Russi Taylor, the voice actress who played Minnie Mouse for Disney since the mid-1980s, has sadly passed away at the age of 75. The family-friendly company confirmed her passing on Twitter today with a post that reads: "We are sorry to report that Disney Legend Russi Taylor has passed away." Minnie (first introduced in 1928) is, of course, the girlfriend of Disney's central and iconic mascot, Mickey Mouse.
“Minnie Mouse lost her voice with the passing of Russi Taylor,” said Bob Iger, Disney chairman and CEO, in an official release. “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.”
“Russi was as close as family; as wonderful, funny, and sweet as Minnie Mouse, and as talented yet humble as you would expect,” added Bill Farmer, the voice of Goofy and a longtime friend of Russi. “I will deeply and dearly miss her.”
Born in 1944 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Taylor's desire to work for the Mouse House went all the way to her childhood, when she and her family visited Disneyland in Anaheim, California. After disembarking the Mark Twain Riverboat ride, they actually got to meet Walt Disney, who was sitting on a bench near the exit. While sharing some popcorn with the Taylor family, the legendary animator and savvy businessman asked young Russi what she wanted to do when she grew up.
"I said, ‘I want to work for you!’ So he said, ‘Okay!’—and now I do!" Taylor onced remarked years later. “I never wanted to be famous. The characters I do are famous, and that’s fine for me."
Having beaten out 200 other hopefuls, Russi secured the voice role of Minnie in 1986. Up until that point, the character had already been portrayed by the likes of Marjorie Ralston, Marcellite Garner, Thelma Boardman, Ruth Clifford, Janet Waldo, and even Disney himself. Since the mid-'80s, Taylor provided Minnie's voice for such high-profile projects as 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, and Mickey and the Roadster Racers.
Ironically, Taylor was much like her animated counterpart, as she fell in love with Wayne Allwine, the man who had voiced Mickey since 1977. The two married in 1991 and stayed together until Allwine's death at the age of 62 in 2009. Talking about who might replace them after they retired from the famous roles, Taylor once remarked:
“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."
“Russi Taylor embodied the character of Minnie Mouse,” remembered 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.”
Aside from voicing Minnie, Taylor has played other well-known characters, like Nurse Mouse (The Rescuers Down Under), Webbigail Vanderquack (DuckTales), Baby Gonzo (Muppet Babies), Pebbles (The Flinstones), and Duchess the Cat (Babe). TaleSpin, The Little Mermaid, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, Kim Possible, Sofia the First, The Lion Guard, and Tangled: The Series are some more of the Disney-produced endeavors with which she was associated prior to her death.
Oh, and Taylor also lent her pipes to Martin Prince and the twins, Sherri and Terri, on a little cartoon you may have heard of: The Simpsons.
“You have to bring yourself to a character,” Russi also once said. “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.”