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Biography of Pinto Colvig – the original Bozo the Clown

Pinto Colvig – September, 11, 1892 – October 3, 1967

What do Bozo the Clown, Walt Disney’s Goofy and Popeye’s nemesis Bluto have in common?  The answer is Pinto Colvig.  “Who?” you ask.  Pinto Colvig is possibly the most popular celebrity whose name you’ve never heard.

color picture of Pinto Colvig as the original Bozo the ClownAs a teenager, Vance “Pinto” Colvig ran away to join the circus, eventually performing as a circus clown. He later came to work at Walt Disney Studios, first as an animator and later doing voice talent. Pinto Colvig was the voice of some of Walt Disney’s most famous characters, including PlutoGoofy and two of the Seven Dwarfs (Sleepy and Grumpy) . He also was co-composer of the well-known children’s song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” in Three Little Pigs, in addition to being the voice of Practical Pig in that film. Other roles at other studios included Gabby in 1939’s Gulliver’s Travels, the Grasshopper in 1934’s The Grasshopper and the Ants and Bluto in the Popeye cartoons.  See Pinto Colvig’s Filmography for a complete list of his film work.

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In 1946, Pinto Colvig was hired by Alan Livingston of Capitol Records to be the voice of the lead character in the world’s first read-along book — “Bozo at the Circus.” This book/record combination broke all records for children’s records, and led to over a dozen sequels, as well as demand for personal appearances. Pinto Colvig, the former circus clown, soon created a live clown character to match the books and records. In 1949, this grew into a live action television television series for KTTV in Los Angeles, starring Pinto Colvig as the first televised Bozo the Clown.

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Pinto returned to doing voice work, and eventually passed away from lung cancer at the age of 75. In an interesting note, his son, Vance Colvig Jr., also portrayed Bozo the Clown — he became the 3rd performer to portray Bozo on TV, and the 1st “Bozo TV Show” franchised by Larry Harmon Pictures Inc.

On May 28, 2004, Pinto Colvig was inducted into the Clown Hall of Fame for his portrayal as the original Bozo the Clown.