Jodi Benson (born Jodi Marie Marzorati; October 10, 1961) is an American actress, voice actress and singer. She is best known for providing both the speaking and the singing voice of Disney's Princess Ariel in The Little Mermaid and its sequel, prequel, and television series spinoff. Benson voiced the character Barbie in the 1999 Golden Globe-winning movie Toy Story 2 and its 2010 Academy Award-winning sequel Toy Story 3. She also voiced Barbie in the Toy Story cartoon Hawaiian Vacation. For her contributions to the Disney company, Benson was named a Disney Legend in 2011.
Benson was born and raised in a Catholic environment, graduating from Boylan Central Catholic High School in Rockford, Illinois, and Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. She married actor/singer Ray Benson in 1984. They have two children, McKinley and Delaney.
Benson made her debut in the 1975 Kenny Ortega-directed Marilyn: An American Fable. Other Broadway credits include a starring role in the Broadway musical Smile, where she introduced a song called "Disneyland". She describes the song "Disneyland" at the Smile Reunion concert held on Sept. 22, 2014, "This is the first piece of the puzzle of my life, the first step of the journey, so to speak".
In 1983, Howard Ashman, the lyricist of Smile, would go on to write the lyrics for The Little Mermaid. In late 1986, Benson first heard of the audition for The Little Mermaid through Ashman. The filmmakers felt that it was necessary to have both Ariel's speaking and singing voices done by the same person, and therefore considered her a perfect candidate. After hearing the demo for "Part of Your World", she sang a small part of it on tape where it was later sent to Disney executives. Before her audition for The Little Mermaid, she was primarily a stage actress. It was Ashman's first Disney project. In early 1988, Benson won the role of Ariel.
Benson's vocal talents were given critical acclaim from a wide variety of film critics. It was for this film that she recorded her signature song "Part of Your World". The success of The Little Mermaid spawned an animated TV series in the mid-90s, followed by two direct-to-video sequels (the first in 2000 and the second in 2008). Benson has continued to reprise her role as Ariel in most Disney-related media.
She also gave voice to the spirited "Weebo" in Flubber, and the titular character in Don Bluth's Thumbelina in 1994. Some of her other roles include Healing Fairy in Tinkerbell & the Secret of the Wings, Lady in Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure, Anita Radcliffe in 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure, and Jenna in Balto II: Wolf Quest, and Balto III: Wings of Change. She also voiced Jane Doe and Patsy Smiles in Camp Lazlo and Tula in The Pirates of Dark Water.
On the concert stage, Benson has performed as a concert soloist with symphonies all over the world, including The Boston Pops, The Philly Pops, The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, The National Symphony, Cleveland, Dallas, Tokyo, and the San Francisco and Chicago Symphonies. Benson is the resident guest soloist for the Walt Disney Company/Disney Cruise Line and ambassador for feature animation.
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) - Lastelle's Mother (Buena Vista Dub)