Mouseketeer for life
December 21, 2010
By David Krueger
Retired ‘voice girl’ recalls her work at the happiest place on earth
Ginny Tyler had the job every kid dreamed of.
She took off for Hollywood at the age of 32 and got a job with Walt Disney Studios and Disneyland, the happiest place on earth. For almost 40 years she would stay there, voicing characters for Disney movies, performing on the Disneyland lot and acting in several popular shows of the time, eventually culminating in an induction into the Disney Legends Hall of Fame in 2006.
“It was just wonderful,” Tyler said at Providence Marianwood in Issaquah, where she currently resides. “It was so thrilling to work for Walt Disney. People would say, ‘get that voice girl!’”
Tyler was born in Berkeley, Calif., but was raised in Seattle. She discovered early on she had something that set her apart from other kids her age.
“I had a deep voice for a little girl in grade school,” she said. “I learned to change my voice as a young person. I could change my voice at the click of a finger.”
That’s a talent Tyler still possesses today, as she demonstrated numerous times during an interview, switching from a witch, to a pig to Minnie Mouse seamlessly.
“(People) would ask, ‘what does Ginny sound like?’” Tyler said.
“Anything,” she answered.
Tyler graduated from the University of Washington while majoring in drama, then got to work. Tyler hosted a children’s show on KOMO-TV, then took off for Hollywood in 1957, eager to show Walt Disney and the world what she could do.
Suffice it to say, she succeeded.
Some of her biggest roles included: the voice of Polynesia the Parrot in the original “Doctor Dolittle” (1967); Casper the Friendly Ghost in the 1963 television series; Jan and the Black Widow in “Space Ghost” (1966); and Sue Richards/the Invisible Girl on the “Fantastic Four” (1978) TV series.
“You could do anything,” Tyler said. “You could be an old witch…or parrot voices. My voice just stretched to all those characters.”
She also appeared on “The Jack Benny Show” and “The Lucy Show,” as well as owning the role of “Head Mouseketeer” in a reissue of the original “Mickey Mouse Club” in 1962.
As if that isn’t impressive enough, Tyler had a few more opportunities in the works that didn’t quite go the way she had hoped. According to her son, Ty Fenton, she was “slated for an on-camera role on the ‘Dick Van Dyke Show’ as Mary Tyler Moore’s sister in the upcoming season, but then the show got cancelled.”
Tyler was also selected to host a behind-the-scenes show about Disneyland, which looked at the rides, talked to performers and toured Disneyland while combining old clips from the “Mickey Mouse Show.” Fenton got to spend the summer with his mom as she taped numerous episodes.
Instead of going national, the show stayed more regional. The big winner in the whole situation may have been Fenton.
“(All summer) I spent the day at Disneyland,” he said. “Man oh man. Yeah, I was in heaven that summer.”
Along with her movie and TV roles, Tyler also narrated vinyl recordings of classic Disney stories “Bambi,” “Babes in Toyland,” “Hans Brinker” and “More Mother Goose.”
Finally, in 2006, 12 years after she returned to Seattle, Tyler received the highest honor Disney bestows upon employees when she was inducted into the Disney Legends Hall of Fame with 12 others, including Elton John, and was given her golden mouse ears.
“I’ve never heard her say anything other than she just thoroughly enjoyed (her work),” Arlene Carter, Providence Marianwood’s Foundation executive director, said. “It stayed with her. She’s incredibly proud of working with Walt Disney.”
“She misses it now,” Fenton said.
However, Tyler remains active in the voice-altering arena.
“She’ll spontaneously go into a little voice,” Carter said. “It’s very entertaining.”
“(Walt Disney) was very proud of what I did and I loved working for him and all of the challenges,” Tyler said. “You had to use your imagination, and I was flexible.”
Tyler hasn’t lost touch with her storied past, still wearing her golden ears around Providence Marianwood’s complex.
David Krueger is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.