Paul Winchell, the original voice of Tigger in the Winnie the Pooh cartoons, passed away Friday morning at his home in Moorpark, Calif. The 82-year-old entertainer also made a name for himself as a television ventriloquist, finding early fame with his Jerry Mahoney puppet.
Winchell created the Tigger voice for the 1968 Academy Award-winning short, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. He continued to provide the bouncy tiger’s lispy voice for then next 31 years, while also voicing other TV cartoon characters including The Smurfs’s Gargamel, Heathcliff’s Marmaduke and Wacky Races’ Dick Dastardly. His feature film credits include Disney’s The Fox and the Hound and The Aristocats.
Born in New York, Winchell attended Columbia University and studied acupuncture and hypnosis, among other things. In addition to entertaining children, he was quite the inventor, patenting the disposable razor and the artificial heart, among other things.
In 1974, he earned a Grammy for best children’s recording with The Most Wonderful Things About Tiggers from the feature Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too.
Shrek director Kelly Asbury wrote in length about Winchell’s ventriloquism career in his book, Dummy Days, published in 2003 by Angel City Press. Fans can also see Winchell’s original dummies on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.
Winchell is survived by his wife of 31 years, the former Jean Freeman; five children and three grandchildren.