Richard Tribou, Orlando Sentinel
2:13 PM EDT, June 28, 2012
That voice you've been hearing on the monorails at Walt Disney World has changed.
Disney recently made the subtle change to a new narrator aboard the monorail system, shifting from Orlando-area veteran voice actor Joe Hursh.
Hursh's voice has been heard by millions of visitors to Walt Disney World every year since 2004. He had been the one who said, "Welcome aboard the Walt Disney World express monorail, your highway in the sky to the Magic Kingdom."
Hursh still does voice work for Disney and other companies like Party City and AAA plus runs a paper-shredding company, Shredder Experts, in Altamonte Springs.
"I've been in the business for about 25 years," Hursh said. "I do so much stuff, I didn't even know it was gone."
There is one featured voice of the monorail that isn't changing, and that's the original voice of the monorail system, a voice actor named Jack Wagner who famously speaks the lines, "Please Stand Clear of the Doors. Por favor manténganse alejado de las puertas."
Wagner passed away in 1995 and was the narrator for the Walt Disney World monorail system when it opened in 1971. He was already known as the Voice of Disneyland for his work at the California park. The line is celebrated to the degree that one can purchase a T-shirt featuring the Spanish dialogue in the shops along Main Street USA.
What has changed is the voice while the monorail is moving, announcing landmarks such as the Contemporary Resort and Grand Floridian hotel as well as facts about the monorail system and details on current events at the park.
The new voice is veteran voice actor Tom Kane, known as the voice of Yoda on the animated series "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" among other titles. It's a little more subdued than Hursh's, and to most visitors who don't frequent the parks on a normal basis, barely noticeable in difference.
The Disney monorail system currently features 12 monorail trains on three lines that move among the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and the Disney resorts. The lines travel almost 15 miles of track altogether. Each monorail can carry more than 300 passengers and typically carries more than 50,000 guests a day, according to Disney.
Hursh's voice can still be heard on the Disney bus system and Hursh said he recently did voice recordings for the Magical Express bus that runs from Disney to Port Canaveral for Disney Cruise Line.
"They don't owe me any money. That's the good news," he said. "I like the ones that pay me."
There have been two other voices for the Disney World monorail narration since Wagner's death, but Hursh has been the voice since 2004.
Hursh worked in Orlando-area radio in the 80s and used to run the Top 40 show hosted by Casey Kasem as part of his Sunday morning gigs, he said. On occasion, a fellow DJ named Mark Elliot would sub for Kasem and Hursh began trying to mimic Elliot's voice.
Elliot would go on to be the main voiceover person for Disney film and TV. Anyone who has watched a Disney DVD has heard Elliot say "And now our feature presentation."
"I learned to copy the guy's voice," Hursh said. "I was making $2.90 an hour at the time and thought that this guy is making a lot more money so I sat there a long time and learned how to mimic the guy... I owe my whole career to him."
Disney has had to deal with voice changes for years. Walt Disney passed off voicing the original Mickey Mouse to Jimmy MacDonald in 1947, who was replaced in 1977 after his death by Wayne Allwine. Allwine died in 2009 and now a fourth person is helming the Mickey voice. The original voice talents of Winnie the Pooh characters passed away and have been replaced, to the degree that the animation is being re-released with the new voices.
Other voice changes over the years have been noticeable as well. When Mel Blanc died, most of the Looney Tunes characters got new voice actors.
One voice change that particularly bothered Hursh was when the voice of Spongebob Squarepants changed. (Note, while the voice actor Tom Kenney never stopped doing Spongebob's voice, it got noticeably higher pitched after the fourth season.)
"I hated it when they changed. Spongebob originally sounded really good," Hursh said.
But in the terms of how he feels about no longer being the voice that told people in multiple languages to stand clear of the monorail doors, Hursh takes it in stride.
"I was more upset about Spongebob's voice changing than the monorail's voice changing."
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