Monday, June 27, 2005

Smurf arch-foe, defeated

From the AP wire...

Paul Winchell, Voice of Tigger, Dies at 82 Sun Jun 26, 8:38 AM ET

LOS ANGELES - Paul Winchell, a ventriloquist, inventor and children's TV show host best known for creating the lispy voice of Winnie the Pooh's animated friend Tigger, has died. He was 82.

Winchell died Friday morning in his sleep at his Moorpark home, Burt Du Brow, a television producer and close family friend, told the Los Angeles Times.

Over six decades, Winchell was a master ventriloquist — bringing dummies Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff to life on television — and an inventor who held 30 patents, including one for an early artificial heart he built in 1963.

But he was perhaps best known for his work as the voice of the lovable tiger in animated versions of A.A. Milne's "Winnie the Pooh" — with his trademark "T-I-double grrrr-R."
Winchell first voiced Tigger in 1968 for Disney's "Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day," which won an Academy Award for best animated short film, and continued to do so through 1999's "Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving."

"I first met Walt Disney 25 or 30 years ago," Winchell recalled in a 1988 interview with The Associated Press. "He said, 'We're both in the same business. I use cartoons and you use dummies and we both entertain children.' That was long before I started working here. Walt gave me a VIP tour of the studio. I remember people doing voices. I said, 'Gee, that must be fun.' And here I am."

Winchell voiced memorable characters in numerous animated features over the years for Disney and Hanna Barbera. He was Gargamel in "The Smurfs," and Boomer in "The Fox and the Hound."

Winchell said he always tried to look for characteristics and idiosyncrasies in the voices he created. For Tigger, he created a slight lisp and a laugh. He credited his wife, who is British, for giving him the inspiration for Tigger's signature phrase: TTFN. TA-TA for now.

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."

At the age of 13, Winchell was a winner on radio's "Amateur Hour" for doing his imitation of Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. Ventriloquist Bergen was his childhood hero, and Winchell said one of the greatest thrills of his life was a joint appearance with Bergen on the game show "Masquerade Party."

Winchell made his television debut in 1947 with a smart-mouthed puppet he had invented in his early teens, and within a year was host of "The Bigelow Show." He was also host of a number of children's shows, including "The Paul Winchell-Jerry Mahoney Show" and "Circus Time."

In 1950, Winchell created Knucklehead Smiff and introduced him on "The Spiedel Show," which later became "What's My Name?"

Despite his success in television, Winchell felt the medium did not do justice to his beloved craft.
"Ventriloquism today is in a slump," he told the AP. "I think television defeats ventriloquism. Children are so used to seeing puppets that when they see a real ventriloquist they don't understand it. On television, everyone talks and they don't care about the mechanics."

Winchell's dummies are now at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

Winchell was born in New York City on Dec. 21, 1922. He contracted polio at age six and overcame speech impediments as he learned to throw his own voice.

Winchell attended Columbia University and also studied and practiced acupuncture and hypnosis and became a prolific inventor.

He donated his early artificial heart to the University of Utah for research. Dr. Robert Jarvik and other researchers at the university went on to build an artificial heart, dubbed the Jarvik-7, which was implanted into patients after 1982.

Among Winchell's other patents: a disposable razor, a flameless cigarette lighter and an invisible garter belt.

Winchell is survived by his wife of 31 years, the former Jean Freeman; five children and three grandchildren.

I remember this guy on "The Mike Douglas Show" ("Who's that?', you ask.... sigh) not only coming on and doing his act (which, if you know his voice, he had basically two characters, and then variations on the two he could do), then coming back on to talk about the artificial heart he created. Or his hypnotism or whatever would fall under "The Serious Side Of The Wacky Guy" segment. But for me, he should be remembered for how much manic energy he brought to the character of Tigger, especially when singing Tigger's theme.

Tigger's Song
From Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too
Written by: Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman

The wonderful thing about Tiggers
Is Tiggers are wonderful things
Their tops are made out of rubber
Their bottoms are made out of springs
They're bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy
Fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN!
But the most wonderful thing about Tiggers
Is I'm the only one

The wonderful thing about Tiggers
Is Tiggers are wonderful chaps
They're loaded with vim and with vigor
They love to leap in your laps
They're bouncy, trouncy, flouncy pouncy
Fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN
But the most wonderful thing about Tiggers
Is I'm the only one.

Tiggers are wonderful fellahs.
Tiggers are awfully sweet.
Everyone elses is jealous,
And thats why I repeat...

The wonderful thing about Tiggers
Are Tiggers are wonderful things
Their tops are made out of rubber
Their bottoms are made out of springs
They're bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy
Fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN!
But the most wonderful thing about Tiggers
Is I'm the only one.
Yes, I'm the only one
(GRRrrrrrr...) ooOOoooOOooooOOOO!!!

Posted by Hello


Mona Buonanotte said...

OOOOHHH!!!! I loved him! "Hooo-hooo-Hooo-HOOOOO!

I DO remember the Mike Douglas show, BTW. Of course, as a small child, I also remember watching tv in black and white. (Which my kids find strangely appealing, what with 'The Muensters' reruns on TVLand and such.) 'Course I also remember watching 'Batman' before it was ever a movie thing. Pow!

your fiend, mr. jones said...

You're dealing with someone who would fake being sick to stay home from school and watch "The Mike Douglas Show".

Pisser said...

I always found Tigger slightly pre-verted.


R.I.P. Tig.

your fiend, mr. jones said...


Ah, you can take the girl out of the Texas panhandle...

Pisser said...

I'm from the lower abdominal area, actually.

your fiend, mr. jones said...

Yeah, Houston here... we've talked about this before right?