A Picture is Worth 1000 Words, but 1000 Voices? Priceless

Wabbit Season! Duck Season! Suffering succotash! Hey, wait a cotton-pickin minute!

Do you remember those week-end morning cartoons?

They toured the world, with translations as needed! While watching Bugs Bunny and Duffy Duck in Italian during my childhood, I visualized (and therefore assumed it was) multiple people rapidly reading the dialogue while the animation played in front of them, as if in a live broadcast. Only when I started seeing reruns later on, did I realize that the voice work and sound effects must have been recorded offsite after all.

And here I am, a few decades later, working with voice-over artists and recording studios on a regular basis. Their polished and convincing readings are so compelling that I find myself completely captivated, no matter the subject. As you can read in last week’s post, audio recording is a true art form, requiring special training and careful talent selection to achieve a credible and beautiful result. That makes this glimpse into the Looney Tunes story even more astonishing.

 

Looney Tunes’ Voice

In case you are unaware, the funny and familiar Looney Tunes characters (in the original, non-dubbed versions) were voiced by one man only—the incredible Mel Blanc—known as the Man of 1000 Voices. Mel Blanc showed such range that during an episode it is nearly impossible to detect that the voice talent is always the same.

Over the years, he covered over 3000 characters, many of them within the same show and episode, such as Bugs Bunny and Bruno the Magnificent, the Slobokian circus bear. It is no easy feat to pull off a foreign accent as an English speaker, while switching back and forth to Bugs Bunny’s nasal, high-pitched speech.

One of my favorites (though probably not a showpiece when considering American diplomatic efforts in French circles—especially considering this character’s extreme use of stereotyping) is Pepé Le Pew. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a French accent and his distinguished, salt and pepper look.

Mel Blanc became the voice for Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester, Daffy Duck, Road Runner, Barney Rubble and Dino (both from the Flintstones) in the world of animated characters. At the same time, he performed voice work for multiple radio shows and television commercials, including the American Cancer Society and American Express.

 

Surprising Voices: Grover = Yoda

I will never outgrow my love of trying to guess the voice behind a cartoon character, which can be an interesting challenge.

It’s a remarkable achievement for a producer to create the fitting pitch, intonation, and other speech attributes for an animated character. For example, would you have guessed that Grover from Sesame Street = Yoda from Star Wars? Their voices are performed by the same artist, Frank Oz. You can find more unexpected actors who lend their voice to well-known cartoon characters here.

Voicing animated characters requires a high level of training—often including dramatic departures from the actor’s natural cadence and tone, along with a wide range and consistent performance throughout the appearances of the character(s).

 

The Legacy of Mel Blanc

The Man of 1000 Voices was still recording animated tracks when he approached the age of 80. And he certainly had a significant role in Hollywood’s Golden Age. He is not only considered the most prolific voice actor in the history of the industry, but he was also the first to receive on-screen credit.

During the 1960’s, Mel Blanc was co-producing the Bugs Bunny Show for ABC-TV. He was not lacking musical gifts either: he composed ”I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat” and ”The Woody Woodpecker Song”.

 

How did he do it?

Upon examination of Mel Blanc’s throat, doctors found that he possessed unusually thick, powerful vocal cords that gave him an exceptional range. His cords are said to have rivaled those of famed opera singers.

Unfortunately, Mr. Blanc had been a regular smoker since an early age, and he was diagnosed with emphysema at age 77. He died at age 81 in Los Angeles—a huge loss to the cartoon industry and audiences everywhere. But his voice and wit live on through the laughter of many generations and the sheer genius of his works.

TELL works with a network of highly skilled professionals, including the Spanish voice of a key character in the Toy Story franchise. Our voice-over artists can produce any kind of audio tracks, including animation voices and singing. Upon request, we create custom audio demos to help clients select the best-fitting resource for their project. Please contact us here for more information.

Th-th-th-th-That’s all, Folks!