Lucille Bliss, who provided the cute, husky voice for the title character in the groundbreaking television cartoon series “Crusader Rabbit” in 1949, and later for Smurfette on the 1980s series “The Smurfs,” died on Nov. 8 in Costa Mesa, Calif. She was 96.
David Scheve, a producer-director for TDA Animation who had worked with her in recent years, confirmed her death.
Ms. Bliss’s role as the voice of Crusader — the feisty little rabbit who seeks adventure beside his big, dumb buddy, Rags the Tiger — “made her one of the very first television stars,” said Mark Evanier, an animation historian and voice director.
“Crusader Rabbit” was the first cartoon series produced specifically for television. “Her voice had a lot of personality, which was important because early animation was done so cheap it didn’t have a lot of personality in it,” Mr. Evanier said. Ms. Bliss played Crusader in the first season, starting in September 1949, but not in later versions of the series.
She performed a panoply of parts over the next five decades. In 1950 she was the voice of Anastasia, the daughter of the wicked stepmother, in the Disney movie “Cinderella.” She had parts on “The Flintstones” and in several theatrical cartoons, as well as in commercials for products like Froot Loops and Ovaltine.
As Smurfette, she gave voice to the flirtatious character that many of the other blue, bulby-nosed little creatures had crushes on as they sang, danced and confronted menaces to their world. “The Smurfs” ran from 1981 to 1989.
“Smurfette felt so real to me because I created her voice, so I could feel her emotions,” Ms. Bliss told Animation magazine in 2005. “It may sound strange, but it’s true. We have to think like the character and it takes over.”
Lucille Theresa Bliss was born in Manhattan on March 31, 1916, to Frieda Siemens, a pianist, and James Francis Bliss, a physician. The family later moved to Springfield, Mass. After her father died, she and her mother moved to San Francisco. Although her mother wanted her to become an opera singer, Lucille insisted on taking acting lessons and soon had parts on local radio dramas.
Ms. Bliss never married. No immediate family members survive.
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