A few years ago, I received news of the passing of our friend and colleague, Ginny Tyler. You probably knew Ginny as a Disney Mousketeer because of her appearances on the Mickey Mouse Club but Virginia Tyler was much more than that. I remember Ginny Tyler's remarkable voice work in Walt’s animated film “The Sword in the Stone” back in the sixties. One afternoon we were running a delightful sequence where Merlin the Magician has turned both himself and young Wart into squirrels. Unexpectedly, a young girl squirrel appears and becomes infatuated with Wart as he unsuccessfully tries to explain he's really a boy. It was only a story reel but the sequence surprised all of us because it was so touching. Much of this was due to the voice work of Ginny Tyler. I don't think I'll ever forget the voice of the cute little girl squirrel. Sometime later, Walt Disney moved “Mary Poppins” into production and the animated jolly holiday sequence required singing farm animals. Once again Ginny Tyler gave the Disney critters a voice.
When the Mickey Mouse Club was re-edited and repackaged for syndication Ginny Tyler performed live segments from Disneyland Park. It was during this time she became known as the Disneyland storyteller and was even praised by Walt himself for her fine work. With Walt Disney's sad passing in 1966 I left animation to launch my own company and began producing educational media. I was directing an educational film on the life of legendary blues musician W.C. Handy and I needed a young boy to provide the voice for young Handy. Remembering our experience on “The Sword in the Stone” where our young actor's voice changed during the production, I decided to again call on Ginny Tyler. Of course, Ginny perfectly provided the voice we needed. However, our relationship continued when we decided to partner on production of a television pilot where Ginny would play a plucky young heroine in a show we called, “The Hazzards of Helen.” The wacky show was inspired by “The Perils of Pauline” and each week Ginny Tyler would have to escape the comic clutches of the evil villain. Filmed in live-action, I decided to designed and animate an opening title sequence that would give the show a zany turn of the century vibe. Throughout the filming, Ginny Tyler was always a delight and we enjoyed working with her every day. Our paths crossed years later when Ginny Tyler was teaching a radio class at a local university. Though many years had passed she looked as youthful as she had nearly two decades earlier. Ginny always attributed her youthful looks to her Native American Blood. Perhaps that’s why Walt Disney choose Ginny to preside over the kids on his show. In a special way, she was a female version of Big Mouseketeer, Jimmi Dodd. I think Ginny would consider it a compliment to be referred to as a “big kid.”
Because of her many contributions to the Walt Disney Company and the Disney legacy, Ginny Tyler was named a Disney Legend in 2006. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the ceremony on the Walt Disney Studio lot but I’m lucky to have so many wonderful memories of our time together and the fun times we had. Naturally, the jokes are too numerous to mention here but one special sketch comes to mind. On this occasion, the big Mooseketeer, Roy Williams decides to take a break during filming the Mickey Mouse Club and he’s still got his sketchbook in hand. The Legendary Disney cartoonist sketched a gag I’ll never forget and it was hilarious. Ginny and Roy are seated at the bar wearing their Mickey Mouse caps and T-shirts. Hardly appropriate for Disney - Ginny’s name has been shortened to read, “GIN.” Yes, indeed. Even Mickey Mouse would find that pretty darn funny.