This is our second installment of the 5CYPM@WDW series in which we point out actors and actresses who appear, often overlooked, in various attractions at the Walt Disney World Resort. In movies and television they get the luxury of credits but they have no such luck at the end of a ride. If you missed it before, we’re skipping anyone playing his or her self (so no Aerosmith) or playing the same character they got credit for in the original movie (no Buddy Hackett as Scuttle.) This is the second installment of this so be sure to check out Part One if you haven’t already.
5 [more] Celebrity Appearances at Disney World (that you probably missed)
Wallace Langham – Dinosaur, Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Most known for his portrayal of lab tech David Hodges on the long-running hit TV series CSI, his role as Dr. Seeker in the pre-show is a perfect fit – a rebel nerd with no respect for nerdy authority. He is also the voice of your guide as you travel through time. “They’re not gonna make it! They’re not gonna make it!!” While the name of the ride has changed from its original Countdown to Extinction, Wallace has been there since it opened in 1998. Aside from his role in CSI and the Larry Sanders Show, he has a laundry list of appearances in some pretty big name TV shows including The West Wing, Castle, ER, Murder She Wrote, Star Trek: Voyager, and more. His only other Disney TV tie-in was a voice appearance in a couple episodes of the short lived animated series Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.
Richard Page – The American Adventure, Epcot
Not all celebrities and famous appearances come from TV and film stars. Sometimes you completely miss a celebrity that you’ve heard a million times before. In this case you’ve probably listened to the tear-rending, super-anthem Golden Dream at the end of The American Adventure a dozen times and didn’t realize that was actually Richard Page singing. Who’s Richard Page you ask? Only the lead singer of the 80s superband Mr. Mister who topped charts with three singles in 1985 including our favorite Kyrie. Not only was he the lead singer of Mr. Mister but he was also offered the lead singer role for Toto and Chicago. He also wrote the song “I’ll Remember” for Madonna (from the movie With Honors) which was nominated for both a Golden Globe and a Grammy.
Will Rogers Jr. – The American Adventure, Epcot
OK, so he may not have been in a major blockbuster or a prime time hit TV show, but he is pretty famous in his own right. Not to mention that it’s pretty darn cool that he played the voice of his father, the rope twirling humanist Will Rogers, in The American Adventure show at Epcot. That’s about as close as you can possible get to the real thing without a time machine. But what you may not know is that he was a U.S. Representative for California but resigned to fight in World War II. He served in the 814th battalion under General George S. Patton in the European theater where he was wounded and received a bronze star. Throw in a stint on the Parks Commission, special assistant to the Commission of Indian Affairs, and several starring movie roles (The Boy From Oklahoma, The Will Rogers Story, Wild Heritage) and we’re calling him a celebrity.
Thurl Ravenscroft – Haunted Mansion, Magic Kingdom
This is an easy one to miss if you’re not paying attention but we bet you’ll never miss him again. The next time you ride the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom listen carefully to the singing busts in the graveyard. You know the ones. Four intact heads and one broken on the ground, singing Grim Grinning Ghosts barbershop quartet style. Next time you see them imagine the voice of Tony the Tiger (They’re GRRRRREAT!) from all those years of watching Saturday morning cartoons, you’ll hear it right away. In addition to being one of the most iconic commercial voices of all time Thurl, with his signature voice, was a Disney film and TV regular. He started with a couple appearances on The Wonderful World of Disney and such big name films as 101 Dalmatians (as Captain the horse). He also performed singing voices in The Aristocats, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and Winnie the Pooh. Finally, he is a staple in our house for my favorite of his animated roles; the voice of Kirby the Vacuum in one of Disney’s most underrated films, The Brave Little Toaster. His bass tones work perfectly as the gruff and grumbly old stand up vacuum. If you haven’t seen it, you’re missing something grrrrreat!
Jean Shepherd – Carousel of Progress, Magic Kingdom
OK, this is our ringer. We know you’ve been on Carousel of Progress a hundred times and you can recite the lines perfectly on cue. “No privacy at all around here!” We know you don’t ride this attraction as often as you’d like though, because if you even look at it sideways your kids begin to whine uncontrollably. So you sigh and take your licks on Buzz Lightyears Space Ranger Spin. But this one is a classic, for Pete’s sake Walt built this one himself with his own two hands! OK. Maybe not, but it was one of his first attractions and it arguably launched the empire that would become the Disney theme parks. When you ride it you feel like the dad is the quintessential narrator, with his voice soothing and fatherly. He’s funny and candid. He’s the perfect guide to retail you of times of yore. Do you know why you feel that way? Because you’ve heard his voice 10,000 time before. He’s the voice of the now-grown-up Ralphy who narrates (and wrote) the most-played Christmas movie of all time, A Christmas Story. I know, I know. Uncle Orville is voiced by Mel Blanc of Looney Tunes fame and that’s pretty incredible, but realizing that you’ve been listening to the dad from Carousel of Progress all these years when you’ve binge watched Christmas Story back-to-back in TNT for the entire month of December is… mind blowing.
Jason Grooms, Owner & Chief Adventurer of The Brainy Tourist, is an incredibly lucky husband and proud father of six ever-inquisitive kids (and one adult). He has his degree in Cultural Anthropology from University of West Florida and has lived in Florida for 40 years, exploring all corners of this amazing state. Jason has been an animal show presenter, adventure guide, field trip leader, archeologist, training developer, writer, photographer, and all around adventurer.