Russi Taylor — a beloved actress who voiced one of Disney’s most recognizable characters in Minnie Mouse, as well as several characters on The Simpsons — died Friday in Glendale, Calif. She was 75.
The Walt Disney Company confirmed her death on Saturday. A longtime fan of Disney, the Boston-area-born Taylor won the role of Minnie in 1986 and voiced her in such films as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Runaway Brain, Get a Horse!, and Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers. She also played Minnie on TV shows including Mickey Mouse Works, House of Mouse, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and Mickey and the Roadstar Racers, as well as in animated shorts and theme park projects.
“Minnie Mouse lost her voice with the passing of Russi Taylor,” said Disney Chairman/CEO Bob Iger in a statement. “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.”
In a sweet twist worthy of a Disney fairy tale, Taylor found true love with someone she met on the job: Wayne Allwine, who began voicing Mickey Mouse in 1977. The couple married in 1991. (Allwine died in 2009.) “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,” she was quoted as saying in Disney’s statement.
“Russi was as close as family; as wonderful, funny, and sweet as Minnie Mouse, and as talented yet humble as you would expect,” said voice-of-Goofy Bill Farmer in Disney’s statement. “I will deeply and dearly miss her.”
Simpsons executive producer Al Jean paid tribute to the actress on Twitter, writing: “Deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Russi Taylor a true delight to work with.”
Russi’s voice carried throughout the Disney empire; she also played Nurse Mouse in The Rescuers Down Under, and Huey, Dewey, and Louie, and their friend Webbigail Vanderquack in the original DuckTales animated series, as well as characters in TaleSpin, The Little Mermaid, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, Kim Possible, Sofia the First, The Lion Guard, and Tangled: The Series.
Simpsons fans know as brilliant, bullied Martin Prince and twins Sherri and Terri (all seen above), as well as Uter and occasionally Lewis Clark. She was heard in close to 200 episodes of the animated Fox series (which is now part of the Disney family) and 2007’s The Simpsons Movie. The show will pay tribute to Taylor at the end of Sunday’s episode.
Her other notable characters include Strawberry Shortcake, Pebbles Flintstone, and Baby Gonzo.