Mark Elliott, a voice actor for some of Disney’s most beloved movie trailers, has died. He was 81.
Elliott died Saturday in a Los Angeles hospital after suffering two heart attacks, his friend and fellow voice-over artist Charlie Van Dyke told The Hollywood Reporter. He also was battling lung cancer. “He was one of a kind … and kind is a great word to describe him,” Van Dyke said.
Courtesy Joe Cipriano Mark Elliott
Elliott was the voice of Disney trailers and promos for decades and was first hired to provide the voice-over for Disney’s theatrical rerelease of Cinderella (1950). He also lent his voice to trailers for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Lion King, Hercules, Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, and many other movies from the company.
Born John Harrison Frick Jr. in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Sept. 24, 1939, Elliott started his career as a radio DJ in his hometown. In 1970, he landed in Los Angeles and worked at the KHJ and KISS stations. He told VO Buzz Weekly in 2015 that his stage name came from seeing the names Petula Clark/Mama Cass (Elliot) on a jukebox, which he later combined to form “Mark Elliott.”
After 20 years in radio, Elliott veered into voice-overs, with his first paid job doing the trailer for Smokey and the Bandit. From there, he did the radio voice-over for Star Wars and the rom-com The Goodbye Girl. He revealed to VO Buzz Weekly that the director couldn’t decide on how the promos should sound.
“[The voice-over studio] came to me and said, ‘We got this director who’s making us nuts, just driving us crazy,'” he recalled. “‘He can’t decide how he wants to promote [his movie], if you’ll work with us on spec when he makes his mind up on what he wants, we’ll see that you get a big piece of the action.'”
Elliott continued: “I said okay, so we started working literally seven days a week trying to do it, and he couldn’t decide whether he wanted a comedy, whether he wanted an adventure, whether he wanted it dark, whether he wanted it light, whether he wanted romance. He just couldn’t decide.”
Later, Elliott also did the voice-over on trailers for a number of Muppets movies, but his proudest film work was the trailer for the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, which went on to win four Academy Awards. His finest small-screen achievement was for the promos for the final episode of M*A*S*H.
“Chariots of Fire, it was totally out of character for me,” Elliott said. “And the promo that I did that I am most proud of was for the last episode of M*A*S*H, which was a heart-tugging but still comedic sort of read.”
Aside from his voice-over work, Elliott starred with four other voice artists in the 1997 short film 5 Men and a Limo. He also played himself in Lake Bell’s 2013 comedy In a World…, about voice-over artists. The film also featured fellow VO artists Marc Graue, Don Lafontaine, and Joe Cipriano as themselves.
On Monday, Cipriano announced Elliott’s passing via Twitter and in a lengthy Facebook post, reminiscing about what he learned from the voice legend.
“With Mark, I learned how our shared radio background was the perfect experience for promos,” Cipriano said. “We talked in between his promo sessions and he told me two things about promos — never take a vacation and never buy a home based on voice-over income.”
He concluded the post, writing: “Mark was a true gentleMAN — Getting to share all of our scenes in Lake Bell’s ‘In a World’ was icing on the cake. I’m so sad about Mark’s passing.”