie and Webby on the original DuckTales. The same year, she sang as Donald’s nephews on a Disneyland album called Rock Around the Mouse.
 


 
Another long-running part was Martin Prince on The Simpsons, a role she played since 1989. Martin can be heard at 2:45 in “Hail to Thee, Kamp Krusty,” from the second disc of Simpson ditties, The Yellow Album.
 


 
Probably not as well remembered is 1986’s Talking Mother Goose, one of the animatronic storytelling toys in the wake of Teddy Ruxpin and Talking Mickey Mouse from Worlds of Wonder. Like the other devices, Mother Goose could tell stories with the assistance of read-along books and special cassettes. Here’s Russi as the goosie gadget herself:
 


 
Any one of these long-running cartoon voice roles, much less Minnie Mouse, would be a career landmark. Russi Taylor had multiple triumphs in her career. Yet she had that quality of seeming like a beloved relative—the kind that would be delighted to have been given a handmade gift.

The world always needs more Russi Taylors, on both sides of the screen. May we follow her example in perky voice and pleasant deed.

9 Comments

  • Another song from “The Simpsons” that Russi sang in that I like was “We Put the ‘Spring’ in Springfield” in the season eight episode “Bart After Dark” (where she was a chorus girl) which Homer leads as rebuttal for the Springfield citizens (except for Marge who arrived late with a tractor) to stop destroying the old burlesque house.

  • Wow that Pebbles clip sounds nothing like most of her other roles, that was probably how her natural voice was back in those days, another role that sounds nothing like her other roles was the prototype of Jessica Rabbit in the original pitch for Who Framed Roger Rabbit in which in the pitch Roger was voiced by Paul Reubens aka Pee Wee Herman.

    • That Pebbles clip you linked to is NOT Russi Taylor. It’s from HB’s 1972 CBS series “The Flintstone Comedy Hour” and Pebbles is voiced by Mickey Stevens. Russi Taylor didn’t voice Pebbles until 1980’s “The Flintstone Comedy Show” on NBC.

    • John and Hannabarberian, you have good ears! We have corrected the copy and changed the video. Thanks to you and also to everyone in this section who are adding in other Russi credits. It only serves to underscore that she was Minnie but so much more.

    • Lovely Russi gave us the loam of her great talent for the part of “Ferny” in our “ Jakers” series. This series won a British Academy Award and eight Emmys one of which was Russi’s Emmy. Even though he was not involved in the show her darling husband Wayne showed up at every recording. I cannot speak highly enough about her wonderful personality and the incredible breadth of her talent. Mel Brooks also starred in the series and in one recording where we asked Russi to cover another character, Mel’s Head nearly came off when this entirely different voice came out of her as she sat next to him! Says it all really.

  • And who could forget those songs Taylor had solo on Muppet Babies, “I’ll Be Blue for You”, “Semi-Weirdo”, “Camilla”.

  • RIP.

  • Of all of the cartoon characters I’ve worked on that I didn’t also grow up with, Baby Gonzo was by far my favorite, and much of that was due to Russi’s ability to shade his performance and turn the outrageous adult into a vulnerable child. This song sequence, “Semi-Weirdo” from the original version of JIM HENSON’S MUPPET BABIES, which I storyboarded, is an excellent example of her ability to imbue true personality into imaginary characters.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fCS3iPaTYs

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