Friday, May 30, 2008

Mel Blanc - Part 2

In 1936, Mel Blanc joined Leon Schlesinger Productions, which made animated cartoons distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. Blanc liked to tell the story about how he got turned down at the Schlesinger studio by music director Norman Spencer, who was in charge of cartoon voices, saying that they had all the voices they needed. Then Spencer died, and sound man Treg Brown took charge of cartoon voices, while Carl Stalling took over as music director. Brown introduced Blanc to animation directors Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, and Frank Tashlin, who loved his voices. (Wikipedia)

This talented group, created some of the most beloved and funniest cartoons ever made under the banners of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. For a great compendium of their work, I highly recommend; "Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies A complete guide to the Warner Brothers Cartoons" By Jerry Beck & Will Friedwald (ISBN 0-8050-0894-2)

On January 24, 1961, Blanc was involved in a near-fatal car accident on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Hit head-on, Blanc suffered a triple skull fracture that left him in a coma for three weeks, along with fractures of both legs and the pelvis. (Wikipedia)
More than 15,000 letters and get well cards were sent to the hospital including some that were addressed to "Bugs Bunny, Hollywood, USA". While in the coma, Blanc's doctor could not get him to respond. The story goes that one day, out of frustration, the Doctor said "How are you today Bugs Bunny?" and Blanc responded IN Bugs's voice! Mel had no recollection of this but his wife and son swore to him that it had happened. He credited Bugs with bringing him out of the coma. Mel was released from hospital almost two months later on March 17. In later years, he revealed that during his recovery at home, his son Noel "ghosted" a few of the cartoons for Warner.

Mel had an exclusive contract with Warner for many years, but when it expired, he also did work for Hanah Barbera as Barney Rubble and Dino the Dinosaur on "The Flinstones" and Mr. Spacely on "The Jetsons". While he recovered from his accident the Barney character was voiced by Daws Butler until the studio set up recording equipment so he could work from home. Blanc was also the first voice of Toucan Sam of the Fruit Loops cereal commercials.
In later years, he continued to do some work for Warner in various specials, commercials and in movies. He mainly voiced Daffy, Speedy, Sylvester and Tweety. The loud and raucous voices of Yosemite Sam and Foghorn Leghorn were a little to much for his vocal chords and therefore given to Joe Alaskey for the 1988 Amblin/Disney movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" This was also one of the last performances by Blanc.

His voice credits are numerous but here are his most well known credits from Warner and Hanah Barbera (an expanded list can be found on Wikipedia.);
Porky Pig (1936-1989, assumed from Joe Dougherty)
Daffy Duck (1937-1989)
Bugs Bunny's prototype (1938-1940)
Bugs Bunny (1940-1989)
Cecil Turtle (1941-1947)
Tweety Bird (1942-1989)
Yosemite Sam (1945-1989) ("Hare Trigger")
Pepé Le Pew (1945-1989)
Sylvester (1945-1989) aka Thomas (1947) in some films
Foghorn Leghorn (1946)
The Barnyard Dawg (1946-1989)
Henery Hawk (1946-1989)
Charlie Dog (1947)
Mac (of Mac & Tosh) (1947)
K-9 (1948) (sidekick to Marvin the Martian)
Marvin the Martian (1948-1989)
Road Runner (1949-1989)
Beaky Buzzard (1950)
Elmer Fudd (1950, 1958, 1970s and 1980s)
Bruno the Bear (1951)
Wile E. Coyote (silent until 1952, first spoke in the short "Operation: Rabbit")
Speedy Gonzales (1953)
The Tasmanian Devil (1954-1960) aka Taz
Barney Rubble (1960-1989)
Dino (1960-1989) (Fred Flintstone's pet.)
Cosmo G. Spacely (1962)
Here is a link to an interesting video on YouTube - it is a promotional video for animation art, but it is still a worthwhile listen to see just how the famous voices came to be. Mel Blanc - How He Created the Warner Bros. Cartoon Voices
There is also this one with Mel Blanc on David Letterman. Mel Blanc ( Loony Toons voices);

Mel Blanc, died at age 81 on July 10, 1989 of cardiovascular disease. He was a true genius and pioneer in the field of voice work. From Yosemite Sam to Tweety Bird, no one has ever been able to replicate his range of voices. His countless hours of voice work has left us with a timeless legacy that will keep us laughing for generations to come.


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