The Voice : Mel Blanc Is 80, and He’s Also Bugs, Tweeti, Porky, Elmer . . .
After 48 years of putting words in the mouth of Bugs Bunny, cartoon voice wizard Mel Blanc got something back from the wiseacre rabbit at his 80th birthday party Wednesday: A dazzling turquoise, black and white Edsel.
A studio employee costumed as Bugs perched on the hood as the Edsel, a surprise present, rolled into sight at the party whipped up at The Burbank Studios by Warner Brothers to celebrate Blanc’s birthday and his 50 years of providing voices for its cartoons.
Porky Pig Stutter
“Th-th-th-thanks, folks,” responded Blanc, instantly dropping into a perfect version of the famous P-P-P-Porky P-Pig stutter he originated, with which he has signed off the studio’s Looney Tunes cartoons since the days of Saturday matinees:
“Th-th-th-that’s all, folks.”
Blanc, dubbed the “man of a thousand voices” years ago, said the count is literally true, and that research has shown that he uses about 400 voices in Warner cartoons alone. He has also provided voices for commercials and the many characters he created for the Jack Benny radio show, which first made him an unusual kind of star in the 1940s.
His cartoon voices range from Daffy Duck’s spit-shined splutter and Yosemite Sam’s gravelly growl to Bugs Bunny’s sardonic “Ehhhh, what’s up doc?” and the soprano suspicions of Tweeti-Pie, the canary who frequently fears he “saw a puddy tat.”
Blanc said he had wanted an Edsel, that symbol of an overproduced flop, for at least 20 years, partly because “there are so few of them and they’re so hard to get” and partly because he loves cars of the 1950s and thinks the Edsel is a beauty.
“For some reason, they didn’t sell,” he said in his own voice, expressing genuine astonishment.
The Edsel, a 1958 Citation hardtop convertible, was described as “the most garish car” by Blanc’s son Noel, a director of live and animated films who paid “about $20,000, ballpark” for it from a collector in Texas, he said.
Noel Blanc said his father taught him the voice repertoire 30 years ago, and he “probably will take over” as the voices of Bugs, Daffy, Porky and Elmer Fudd, Wile E. Coyote and the insolent (“beep-beep”) Roadrunner when his father is no longer able to do them.
“We never told anyone, but I did fill in for him in some commercials and several cartoons back in 1961 after he was hurt in an automobile accident,” Noel Blanc said. His father resumed work as soon as he could beep, stutter and growl from his hospital bed, the younger Blanc said.
“He’s the only one who sounds exactly like me,” Blanc said. “It’s something in our genes.”
Blanc’s voice, used in hundreds of cartoons, films, recordings and radio shows, is heard by “20 million people a day around the world,” Barry Meyer, executive vice president of Warner Brothers, told a birthday lunch.
800 ‘Looney Tune’ Cartoons
Warners produced about 800 “Looney Tune” cartoons between the mid-1930s and 1969, when production was suspended, said Edward Bleier, president of the company’s pay-TV, animation and network features division.
But after a six-year hiatus, Blanc was back as the voice of Bugs Bunny when cartoon work resumed in 1976. Blanc has been working since, Bleier said, just a few weeks ago wrapping up a feature film--half of it new material that was mixed with old cartoons--"Daffy Duck’s Quack Busters.”
And Blanc’s autobiography is due to be published next month, his son said.
Title: “That’s Not All, Folks.”