Dick Jones, who provided the voice of the title character in Disney's 1940 animated classic Pinocchio, has died at age 87.
The actor, who often went by the nickname "Dickie," passed away on Monday, July 7, after suffering a fall at his home in Northridge, near Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times quoted his son Rick as saying. The official cause of his death was not announced.
Jones is also survived by his wife of 66 years, Betty; son Jeffrey, daughters Jennafer and Melody, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Pinocchio marked Jones' most famous, and only, animated role. In addition to his voice performance as the wooden boy whose nose grows when he lies, the actor also appeared in several Western movies and TV shows.
Jones was born in 1927 in Texas and began his entertainment career at age 4. He began by performing at rodeos. Western movie star Hoot Gibson discovered him in 1932 and years later, the boy started booking small parts in movies. He cast as Pinocchio in 1939, when he was 11. Jones and his mother got to have lunch with Walt Disney himself.
"Disney said they had decided that they would offer me the job [in Pinocchio]," the actor told Knight News Service in 1992. "I said, 'Whoopee, when do I start?"
In a studio in Burbank, Calif., Jones and other main actors' facial movements were captured on camera so animators could duplicate their expressions in the characters, the news service reported. He told the outlet that he even filmed several reading scenes while wearing shorts and a funny hat -- the same outfit as Pinocchio.
"It was very exciting just being there," Jones told the Desert News newspaper in 1971. "I mean, every kid knew Walt Disney and his characters—Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy. Finally, Walt had us back after lunch and said I was going to be the voice. I was really thrilled. That was something Walt enjoyed doing, hiring an actor personally for a part."
Also in 1939, Jones appeared in the movie Nancy Drew... Reporter, which saw him sing, dance and do a Donald Duck impression. During his time working for Disney, he got to meet Clarence Nash, the voice of the character. Jones told the Desert News that the actor would joke with him in Donald Duck's voice.
In the 1940s, Jones appeared in films such as Heaven Can Wait and moved to New York, where he played Henry Aldrich on the radio show The Aldrich Family for about two years. He was then drafted into the Army and served for two years in Alaska, including during the final months of World War II.
He later resumed his acting career, appearing in movies such as Fort Worth and Rocky Mountain with Erroll Flynn, as well as shows such as The Lone Ranger, The Range Rider and Buffalo Bill Jr.
On Feb. 6, 1960, Jones was inducted to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. About five years later, he retired from acting and concentrated on a second career in real estate. In 2001, he received the Buffalo Bill Award for positive influence in the entertainment field, with a focus on Western heritage.
"I don't know anything else. Actually, It was just a job," he once told host Jeff Sutherland on his StarTalk show, regarding his acting career. "But then, everything turned out so good, that it was an exciting job."