Town & Gown: 5 Questions with Jodi Benson, Original Voice of The Little Mermaid
Best known for having the beautiful voice of Princess Ariel from the Academy Award winning Walt Disney film The Little Mermaid, Jodi Benson has come a long way in her musical/acting career since then. In addition to becoming a Disney Legend back in 1989, Benson has received a Tony Award and a Helen Hayes Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical for creating the starring role of Polly in the Tony Award winning musical Crazy For You.
In addition to The Little Mermaid, she has had multiple voice-acting roles for movies such as Thumbelina and Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3. She also continues to a traveling performer who takes her husband and children with her whenever she can. On Oct. 14, she will bring her talents to the State Theatre in State College for two family-friendly performances. She took the time to share with Town&Gown some of her personal thoughts.
T&G: How did you get started in your singing/acting career?
Benson: I started singing as a little girl at home for fun. Then I started singing in my church when I was 9 or 10. I was able to do some theater in high school, and college was my first experience with a choir and voice lessons, which was wonderful. Music has always been a big part of my life. I came out of the womb with these wonderful gifts from God and was able to start enjoying them at an early age.
T&G: Do your children [a 13-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter] watch your movies?
Benson: Yes. They were about three years old when they saw The Little Mermaid. It was fun to watch them watch it because they could hear “Mommy’s” voice. It was tricky for them to understand that Mommy was inside of the TV. It was kind of hard for them to grasp at first, but of course they love it and all the experiences that come with it.
T&G: Do you have many connections to State College or Penn State?
Benson: No, just our friends [State Theatre executive director] Rich and Heidi Biever. We met them years ago, so we’ve been friends for a really long time. This is Rich’s event, so he called me up and said, “Hey can you come perform up here?” We haven’t worked together in a long time so it’ll be fun. I’m really looking forward to it.
T&G: What is your favorite part of your entire career?
Benson: Of course The Little Mermaid because it is so special and so unique. It’s something that will be around for a long time long after me. It’s a huge project, and I think everything I’ve done since that film has been because of my relationship to the film, so I feel that God has used this as a full-time ministry with me to work around children and families.
T&G: How long do you see yourself being involved with acting and performing?
Benson: As long as God allows and as long as I can still get the job done. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future. I’m just enjoying the moment right now. I’m very grateful that I can still do my job and create the voices they count on me to create. I hope it will go on for as long as possible!