Wayne Allwine, one of only three people to ever provide the voice of Mickey Mouse, died over the weekend. He was 62.
In the early 90′s, while I was working on a show called Goof Troop for Disney, my agent called to ask if I could do the voice of Clarabelle. I immediately said yes, even though I had absolutely no idea how she sounded.
A few days later, I started work on a set of Mickey Mouse storybook CDs. This was not only my first job as Clarabelle, it was my first job with Mickey.
I remember walking in to a little brick studio in Burbank to do the recording, a little nervous, a little excited, and cornily enough, a little proud to be a working actress in the Disney family. And now I would be working with Disney’s biggest star.
I couldn’t tell you what we recorded that day. I don’t even recall the name of the project. But I remember seeing Wayne for the first time. He was sitting in front of two microphones, with Russi Taylor – the voice of Minnie Mouse – on his lap. They weren’t just sitting like that, they were working that way.
At the time, I thought this was some kind of cheesy method acting. But then I realized that the two of them were, in fact, a couple . They weren’t married yet, but they soon would be. Mickey and Minnie were in love.
And they really were. I saw a good bit of them in the ensuing years, and their obvious devotion to each other never flagged. Even though Wayne had many health challenges, they never seemed to be having a bad day. They just seemed exceedingly thankful for everything they had together.
Wayne was one of the kindest people I ever worked with. During my KFI days, he never missed an opportunity to tell me how much he enjoyed the show. Years later, he still asked when I’d go back on the radio. Wayne and Russi both always took the time to tell me how much they enjoyed the site and how glad they were that I was healthy and happy.
I’ve been doing animation since I was 11 years old, and I have met and worked with a lot of people. I’ve seen a sort of rising cynicism as I’ve gotten older, and a lot of resentment at the way the business has changed and left so many people out in the cold. It’s easy to focus on what you’re losing.
I guess that’s why the gratitude Russi and Wayne always showed left such an impression on me. They were never embarrassed to be happy or thankful.
It’s funny, when people ask me what cartoons I do, I’m sort of apologetic. I mostly do things like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, not the cool stuff like Adult Swim. For some reason, I’ve always thought that was a reflection on me.
But tonight, looking back on the company I’ve kept over my career, I can see I have nothing to apologize for. I’m proud to be among the classic voices, and part of the fabric of childhood memories.
Thank you Wayne. I’m so glad to have worked with you, and to have known you.