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Arts & Life
Sun November 20, 2011
Tweety And Sylvester Bring Mel Blanc Back To Life
Looney Tunes are back! A brand-new cartoon short called I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat debuts in theaters this weekend. It features beloved comedy duo Tweety Bird and Sylvester The Cat, but the real star of the show is the man who made them famous.
Mel Blanc was the voice of Warner Bros' most enduring cartoon characters for more than 50 years. He died in 1989, but an original recording of Blanc singing "I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat" has been remastered for the new short, playing in theaters alongside the film Happy Feet Two.
Blanc's son, Noel Blanc, tells Weekend Edition Sunday's Audie Cornish that it was amazing to hear his father's voice again.
"I remember when he made this song back in the early '50s, and it became such a hit," Noel says. "And now it's on film in 3-D ... it is just mind-boggling."
Blanc was also the voice for such notable Looney Tunes characters as Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and Daffy Duck. Those voices were the family business; Noel used to manage his father and once directed him in the studio. After Blanc's death, Noel even took up voicing the characters himself.
Blanc wanted his voices to be authentic, Noel says, and above all else, funny.
"They had to be real caricatures with a back-story. They couldn't just be crazy voices," he says. "He wanted them to have real personality."
Blanc even went so far as to visit real pigs to figure out Porky Pig's voice and Tasmanian devils to breath life into the infamous spitting and sputtering eating machine, Noel says. Bugs Bunny, the ever outsmarting rabbit, was modeled on the tough attitudes and accents of Brooklyn and the Bronx in New York.
Noel calls his father a method actor. He says he could watch his father in the sound booth, and without hearing the sound could tell exactly what character he was doing because he became the character. When Noel took over his voice work, he used his father's advice to in order to perform the voices.
"That gave me the idea that you have got to be a complete character and do a method acting job with each one," he says.
AUDIE CORNISH, BYLINE: More than 50 years ago, one of the top songs on the Billboard charts was this ditty:
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, I TAWT I TAW A PUDDY TAT")
MEL BLANC: (Singing as Tweety Bird) I tawt I taw a puddy tat, a tweet's been up on me. I did, I taw a puddy tat, as plain as he could be...
CORNISH: That, of course, was Looney Tunes cartoon favorite, Tweety Bird, voiced by the late Mel Blanc. And original recording of the song has been remastered for a brand new cartoon short now playing in theaters alongside the film "Happy Feet 2." Joining us now from Santa Monica, California is Mel Blanc's son, Noel Blanc. Welcome to the show, Noel.
NOEL BLANC: (as Bugs Bunny) What's up, Audie?
CORNISH: So, Noel, what's it like hearing your dad's voice again in this short?
BLANC: It is amazing because I remember when he made this song back in the early '50s. And it became such a hit called "I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat."
CORNISH: And I've read that you worked closely with your father when he was alive. You were actually his manager at one point and even directed him in the studio. Did you ever figure out how he came up with so many different character voices?
BLANC: If he had to do Porky Pig, he says, you know, to get the voice right, I've go out to the pig farm and wallow around and find out what the pigs sound like. And, you know, it's not a stutter. That's a grunt. Porky is a (makes sound) grunt. It's not a stutter. So, he would take these different animal sounds that he would find. Yeah, I remember he went down to Tasmania to find out what the Tasmanian devil sounds like.
CORNISH: Are you serious?
BLANC: Yeah. No, really. He was down in Tasmania and saw the Tasmanian devil. Of course, the Tasmanian devil eats everything on the (makes sounds), you know, just eats everything and that's how he developed the Tasmanian devil voice.
CORNISH: You took over the voicing after your father's death. What kind of tips did your father give you on how to perform these different voices yourself?
BLANC: He was a method actor. I could turn the sound off in the sound booth and look through the glass and watch him and know exactly what character he was doing because he became that character. But you could tell it when he was doing Tweety because he shrunk; he became a little bird. And then when he became the, you know, Sylvester, he became the big angry cat. And that gave me the idea that you've got to be a complete character. 'Cause, you know, sometimes you do 14 different characters in one cartoon and had to become each one of those characters.
CORNISH: Noel Blanc is the son of Mel Blanc, the original voice of Tweety Bird, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and other classic Looney Tunes cartoon characters. He joined us from his home in Santa Monica, California. Noel, thanks for chatting with us.
BLANC: Oh, thanks for coming by. And as Porky Pig would say, that's all, Audie.
CORNISH: And the new Looney Tunes short, "I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat," is playing at the beginning of screenings of "Happy Feet 2," in theaters now.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
CORNISH: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.