And The New Voice of Mickey Mouse Is…

The article first published here September 11, 2009 has been updated as new information has become available, and the article follows otherwise as it was originally posted. Please scroll down to read the most recent updates and additions.

Toon Zone is reporting that Hallmark Illustrator Bret Iwan has been allegedly identified as the new voice of Mickey Mouse, replacing the late Wayne Allwine who passed away of complications from diabetes on May 18th, 2009.

The news comes by way of Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com, which reported that the show program for Feld Entertainment’s production of Disney On Ice: Celebrations included a note that the show was produced “in memory of Wayne Allwine” and credited the show’s voice talents:

Among the voice artists listed is Bret Iwan who according to the Chapman Recording and Broadcasting website competed nationally to become the new voice of Mickey Mouse. His first sessions with Chapman Recording was a voice used in a learning toy and then a series of prompts for the Disney cruise Line.

I must point out that the show program does not specifically credit Bret Iwan as the voice of Mickey Mouse — it’s merely a list of the voice talents involved in the show. Furthermore, since LaughingPlace.com reported this on 9.05.2009, ChapmanRecording.com has removed mention of this from their website.

My own attempts to contact Feld Entertainment have not immediately been returned. I also contacted Chapman Recording and spoke with Neil Simpson who stated that the mention of Bret Iwan on their website was removed and had no comment as to the reason for doing so. He also could not confirm that Bret Iwan had indeed recorded any Mickey Mouse dialog for Disney at their studio.

However, I’ve located two artist blogs for Bret Iwan Illustration and Art Bungalow, both of which are maintained by a Bret Iwan.

Art Bungalow includes three renderings of Mickey Mouse published between April and August 2009, and an August 5th post mentions that the illustrator is moving to Los Angeles:

The house is on the market, I’ve told all of my management at Hallmark, and now I’m left waiting for my next move. I know I am moving to LA, and I know that it will be in the next 8 weeks, but where, and how are still to be answered. If only I had a higher vantage point and could see what was in store a little further down the road…maybe then I wouldn’t try to hard to take control. I think at this point, I’ve just about exhausted every contact, website, email, and phone number that I can get my hands on, which could lead to a potential job. For now, I’m working on being patient, and letting it all work out.

In an April 20th post, the blogger published photos from a trip to LA which included a visit to the Disney Character Voices recording studio.

And if Bret is genuinely the new voice for Mickey, this 12.04.2007 blog post from Hallmark’s “World of Kaleidoscope” will have significance in animation history — at this 2007 event, Bret sketched Mickey Mouse and imitated his voice for an audience of children visiting Hallmark’s studio (report includes photos).

Also, here’s a video of an August 2009 performance of Disney on Ice: Celebrations! — fast forward to around the 5:30 mark and you’ll hear a performance of Mickey Mouse which was recorded specifically for the show:

I will continue to follow this story and will provide updates as they become available.

UPDATE: 11.19.2009, 3:10 PM
ChapmanRecording.com has updated their site since my earlier post and the mention of Bret recording at their studio has been reinstated with a photo of Bret and the following caption:

VO SESSION FOR DISNEY
Kansas City VO Talent Bret Iwan has been in recording tracks for Disney. Bret’s speciality is Mickey Mouse. The sessions were engineered by our own Evan Clark in Studio B. Listen for more of Bret’s work for Disney in the future.

On September 16th, I was contacted by a source close to Bret Iwan (who asked to remain anonymous) who verified that Bret is indeed the new voice of Mickey Mouse, and confirmed that it is Bret’s voice as Mickey for the Disney On Ice: Celebrations touring show. And surprisingly, Bret has actually been recording since before Wayne Allwine’s passing.

I was also informed that there is no truth to the rumor that there was a “national competition” to audition for the voice of Mickey. Bret has contacts he has known for a long while who work for Disney, and he was personally invited to audition.

My source adds that Bret considers this role an honor, and that he’s had a lifelong love of Disney and especially for Walt.

Recent updates on Bret’s personal blog, Art Bungalow, show photos from his move to Calfornia (11.07), a visit to the Disney Studio Lot (10.16), and a trip to the inaugural D23 Expo event Disney hosted in September (10.05).

Of the D23 event, Bret says:

Back in the beginning of September, my friends and I were able to attend the opening day of the first ever D23 Expo. I had no clue what to expect, but I was really looking forward to the Disney Legends Ceremony where Tony Anselmo and Bill Farmer were inducted. The whole event ended up being so much more that I thought, with an awesome exhibit from Disney Parks and Resorts, a very moving opening ceremony, and a ton of other exhibits. I was also able to reconnect with my friend from college, and official D23 artist, Tim Rogerson. Tim was responsible for the amazing Mickey Mouse artwork featured all over the expo. You can check out his website at www.tdrogerson.com.

Bret also has an official fan page on Facebook.

And in a related Nov. 5th article on Kombo.com (via Variety), Warren Spector, who is developing with Disney the highly-anticipated Epic Mickey video game, states that in the game you won’t hear Mickey speak:

Don’t misunderstand: There’s dialogue, but it appears as text bubbles – not audibly. And that’s a very deliberate move.

“I made the creative decision that characters wouldn’t talk in the Cartoon Wasteland,” says Spector. “It was entirely a creative decision because [he begins speaking in a high-pitched Mickey voice] as soon as I start doing this, I’ve lost most of my potential audience. [resumes natural voice] If I’m trying to re-introduce this character to an audience, there are certain connotations with that voice that I’m going to have a hard time overcoming. ”

While full voice is certainly possible on the Wii hardware, Spector says those system resources will be used for other game elements.

UPDATE: 12.11.2009, 12:05 AM

Also on Nov. 5th, DisFanReview.com states that “a source close to the game production has revealed” to the site that Bret Iwan and Russi Taylor began recording the respective voices of Mickey and Minnie Mouse for the video game Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep on Nov. 4th.

[Thanks to disneyboy20022 for posting this update to the forum at UltimateDisney.com.]

UPDATE: 12.20.2009

While there still is no official announcement from Disney, we at least now have confirmation directly from Bret Iwan that he is recording dialog for Disney-related projects.

From a Dec. 15th post on Bret’s blog, Art Bungalow:

Today I finally got the keys to my new apartment. It’s time to pull the boxes out of storage and set up shop. I’m starting to feel like I’ve settled in, and I’ve had a month full of recordings. Next week I’ll have my first session for the Kingdom Hearts game series. I’m looking forward to the chance to try out some new material.

Note: The timeframe Bret mentions on his blog contradicts the earlier report by DisFanReview.com that Bret had begun recording sessions for the Kingdom Hearts game in early November 2009.

UPDATE: 1.04.2009

I believe we finally have direct confirmation from Bret that he is now the voice of Mickey Mouse.

From a Dec. 30th post on his blog, Art Bungalow — although he doesn’t say it directly, this image Bret drew says it all.

Note the microphone and the strategic placement of the Mickey hat with Bret’s name embroidered on it.

I believe that’s as close to an actual acknowledgment or confirmation we’ll get from Disney or Bret, short of some future Disney live event he is involved with.

Following the image, Bret says:

I’m not usually one to reflect on the past year, but since 2009 has been one of the most significant years thus far in my life, I think I’ll give it a shot.

Last December 31st, as I rang in the New Year at Disneyland, I had no idea what lay ahead. After 5 years at Hallmark Cards, in Kansas City…I made the decision to leave the company and pursue the opportunity of a lifetime. Sometimes I find myself wishing I could take the credit, but in this case, there is no denying that God was the one with the plan. All I had to do was listen, and follow along when I received an email that changed my course. It didn’t take long to see that what was in store was definitely worth it. I left Kansas City with tears in my eyes as I said “see ya real soon” to the family of friends that gave me so much love and support ( more than they probably realize ).

My new career has given me the chance to meet some amazing people, and be a part of the magic that I have admired from a far for so long. It is truly and honor, and I will be the first to tell you…a huge responsibility.

UPDATE: 1.06.2009

Voice Chasers reports:

At the Mickey Mouse – Have a Laugh section of [Disney.com], users may have the chance to hear examples of Bret Iwan’s vocal characterization of Mickey.

Disney has created “Short Versions” of two of their classic shorts, Mickey and the Seal and Lonesome Ghosts, which sound like they’ve been dubbed over by the current cast, including Iwan.

Click here and then scroll down to view the redubbed shorts. For comparison, scroll yet further down to view the full versions of the unedited shorts Mickey and the Seal (1948) and Lonesome Ghosts (1937) with original performances by James MacDonald (Mickey, 1948), Pinto Colvig (Pluto, Goofy), Clarence Nash (Donald), Walt Disney (Mickey, 1937) and Billy Bletcher.

Update: 1.19.2010 — In a Jan. 16th post on his blog, Art Bungalow, Bret posts another “Mickey and Me” type photo and adds that he had an opportunity to be “on the set of [his] favorite show Brothers and Sisters,” and ended up scoring a background role in a scene, which he says was “another wild dream come true.”

According to Wikipedia, Season 4 of Brothers and Sisters is scheduled for a production run of 24 episodes, and episode 13 aired 1.17.2010. So I think it’s likely we may see Bret’s first-ever TV appearance on the show this season…if he makes the director’s cut, that is.

Update: 1.28.2010 — Thomas Smith, Social Media Director for Disney Parks, posted the following announcement Jan. 27th on the official Disney Parks blog:

Just a quick note to let you know about a new service at Walt Disney World Resort hotels – special voicemail greetings from Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.

There are three different messages…and it’s hard not to smile when you get one. The specific message you’ll receive depends on your celebration.

Click here to hear the audio clips.

In the comments following the post, there is fan speculation that the first two clips were recorded by the late Wayne Allwine and that the third one is performed by Bret Iwan.

[Thanks to blackcauldron85 for posting this update to the forum at UltimateDisney.com.]

Additional sources: Wikipedia, IMDb, Disney Echo, Bullfrog117.com, Kombo.com.

A special thanks to “Ishtar” for sharing the results of his own research on the Toon Zone fourms.

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