In my career as a radio reporter, I have had the opportunity
to interview many fascinating people. In
the past 30 years, I have talked with legislators, authors, movie directors,
actors and actresses and -- yes -- even Disney Legends.
Such was the case in 2009 when I had the chance to speak
with Dick Jones. Now you may ask who is
Dick Jones. He was a child star who had
many roles in those so-called B-Westerns. But perhaps he is best known as the
lead voice in a classic Disney animated movie.
Dick Jones was the voice actor and live action reference
model for Walt Disney's "Pinocchio" who passed away at the age of 87 earlier this
Young Dick Jones in a 1940 publicity photo for Disney's "Pinocchio"
In my 2009 interview, Jones recalled how at the age of 11 he
was cast in the role of the "little puppet made of pine." He recounted "there was a huge casting call,
close to 200 people interviewed for it over a period of several months." After the audition process was whittled down
only he and another boy survived and were up for the role. "In the last go round, I won," Jones said and
he and his mother were invited by Walt Disney to have lunch at the Hyperion
Studio. Jones said Walt asked him if he
would like to do the voice of Pinocchio to which he responded "Sure, you
bet." What he really wanted to say to
Mr. Disney was "what the heck was I
doing there all this time. But I didn't though."
At the age of 11 when he was cast in the role he admitted he
had no idea of just how important the character would be to the wonderful world
of Disney animation adding that it was "just another job." It wasn't until much later when he was an
adult that he realized how special the movie was to movie-goers of all ages.
When Jones auditioned for the Disney studios he was no
stranger to show business. He had a list
of acting credits to his name appearing in a string of B-Westerns in the 1930's
and a small role in the "Our Gang" movies and in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"
in 1939. After giving life to the wooden
puppet, Jones appeared in the TV series "The Range Rider" as well as on "The
Gene Autry Show" and "Annie Oakley."
Dick Jones back in his B Western days
While his acting resume listed many of his television roles,
Jones did not get his well-deserved recognition for the role of Pinocchio until
he was honored as a Disney Legend in 2000.
And even then it was not that easy to get his just desserts.
In the original official program for the Legend awards, he
was listed as Richard Jones and it had someone else's photo next to the
name. Jones says he was always known as
Dick Jones by the Screen Actors Guild so he notified the company of the mistake
for which they corrected the photo & name error and printed a new set of
Five years ago, Jones conceded he was "at the right time, at
the right place, at the right moment and Pinocchio turned out to be a classic.
And I am real proud to be part of it."
Dick Jones drops by the Walt Disney Archives to visit with an old friend.
Long retired from acting since the 1960's, Jones was
appreciative of all the attention he was getting in 2009 as he spoke about the
DVD release of Pinocchio. A true Disney
Legend who will be sadly missed but his contributions will never be forgotten.
"After the audition process was whittled down...."
And that's how you cast the role of a little wooden puppet!