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WDW Radio # 693 – Interview with Disney Legend Jodi Benson, The Voice of The Little Mermaid

Disney Legend Jodi Benson, the voice of The Little Mermaid, joins me this week to discuss her life and career, stories from the making of and life after The Little Mermaid, and her new book, Part of My World.

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Click Here Read The Full Podcast Episode Transcript

Lou Mongello: [00:00:00] It was in 1837, when Hans christian Anderson wrote the fairytale story about a young girl who lived under the sea, and was willing to give her life as a mermaid, an exchange for a human soul, but it wasn't until Disney's 1989 animated feature did my next guest breathe life into a little mermaid named Ariel and also ushered in a new golden era for Disney animation.

And this week. The voice, the heart and the soul of Ariel joins me to talk about her life and career both personally, and as Ariel and her new book part of your world. So I am pleased and honored to welcome to the show someone who like Ariel believes that your dreams don't have to stay your dreams.

Disney legend, Jodi Benson, Jodi, welcome to the WDW Radio show.

Jodi Benson: Hey, thank you so much, Lou, for having me. I really appreciate it. Really do. It's very sweet.

Lou Mongello:

Thank you. I am. I have been looking forward to this for a, a long, long time, and I know we have a lot to get to, so we, we know Ariel's story for the most part, but I wanna know your origin.

I'm a sucker for origin stories. Like I wanna know, or your origin story, like how do you go from the little girl growing up in Illinois that always wanted to be a performer to literally and figuratively going under the sea.

Jodi Benson: That's right. Um, it was kind of crazy. Yes. I'm from Rockford, which is a town outside of Chicago.

And, uh, I started singing probably at four or five years of age and my sister taught me how to play the guitar. We used to play for church when I was nine. And, um, so it was just, music was just a big part of our family. But I, I realized, I think at like age eight that I wanted to do Broadway, you know, singing, dancing, and acting, making a living, uh, didn't wanna be rich, didn't wanna be famous, but wanted to pay my bills.

So I was kind of clear about that. And. So, yeah, so I just kind of kept seeing what that looked like. Even though I had never seen a Broadway show or we didn't really have a lot around us to participate in, but I did a few things in high school [00:02:00] and then went to college in Decatur, Illinois, Millikin university on a scholarship and wondering, I don't know, maybe I could pursue this musical theater thing and see what happened.

So I didn't know if I was any good. Um, and until I went and started to get training, Had my first, you know, voice lessons and dance classes and first acting classes when I was in college. So it was, it was wonderful to get, to actually train, to do what, what I was passionate about. Um, and didn't know if I had the skill set to be able to kind of move forward.

Lou Mongello: So I have a question for you and correct me if I'm wrong. I, I cannot sing, although I did actually start off in college as a theater major, but I think we have one thing in common. I, I used to be a lawyer in my past life. Did you actually start out pursuing a career in law before you made the switch to theater?

Jodi Benson: Well, actually it was my backup plan, so I didn't know if, if I had the talent to be able to make a living in theater. And so my plan was. I went on scholarship as a musical theater major. And so during my freshman year, I thought, well, this will be a good testing ground for me to find out if, if I can hang with the rest of the talented kids here and kind of hold my own.

Uh, but if not, I was gonna be a lawyer. So I kind of figure I had a, an. Nice little backup plan in case things fell through. So

Lou Mongello: right. Cuz you were smart enough to realize at an early age, going to Broadway does not necessarily equate with making a ton of money. Right. You knew, you knew as an actor life.

Jodi Benson: Yeah. Yes. Were very limited to be a part of. So you have to piece it all together. And it's not just New York, you know, you need to be able to work all over in regional and national tours and international tours and concerts, and then, you know, eventually jumping into the voiceover world. So it takes a lot of pieces of the puzzle to put together a

Lou Mongello: career.

Well, your talents were obviously recognized very early on in [00:04:00] 1983, you started Kenny Ortega's, Maryland and American FAL, and then you move on to a little thing called. Which is a Howard Ashman and Marvin Hamish role. And this is where sort of the connective tissue starts to form between Broadway and Disney, or I should say Disneyland.

Jodi Benson: Right. . Yeah. So, um, doing smile with Howard and Marvin was very life changing for me. And I was part of that project for, oh gosh, probably three or four years. It seemed like because we were doing backers auditions and we were doing workshops and we were doing a dog and pony show traveling around raising funds, trying to find producers.

So finally, you know, it came to Broadway and then tragically closed so quickly. And. Um, Howard felt sorry for all of us, that we had lost our jobs and he felt responsible, although he wasn't, you know, it was a Frank Rich review in the New York times that shut the show down and that's life. There's nothing you can really do about that.

So, Howard graciously invited a few of us girls to audition for this project. He was working on the little mermaid and knowing full well that we would never get it or even be considered for it. It was just something to do on the way to unemployment office and, and it was just a lovely thing to have something positive to focus on after the.

Lou Mongello: And you, you talk about in your book, how there's this interesting dichotomy with, with auditioning for the little mermaid? So in on one hand, 500 plus women auditioned for the role, but coming from the Broadway background, doing this kind of work was not necessarily considered like the most prestigious thing because you were a Broadway perform.

Jodi Benson: Correct? Yes. You know, at, at that point you're talking, uh, 19 86, 19 87. And so voiceover work, especially cartoon animation work was kind of frowned upon. It was something that you did in your career when you were [00:06:00] sinking and kind of getting close to retirement or, and it wasn't really considered real work by the theater community.

So. When I was cast as the Ariel and a year after I had had my audition on a reel to reel tape. Um, and I was telling a few people about why I was flying back and forth between New York and LA people thought, well, that's, you know, maybe you'll get a, a real job or maybe we'll actually see in a film on camera.

So I just stopped telling people about it because it seemed to have such a negative connotation to it. So I, um, I. Was quiet and flew back and forth. And then the movie was starting to have this amazing press around it for our screenings, uh, in the September, October range, before we opened in November.

And I got a call from Disney to send me out on press tour, but I, I was like, why? Because we were supposed to remain hidden, you know, just like Walt had had desired. You didn't need to focus on who the voices were behind the microphone. You need to focus on the characters. And so it would only just be rolling the credits at the end of your VHS tape and freezing it that you would figure out who's who.

So I was really shocked when I got called by the publicity department to go on a press tour. And I did the 22 cities in 20 days. And, um, at that point I knew something was very, very special about this film and it was going in a whole different direction than what any of us expected.

Lou Mongello: Well, I wanna quickly just, you know, you mentioned, you know, Howard Ashman and he was not just your inspiration for the audition literally, but really helped you.

Find Aerial's voice and the preparation for the role. Can you talk a little bit about his, his performance that you listened to and then working with him in the studio to find the voice.

Jodi Benson: Yes, absolutely. Well, [00:08:00] Ariel really is Howard. All the characters are really Howard and Allen have blended them both because they had created all of the demo tapes of the characters for our songs.

And so when I received part of your world, it was. You know, Alan playing the piano and Howard singing on a little cassette demo tape, and it already had all of the nuances and, and, and she was coming to life. And so when I was added into the puzzle, it was just one more piece into the puzzle to be able to bring her to life.

And for my lead animator, Glen keen, you know, he'll explain to you that the character doesn't come alive until the voice shows up. So, you know, it was really Howard behind Ariel all the way. I mean, Every phrase, every nuance, every breath, you know, he was standing to my left for all of my dialogue and for every lyric of the song directing me and Ron and John are directors are, you know, animators.

They were so kind to let Howard hang out in the studio with me. And he was in the booth with me. And he was silent obviously in between while I was doing all my takes. But. They were so gracious to let him go ahead and direct me because we did have a relationship as a director and an actor having just done smile together.

So it was a really perfect combination. And, and, uh, we created a lot of magic in the studio back then.

Lou Mongello: Well, in your, in the book, you credit a lot of your performance specifically to Howard and, and even, you know, talking about part of your world. I, I loved. The advice that he gave you, which was to stop singing.

You know, it's

Jodi Benson: very interesting as a vocalist, who'd been standing on the lot Fontain stage for all the time during smile, um, and singing in front of 1500 people telling me to not sing. So it, it was very hard and I. I went through a lot of mind games and having, having to sort of retrain my Broadway theatrical [00:10:00] training and to learn how to get behind microphone, which I had never done before.

So Howard really helped me by saying it's a, it's a monologue and you just need to tell this story and it happens to be on a pitch. But I don't really want you to sing it. I just want you to share your feelings and share what Ariel's going through in the grotto. And, um, so it was, it was a real big challenge for me, but I, but I had him next to me as a terrific cheerleader.

Lou Mongello: And I think as a, a Testament to you, you. Very candidly in the book about not thinking that your performance is perfect, right? Maybe you, you don't feel like you hit every note or maybe a little bit of, of self criticism, but you talk about not being perfect a, a lot in the part of your world book and allude very early on to this idea of not only not being perfect.

How your faith helps guide you faith, both in yourself and, and in, and in God, in a higher power. And I love how you offer that throughout the book. The book is not just a book of stories. It offers guidance to others, no matter what their beliefs are. Talk a little bit about that, that, that feeling of it's okay to be imperfect and faith personally, and professionally, and how that's helped guide.

Jodi Benson: Right. Well, I never wanted to write a book in, in a million years. And that's the first thing you'll read from my note is that I never wanted to write a book. Um, but after the publishers came after me a couple, three months in a row and we kind of went about it as. Sort of sharing some behind the scenes stories, especially the ones about Howard that would be lost forever if I didn't share them.

So I kind of turned it into these 24 little stories that are behind the scenes, but also offer a thank you, um, shine, a light on someone else and [00:12:00] what they were to me along my journey of my career. Um, also like a love letter to, to Disney and to Howard. Um, So once I got rid of this concept of I'm not doing an autobiography or a memoir or a tell-all by any means, that's, that's not anything that I would be interested in.

Um, but I think sharing some stories that would be lost, uh, was something that I could connect to. Uh, so a big theme for me is to not be perfect. Who we are right. Where we are is enough. And that was a hard lesson for me to learn growing up, uh, because of my childhood and the environment that I was in.

And I was a perfectionist and, uh, Howard was 10 times more of a perfectionist than I was, but it gave me the freedom in the studio to fail. To fail, falling forward and to try things. I had never really taken risks before without the assurance that I was going to succeed. And so through Howard and through the process of the film, I learned how to fail.

And how to make mistakes and how to laugh at myself and how to be content with just me being enough. And so the performance for me of Ariel and the creation of her, she's not perfect. And the song is not a perfect pass, but it's a perfect pass for Ariel. And it's a perfect way for her to share her story.

So I think that authenticity and having vulnerability and just being real, um, translates so much more to an audience than a perfect performance without heart.

Lou Mongello: Speaking of stories. Cause I have to allude to one more in the book and [00:14:00] something not being perfect. I never realized until I read your book, that the song was almost cut from the film.

Thanks to a little boy. His popcorn and Jeffrey

Jodi Benson: Katzenberg. Yes and Jeffrey tells the story. Great. Uh, but basically at one of our media screenings with critics and of course, test audiences of families, all ages to see what was appealing to all the different age ranges and during part of your world, a little boy, Dropped his, you know, cup or bucket of popcorn and proceeded to pick up all the kernels and clean up after himself.

You know, he was raised well to clean up his mess. And, um, Jeffrey interpreted that as the child is bored, this song is, is not appealing to children. It won't hold their attention. And Howard. Said, no, you cannot cut this song because this is the, I want song of the heroin and of, of the leading character.

And if you don't have that, I want song, you don't get a chance to fall in love with Ariel to hear what her heart is and her dreams and her wishes and her goals and her aspirations. Um, and then you're not gonna root for her throughout the whole film. You're just not gonna care. So he said, if you take that song out, It's going to be so destructive to the film.

And of course Howard was right and, and Alan and Ron and John, and so. It was Glen keen because the, the screening was still half animated, half pencil sketch. So there was some room for some changing. And so it was Glen keen that jumped in and said, let me do a couple little things with Sebastian, a couple [00:16:00] little things with flounder.

At the right time that doesn't affect the song. So there's just little bitty things like that. That will catch a child's attention to maybe have a giggle or two and stay engaged so that you don't have the loss of the song. Um, but I found out this weekend at D 23, something very interesting. I was a surprise guest for the 30th anniversary of the Muppet's Christmas Carol movie.

So no one knew I was coming out to sing this lost song called when love is gone. That bell sings to Scrooge when they're younger. And, um, and he lets his love walk away out of wanting to be, you know, rich. And so, um, it was Paul Williams who wrote the song. And so the song was cut because Jeffrey Katzenberg said children got restless during the song.

So the song was actually cut when the song was cut from. The Muppet's Christmas, Carol, it was lost for 28 years. They couldn't find the negatives to it. And they just found the negatives to it two years ago. And they're putting it back in this anniversary special. So I didn't know that till I was listening to them.

Talk as I was walking out on stage to surprise. D 23 and sing this lost song. And so I turned to the panel and I said, I know how you all feel because my song was almost cut by Jeffrey as well. where would I be now? 30, you know, 35 years later. I, I wouldn't be here standing on the same stage, singing your lost song.

So , but Jeffrey's always great about telling that story. And he said it would've been the biggest mistake of my career.

Lou Mongello: Yeah. And you know, what I love Jody is that this, the, the, the chapter in which you tell this story and all the chapters end with very authentic and very [00:18:00] honest lessons that readers can take away.

Like how, and why did you decide to compose and, and frame the book that way with having these real world lessons that, you know, people can, can sort of pick and choose to be applicable to them?

Jodi Benson: Right. I think because I was so against the autobiography memoir sort of platform in the way about going on writing a book.

And of course this is an audio book. I, I literally. Spoke this book and then it was transcribed. So it was never paper to pen. Um, so once we kind of switched the gears and I thought, you know, if I share 20, I had 65 stories, let's say, and we cut it down to 24. And in, so doing, I just felt like I wanted it to be kind of like a daily.

Little book that you could set at the kitchen table or by your bedside table and pick up and just read one little story and then put away. Cause it's not chronological per se and it doesn't need to all be read at one time. So if somebody did that, I thought, well, if somebody picks up the book and wants to read one story, and then they put it down for a couple weeks, I'd like to lead them with a little thought, either something that I've learned from my mistake.

Maybe a scripture, maybe a word of encouragement, maybe something to just make you pause and think about it. Um, so that's kind of the way that I, that I was approaching it more of like pick it up, take five minutes, read a little story and then put it back down and then kind of go. Hm. Hmm. I wonder, I wonder maybe I'm gonna try, you know, she made that mistake.

Maybe I'll try this option. That didn't seem to work for her, but I'm gonna try this. Or gee, I, I never thought about approaching a situation like that before. Maybe I'll give that a try. So it was kind of those [00:20:00] thoughts that we wanted to lead the reader with

Lou Mongello: and the fact that it is these, these small, easily consumable stories.

It does give you time for reflection after, and then you pick another one up, like you said, at your convenience. Yeah,

Jodi Benson: exactly. If you want to and, and, you know, I think. For me again, because this was not something I was passionate about. I, I have a book. I wanna write a book and never, never, never, never, but once I got into it, I thought, well, one of three things, um, if, if one reader picks it up and is encouraged by a story or has learned from my mistakes by a story, or has stopped to just rethink something in their life after reading a story, then it will have been worth it to me.

You know, if one reader is encouraged by something like that,

Lou Mongello: you know, one thing I've, I've picked up from seeing you throughout the years, and, and certainly from reading this book is that you're, you're very humble. You're wonderfully humble, but you are in very elite company. Um, not just because of all the awards and accolades, not.

Limited to being a Disney legend in 2011, but you are one of the very few people on the planet that can call themselves a Disney princess. And I think , I think with that title, not to sort of quote Spiderman, but with that title comes great responsibility, right. Especially because you are so. Present at events and, and in the parks, how does it make you feel?

Right. And what do you feel are your roles and responsibilities as the woman who literally breathe life into Ariel for, you know, new generations that continue to be introduced to her for the first time? Right.

Jodi Benson: Well, I, I take my job very seriously, so. It means a lot to me. And I'm very honored to be part of so many people's lives, little pieces of their story that I'm entwined in, uh, now into maybe four generations.

[00:22:00] And so I'm, I'm very honored and very humbled to have that responsibility. And at times it's, it's unfathomable and rather overwhelming. I do take it seriously as far as being, uh, responsible to represent, uh, Ariel and our film and my company. And so when I travel, which is every week and when I'm down at the parks, uh, between Florida and California, um, there is a responsibility, there's a responsibility to stop and greet and meet and take that photo.

And, you know, it takes 20 seconds. To make a connection with a guest, uh, or a fan, or just somebody who, who just wants to share a little piece of their story with me. And, um, you know, people are always like, so apologetic. I I'm so sorry to bother you. And, and, and I don't mean to bother you while you're at the park.

I'm like, listen, this is, this is part of my responsibility. You know, I can stop for 20 seconds to say hello to you and take a photo. And, you know, show me a picture of you as a, a little child in your aerial costume needing aerial for the first time. And so, you know, to be part of people's history. Is really, really amazing.

Lou Mongello: And Jodi, it's a subtle difference, but I love that you talk about it as a responsibility and you didn't call it your job. And I think there's, there's a huge difference right. Between the team. Yeah.

Jodi Benson: And it's not, cause I get to do what I love. I mean, I absolutely love. Traveling around the world to meet people that have a story and a connection with Ariel and with our film.

And I love to hear it. You know, I like, I like to know where they were the first time they saw the film and what they were wearing and who they were with and the impact that the character has had on their life. And, uh, it's, it's just mind blowing, you know, the stories that I've heard over [00:24:00] the last 35 years.

Yeah, I'm very, very grateful.

Lou Mongello: And do you think about that? Right. You know, as, as time goes on, we, uh, you're, you're much younger than I am, but we started to think about words like legacy. Yeah. Do you, do you think about how your voice will it's mind boggling to me that your voice will literally live on forever in the minds and hearts of, of children and families and adults, like odd infinitum?

Jodi Benson: Yeah, I know it is. It is mind blowing. It really is. And like I say, sometimes it's, uh, it's overwhelming, but I'm, you know, I'm so grateful for this little fluke of an audition that I had after a Broadway show closed. Cuz you know, if, if smile were a huge hit, um, I don't know necessarily that Howard would've invited the girls for, from our show to audition for Ariel, because we had a long running show.

We would be under contract for the next year. It would've been very difficult to fly back and forth on a day off to Los Angeles. So, you know, when I start looking back at the mosaic of, of those pieces and how it all lines up. It's really quite magical

Lou Mongello: and it is, and you're right. It, it appears almost on its face that all of these things just sort of.

Fall into place, but we know that there's a reality right behind it. And, and sort of thinking about this, about this idea of faith in yourself and faith in a higher power, what has been, and I mean, I know you addressed this a little bit in the book, um, in a number of different stories, but what did you feel was sort of your biggest challenge professionally and, and how were you able to overcome it?

Because I think for other people, there's a lesson to be gleaned from that as. I think

Jodi Benson: starting in the business professionally, I was 18. And I feel like my biggest struggle was trying to, [00:26:00] trying to trust that that God had a plan for my life. And that he was in control and, and that I was gonna be part of things that I needed to be part of that I wasn't going to be part of things I was not supposed to be part of because let's face it in our industry.

When it comes to auditions, it's a hundred to one it's usually a hundred nos and one, yes. Um, I just happened to have the most amazing yes. You know, with the little mermaid that I would've never guessed in a million years, that it would be a job that I'd still be talking about 35 years later, it was gonna be a one and done for me really.

And. So when I look at that and I realize as an 18 year old, I had a lot of insecurity. I had a lot of fear. I had a lot of doubt. I thought I was in control and that I was the one in charge of everything. Um, so that was probably my greatest struggle was learning to let go, just do the best you can do the, do the best work you can.

Um, again, not being perfect and making a ton of mistakes. But doing your best for that day and for that moment, and then letting it go, cause going back and reliving the past, there's just no, no positive from that. There's no fruit from that. Um, it's not helpful to go back. It really isn't. Uh, so yeah, I think for me, that was probably my greatest challenge was learning to.

Not be in control of everything. Cause that's, that's really exhausting and it's just not true. I'm not in charge of everything. You know, I can't tell the casting people and the production team to choose me for a project. I have no control. All I do is walk in a room and do my best, and then I let it. [00:28:00] And you move on, you move on to the next adventure.

Lou Mongello: Yeah. I mean, especially in, in the theater, you understand very well, the concepts of fear and uncertainty and rejection and self confidence and insecurity and you know, how life's full of tough choices, isn't it. And that's right. And you know, that readers and, and, and their kids will and do face that every day.

And again, it it's sort of the way that you frame the book. I, I almost feel like you're, you're giving back to them by helping them through. maybe not theatrical challenges, but challenges that they'll face every day and sort of taking away lessons from your stories.

Jodi Benson: Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, with young people today, growing up in this global pandemic and dealing with social media, I think that there are so many, many, many challenge.

For this young generation, excuse me. So I think, I think for this generation, I'm, I'm even talking about my age children, my 21 year old daughter, my 23 year old son, you know, dealing with the global pandemic as they're transitioning from getting into, from high school, into college, from college into adulting.

Uh, not only that. And then you add in social media, which adds in the whole compare and compete. Equation, which is so destructive for, for mental wellbeing. It it's, it's just so painful. I'm so glad I didn't have to deal with that as an 18 year old. Um, I can't imagine adding the pressure of social media on top of my own 18 year old insecurities and fear and.

Being a control freak. Um, so I really do think young people today have a extreme challenge ahead of them, of how to find their identity and who they are and not what other people think of them to find that kind of peace and contentment in who they are and that they are enough right now. Um, yeah, I think those challenges are.[00:30:00]

Are really difficult, really difficult, but this young generation has the ability to be tenacious and flexible, uh, long suffering. They have strong motivation as they're driving through this global pandemic. Um, so yeah, they, they have a chance to come out with incredible integrity and really strong character.

Lou Mongello: Yeah, resiliency is something that's being built into the generation that that is following us. Uh, I wanna be respectful of your time, Jody. I have a million questions and I can ask you, so how about we just do a couple of very quick, almost like lightning round questions, just because we need to know a little bit more about Jody.

You talk about in the book, how the first time you visited Walt Disney world, you around 10 years old. You've obviously been to the parks many, many times since favorite attraction in any Disney park worldwide.

Jodi Benson: Okay, well, I'm a roller coaster person, so I'm a thrill ride seeker person. So it's always been Everest expedition at animal kingdom, but it is tied now with cosmic rewind at Epcot, which is galaxies.

Yeah. Guardians of the galaxies, cosmic rewind. So cosmic rewind and. Ever expedition. They

Lou Mongello: they're. I love the fact that you're a rollercoaster fan and you didn't just say, oh, of course. I wanna choose the little mermaid attraction. Uh, do you have a favorite, a favorite dining experience in any of the Disney parks or, or hotels?


Jodi Benson: yes, I do. Um, really love, um, Napa roses for a date night or with, with wonderful friends out at. The grand Californian hotel, love that. And then at Walt Disney world, um, I really enjoy, uh, be our guest. I love that. I love the whole theme of the restaurant and that you feel like you are walking into the [00:32:00] movie.

That's, that's amazing.

Lou Mongello: I love that. Um, Any, uh, any thoughts or desires to ever go back to your roots and go back to Broadway or, or theater again?

Jodi Benson: yeah, I've been asked that lot recently now that I official. In fact, I have my agent asking that right now in New York. Um, yes. You know, the answer would be, it would need to be the right kind of a project, obviously, because doing crazy for you for four years was just a dream come true.

Everything about that project. And so I left New York after that. It's very hard to compare to some kind of experience like that. So it, it will, it will be interesting to see if I go back into the theater world, whether it's New York or regional or whatever that looks like it would just have to be the right project, the right time, the right situation for my family.

Uh, we live in north Georgia on the lake and in the mountains and, you know, so to move back to New York city for a period of time, would. A family decision. And, um, I'd also have to ask the question why mm-hmm why would I want to do it? And that would be an important question for me to be able to answer.

Is it for a paycheck? Is it to be noticed? Is it to be ed? You know, those would all be the wrong reasons to do it. It would have to be because I have a special connection to a project or that I just love to share my gift. The way I used to, you know, as a young girl, um, there are times that I miss the theater world.

Uh, but I also know that eight shows a week for a year. It's, it's a huge commitment and everything else in life is paused. And right now life is so wonderfully full with travel and concerts and [00:34:00] symphonies. Voiceover and conventions and everything, Disneyland and Disney world that I absolutely love that.

I'd be giving that all up. So that's why the combination would have to be, would have to make

Lou Mongello: sense. Sure. Do you have, um, do you have a word of advice for anyone who's looking to go into theater or film or, or entertainment industry? I'm also partially asking this question for my daughter who is studying stage management mountain right now and wants the stage manage on Broadway one day,

Jodi Benson: right?

Yeah, absolutely. When I travel to do master classes about the industry, High school, age and college age. It's different than it was like 20 years ago when I was doing this, something happened with American idol that switched and made everybody think that they were a star and that everybody's going to be famous and everybody's gonna be rich.

And something happened with that show that just changed everything. So now when I, when I'm talking to young people and they ask me that question, I ask them. I say, why mm-hmm why do you want to pursue this industry? And if they give me the answer, because I wanna be famous, I want everybody to see me. I wanna be rich.

I wanna ho knob with celebrities. I'm like, that's the wrong reason. What you need to be saying is that because I have this gift that I feel like I need to share, and I'm just gonna go for it so that I don't have any regret later on, then I'd say, yes, you need to explore, but you also have to have it's that it's that those three, you know, circles and that one sweet spot in the middle, you have to have a natural talent, a natural gift set, natural that you're born with.

um, you have to have passion about it, and then you have to be able to make a living, you know, not be rich, but you gotta be able to survive. You gotta be able to live, you [00:36:00] know? Um, so people tell me all the time, you know, I wanna, I wanna be on Broadway and I wanna do, and I say, can you sing? And they'll be like, well, I'm not sure.

I'm like, well, you can't learn to sing. You're born with your voice. So if you don't have a natural gift to. You probably don't wanna do musical theater. Mm-hmm so it's kinda like, and I dunno if it comes from parents or from watching TV or social media or YouTube or what that everybody thinks they're all that, you know, I never up with

Lou Mongello: that's too.


Jodi Benson: the thing is I never knew that I was good. and that was probably really healthy. Mm-hmm very healthy. Whereas now everybody thinks they're really good. And the parents think their kids are stars and they're not talented. So they're missing the boat. They need to find out what they're naturally gifted at.

Well they're, they're an organizational. Awesome. Maybe they can produce. Maybe they're behind the scenes. Maybe they, they, you know, run the show, run the script. Oh, they're really good with numbers. Great. Maybe they're, they're part of the accounting team for this huge feature film. So there's lots of avenues in the industry rather than being in front of the camera or being the one on stage.

So I know I'm horrible at math I count on my fingers. So it's not like I'm gonna say, oh, I'm gonna be on the accounting firm for, you know, William Morris agency. Well, I have no natural giftedness in math whatsoever. So it's that reality check that I try to do with young people, not to be harsh, uh, or critical, but save your task is to find out your natural gift set.

What's your natural. Giftedness that you are passionate about combine those two, then you're gonna be able to find a way to make a living and have a wonderful, wonderful, fulfilling life. You know, [00:38:00] 96%. I think it's some crazy amount in the us in the nineties, let's say 90% of Americans who are working hate their job, that that's shocking to me.

And I'm thinking why. For a better paycheck. I mean, really, there's got to be another option here to figure out how to match. Gifts your passion and make a living. We, we just have to think outside the box.

Lou Mongello: Sometimes you are, you are preaching to the converted and it it's, , it's something we're very much in alignment with the importance of your why and your passion and your, your natural gifts, Jody, I, I could talk to you all day, personal professional legacy, all these different things.

Um, the book is fascinating. Part of your world. You can go to part of your world book. Last question for you. What's next for Jodi Benson.

Jodi Benson: Well, I am gonna finish up our virtual book tour, uh, which I should be finishing up in the next few weeks. And then I'm down to Walt Disney. I'm I'm gone every week, uh, through the end of January.

So that's wonderful. I'm traveling between, you know, concerts between Disneyland, between Disney world, back to Disney world and , and then traveling all over, doing different, uh, events, uh, appearances and conventions and concerts. So I'm, I'm very thankful.

Lou Mongello: Great. And I will try and share anything I can about upcoming appearances, especially down in world.

And, uh, and certainly come to see you while you are here. Disney legend, Jodi Benton. Thank you so much for not just your time today and your new book, but for everything that you have shared and gifted to us with the gifts that you've been given, um, as Ariel and, and on stage and all the roles, it has been an absolute pleasure chatting with you.

Jodi Benson: Nice to chat with you too, Lou, thank you so much for all your care and your support of the character in our film and of the company. I, [00:40:00] I really appreciate it. Thank you.