Paul Winchell, the voice of Tigger in Winnie the Pooh features for more than three decades and a versatile ventriloquist who became a fixture in early children's television along with his dummies Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff, has died. He was 82.
Mr. Winchell died early Friday in his sleep at his home in Moorpark, Calif., Burt Du Brow, a television producer and close family friend, said Saturday.
Although he was a legendary ventriloquist and built a career attracting legions on followers on that dwindling art, Mr. Winchell's most durable legacy might be his rich voice as Tigger and other animated characters on television and in motion pictures.
He became the lovable Tigger in 1968 for Disney's Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, which earned an Academy Award for best animated short film. Mr. Winchell continued to voice A.A. Milne's imaginative little tiger on television and the big screen through Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving in 1999. In recent years, Jim Cummings has voiced Tigger as well as Pooh.
Mr. Winchell earned a Grammy in 1974 for the best children's recording with The Most Wonderful Things About Tiggers from the feature Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too. In addition, he was nominated for an Annie award for the 1998 animated feature-length Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin.
It was Mr. Winchell, crediting his British born wife, who came up with Tigger's signature phrase "TTFN" or "Ta-ta for now."
The entertainer has also has been heard as Gargamel in The Smurfs, as Dick Dastardly in Hanna Barbera cartoons, including Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines and as Boomer in Disney's The Fox and the Hound, among many others.
During a career spanning more than six decades, Mr. Winchell saw the television evolve from his best asset to something of a nemesis for ventriloquists.
"Television and its use of computers can make everything talk, so there's no need for the art of ventriloquism anymore," Mr. Winchell told the Los Angeles Times in 1998. "I don't think young kids today wHould even understand it."
Mr. Winchell was also an inventor who held 30 patents, including one for an early artificial heart he built in 1963 and then donated to the University of Utah for research. Dr. Robert Jarvik and other University of Utah researchers later became well-known for the Jarvik-7 which was implanted into patients after 1982.
Among Winchell's other inventions were an early disposable razor, a flameless cigarette lighter, an invisible garter belt and an indicator to show when frozen food had gone bad after a power outage.