The world lost the voice of its most-beloved lady mouse with the passing of acclaimed voice actor Russi Taylor. Russi lent her voice to the iconic Minnie Mouse for more than 30 years, in a career that spanned television, animated shorts, theatrical films, and theme park experiences.
Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on May 4, 1944, Russi knew she always wanted to work for Disney: “When I was a little girl, I was with my mom and my brother, and it was late at night at Disneyland. We had just come off the Mark Twain Riverboat and were getting some popcorn. I looked over and saw Walt sitting on a bench, so we introduced ourselves and shared our popcorn with him. At one point during our chat, he asked me what I wanted to do when I grow up, and I said, ‘I want to work for you!’ So he said, ‘Okay!’—and now I do!”
Winning the role of Minnie over 200 other hopefuls in a 1986 audition, Russi Taylor would go on to voice Minnie Mouse in the films Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Runaway Brain, Get a Horse!, and Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers, as well as several television series, including Mickey MouseWorks, House of Mouse, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Mickey and the Roadster Racers, and the award-winning Mickey Mouse shorts series for Disney Channel from Disney Television Animation that debuted in 2013.
“You have to bring yourself to a character,” Russi once observed. “But because of this particular character, she actually enhances who I am, she really does. In a sense Minnie makes me better than I was before ’cause there’s a lot to live up to.”
In what could not have been a more perfect coupling for Disney fans everywhere, during the 1980s, Russi met and fell in love with Wayne Allwine, the actor who had voiced Mickey Mouse since 1977. The voices of Minnie and Mickey married in 1991, and remained together until Allwine’s passing in 2009.
Russi’s other Disney voices have included Nurse Mouse in The Rescuers Down Under, as well as Donald’s mischievous nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, and their friend Webbigail Vanderquack in the original DuckTales animated series. She also lent her voice to roles on other classic TV animated series like TaleSpin, The Little Mermaid, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, and Kim Possible; as well as modern favorites that include Sofia the First, The Lion Guard, and Tangled: The Series.
Among the most famous roles on Russi’s impressive extended resume of credits are Strawberry Shortcake, Baby Gonzo (of Muppet Babies fame), Pebbles Flintstone, Duchess the Cat in the film Babe, and Ferny Toro in Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks. She also provided the voice of Martin Prince and the twins, Sherri and Terri, on more than 100 episodes of The Simpsons, as well as the blockbuster feature The Simpsons Movie.
Those who worked with Russi remembered not only her outstanding talent and dedication to her work voicing Minnie and other characters, but also her bright and loving spirit as well.
“Russi Taylor embodied the character of Minnie Mouse,” remembers Rick Dempsey, Senior Vice President, Disney Character Voices. “She truly was one of the kindest, most gracious, upbeat, and loving people I have ever had the privilege to work with and to count as a friend. Anytime anyone met Russi, their day would always get just a little bit brighter. Not only was she amazingly talented and gifted, but she had a true desire to make the world a better place with the gifts she was blessed with. The world has a lost a real treasure. She will truly be missed, but her voice will live on.”
“Russi was as close as family; as wonderful, funny, and sweet as Minnie Mouse, and as talented yet humble as you would expect,” said Bill Farmer, the voice of Goofy and a longtime friend of Russi. “I will deeply and dearly miss her.”
Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, shared his thoughts on the loss of Russi Taylor, expressing his condolences while recognizing her rightful place in entertainment and Disney history: “Minnie Mouse lost her voice with the passing of Russi Taylor. For more than 30 years, Minnie and Russi worked together to entertain millions around the world—a partnership that made Minnie a global icon and Russi a Disney Legend beloved by fans everywhere. We’re so grateful for Russi’s talent as well as the tremendous spirit and great joy she brought to everything she did. It was a privilege to have known her and an honor to have worked with her, and we take comfort in the knowledge that her work will continue to entertain and inspire for generations to come. Russi will be sorely missed and our hearts go out to her family and friends, along with our deepest condolences.”
Reflecting once upon the future of the Mouse couple, Russi revealed the depth of her and her husband’s love for the characters they voiced:“I really want whoever comes after us to be aware of the history and the tradition, and to love the characters as much as we do,” she said of herself and Wayne.