Minnie Mouse poses with voice actress Russi Taylor, who has voiced Minnie since 1986, while being honored with the 2,627th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on January 22, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (AFP/Frederic J. Brown)
Russi Taylor, Disney's official voice of Minnie Mouse for more than three decades, has died, the entertainment giant announced Saturday. She was 75.
Taylor, who was prone to giggles just like the character she voiced, captured the heart and sound of Mickey Mouse's counterpart on TV, in cartoons and film, and at theme parks.
"Minnie Mouse lost her voice with the passing of Russi Taylor," Bob Iger, chairman and chief executive of The Walt Disney Company, said 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 take comfort in the knowledge that her work will continue to entertain and inspire for generations to come," Iger said.
Taylor died in Glendale, California on Friday, Disney said. The company did not give the cause of death.
Taylor had been Disney's pick from a group of 200 candidates at a 1986 audition.
The Massachusetts native said she actually met Walt Disney as a girl, on a visit to Disneyland.
"At one point during our chat, he asked me what I wanted to do when I grow up, and I said, 'I want to work for you!' So he said, 'Okay!' -- and now I do!" she was quoted as saying in a profile released by Disney.
Life imitated art when Russi met her real-life Mickey in the 1980s: it was Wayne Allwine, who had voiced Mickey Mouse since 1977.
"Wayne was coming out of a session as Mickey for 'Totally Minnie.' We met in the hallway. We just blended really well," Taylor told the LA Times in 2014.
They wed in 1991 but generally "kept it quiet. We didn't want it to be about Mickey and Minnie being married. It was about Wayne and Russi being married. We had the best time. We laughed a lot. We were always singing. We always had music in the house."
The duo stayed as close as their animated counterparts until Wayne's 2009 death.
"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 said of herself and Allwine.
"I never wanted to be famous," she said. "The characters I do are famous, and that's fine for me."
In addition to Minnie Mouse and other Disney characters, Taylor was also the voice of Strawberry Shortcake and Pebbles Flintstone. She worked in television for decades, including on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Simpsons."