A new Looney Tunes short starring Tweety and Sylvester will debut Friday before showings of the Warner Bros. animated feature "Happy Feet Two." But while the short "I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat" is computer animated and in 3-D, the soundtrack dates back to 1951 and a novelty song recorded by voice-over artist Mel Blanc.
The song, which has the same title as the short, features Blanc, the actor who created the voices for all the Looney Tune classics characters, including Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck and Pepe Le Pew. The song was written by Alan Livingston, Billy May and Warren Foster, and was highly popular when it was released.
"It was a No. 1 hit in England because of a disc jockey named Sam Costa," said Blanc's son, Noel, who has filled in for dad since his father's death in 1989. And it didn't do too badly in the U.S., hitting No. 9 on the Billboard pop chart in early 1951, selling 2 million copies.
"He was an amazing singer," Blanc said of his father. "People didn't realize he had perfect pitch. He would take a nine-part harmony just with a lead sheet and sing all nine parts. He made 100 singles for Capitol Records at the time."
For Tweety, the adorable little yellow bird tormented by the salivating cat Sylvester, Mel Blanc's voice was speeded up by 20% to get the little bird's high-pitched tone, said his son.
For the short, additional lines were recorded by June Foray, 94, the original voice of Granny, Tweety's protective owner.
"I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat" comes on the heels of Warner Bros. Animation's three Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner 3-D shorts, one of which, "Coyote Falls," was shortlisted for the 2010 animated short film Academy Awards.
The film's executive producer Sam Register, the executive vice president of creative affairs for Warner Bros. Animation, said that an animator told him about the Blanc recording about three years ago. "The idea of being able to go back and use Mel Blanc, all of that sounded fantastic," Register said. He took the project to director Matthew O'Callaghan, who was working on the Coyote and Road Runner shorts.
The biggest problem was locating the master recordings. It took two years of searching before they were found at Capitol Records. "We discovered that the tracks only existed in mono," O'Callaghan said. "We had to find a company that specialized in separating the tracks so you could have control over the volume and everything."
Once the arduous task was completed, the music was re-recorded with a 60-piece orchestra.
Then O'Callaghan had to figure out the timing and the gags for the fast-paced comedy. "If you listen to the song, it is just a sweet duet," said O'Callaghan. "But there is nothing indicating a narrative or the Warner Bros. sensibility. You start working out gags and then you start drawing. Then you have to back into the gags and figure out what lyrics are going to lead up to that moment."
Warner Bros. Animation has a short set to the Blanc tune "Daffy Duck's Rhapsody" set for release next year.