Hailing from Colombia, 74-year-old Fabio Rodriguez has been the official Spanish voice of Disneyland for 21 years, narrating announcements for parades, shows, and attractions. You might have heard his ghoulish safety spiel at The Haunted Mansion, which sounds even more foreboding in Spanish.
How did you become the Spanish voice of Disneyland?
I was recording a narration for an industrial video in Orange County. After I finished, a gentleman in the next office called me in, and said, “I heard your voice, and you sound very good. Would you like to audition to say some announcements in Disneyland?” That man was Bill Rogers. He does the same thing I do, but in English. He said, “Why don’t you audition here right now? If they like your voice, they might send you to the studio to record it.” So, I read the script: “Damas y caballeros, ninos y ninas …”
He said, “I’m going to send it to them and see what happens.” After a couple of days, he calls me and says, “Fabio, guess what? They love your voice. You don’t even have to go to the studio.” “You mean they’re gonna use the first one you recorded?” He said, “Yeah!”
When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career as an announcer?
I have been an announcer for radio and television since 1966. When I was still going to broadcasting school before I graduated, I was working at a radio station. One of the managers called me outside, gave me my check, and told me “Thank you very much, but you are not going to work here anymore.” He also gave me some advice. He said, “You better start selling potatoes at the market because you will never be an announcer.” I was really sad. I took the bus home, and I was crying thinking about what he said. But I promised myself that I’m going to show (them) that not only am I going to be an announcer, but I’m going to be a great announcer.
Did you ever see yourself working for Disneyland?
When I was a kid, I used to watch “The Wonderful World of Disney” in Spanish every Sunday. In that show, Walt Disney would come on camera to talk about the new additions to Disneyland. When I came to America, it was my dream come true to visit Disneyland. I was standing in front of the castle and I heard this guy go “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls…” I said to myself, someday, I am going to do the same announcement in Spanish.
What was it like hearing your voice for the first time?
The first time I heard my voice in the park was unbelievable. I went to Disneyland with my son who was 10 or 12 at the time. Bill Rogers went, and then I went, and then my son turned around and said, “Dad, that’s you!” And the gentleman in front said, “Is that really your dad?” My son goes, “Yes, and it’s him right here!” And I almost started crying. It was beautiful beyond belief.
What’s the most rewarding aspect about being an announcer at Disneyland?
My children still go to Disneyland once in a while. They call me and say “Dad, we’re here at Disneyland listening to your voice and it sounds great.” Or, friends of my kids record my announcements, send them to my kids, and my kids send them to me. They are so proud and so am I, and that’s my reward.
Where can people hear your announcements at Disneyland?
The (announcements) I do are for the parades and fireworks shows. When they change parades, when they have cancelations, or when they have special events. There is another part of my job which is the (safety) spiel announcements. For example, “Please keep your arms and legs in the cart at all times, and take care of your kids.” They ask me to do it in different voices for a couple of them. For Pirates of the Caribbean, I have to do the voice of a pirate. For the Haunted Mansion, I have to do a scary voice. I used to do the voice inside Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (at California Adventure). I’ve also done commercials for Disney for many years. At Walt Disney World, I’m inside the Mexican Pavilion (at Epcot).
Do you only record announcements in Spanish?
I also do the voices at Disneyland in English when the theme is Hispanic because of my accent. I love my accent. I’ve done commercials for Mexican Airlines because they said I sounded like Ricardo Montalbán.
Tell us about your work beyond Disney.
I have done Spanish dubbing for many movies and television shows such as “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost,” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” I was the voice of the Chief, one of the main characters in “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Any recent projects?
I am very lucky I still have the voice, even though a few years back I had a stroke and I almost lost my voice. Thank God nothing happened and I’m still doing commercials, cartoon voices, and industrial videos. I recorded a CD for South America narrating the whole story of “Aladdin.” I’m also the voice of Telemundo 52 doing the promos for the programs.
They say the last thing a person loses is his voice. I met Gary Owens when we were recording at the same studio and he was turning 89. His voice sounded exactly the way it did when he was the announcer for a show I used to watch called “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-in.” If he was already 89, I still have some voice left.
Hear some of Rodriguez’s announcements below.
Check out the rest of our ‘Lightspeed to Disneyland!’ cover story at this page, which will be updated throughout the month.