Often times, the greatest creative minds are as skilled as they are because they possess an undying commitment to their craft and are utterly consumed by their work. There are a plethora of stories of artists whom work in several fields and industries who have risked their livelihoods and well-being all in an effort see their visions through. However, it’s not so common to see the reverse occur, where the work of the artist ends up paying the artist back.
Mel Blanc is a man whose face you may not recognize, but who’s voice you are more than familiar with. Blanc’s voice is behind many of the most iconic characters in cartoon and animation history and is responsible for bringing the majority of the Looney Tunes cast to life. His impressive repertoire includes the likes of Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety and Sylvester, Wile E. Coyote and Bugs Bunny, which are just a select few out of the 1,000 characters in his rolodex. As if his versatility was not ground-breaking enough, Blanc has been able to cement his career as a voice actor and radio comedian for over 60 years. As a result of his extensive career, he paved the way for others whom followed as voice acting was now to be considered an actual profession. It’s fair to say, Mel Blanc was a true trendsetter who took an unknown path and created his own way by doing exactly what he loved deep within.
I Know that Voice, a documentary that explores the what the job actually demands and highlights the careers of some of the industry’s leading voice actors, also pays tribute to this legend. Noel Blanc, Mel Blanc’s son, mentions in the film that his father was able to utilize and manipulate his voice as he did because he took the profession seriously, despite the fact that his work dealt with cartoon characters and he was never seen on screen. Blanc was a true method actor.
But it was only when things took an unexpected turn that Blanc’s peers as well as his fans were able to see the real role and value that cartoon characters held in his life. In 1961, Mel Blanc found himself in a nearly fatal car accident that left him in a coma. On the 14th day of his coma, and after several attempts to awaken Blanc by both his son and wife, one of Blanc’s neurologists decided to take a chance and try something new.
Approaching his bedside, the doctor asked Blanc a simple question: “Bugs Bunny, how are you doing today?” To the surprise of everyone in that room, Blanc replied, as if in response to a director’s cue, and said “What’s up doc?”
The rest was history. Mel Blanc spent the next few months in a hospital recovering but still managed to provide his voice, perform and record amongst other voice actors within his hospital room. Despite what would have been an injury to affect Blanc’s cognitive capabilities, it was the many voices stored in the recesses of Blanc’s mind that quite literally brought him back to life.
Author: Raazia Rafeek
Raazia Rafeek lives in Toronto writing, painting and studying to complete her final year of her Honours English degree. With an interest and passion for everything creative, she wishes to see her career through in Marketing or hopefully, film and production. Check her work out at www.raaziarafeek.wordpress.com