Animation voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft, best known as the first and only voice of Kelloggs’ Tony the Tiger, died of prostate cancer at the age of 91 on Sunday, May 22. His passing has dealt yet another blow to animation community, which lost this past weekend veteran voice actors Henry Cordon (Fred Flintstone) and Howard Morris (Atom Ant).
In addition to delivering that signature "They’re Grrrrrrreat!" line in TV commercials since 1952, the basso-voiced Ravenscroft teamed with Dr. Suess and Chuck Jones as the voice of the Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and also lent his golden pipes to other Dr. Suess projects including The Cat in the Hat.
Ravenscroft was born Feb. 6, 1914, in Norfolk, Neb. He moved to California in 1933 and by the mid-1930s was appearing regularly on radio as a backup singer for Bing Crosby and other artists. During World War II, he enlisted in the Air Transport Command, serving for 5 years as a navigator for special missions over the North Atlantic. It was during this time that he met his wife, June.
When he returned to Hollywood, Ravenscroft became a founding member of the Mellomen, a singing group that performed on radio, film, television and commercials, and sang backup for such luminaries as Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney. The group also performed for Walt Disney films and television productions. He would later serve as the voice of the Pageant of the Masters, the annual celebration of the arts in tableaux vivants (living pictures) in Laguna Beach, Calif. from 1974 until his retirement in 1993.
At the 2003 Annie Awards, Revenscroft was honored with a Windsor McCay Award for a lifetime of contributions to the art of animation. He is survived by his two children, Ron and Nancy, and four grandchildren. Plans for a memorial service are pending.