Kaitlyn Robrock, The Voice Of Minnie Mouse, On Improvising, Voicing A Tusken Raider, And More [Exclusive Interview]

Minnie Mouse is, dare I say it, an iconic character. She, Mickey, and all their Disney cartoon pals have been entertaining children (and let's be honest, adults as well) for generations.

For decades, Minnie was voiced by Russi Taylor. After Taylor passed in 2019, however, voice actor Kaitlyn Robrock took on the Minnie mantle and is bringing her to life on various shows as well as certain attractions in Disney's theme parks.

Earlier this month, I had the chance to speak with Robrock during Dragon Con, a 65,000-person convention in Atlanta that celebrates fandoms of all kinds, where Robrock was a guest. We talked about how she got into voice acting in general, including her jump from Adult Swim cartoons to Minnie, and what it's like voicing other characters, such as the Tusken raiders on "The Book of Boba Fett."

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

'I never thought about voiceover animation until I saw Aladdin'

I would love to hear about how you got interested in voice acting in the first place and how you started your career.

I was raised on Looney Tunes and the old Disney shorts and I've always loved animation in that respect. But I never thought about voiceover animation until I saw "Aladdin." I knew who Robin Williams was, because he was in "Hook" the year before, which was one of my favorite movies. And seeing him in "Aladdin" as the genie, that showed me, "Oh, I know that voice. It's a person who can do the voices of cartoons. Of course, they can. I want to do that."

I thought if you're going to do that, you got to be on Broadway, because all these Disney princesses are phenomenal Broadway performers. And that didn't work out the way I thought it would. When I moved back from New York, I didn't know where to go for voiceover. But by then, the internet had given us these tools and I took voiceover classes with Bob Bergen, Richard Horvitz, and Mary Lynn Wissner. That's how I got my start in voiceover and learned how to do it appropriately.

Do you have any advice for people looking to get into voice acting? Something you wish you knew then that you know now?

Don't worry at first about expensive elements to this career, like a really expensive shotgun mic or a super high-end demo that's been manipulated to make you sound amazing. All that doesn't bring you talent or understanding of that world. Focus on learning how to act or how to bring points of views to each kind of archetype of character.

It doesn't matter if you don't have a range of sounds in your voice. Jenny Slate has one voice; John Goodman, one voice; Jason Alexander, one voice. But they are so good at acting and the point of view of their archetypes that it doesn't matter that their voice is exactly the same. It's still a different person.

I think stage acting is the best teaching tool for voiceover. In animation, you got to perform for the back of the theater. You've got to show the change in emotion in your voice — they can't see your eyebrows narrowing or your lips quivering.

'As I'm leaving, they're like, 'Can do you do a little boy voice?''

What was the role that really kicked off your career?

It was "Mr. Pickles" on Adult Swim, a very niche show targeted to males 19 to 39.

You played a boy, Little Tommy there, right?

Tommy Goodman. He was six. I auditioned for a couple lady roles on that show and as I'm leaving, they're like, "Can do you do a little boy voice?" I'm like, "Well yeah, I do this one [says in voice of Tommy Goodman]. This is my favorite one to do." And they're like, "Oh that's good." And I booked that role.

And so how did you get from playing a little boy in an Adult Swim cartoon to Minnie Mouse?

I always tell myself, "They had to know I did that show." Disney surely knew all the shows I've done prior to Minnie, but they also knew my agent. They knew my work ethic.

I was already on a Disney show and they knew me from the workshops and classes. And at the time, I worked at Disneyland. So they knew I knew how important the character is because I saw her interacting with kids every day. I know what she means, especially to our littlest fans. And I take that very seriously. We want to keep that magic there for them and we always want to make sure that she is exactly who she is and I'm just one of her best friends in the back.

And I know you voice her for experiences in the parks as well?

Some experiences. Yes. There's lots of wonderful things still happening that Russi was a part of and it's always so nice to hear her. When I hear her voice talking to me, it's like, "Oh, I'm five again, this is my Minnie." And I strive to be that type of person to fans these days to continue that love and care for the character. 

But as new things come out, I'll pop in. So our Friendship Fair out in Magic Kingdom is open with a brand new show. If there's changes to the Runaway Railway ride that comes out to Anaheim, I'll be sure to help out with that.

'We'll do takes of all as written and then we'll change it up'

And when you approach voicing Minnie, do you approach her differently depending on the show she's on?

Yes, there's definitely a mindset that changes. So "Mickey Mouse Funhouse" and "Minnie's Bow-Toons," those are very much a maternal setting so her voice is pitched slightly down. We're able to talk through the learning lesson of the episode. We throw in little fun tidbits of humor that spice it up a bit, but it's pretty cut-and-dry and very straightforward, classic Minnie. This is the Minnie your children want to see. This is the Minnie they watch every day. These are the fun stories that build that character up.

And then "Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse" on Disney+ were longer episodes in the same format from the shorts they had on YouTube, where Russi did the voice. Those ones are very wacky and outside the box, like the old 1920s and '30s black-and-white ones. It's kind of like we're in this alternate dimension where everything is back in time, which allows for a fun range of goofy sounds and reactions and visuals, but it is its own thing separate from our core Minnie and friends.

Are you able to improvise at all when you're doing voicing Minnie?

Oh yeah. For the shorts, they have their script written and we have an animatic that we watch prior to get a feel for it. And we'll do takes of all as written and then we'll change it up. We change the emotion. We change the lines. As all of us are working, it inspires the writers to be like, "Oh wait. Say this. Let's see how this sounds in their voice. How would you deliver it?"

'Oh no, wait, we're still in peril. Let's go back to screaming'

Is there any particular thing that happened on the fly that you just loved?

If she's falling down a hill and she's got her vaudevillian scream, sometimes halfway through I'll have her laugh and then realize, "Oh no, wait, we're still in peril. Let's go back to screaming." She's able to find the fun, even in a dire situation.

And then one episode of "Mixed-Up Adventures," where Daisy thinks her grandmother is a superhero and she finds a costume in her grandmother's house because her grandmother's gone. And of course, Daisy's going to reach and find those far conclusions. She's like, "And you two can be my sidekicks and you'll use all of your special superpowers to help me."

And then Minnie's reply was, "How do we do that?" The take we chose was her just staring and saying almost deadpan, "How do we do that? Please, please tell me. How do we do that? I want to hear this."

What is your process for getting into the Minnie mode?

When I would study Russi's interpretation of it, I noticed a lot of the vocal nuances. So she had a nasality to her, especially on her Ms and her Ns. She scoops up, she scoops down, she can crackle into vowel starting words, vaudevillian singing, wavering, and just knowing how much love is within her. So I always think of the hook lines of like, "Oh, hello. I'm so happy to see whoever you are. I'm happy you're here." So knowing she's happy no matter who she meets, and knowing that no matter what, she'll always love Mickey, those are the two big things that I slide into.

'It's a squirrel bird and I call it a squird'

I'm a big Marvel fan and I noticed you have a voice credit on the "What If...?" episode around Party Thor. What was that experience like?

I was part of the loop group. And the loop group, which is run by Terry Douglas, came in as the additional voices. In that episode we slid in to do the voices of a lot of the background characters at Thor's party. I'm sure if I listen, maybe I could pinpoint a "Woo-hoo! Party!" that's mine.

That one was a lot of fun, but one I really love is the "I Am Groot" series. There's an episode called "Groot Takes a Bath." And he takes a bath in a mud pit and his antics have annoyed this creature in a tree. I thought it was a bird because it had a beak. It took me forever to realize there's no wings. It's more like a squirrel, but it has a beak. So it's a squirrel bird and I call it a squird. And it's just there relaxing in the tree. And every time Groot would annoy it, it would just make these weird sounds and wake up.

There's another episode where he meets little Lilliputian jelly bean people. We are in that, voicing all these little jelly beans as he's reacting. I love looping because you can be on so many projects, just as anything. In "The Book of Boba Fett," I did a bunch of Tusken Raiders.

Oh, really?

Yeah. We all did our [makes a spot-on Tusken Raider grunt and growl}.

How did you prep for that?

A lot of rest and a lot of water. And you turn up your gain on a microphone to let it be louder and then do it softly, but still effectively at a higher gain. Because if it's down to normal and you're pushing it, you will hurt yourself. So I was a little tender that week, but got through it. And luckily, my loop group leader knows this, so she can bring me in knowing like, "Hey, I know Kaitlyn can do this." Work begets the work. And that is just so much fun, too. Looping is where it's at.

'With Minnie, it'd be wonderful if she and the classic characters were on a feature animated film'

So I know you've done a lot of projects for Minnie so far and I know you can't talk about all projects that are still in the works, but is there any dream project you would love to do with Minnie?

Oh gosh, we did something extremely cool the other day for our 100th anniversary that I was a part of. It is something that aligns with what I've always wanted to do .... I shouldn't say any more.

Fair enough, fair enough.

It should come out next year on the anniversary.

Is it a TV show or something else?

It's like a special short. But there's lots of work to be done on it. So we're setting the bones down, setting the groundwork.

But I think with Minnie, it'd be wonderful if she and the classic characters were on a feature animated film. Shorts are always fun, but a movie about our character friends would be phenomenal, an official animated feature movie, because they've got plenty of direct-to-DVD movies or things that come out on Disney+. But that feature film is such a jewel. And if you brought in other Disney characters, like a whole mash-up of this universe, where they can talk to each other or interact, that would be really cool.

That would be really cool.

We kind of had that start in "Wreck-It Ralph," too, all the princesses are together. Take that a little further and who knows where it could go?