Best known as the affable voice behind Tony the Tiger, TV's popular cartoon pitchman for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes for more than 50 years, Thurl Ravenscroft also lent his distinctive basso tones to a host of Disney characters and the song "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" from the popular holiday TV classic " Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!"
Born in Norfolk, Neb., Ravenscroft moved to California in 1933 to study art. By the mid-1930s he was appearing regularly on radio, first on a program titled "Goose Creek Parson," and in the late 1930s, he appeared on the "The Kraft Music Hall" with Bing Crosby, singing backup in a group called the Paul Taylor Choristers. After military service during World War II--he was employed by the War Department as a civilian contract airline pilot. Flew mainly high profile courier missions across the Atlantic and Pacific, among them Bob Hope and Winston Churchhill--he returned to Hollywood, where he sang with the Mellomen, a group that performed with Frank Sinatra, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Elvis Presley.
In 1952, Ravenscroft's voice appeared in the first Frosted Flakes commercial. Kellog's approached Ravenscroft, by then a well-regarded voice artist, with a caricuture of Tony the Tiger, and after some experimentation he came up with the tiger's long-standing tag line: "They're Grrrrreeeat!" His association with Kellog's and the character would continue on a regular basis until the actor's death in 2005.
He also lent his voice to characters on thrill rides at Disneyland since opening day in 1955, including the Pirates of the Caribbean and Splash Mountain. He can be heard daily as Buff, the buffalo head on the Country Bear Jamboree; lead vocalist on the theme song "Grim Grinning Ghosts" in the Haunted Mansion (he is the bust that most people have mistaken as Walt Disney), 'Fritz' the German accent parrot in the Enchanted Tiki Room; narrator on the Disneyland Railroad; on the Columbia Sailing Ship song spiel; as the First Mate on the Mark Twain Steamship and one of the bass voices you hear in the chorus of "It's a Small World." Ravenscroft also did voices for the animated films "Cinderella," "The Jungle Book" (providing the singing voice for George Sander's villainous Shere Khan), "Mary Poppins," "Alice in Wonderland," "Lady and the Tramp," "One Hundred and One Dalmatians," "The Aristocats" and many others. He also sang the theme song for Disney's popular television series "Zorro" (1957-1959)
In 1966, children's book author Dr. Seuss and legendary animation director Chuck Jones teamed up to do "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" for CBS. The success of the Grinch led to other projects with Dr. Seuss, including "Horton Hears a Who" (1970) as one of the Wickersham Brothers, and "The Cat in the Hat" (1971) as Thing 1. His singing career continued into the 1970s as a member of the Johnny Mann Singers singing on 28 albums, appearing on television for three seasons, and performing at the White House. In "Snoopy Come Home" (1972), a feature film based on Charles Schultz's Peanuts characters, he sang the mornful "No Dogs Allowed."
For 20 years, from 1974 until his retirement in 1993, he served as the narrator of the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, the annual celebration of the arts in tableaux vivants, "living pictures" where actual humans posed in lifesize works of famous artists such as Norman Rockwell and Winslow Homer, among others. His vocal readings proved enormously popular with his audiences, and his co-workers dubbed him "the voice of the Pageant" during his tenure there. Ravenscraft also served as the narrator for "The Glory of Christmas" at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California from the early 1980s through the late 1990s.
Late in his career, the actor found yet another memorable animated character when he voiced the titular character Kirby in the popular cartoon "The Brave Little Toaster" (1987) and its subsequent direct-to-video sequels. Living in Fullerton since his retirement, Ravenscroft was 91 years old at the time of his death from prostate cancer.