Suspended Animation #344
Noel Blanc is the son of legendary voice artist Mel Blanc. When Mel died, Noel was one of the people who continued providing voices for the characters that Mel had performed including for Tiny Toon Adventures.
Mel’s January 24th accident on a stretch of Sunset Boulevard known as Dead Man’s Curve found him taken to UCLA with both of his legs fractured, multiple ribs broken, and his pelvis shattered. Even worse, he had sustained a triple skull fracture. For two weeks, he was in a coma, his family and doctors unable to get a response.
Then, about fourteen days after the crash, one of Blanc’s neurologists, Dr. Louis Conway, got a strange idea. As recounted by Noel, the doctor bent over Blanc’s bed and said, “Bugs Bunny, how are you doing today?”
After a few moments of silence, a faint voice replied, “What’s up, doc?” Amazed, the doctor tried again. “Tweety, can you hear me?” Once again, Blanc replied: “I tot I taw a puddy tat.”
The doctors and Blanc’s family were stunned. Somehow, the cartoon voices that had become such a big part of Blanc’s life were the thing that ended up bringing him out of his coma. “Mel was dying, and it seemed as though Bugs Bunny was trying to save his life,” Dr. Conway recalled later.
Since 2004, Noel has been largely retired from doing voice work.“I never really wanted to do voices,” Noel told reporter Mike Polcino of Antiques and Collectibles magazine. “I directed and wrote and performed but not as a voice person. But while I was directing my dad, I realized that I could start doing some of these characters and he said, ‘Gee you sound like me’.
“He would train me to do things but that was much later in life. I never really intruded on his voice thing. I never did the characters for my friends in school. People would ask me to do Bugs Bunny but I never once did any of the voices in some twenty years or so of schooling.
“After he passed away, I was called on to do some of the characters from time to time. There are also some other voice actors who are doing the characters.”
In 1962, Mel and his son Noel formed Blanc Communications Corporation that produced over 5000 public service announcements and commercials. They appeared together on the television show That’s My Line with host Bob Barker.
Mel Blanc passed away in 1989 at the age of 81. In 1993, for an upcoming auction that featured items from Mel Blanc’s collection, Noel talked a little about his father.
Noel Blanc: My dad was, if anything an incredible Stanislavski method actor. He was the Actor’s Studio personified. When he became a character in his voice, his whole countenance, his whole body changed. You could take still photos of him doing Bugs, Porky, Daffy, Sylvester, Tweety and just from the still photos you could tell what character he was doing because his body became that character. It was very wild.
So, he was a consummate actor. I was just going through some of his old material. Bud Abbot and Lou Costello have a picture signed to him “To my favorite actor Mel Blanc”. They all considered him to be the consummate actor.
Around the house, my dad was just a regular dad. He could have been a shoe salesman from Des Moines. But, if you said, “What’s going on, Bugs?” he would switch to the “on” mode, the performing mode. Or if any kids came to the door, he’d do a voice if he was in the mood. My friends at school all wanted to meet him. He was a hero with all the kids I grew up with.I could recognize my dad’s voice on screen. There were very few voices that he did that I can’t recognize. There was that voice print that still comes through. He’s caught me a few times, but I’ve worked with him for so many years. We had a production company together for thirty years.
I’m probably familiar with most of the voices that he did although sometimes a cartoon will appear and I’d say, “Gee, I never heard that voice before”. There might be ten or so voices that he did that I wouldn’t be able to instantly identify in those thirty years.
We started selling some of my dad’s collection of art and memorabilia through auctions. He had signed some cels. The things we kept were really sentimental to me like things he wore: his rings, his watches, the letters that were sent to him, whether they were heads of state or certain actors that were his close friends. I’ve kept those things. A lot of them are up on the wall here.
And the things that were real important to my mother, we kept those things too. My dad loved to collect things. He never threw away a phone message. He had phone messages from 1940 and he just accumulated everything and this is basically his accumulation of things that took a lot of auctions and an estate sale to round up.
We were finding things in the house until the day we put the house up for sale. We’d find things in nooks and crannies and cupboards and under seats and in the backs of closets.
Dad liked Bugs Bunny the best. Although he used the Porky Pig voice in more areas. What I mean by more areas is the Army had a character named Private Sad Sack, where he used a voice that sounded like Porky Pig and on his radio show Point Sublime he did a character that was a stuttering type of guy.
Bugs was his favorite character because he was Bugs Bunny. It was always the twinkle in his eye and the smart aleck and the basically sweet person that would never hurt anybody. He really thought he was the rabbit.
Someone tried to list all the voice she had done and for Warner Brothers alone it was somewhere around twelve hundred. Because you had a lot of cartoons where he did just odd voices that would come in and out. And for Hanna-Barbera maybe the same amount. Just little odd voices coming in and out.
God gave Dad vocal cords of incredible durability. His voice cuts through anything else. If forty people are talking in a room, you hear him. Some of the great announcers had it.
Dad helped metamorphize all of the characters. The voices started with him and as he began to speak in those voices he realized the characters would have to be changed. Let me give you an idea. When he first did Bugs Bunny, Bugs had big front teeth and it was really hard to understand him with the overbite.
Mel had them move the teeth back so you could understand him better. He developed the voice along with the visuals at the same time. So I think he helped develop the characters. Once dad’s voices were set for a particular character that is how they stayed.