Ken Sansom, Winnie the Pooh’s Rabbit, dies at 85

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Kenneth Sansom

Ken­neth Sansom

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.

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