ANIMATION ANECDOTES
November 5, 2021 posted by Jim Korkis

In His Own Words: Noel Blanc on Mel Blanc

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.

After his fifty-two year old father had a near-fatal car accident in 1961, he voiced some of the Looney Tunes characters while Mel was recovering from his injuries.

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.

Noel Blanc

“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.

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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.

9 Comments

  • What percentage of this is bullshit?

    • What difference does it make?
      As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that most things you read or hear about is all bullshit.

    • None of it. Everything being said probably isn’t completely factual, and some of it is probably out and out wrong but this is the memories someone has of their famous parent, a person that happened to voice a lot of the characters that were/are popular for a number of studios. Time has a way of making everyone a liar, and get 5 people involved with the making of a cartoon and you won’t get 1 unified story of how it was made and who did what. And most of the 5 think that their version is the true one.

      Mel Blanc was a once in a generation, maybe once in 100 years talent. He came along just as sound was first added to movies and cartoons and before being a voice actor was a profession. By the time he retired it was something you could go to schools to try and learn. His son did work with him for many years and took over voicing some of the characters for a while. What part of this story do you think is bullshit?

    • Interested in what Andrew L is doubting here.
      I knew Mel from my childhood and visited him with wife Estelle in late 70’s. My Grandpa Bob Effros worked with Mel early on radio ( The Jack Benny Show and more) awas in Fleischer cartoon orchestra when Mel recorded most of the voices. Best of my knowledge it is all true.
      Other fun facts :
      The Blank née Blanc family moved to Portland where Melvin had a Bar Mitzvah, attended grammar and Lincoln High School.
      Mel and Estelle had a radio show in Portland, Oregon. Mel Blanc was a member of the” Hoot Owls “. Later joined up with Portland Orchestra leader George Olsen playing violin 🎻. From LA to NY and back to Hollywood.

    • Wow. What were you expecting, “Daffie Dearest”? “No held cels…ever!”

  • Call me old-fashioned, but I think there’s a world of difference between a true statement and a false one. However, it’s true that people tend to embellish or even fabricate stories about things they did long ago. One sees this in the recollections of early jazz artists, for example. The early history of animation, like that of jazz, was poorly documented while it was being made, and anecdotes recounted long after the fact are often all we have to go on. Regardless of their accuracy, they’re still better than nothing at all. So it’s not true, as some have it, that oral history isn’t worth the paper it’s not written on.

    Still, it’s possible to refute some claims. It’s true that the early designs of Bugs Bunny/Happy Rabbit had varying degrees of overbite; he has huge incisors in “Hare-um Scare-um” and “Elmer’s Candid Camera”, intermediate in “Porky’s Hare Hunt” and “The Wild Hare”, and none at all in “Elmer’s Pet Rabbit”. Mel Blanc’s vocal characterisation also varies between these cartoons, but there’s absolutely no correlation between overbite and vocal timbre. In any case, Noel Blanc was a baby when those cartoons were made, so he would have received this information long after the fact — straight from the wabbit’s mouth, as it were.

    Even if many of his anecdotes were, shall we say, somewhat at variance with the facts, there’s no denying that Mel Blanc was a great actor and a loving father who established cartoon voice acting as both a profession and a fine art. That’s one lily that doesn’t need gilding.

  • I don’t think Mel Blanc studied his own cartoons. His knowledge of them is strictly from his own point of view while doing recording sessions for cartoons, records, television commercials, toys, etc.

    From his point of view, this isn’t BS. The animation didn’t even exist while he made his recordings. He knew how he thought of the characters as a recording artist, not as a student of the art of animation.

  • “We are the music makers,
    And we are the dreamers of dreams…”
    – from Arthur O’Shaunessy’s “Ode” as quoted by Willy Wonka

  • Does anyone know which cartoons Noel subbed for Mel while he was hospitalized?

    I remember reading Blanc’s autobiography. I remember him writing that a doctor said he he had the vocal cord structure of Enrico Caruso. We all know he has an amazing voice but I was like, “C’mon! The doctor’s just saying that because he knows his patient is Mel Blanc.”

    Lo & behold, 30 years later, through the magic of the internet I found videos on Youtube of Mel Blanc’s vocal cords.
    So there was truth to something I dismissed.

    Anyone who has ever been involved in a creative collaborative effort knows it’s easy to overstate one’s involvement….because all we have is our point of view. There is also the proven factor of how suggestible our memory is, and then the reteller’s interpretation which can be the honest misunderstanding of a technical detail. My point is is that it is all too human and doesn’t require conscious fabrication. Just moments ago I was telling my daughter an anecdote which I qualified that I couldn’t remember if I was told it, witnessed it, or read it….but I can see it in my mind.

    I leave the facts to the historians but expect versions of stories from the artist. I wouldn’t trade a good story with all its emotion for cold hard facts and I know the difference when it comes to memoirs.

    As for the Bugs teeth design thing; those early rabbits did sort of have a Mortimer Snerd overbite quality to the voice, and one can bet that the voice influenced the animation including the lip-sync. Perhaps this is what the memory originated as?

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