10 Classic Disney Roles Voiced By Sterling Holloway

You may know the voices from famous voiceovers Nancy Cartwright to Mel Blanc but what about the people behind the cartoon voice?

Nancy Cartwright is a voice actress best known for her role as the voice of Bart Simpson on the long-running animated television series “The Simpsons.” Mel Blanc was a voice actor known for his work on the “Looney Tunes” and “Merrie Melodies” animated short films produced by Warner Bros. He was the voice of many iconic characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Tweety Bird. Both Nancy Cartwright and Mel Blanc have had successful careers in the voice acting industry, with each leaving a lasting impact on the world of animation.

Now onto Sterling Price Holloway Jr. was one of the most prolific actors of the early 20th century. Born in Cedartown, Georgia, he graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts before moving to Hollywood in 1926. There, he jumped between bit roles, before finding a long and prosperous career at the Walt Disney Corporation.

Sterling Holloway was an American actor, voice actor and singer. He was known for his distinctive, slightly nasal voice and for his work as a voice actor in Disney films. He provided the voice of the title character in Disney’s “Winnie the Pooh” and also voiced Kaa in “The Jungle Book” and the Cheshire Cat in “Alice in Wonderland.” He was also known for his voice-over work in many classic Disney films such as “Dumbo”, “Bambi”, “Cinderella” and “Peter Pan”. He was also an actor in many films such as “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Great Dictator”. He passed away in 1992.

Holloway’s soft, childlike, and friendly voice is one of Disney’s most recognizable. His range and talent as a performer allowed him to fit into many different roles from silly to sinister. In 1991, he became the first voice actor to be recognized as a Disney Legend for his many contributions to the company.

The Stork – ‘Dumbo’ (1941)

Walt Disney considered Holloway as the voice Sleepy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but gave the role to Pinto Colvig. Holloway’s first appearance in Disney would come four years later when Disney needed extra money to fund Bambi. He would bring to life the stork who delivered to the circus elephant, Miss Jumbo, her baby.

Though a small role in the film, Holloway didn’t disappoint. His soothing and compassionate voice fits perfectly with someone whose job it is to deliver joy to new mothers. It also offers moments of comedy when he politely insists on fulfilling all of his required duties before Miss Jumbo can unwrap her new son.

Flower – ‘Bambi’ (1942)

When a young Bambi (Bobby Stewart) and Thumper (Peter Behn) are playing in a field of flowers, they happen upon a young skunk who quickly becomes their friend. Bambi, still learning to talk, calls him a pretty flower, and the name sticks. He would be the heart of the trio, blushing and swooning after a single compliment.

Holloway voices the adult version of Flower, while his younger selves were voiced by Stan Alexander and Tim Davis. His voice is a perfect fit for the bashful skunk and makes it sound like age has only made him kinder. This culminates at the end of the film when it’s revealed he named his son Bambi after his friend.

Professor Holloway – ‘The Three Caballeros’ (1944)

To improve relationships with Mexico and Latin America, Disney was commissioned by the American Government to create cartoons showcasing their culture. After Saludos Amigos detailed a trip by the Disney animators to South America, The Three Caballeros saw Donald Duck (Clarence Nash) opening a series of birthday presents that educate him. One of these is a film projector that plays a short about a penguin, Pablo, who is desperate to keep warm.

Holloway voices the unseen professor that narrates Pablo’s journey to the Galápagos Island and all the South American landmarks he passes. Despite having no on-screen presence, his voice sells the professor as an intelligent and friendly fellow. There are a number of quips and jokes about Pablo’s situation, which makes the educational segments more fun for young audiences.

Narrator: Peter and the Wolf – ‘Make Mine Music’ (1946)

In 1940, Disney released Fantasia, an ambitious project that involved taking classical music and mixing it with masterful animation. Unfortunately, the overseas market was closed due to the Second World War, so the film didn’t make enough money to justify its cost. Disney would revisit the concept with contemporary music and segments with voice acting and narration in Make Mine Music and Melody Time.

For their segment on Peter and the Wolf, Disney chose Holloway to serve as the narrator and voice of all the characters. His delivery is perfect for every emotional beat and matches what the characters are feeling. It’s as integral to the short as the animation and helps it stand out against the other segments of Make Mine Music.

The Cheshire Cat – ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (1951)

Holloway first appeared in an adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s abstract classic in Paramount Picture’s 1933 film directed by Norman Z. McLeod. There, he played the frog footman who stands outside the door to the Duchess’ abode. When Disney did their animated adaptation, the Duchess was cut, so he instead got to play the chaotic Cheshire Cat.

Holloway’s normally innocent voice takes on a more unsettling tone with the Cheshire Cat, especially when he laughs. This helps to sell him as an impossible-to-predict trickster who seems to care about what makes him happiest at the moment. Combined with his stellar animation and ability to phase in and out of reality, you have easily one of cinema’s most memorable felines.

Amos – ‘Ben and Me’ (1953)

Born to a poor family of church mice in 18th century America, Amos decides to set out on his own to provide for them. His quest for work brings him in contact with Benjamin Franklin, and the two work together to get Franklin’s newspaper off the ground. As Franklin becomes more distinguished, Amos works hard behind the scenes to come up with the keys to his success.

Amos offers a chance for Holloway to expand his emotional range from friendly to frustration and even anger. When he gets frustrated over Franklin’s treatment of him, it feels genuine, especially because Holloway is so well-known for his kindness. It helps make the character feel more human despite being a cartoon mouse and sells his relationship with Franklin as a believable one.

Kaa – ‘The Jungle Book’ (1967)

As the panther, Bagheera (Sebastian Cabot), tries to lead Mowgli (Bruce Reitherman) to the nearby Man Village, he warns the man cup to be wary of the jungle’s dangers. One of these is Kaa, a python of incredible length and in possession of hypnotic eyes. Always on the lookout for his next meal, he decides that Mowgli fits the bill.

Holloway’s voice is perfect for a snake. By speaking softly, he plays Kaa as sinister and manipulative, especially when he tricks Mowgli into thinking they could be friends through his hypnotic song, “Trust in Me”. He also capitalizes on subtle noises, such as drawing out his hisses or smacking his lips, which make the character feel more alive.

Roquefort – ‘The Aristocats’ (1970)

While mice are normally timid creatures, that isn’t the case for the one who lives in the mansion of Madame Bonfamille (Hermione Baddeley). Called Roquefort, he is a kind and affectionate soul who happily breaks bread with cats and horses. When he learns that Bonfamille’s cats have been kidnaped by her butler, Edgar (Roddy Maude-Roxby), Roquefort does what he can to see them saved.

Despite his size, Roquefort’s kindness and willingness to put himself in harm’s way for his friends make him one of Holloway’s most endearing performances. He’s also able to get a few moments of comedy, such as momentarily silences everyone in the film’s climax. Holloway’s delivery during the moment is of special note, as it’s probably the angriest he’s sounded in any Disney performance.

Nessie – ‘Man, Monsters, and Mysteries’ (1974)

Sebastian Cabot narrates a documentary exploring how monsters captivate human imagination. He takes audiences to Loch Ness in Scottland to get an interview with one of the most famous monsters, Nessie. Though Cabot tries to get a scientific explanation, Nessie is perfectly content with vaguely explaining his origins.

Holloway’s voice had changed by now, but his deeper, slightly more raspy sound fits the character well. He sounds tired, but still full of life and able to find fun in the smallest of things, which is perfect for a monster intentionally keeping its mystery alive and well. It also compliments Nessie’s design, which is intentionally cartoonish to capture how a child might view a monster.

Winnie the Pooh – ‘The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh’ (1977)

Disney’s adaptation of A. A. Milne’s classic stories began in 1966 with Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree. Its success saw two more shorts would be produced in 1968 and 1974, and all three combined into a feature film with new animation in 1977. Here, Holloway would bring to life a bear with very little brains.

While modern voice acting legend Jim Cummings has voiced Pooh longer than Holloway, beginning in 1988, the original performance is hard to top. Holloway perfectly captures Pooh’s innocence through child-like honesty and excitement at the most minute things. Yet when the film gets more emotional, such as the ending with Christopher Robin talking to Pooh about the future, Holloway doesn’t shy away from the appropriate amount of seriousness.


Author Profile

Stevie Flavio
Film Writer

Email https://markmeets.com/contact-form/

Leave a Reply