Originally Posted by Forbidden Eye
Actually, from what I understand, Phil Harris was well-known in his time and was a big celebrity as a musician and a character actor. In fact, Leonard Maltin once pointed out in a documentary on The Jungle Book that critics at the time criticized The Jungle Book for "taking short cuts" by casting celebrities with Harris, George Sanders, Sebastian Cabot and Louis Prima(Prima's estate is so big they've given Disney a bit of a hard time over the years for limiting them from using King Louie as much as they'd like), it's only years later that people have forgotten who these guys were, only to have their Disney work become their biggest claim to immortality.
Indeed. It started a bit with Disney's Alice in Wonderland
, which featured some well-known character actors and comedians (namely Ed Wynn & Jerry Colonna), but The Jungle Book
was pretty definitively the start of that trend, even if it didn't really pick up again until the 1990s. (Though, with that said, check out the 70s and 80s work of Eva Gabor and Bob Newhart in a few different films.)