Bugs Bunny: “Eh…what’s up doc?”
Daffy Duck: “You’re despicable!”
Tweety: “I tawt I taw a putty tat!”
Sylvester: “SSSSSssufferin’ SSSSSuccotash!”
Didn’t you almost read all that in the voices of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety and Sylvester? These voices belong to one man, Mal Blanc, who has been the voice of many of our favourite cartoon characters for more than fifty years now.
Be it Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny or countless others who have seemed larger than life on screen because of this very genius, also known as ‘The Man of Thousand Voices’. Here’s one man who has kept our childhood (and even beyond) filled with laughter because of his myriad voices. He has carved a niche for himself by NOT making appearances on the silver screen. Now that’s noteworthy!
Mel Blanc was born as Melvin Jerome Blanc was born on May 30th, 1908, in San Francisco to parents who were in the retail business but later, the entire family went on to live in Portland. He was a favourite among his peers and teachers in school because he always read in class with his many voices for their entertainment and he was specially known for his piercing laugh which later went on to become the signature call of Woody Woodpecker.
He was a man of many shades. After graduating from high school in the year 1927, Blanc immediately jumped into the business world. The magician inside him who weaved magic with his vocal chords was not recognized straightaway. Instead he had to rely on the violinist, bassist and sousaphone player inside him to earn his living. He played in the NBC Radio Orchestra and also conducted the pit orchestra at the Orpheum Theatre in Portland. Soon, he was married to Estelle Rosenbaum in 1993. After a while the couple decided to host their own daily one-hour radio show called Cobwebs and Nuts.
(Above: Interview with David Letterman)
When this started being too much of a stress for both of them, his wife gave the idea to move to Los Angeles. After a series of auditions at LA, he was finally selected by Leon Schlesinger Productions, the company which had given birth to the original Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies for Warner Bros. Here the first major role offered to him was that of Porky Pig and there was no looking behind from there. He was a firm believer in the concepts of creation and originality and was strongly against imitation which he considered as nothing else but stealing from another person.
Once he had established himself as the magician of voices, he dabbled a bit in acting but never really took much interest in it since giving life to characters was his first love. He soon went on to open his own production company along with his son.
Apart from entertaining the world, entertainment for him meant keeping a collection of antique watches. During his life, Mel Blanc received a number of awards from the civic organizations and others like the United Jewish Welfare Fund Man of the Year and also the Show Business Shrine Club’s first Life Achievement Award. He was also honoured by the Smithsonian Institution.
Blanc’s many “voice characterizations” were as integral in his life as breathing is for us. It is said that after a car accident in the year 1961 he went into coma and never responded to any of the doctor’s attempts to get him to talk until one day when the doctor walked in and went, “Hey, Bugs Bunny, how are you?” to which Blanc replied in Bug Bunny’s voice, “Eh, just fine, doc. How are you?” The doctor then said, “And Porky Pig, how are you feeling?” to which Blanc said, “J-j-j-just fine, th-th-thankssss.” It was nothing less than a miracle.
Needless to say, none of our favourite cartoons would have been the same without Mel Blanc. And like Porky Pig says, thaaaaaat’s all folks!