Currently, I'm about 41,000 feet in the air flying to Raleigh, NC for an anime convention. The past couple of days have been quite hectic as I've wrapped up a few jobs, packed, and rushed around doing this and that. You know, just going about life. Yesterday, I was on the phone when I glanced at my computer screen and saw the news.
Wayne Allwine had passed away. For a moment, everything just stopped.
For a few of you, this name will seem unfamiliar. I promise you his voice is not. Wayne provided the voice of Mickey Mouse for the past 30 years or so, along side his wonderful wife Russi Taylor, the current voice of Minnie Mouse.
Yes, Mickey and Minnie were married in real life.
I had the great pleasure of meeting Wayne and Russi on two occasions while working at Radio Disney and later, for WSSS radio in NC. To say they impacted my life would be an understatement. They are two of the biggest reasons I knew I wanted to be a voice actor.
The first time I met them was in 1998 at the grand opening of The New TomorrowLand at Disneyland. I was working with my partner, Kyle Hebert (AKA: Squeege) doing a live broadcast. I've always considered myself fairly quick at coming up with questions on the fly- so I wasn't particularly nervous when Wayne and Russi came walking toward us. As soon as they both began to speak, my heart began to pound. I was instantly and completely star struck.
Kyle and I began the live air break introducing our special guests, Mickey and Minnie. I vaguely remember stammering out a few comments and questions before Wayne and Russi (thankfully) took over. Wayne strummed his little guitar singing songs while Russi giggled and sang along. It was perfect. It was magical. They were Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
I'm embarrassed to say I still get tears in my eyes to this day when I think back to the impact those two had on me. I knew right then and there that creating characters would be my own life long passion. I've often thought about what it must feel like to provide the voices for such well known and well loved characters. Perhaps it was easy for Wayne and Russi, as they are such well loved characters themselves.
The second time I met Wayne and Russi was no different. I was producing a morning show in Charlotte, NC and had been sent to Walt Disney World by myself for a live remote. When they finally made their way over to my broadcast booth, I shook their hands and announced, "You won't remember this, but we met once several years back." Russi smiled and said she did remember that, which honestly made my day. I recall the on-air DJ at the time saying I only had a couple of minutes to do the break. I knew he would change his mind when he heard them on the air, which he did. I don't remember how long that 'interview' was, but it was much longer than 2 minutes. That's what Wayne and Russi did- they captured your imagination and made you smile.
A couple of months ago, I went online to try and find an e-mail address for Wayne or Russi. I had an overwhelming desire to tell them how much they had inspired me all those years ago, and how much they inspired me still. Of course, I wasn't able to find an e-mail address, and now I wish I had tried a little harder. Someday, I hope to find a way to let Russi know.
I've been surprised at the effect Wayne's passing has had on me. The reality is that I met him twice, and for only a few minutes each time. He wouldn't have known me from any other stranger on the street. I guess it shows the impact that one person can have in a very short time. I'm not, however, surprised by the stories I've been reading online. So many were touched by Wayne. The joy just radiated from him.
My thoughts and prayers are with, and will continue to be with, Russi, their family, and their friends. Death comes to us all, it just seems that it shouldn't come to our heroes.
Wayne, thank you for the inspiration and for the memories.