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Reliving Fond Memories
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by David Mink (archives)
August 20, 2003
David talks about the classic Disney voice Verna Felton.

Verna Felton

One of the many pleasures of watching the classic Disney animations is the wonderful choices in voice talent. Many singular and humorous voice talents have graced the Disney animated films over the years. Some were used several times because of the actor’s originality as well as scope. Many people are very familiar with the characters she breathed life into. Hers was a crucial part in the process of creating personas that are inspired; giving the kernel of expression the animator will wrap his drawings.

Her name was Verna Felton, and she was a delightful actor on radio, television and motion pictures. She began her career on the stage, but came into her own in the golden age of radio. Her voice could be both endearing and abrasive. She quickly made a name for herself as Dennis Day’s domineering mother on “The Jack Benny Show? As well as the spin-off, “The Dennis Day Show?. In the early years of television she was the meddling mother in law in “December Bride? as well as making appearances on Jack Benny’s TV show. One of her most famous small roles is the maid trying to vacuum in the classic “I Love Lucy?. I remember seeing her on “The Dick Van Dyke Show?, listening to her and wondering where I had heard that voice before.

The place I had heard her before was her fantastic voice work for Disney. As the huffy leader of the insensitive and flaky elephants in “Dumbo? she epitomized the gossipy battle-ax. In “Cinderella? she reverted to her charming grandmotherly voice for the Fairy Godmother, even singing the classic “Bippity Bobbity Boo?. As the Queen of Hearts in “Alice in Wonderland? she was nothing but malice and bluster. In “Lady and the Tramp? she played the indifferent Aunt Sara with cruelty. As Flora in “Sleeping Beauty? she seemed to merge both sides of her personality, domineering yet kindhearted. Her last role for Disney was again playing an elephant, Colonel Hathi’s wife in “The Jungle Book?.

She was an excellent comedic actress, sadly semi-forgotten now except for radio enthusiasts and fans of TVLand reruns. She brought warmth and ice to her roles, and her performances were effortless as well as convincing. The fullness of her talent is evident in the performances she left behind.

Though she hasn’t been made a Disney legend yet, her work for Disney is fondly remembered.

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-- David Mink

Reliving Fond Memories is normally posted the third Wednesday of each month.

The opinions expressed by our David Mink, and all of our columnists, do not necessarily represent the feelings of LaughingPlace.com or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the future plans of the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.

-- Posted August 20, 2003