Obituary: Ginny Tyler / Voice actress who was Disney legend
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When episodes of "The Mickey Mouse Club" were repackaged for syndication, a new head Mouseketeer held court from Main Street Opera House at Disneyland in 1963.
For a year, Ginny Tyler hosted new segments of the television show that were woven around the old. As she took viewers behind the scenes of the theme park, more than one noted her resemblance to original Mouseketeer Annette Funicello.
Ms. Tyler died July 13 of natural causes at a nursing home in Issaquah, Wash., said her son, Ty Fenton. She was 86.
As one of the "Disneyland Storytellers," Ms. Tyler had already narrated such records as "Bambi" and "Babes in Toyland" and would become known for voicing animal characters. In one better-known role, she gave voice to Polynesia the Parrot, who helps teach Rex Harrison to talk to the animals in the 1967 film "Dr. Dolittle."
From an early age, Ms. Tyler "could change my voice at a click of a finger," she told the Issaquah Press in 2010.
In official Disney accounts, her penchant for storytelling and ability to mimic animal sounds was traced to her American Indian roots.
An ancestor, who was a chief of the Snoqualmie Tribe, traded his two young daughters to a white woman for a piece of property after his wife left him, according to her son. One of the girls was Ms. Tyler's great-grandmother.
Ms. Tyler's talent for animal sounds was probably handed down by her mother, Harriett, a performer who studied bird calls and incorporated them into her organ-playing and singing, Mr. Fenton said.
Born Merrie Virginia Erlandson on Aug. 8, 1925, in Berkeley, Calif., she grew up in Seattle. After her parents divorced, she was adopted by her stepfather, Theodore Eggers. She had long used "Ginny" as her first name when she added the stage name "Tyler" in the 1950s.
A graduate of the University of Washington School of Drama, Ms. Tyler started out on radio before hosting a children's television show in Seattle. By the late 1950s, she had moved to Los Angeles and was soon narrating albums for Disney.
In Disney films, Ms. Tyler voiced the two amorous female squirrels in "The Sword in the Stone" (1963) and sang the parts of several barnyard animals in the "Jolly Holiday" sequence of "Mary Poppins" (1964).
Among many other roles, she voiced "Casper the Friendly Ghost" in 1963; Jan, the damsel in distress in "Space Ghost" cartoons in 1966, and many female characters in early episodes of the 1960s television series "Davey and Goliath."
At Disneyland, she hosted daily 15-minute segments for "The Mickey Mouse Club" that required a demanding production schedule. She often told stories on the air and signed autographs at the park -- and she considered the job the highlight of her career.
Her voice had long been featured in the chorus of birds outside the park's Tiki Room.
One day she was raving to Walt Disney about how wonderful Disneyland was when he replied: " 'That goes for my Disneyland storyteller too.' That was me. I've never felt prouder," Ms. Tyler said in the 2006 book "Mouse Tracks," the story of Walt Disney records.
In 2006, she was inducted into Disney Legends, a hall-of-fame program that honors those who have had a lasting effect on Walt Disney Co.
Ms. Tyler also established a studio, Whimsey Works, in the 1970s in Burbank, Calif., to share her craft.
Her first marriage ended in divorce. She married Albert Jacobsen in 1980 and moved back to Seattle with him in 1994. He died the next year.
First Published July 28, 2012 12:00 am