Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mel Blanc Explains Stuff

Mel is generally considered to be the greatest cartoon voice talent of all time.

There are still some great voice talents today and I've been lucky enough to work with such versatile and charismatic characters as Billy West, Cheryl Chase, Eric Bauza, Corey Burton, Gary Owens, Charlie Adler, Patrick Pinney and more.

All of these folks have highly sensitive and trained ears as well as mouths. This is what they do for a living. They are specialists in sound and much more qualified than movie actors to do animated cartoon voices, but sadly often get passed up when it comes to nabbing the big roles in animated movies. They are also much more eager than already famous and rich movie actors; they aren't there to just have a fun afternoon and walk away. This is their life.

I don't know Jeff Bergman, but Gabe Swarr directed him doing George Jetson's voice on a couple flash cartoons we did and I was very impressed with his talent.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. If we had actors today with such distinctive voices as Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Marlyn Monroe, then they might be able to add something to a cartoon movie character. But even so, trained voice actors usually do even better when they do their caricatured impressions of live actors.

They do it better because they understand the needs of the medium and care about it.

It's the reason an animator would make a better director than a live action director. It's our medium, even though we've been kicked out - or at least barred from using our knowledge in a sane way.

Sheer common sense would produce much more interesting and imaginative animation.

Mike Pataki is an exception. He is mainly a movie actor but just happens to have a very distinct voice and delivery. If all movie actors had such distinctiveness and energy then animation would benefit from the larger pool of talent.


Niki said...

I recognized his regular daily voice! he used it only slightly different from the voice for any random character. I'm trying to think of some specifics but I can't remember too well.

David Bernal said...

Awesome!! thanks Jon :)

lovetta said...

I like it do you think it's important for dramatic characters in animation to have specific voices.

Alexander said...

Great stuff!

Trevor Thompson said...

I tell ya. You know how for people who were around in the 60s they can recall exactly where they were when JFK died? Well, for me it was Mel.

I was nine years old and he was my first animation hero. Before Chuck and Clampett, I could readily identify Mel and when he died I was, for thirty six hours, completely inconsolable. "Bugs Bunny's dead" is all I could say.

Do you think ANY kid today is going to say that about any of the voice artists working today, whether they're good or bad? Hell, I still get a lump in my throat whenever I see that 'Speechless' lithograph.

There's never going to be another Mel Blanc, but the saddest part is that the industry is such now that it wouldn't spawn someone like Mel because there's no demand for his level of talent anymore.

Trevor Thompson said...

PS: THIS was adding insult to injury when I was a kid. Mel originally voiced this, then died, and then when certain changes were made Jeff Bergman came in to replace the dialogue. It sticks out like a soar thumb.

Trevor Thompson said...

Good point, Niki. Chuck Jones once said in an interview that Mel did hundreds of voices, and they were all him.

What he meant was that Mel never contorted his face, spoke from the back of his throat or anything like that, they were just slight variations on his own voice, and yet his own voice was base enough that he could come up with so many different characterizations.

Some of my favorite stuff to watch, though, is when Mel and Jack Benny are on camera together. Mel was the only person who could make the great Jack Benny crack up during a scene.

Jack and Mel on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson

Mykal said...

If I have to listen to Whoopie Goldberg or Bruce Willis do another cartoon voice, I'm going to shoot myself. Where is Mel Blanc when you need him? -- Mykal

RooniMan said...

Ahhhhh.....Good ol' Mel Blanc. How I wish for more voice artists like him. Well, at least we still some great ones out there.

Toncho said...

See John? This is why we need this blog! I'm loving the voice acting posts. Keep it up!

And seriously, what's wrong with (most) animation voices these days? They think 'Acting' is all it takes, next thing you know they won't even hire actors.

Hey! Why don't you come up with some 'voice studies' or 'voice exercises' for us amateurs? We could even make some sort of 'online-radio-novel'... Well, a man can dream.

SandraRivas said...

Mel Blanc was the best there is. He's a genius!

The worst part today is that there are good voice actors but the stupid people would rather use popular live actors. I hate that.

It's so great to hear from him.

C said...

Does any animated movie use unique voices? Sure the shorter cartoons do, both on TV and in theatre. You can recognize Bugs Bunny, Popeye, Yogi Bear, Homer Simpson, Invader Zim, etc. But they're from shorter features.

Lebon Bon Lebon said...

Whoever chose the voice of the kid in how to train your dragon, please throw yourself off a bridge!!!

Roberto González said...

>>Whoever chose the voice of the kid in how to train your dragon, please throw yourself off a bridge!!!<<

It's a really weird voice, but I kinda liked it for that reason.

Celebrities in animated movies come in different forms but most of the time they are not very creative with the voice. I don't know if it's lack of talent, bad direction or both. Sometimes I feel the celebrity could do a better voice if the character were interesting or the director had asked the celebrity to do a more specific voice.

Sometimes they try a little...In Monsters Vs Aliens I think Hugh Laurie and Kiefer Sutherland tried to adapt to the characters. In the other hand Seth Rogen is not good at this at all. I don't consider him a great actor, but I think he's funny and I enjoy him in person. But he's clearly not good disguising his voice. Even worse was Jim Carrey in Horton Hears a Who, especially when you remember his hilarious voice in Clampett's Horton Hatches The Egg!

In that audio clip it's clear that Mel Blanc was trying to create specific voices that would match with the character's personalities and designs. You can see he put a lot of thought in it.

I especially hate how much they advertise the celebrities more than anything else. At least in the 90s, in films like The Lion King they didn't advertise the celebrities that much and I think they did a better job with the character personalities than some movies todays. Of course the main characters sounded bland, but that's because main characters in Disney movies are always bland.

Regular voice actors are never advertised in big letters in the poster.

Anyway I think there are still decent voice acting in the tv animated series, pretty much every character in The Simpsons has a quite specific voice, Spongebob is also pretty decent in that department.

This may be a cultural difference but I must admit I don't undertand what's so great about John DiMaggio. I haven't listened to him in other roles, but to me Bender's voice from Futurama is not really very specific. In my opinion the spanish voice of the character matches his design much better . In spanish the voice fits with his mouth, which is always shut and he speaks like someone who talks through his teeth. In english he just talks like an average hyperactive-teenager-on-drugs that's sometimes funny, but never too cartoony or specific. Here is a clip of the spanish voice.
Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

Not only are live action actor's voices all wrong for cartoons, their voices are all wrong for live-action! Every modern movie has the characters whispering and mumbling all over the place. You can't understand anything anyone is saying. There's no rhythm or poetry to it. It's just mush!

Eric Bauza said...

You forgot to put yourself on that list!!! REN HOEK not only sounded funny, but was acted like no other character in animated history!!!

Funky Al said...

I thought Daffy's voice was supposed to be a parody of Schlesinger's voice, but Mel didn't mention that in the

Ardy said...

I might be late on pointing this out, if so just ignore this comment. But have you seen this monstrosity? Dan Aykroyd as Yogi Bear and Justin Timberlake as Boo-Boo. If you could write something about this I'd appreciate it, because I for one am speechless.

Roberto González said...

Now that I think of it, animated features just don't use specific voices for the main characters anymore...It's not only the celebrities. Some Pixar movies like Ratatouille don't use celebrities and still the voices are not really specific. I thought Linguini would have been funnier with a more nerdy voice and Remy could have had a more pompous voice. They had extremely regular voices that didn't say much about them as characters.

Pokey said...

How about voice actors impersonating celebrities--Mel Blanc said that he never did that, though we know that he often attracted criticism from SOME, not from ALL, as a "credit hog", and in fact GOLDEN AGE CARTOONS forums even recently had a thread that mentioned it, about Mel saying that he "just took over the Elmer Fudd vopice" [Arthur Q.Bryan, alongtime veteran radio actor.]

How about the way many of today's voice actors don't have the same radio background [forgivable due to their much younger age] and are typecast in cartoons that have, uh, replaced Ren and Stimpy ]Cheryl Chase's work being known not for her incidentals on Ren and Stimpyb ut as Angelica on Rugrats..]

Glad to see old timer Gary Owens. Even when they use voice actors celebrity voices [but Ren and Stimpy were to a large extent based on certain old time legends too] are imitated, with IMHO no apparent intent to create a voice.

When even something like Scooby-Doo at least can be praised by a Scooby non-fan as me for haivng an original voice [a la Astro, yes, but Don Messick was recyxling ,but in blander form, HIS own voice, not someone else's-yech, did I just PRAISE Scooby there?>:<],some's wrong.

Also the more "hip", modern, ones have voices based on famous people, but are still voiced by non-celebs [and what EXACTLY was Babs Bunny's FREAKIN' POINT in Tiny Toos doing voice impersonations, anyhow? Just to remind us that they don't know they're Muppet Baby clones?:)].
[MAJOR exception: if the celebrity gives permisison to the n on celeb voice actor to imitate him or has been long dead, like a certian asthma hound chihuahua [and just what EES an ASTH THMA HOUND CHIHUAHBUA< anyhow?:)] and no tail cat].

In short, I prefer when character more or less did not have celebrity based voices, even when they are being voiced by voice actors as such [unless it is Daws Butler since he always tweaked the voices to make them his own, but don't tell Bert Lahr in the great Hereafter and yonder that!]..

On "The Lion King": So the ads don't have any listing of the celebrities. So what? Big deal. Even Frank Welker [listed on TLK as additional voices], the blandest olf the blandest Scooby heros [Freddy] could have done Matthew Broderick's [all apologies to you, Matt, you're a great actor regardless] or Matt Damon or C.D.Barners [the original 1989 "The Little Mermaid" or any other celebrity..]

I do disagree when it comes to a lot of other live performers, past and present. First the present. As I mention [the "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" threads, and it is a great film], Anna Faris, rivalled by fellow blondes Amy Poehler and Malin Akerman as a nutcase blonde actress, pyscho, ditz type, contributes something excellent wiht her tones, but then again those women I mentioned could almost have done "Sam''s voice as well if you wanted a celebrity of that type.

Pokey said...

To continue..

In my opinion some modern day actors would be Morgan Freeman, as well as three mentioned [Anna Faris, Amy Poehler, and Malin Akerman], Michael Clarke Duncan, Holland Taylor, [Love the first name after so many Holly's], Christine Baranski, Alyson Hanigan, Missi Pyle ["Along came Polly"], all of these, who are with a few exceptions character actors anyhow, can give a dog, butterfly,something unique.

For the golden age, Ed Wynn, "The Bridge over the River Kwai}'s Sessue Hayakawa [only one cartoon voice for the famed Asian dramatic actor, Rankon/Bass's sinsiter Mole in The Thumbelina section of the "Daydreamer"], Phil Harris, Richard Haydn,et.c were excellent, but very few of 'em leaidng men [and again, all of then were on radio.] For "Top Cat", you get Arnold Stang, Marvin Kaplan, Mauirce Gosfield [due to his being in the blueprint series "Bilko"}, etc. Likewise the "Amos and Andy" influenced "Calvin and the Colonel", exclusive to the same season as "Top Cat" [1961-1962] [technically, "Kingfish and Andy" by then and long before that.]

However, a much much different scenario again, since these folks were from the raido and had for past and current ones radio and comedy and fantasy experience [S.Hayakawa was also in that Disnery live flcik of "Swiss Family Robinson", tiself a live fantasy that infleunced the DIsneyland attraction, ridiclously replaced in 1999 by the Tarzan attracton.]

Getting, finally, to Gary Owens, he was a cleb,. raido voice, etc. the consummate Renaissance man!

Pokey said...

Of course, Mel Blanc aside, the Warner characters were long dead by the late 50s, and even with "What's Opera" and "A Star is Bored" they were in a demise. The 1940s were the golden age of this..Blanc himself said Daffy retired ikn 1968 out of embarrassment.

RAKninja said...

Even in the old days (for me) they used "live" actors. See "Transformers". They really had a mixed bag there, some of the best names in the business, and other fairly bland voices (robert stack as ultra magnus still cracks me up).

i was crushed when frank welker was passed up for the megatron role in both new transformers movies for hugo weaving.

For a very long time i've been a big fan of voice actors in general.

i am very glad that some people still remember that voicework is very important.

CartoonSteve said...

Since Pokey mentioned Arnold Stang: Ebay The guy had both a distinctive voice AND face.

Farty Far said...

Why 'THE ROCK' should get a starring voice role in this new alien animated movie, I have no idea. His voice doesn't stand out at all.

She-Thing said...

Thank you so much for the info!! I can't think of any good actor with a particular voice, but Rowan Atkinson has some funny tones.

Annette said...

It seems like most animated cartoon movies abandoned all originality in favor of sounding like Chandler from "friends" not necessarily even the voice, but that casually disdainful delivery. Everyone's always "bemused." It's BORING

lastangelman said...

Jeff Bergman is a guy who loves what he does - voicing classic cartoon characters - and then some - not only is his take on classic WB characters almost indistinguishable from Mel Blanc, his imitation of Alan Reed (Fred Flintsone) is downright spooky, you actually believe Alan Reed is in the room with you.

TedM said...

Thanks for the post. Mal Blanc is the greatest. I would put him up there with The Beatles.

TedM said...

Mal Blanc is the greatest. I put him right up there with The Beatles.

Anonymous said...

An animator would make a better director? WOW! What a revelation... I see some great animators getting promoted to directors, and always wondered why some did and others continued on as animators through the years. A question of directorial skills?

I've also noticed the independent animators (who are already directors by design) are shooting up faster than some of them might progress in a studio. This is all really interesting, great observations.

John_Fountain said...

I simply must go on record and say that Eric Bauza is not only a manly man's man, but he's a pleasure to work with and really gave the production I was on a much-needed shot in the arm. Kudos to Bauzilla!

Elana Pritchard said...

I think Christopher Walken would make a good Hollywood cartoon actor. For a villain or something.

Roberto González said...

>>Mel Blanc is the greatest. I put him right up there with The Beatles.>>

I'd actually put Mel higher than The Beatles. I know John is going to kill, but I personally think The Beatles are overrated. I prefer the Rolling Stones and even bands like The Yardbird, The Troggs, The Hollies or The Zombies.

But still Mel was cooler than everyone/everything else.

Roberto González said...

Sorry "I know John is going to kill ME" , that's what I should have written in my previous post.

fandumb said...

Damn right you were lucky to have Billy West work for you! He's a voice acting genius!