LOS ANGELES — Wayne Allwine, a Walt Disney Studios voice-over artist who was the voice of Mickey Mouse for more than three decades, has died. He was 62.
Allwine, an Emmy Award-winning former sound effects editor and foley artist, died of complications of diabetes early Monday in Los Angeles, said his voice-over artist wife, Russi Taylor.
The couple had a unique distinction: In 1991, Allwine, the voice of Mickey Mouse, married Taylor, the voice of Minnie Mouse.
"Wayne was my hero," Taylor, who began voicing Minnie in 1986, told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. "He really loved doing Mickey Mouse and was very proud that he did it 32 years."
Third in line
Since Mickey Mouse hit movie theaters in the cartoon short "Steamboat Willie" in 1928, only three people have supplied the iconic cartoon character's distinctive falsetto: Walt Disney himself, Jimmy Macdonald and Allwine.
In 1947, Disney turned the job over to Macdonald, the studio's sound-effects wizard. Allwine was hired for the job in late 1976 while working in sound effects under Macdonald and continued to supply Mickey's voice until his death.
Allwine made his debut voicing the world's most famous mouse on "The New Mickey Mouse Club" (1977-78) and went on to supply Mickey's voice for Disney movies, TV specials, theme parks, records, toys and video games.
Among his credits as the voice of Disney's top animated star: "Mickey's Christmas Carol" (1983), "The Prince and the Pauper" (1990) and "Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers" (2004) — as well as the TV series "Mickey MouseWorks," ''House of Mouse" and "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse."
Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert A. Iger described a "profound sense of loss and sadness throughout our company" over the death of the man who gave voice to Disney's most beloved character.
Mickey's heart and soul
"Wayne's great talent, deep compassion, kindness, and gentle way, all of which shone brightly through his alter ego, will be greatly missed," Iger said in a statement.
Roy E. Disney, director emeritus and consultant for the Walt Disney Co., said in a statement: "Wayne not only gave voice to the character of Mickey but gave him a heart and soul as well."
Allwine, who launched his career at Walt Disney Studios in the mail room a few months before Disney died in 1966, had been working in sound effects under Macdonald for more than seven years when he was sent to an open audition for Mickey's voice after an actor failed to show up.
Allwine had watched "The Mickey Mouse Club" on TV as a kid in the 1950s and simply conjured up Mickey's voice from memory.
Allwine later said, however, that doing the famed falsetto of the perennially optimistic Mickey was easy for him.
'You're only filling in for the boss'
"Actually, I was accustomed to doing vocal stuff," he told United Press International in 1997. "My father was a barbershop quartet singer. He was a high tenor with an odd voice and could go from lower range to upper range without cracking his voice. I inherited that."
Allwine always remembered what Macdonald told him after he took over the voice of Disney's top animated star: "Just remember, kid, you're only filling in for the boss."
Allwine later acknowledged that in an interview for a "Walt Disney Treasures" box DVD set.
"It's really not about me; it's about Mickey, and Mickey is Walt's," he said. "So what I do is I get to take this wonderful American icon and keep it alive until the next Mickey comes along, and it will one day. And that's also one of the heartbreaks of the character, of doing the job, because, you know, I'm three; there's going to be a four."
It was, he said, "a great honor to represent what Walt loved so dearly and what Jimmy kept alive so well."
Allwine was born in Glendale on Feb. 7, 1947. He acted in high school plays and formed his own music group, the International Singers, which performed in clubs and colleges around the state.
He later formed other bands and had a stint with Davie Allan & the Arrows, for which he played rhythm guitar on the hit "Blues' Theme."
Among Allwine's credits as a sound effects editor are "The Black Hole," ''Something Wicked This Way Comes," ''Mickey's Christmas Carol," ''The Black Cauldron," ''Splash," ''Three Men and a Baby" and "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier."
In 1986, he shared an Emmy Award for outstanding sound editing for a series for Steven Spielberg's "Amazing Stories."
As a married couple, Allwine and Taylor received similar reactions whenever people discovered that they were the voices of Mickey and Minnie.
"Everybody goes, 'Oh, that's so sweet,' " said Taylor. "When we got married, we kind of kept it quiet because everybody was saying, 'Oh, Mickey and Minnie got married.' It wasn't Mickey and Minnie; it was Wayne and Russi. We wanted to keep it about us and not about the characters."
In addition to his wife, Allwine is survived by his children from previous marriages, Erin, Alison, Peter, Christopher and Joshua; and a grandson, Isaac.