Wonga Phillip "Phil" Harris (June 24, 1904 – August 11, 1995) was an American singer, musician, and comedian. He provided the voices for Baloo in The Jungle Book, Thomas O'Malley in The Aristocats, and Little John in Robin Hood.
Harris returned to Disney to reprise his role of Baloo when the television series TaleSpin was being produced and recorded five episodes. However, executives felt that Harris had too big a voice difference from his portrayal of Baloo in the 60s. The role was then given to Ed Gilbert and the episodes featuring Harris were recorded over.
He worked as a vocalist and voice actor for animated films, lending his distinctive voice to the Disney animated features The Jungle Book (1967) as Baloo the bear, The Aristocats (1970) as Thomas O'Malley, and Robin Hood (1973) as Little John (another bear). The Jungle Book was his greatest success in the years at the end of his radio career. As Baloo the Sloth Bear, he sings one of the film's showstoppers, "The Bare Necessities", a performance that introduced Harris to a new generation of young fans who had no awareness of his radio fame. He famously appears to sing the word 'founder' instead of 'fonder' (after the line 'wherever I wander') in this song although this is simply the Southern pronunciation of the word 'fonder' whimsically exaggerated and should not be construed as a mistake. The recording still survives in TV adverts today. Harris also joined Louis Prima in "I Wanna Be Like You", delivering a memorable scat singing performance. The Aristocats features Harris as alley cat Abraham de Lacey Giuseppe Casey Thomas O'Malley, who joins in the film's showstopper, "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat", with Scatman Crothers. In Robin Hood, Harris's Little John sings the popular anti-Prince John tune "The Phony King of England". In 1989, Harris briefly returned to Disney to once again voice Baloo, this time for the cartoon series, TaleSpin. But after a few recording sessions he was replaced by Ed Gilbert. His last role was in 1991 film, Rock-a-Doodle, directed by Don Bluth, as the friendly, laid-back Basset Hound Patou.
Death and Legacy
Harris died of a heart attack at his Rancho Mirage home on August 11, 1995. Alice Faye died of stomach cancer three years later. Two years before his death, Harris was inducted into the Indiana Hall of Fame. Both are interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Cathedral City, California. Phyllis Harris was last reported living in St. Louis (she had been with her mother at her father's bedside when he died), while Alice Harris Regan was reported living in New Orleans.
Harris remained grateful to radio for the difference it made in his professional and personal life. He was quoted as saying, "If it hadn't been for radio, I would still be a traveling orchestra leader. For 17 years I played one-night stands, sleeping on buses. I never even voted, because I didn't have any residence."
Episodes of The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show turn up frequently on compact-disc collections of old-time radio classics, both on their own sets and amid various comedy collections. At least half the surviving episodes of the show's final season include Harris's audience warmup routine, performed for ten minutes before the show was to begin recording. Many old-time radio historians (such as Nachman and Dunning) consider the show at its best to have stood the test of time, thanks to above-average writing (mostly by the team of Ray Singer and Dick Chevillat), and the two stars who executed it with impeccable timing.