Disney Legends: The Classic Princess Voices

The honor is reserved only for the best of the best: the animators, Imagineers, actors, songwriters, and business leaders who have left their mark on the Disney legacy. These are the people who know the secrets to making dreams come true.

Welcome to Disney Legends , the first in a series of articles profiling the people who hold very special places in the history of Disney.

In this article we will look at the stories of three young women who became princesses, all through the dreams of one man: Walt Disney.

Adriana Caselotti was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on May 6, 1916. She was the daughter of Guido and Maria Caselotti. Her mother was an opera singer, and her father was a music teacher in New York. When she was 18 years old Walt Disney called her father to see if any of his students might have a voice suitable for the leading part in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. More than 150 girls had already auditioned for the part and Walt still hadn’t found the right person to play her. Accidentally picking up the phone extension led to Adriana being cast as the voice of Snow White. Adriana said “Listen to me – wouldn’t my voice do?” Walt agreed that it would, and over the next year she recorded songs and modeled for the animators. After the movie made it debut in 1937 she made appearances for Snow White publicity events for more than 40 years. Adriana Caselotti was inducted as a Disney Legend in 1994, and she later died on January 19, 1997, in Los Angeles.

Ilene Woods was born May 5, 1929 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Ilene grew up longing to become a school teacher, but her mother guided her to a singing and radio career. By the age of 11 she had her own radio show in her hometown of Portsmouth. By the age of 15 she had her show in New York. Four year later in 1948 she did a favor for her songwriting friends Mack David and Jerry Livingston, recording demo versions of three songs for the upcoming animated feature Cinderella. When Walt Disney heard the demo songs he said that she could play the part of the title roll in the movie. One thing Ilene said was “I learned a very good lesson: never pass up doing a good deed for friends!” Later, Walt admitted to Ilene she was his favorite of the Disney heroines. She says, “Once I went into his office and he said to me, “You’re my favorite heroine, you know.” I said, You mean Cinderella?’ “Yes,” he said, “there’s something about that story I associate with.” Ilene says “I think it was the rags-to-riches tale, of course, then I didn’t know how many times Walt had risked it all to realize his dreams.” Ilene was inducted as a Disney Legend in 2003.

Mary Costa was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1930. At the age of 14 she and her parents (Hazel and John) relocated to Hollywood. Soon after moving there Mary won a Music Sorority Award. In 1952, she attended a party with her future husband, director Frank Tashlin, where she happened to meet and talk with the right people, and soon found herself auditioning for the part of Disney’s Princess Aurora. Within a few hours Walt Disney called Mary´s home to tell her that she got the part in Sleeping Beauty. The film debuted in 1959. In 1963 Jackie Kennedy honored Mary by asking her to sing at her husband´s (former U.S. President John F. Kennedy) memorial service. Still, Mary Costa considers Sleeping Beauty to be the best moment in her career. She says “Of all the operatic roles I’ve performed, Sleeping Beauty is special to me because it’s the one that keeps me close to young people.” Mary had a successful career as an operatic singer and currently is using her time to inspire children across the country. She was inducted as a Disney legend in 1999.

These women helped children of all ages believe in the magic tales of these fairy tale princesses, and in a way became royalty themselves. In 1955, Adriana Caselotti said to a reporter “I know that my voice will never die.” Truly we know all three women will live forever through their magical voices.

For more information about these people and the Disney Legend award, see the Disney Legends website: http://legends.disney.go.com/legends/index

16 year old Kyle Whitley made his first trip to Walt Disney World three years ago and was immediately hooked! Since then he has researched as many secrets of WDW as he can find and has become an active contributer on the DisneyWorldTrivia.com message boards. He hopes to someday become a cast member, or maybe a chef, or both.


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