Actor Ken Sansom, the voice of Rabbit in Disney’s Winnie the Pooh cartoons for 22 years, died this week in Holladay, Utah from complications after a stroke. He was 85.
Beginning in 1988, Sansom portrayed the ever-worrying Rabbit in Winnie the Pooh animated films and TV shows. The original Rabbit, Junius Matthews, died in 1978. Rabbit was always worried by the honey-hunting Pooh and the playful Tigger.
“Nobody could keep count” of the number of voices he could offer, said his son Matt of Sandy, Utah. “But I think they’ve indicated he could do well over 250 voices.”
When he moved back home to Salt Lake City in 1992, he kept recording Rabbit from studios in Utah. Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants, took over the role for the 2011 movie Winnie the Pooh.
Sansom voiced Rabbit in the movies Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin (1997), The Tigger Movie (2000), Piglet’s Big Movie (2003), Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie and Pooh’s Heffalump Movie (both 2005), and the 2007-09 series My Friends Tigger & Pooh, in addition to many direct-to-video films, including Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year (2002) and Pooh’s Super Sleuth Christmas Movie (2007). He was also Rabbit in such specials as 1998’s A Winnie the Pooh Thanksgiving.
In the 1988–91 series The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, he was not only Rabbit, but also Stan Woozle, the Piglet Look-Alike and the Store Clerk.
He was Hound and Dr. Paul Gates in 1984–85’s Transformers.
Sansom voiced Dr. Hunter, Milo and Peterson in the 1983 animated series The Littles, along with Ralph Throgmorton in 1990’s TaleSpin. He was Papa in the 1974 cartoon special Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus. In 2009, he voiced The Candleman in the half-hour stop-motion holiday special Spooky Bats and Scaredy Cats.
He provided additional voices in the TV series CB Bears and Skatebirds (both 1977), The All-New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show (1983), Snorks (1984), The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians (1985), “Moondreamers” segments of My Little Pony and Friends (1986), Alvin & the Chipmunks (1986–87) and The Wizard of Oz (1990).
As well, he was in the voice casts of the 1973 NBC Children’s Theatre special All About Me, the 1979 TV short Banjo the Woodpile Cat and the 1982 TV-movie Bugs Bunny’s Mad World of Television, and the 1985 CBS Storybreak special Robbut: A Tale of Tails.
In movies, Sansom voiced Rosie, the female alley cat, in Shinbone Alley (1971), Magreb in Starchaser: The Legend of Orin (1985), and additional voices in The Chipmunk Adventure (1987). He was Thunk, the narrator of the 1984 cartoon movie Gallavants.
Sansom voiced Doc Dickory in the video shorts The Bible: The Amazing Book (1988) and The Amazing Children (1989).
Born Kenneth Sansom in Salt Lake City on April 2, 1927, he graduated from East High School in 1944. He joined the United States Navy immediately afterward, serving just under year during the Second World War before joining the reserves.
After a brief stint at the University of Utah, Sansom attended Brigham Young University, receiving a degree in broadcasting in 1949. Called up for Navy service during the Korean War, he entertained troops with the United Service Organizations.
A talented mimic, Sansom joined radio station KSL in 1957 with the show Sansom and Then Some, playing the host, guest and caller. In 1968, he moved to Los Angeles in 1968 to begin his screen career.
Sansom had roles in such live-action movies as The Sting, Herbie Rides Again, Airport 1975 and Funny Lady.
His colleagues in the broadcast industry inducted him into the Utah Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
Ken Sansom is survived by his Carla, his wife since 1961; children Matthias, Melanie and Melissa; nine grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.
Funeral series are scheduled at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 13 at the Brighton 8th Ward chapel, 2895 East Creek Road, Sandy, Utah. The family will greet guests from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, October 12 at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park, 3401 Highland Drive, Salt Lake City.