Lucille Bliss has passed away at the age of 96, but her voice lives on through iconic cartoon characters like Smurfette of “The Smurfs,” Anastasia from “Cinderella,” and more recently Yagoda from the film “Avatar.”
Born in New York City on March 31, 1916, Bliss had a talent that was appreciated and later pursued by the creators of cartoons. In 1950 she voiced her first cartoon character, Crusader Rabbit.
Her vocal talent nailed her roles in a number of Disney features and Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Bliss also was heard in several Warner Bros. and MGM theatrical cartoons in the 1950s.
Quick to detect her talent, Walt Disney did not hesitate to use her in a leading cartoon motion picture in 1950. The film was “Cinderella.”
“In the fiftieth anniversary of the film, the Disney Company put out a commemorative book. There I read that Walt had personally selected me for the part of Anastasia. I had never known that before, and it almost made me cry. I wished I had thanked him,” Bliss said in an interview for the book “How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life.”
Bliss’ loss was hard-felt in the world of voice acting and animation. “It feels we’re losing an era of talent that she represents through her sensitivity for animation. She is a huge loss given all her big contributions. She showcases a certain uniqueness like no other,” Michael D. Cohen, a voice actor and acting coach in Los Angeles, told ABCNews.com.
Bliss’ agent, Don Pitts, agreed with Cohen. Bliss and Pitts worked together in San Francisco on radio programs in the 1950s. He had been her agent from the 1960s up until five years ago when she stopped acting. “It’s a great loss. She was one of the leading actors in this line of industry and her absence will be felt,” Pitts told ABCNews.com.
Her signature voice, acting talent, and a lot of hard work contributed to her success. “Bliss had two apartments in the 1950s, one in San Francisco and another in Los Angeles. She would shuttle from one city to the other to audition for jobs. She did that for almost twenty years. I never knew any actor like that,” Pitts said.
Bliss had a flexibility and profoundness to her voice not very common among female voice actresses. “Her voice had a unique quality to it,” Cohen said. “She had the voice of a little girl’s innocence combined with a gravel of an old woman’s voice. Normally women’s voices can be one or the other, but Lucille possessed both qualities and could play both.”
Bliss’ acting talent allowed her seamlessly to embrace the character she was voicing. In an interview with Archive of American Television, Bliss recounted the relationship she had with Smurfette, an iconic role she played for 8 years.
“Smurfette felt so real to me because I created her voice, so I could feel her emotions. It may sound strange but it’s true. We have to think like the character and it takes over. That’s what I tell my students, too. You must lose yourself if you want to be successful in animation and be the character,” she said.
Outside the world of animation, Bliss hosted “The Happy Birthday to You Show” on San Francisco’s KRON-TV. In 1999 she won the Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award for her role in “Cinderella.” In 2000 she won a Winsor McCay Award at the 28th Annie Awards for special achievement in animation.