The voice of Tigger dies

PAUL Winchell, a ventriloquist, inventor and children’s TV show host best known for creating the lispy voice of Winnie the Pooh’s animated friend Tigger, has died. He was 82.

Mr Winchell died on Friday morning in his sleep at his Moorpark home, Burt Du Brow.

Over six decades, Mr Winchell was a master ventriloquist - bringing dummies Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff to life on television - and an inventor who held 30 patents, including one for an early artificial heart he built in 1963.

But he was perhaps best known for his work as the voice of the lovable tiger in animated versions of AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh - with his trademark “T-I-double grrrr-R”.

Mr Winchell first voiced Tigger in 1968 for Disney’s Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, which won an Academy Award for best animated short film, and continued to do so through 1999’s Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving.

“I first met Walt Disney 25 or 30 years ago,” Mr Winchell recalled in a 1988 interview. “He said, ‘We’re both in the same business. I use cartoons and you use dummies and we both entertain children.’”

Mr Winchell was Gargamel in The Smurfs, and Boomer in The Fox and the Hound.

In 1974, he earned a Grammy for best children’s recording with The Most Wonderful Things About Tiggers from the feature Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too.

Mr Winchell was born in New York City on December 21, 1922.

He attended Columbia University and also studied and practiced acupuncture and hypnosis and became a prolific inventor.

He donated his early artificial heart to the University of Utah for research.

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