Some people have difficulty finding their voice. Mel Blanc found over 700 voices, and became famous as the man behind the microphone for cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny, Barney Rubble, and Daffy Duck! Mel discovered his special talent while he was just a boy, too. While in high school, Mel found a hallway that had a great echo. He tried out this maniacal laugh that he made up, and Mel liked th sound enough that he ran up and down the hall cackling away. Then he ran straight into the school principal, who threatened to expel Mel if he ever did that crazy laugh in school again.
Mel agreed, but that same laugh later became the very distinctive sound of Woody Woodpecker!
He actually began his career in the old days of vaudeville, where entertainers toured from town to town. Mel was just 17 years old and working as a musical director. Vaudeville was full of immigrants with all kinds of exotic accents, and Mel enjoyed learning to imitate the different voices. He had also grown up in Portland, Oregon, where he was part of an immigrant community full of people from Japan, Canada, and Germany. There wasn’t television back in those days. People would listen to the radio, and someone like Mel was very popular. He became a very busy radio actor who’d often play several different characters on one show.
Mel Blanc later found real fame when he went to work in the cartoon industry. He did his first cartoon as the voice of Porky Pig in 1937. He went on to voice Bugs Bunny for the first time in 1940. Mel was also the original voice of animated favorites like Yosemite Sam, lovestruck skunk Pepé Le Pew, Sylvester the Cat, and Foghorn Leghorn. That’s also Mel growling away as the Tasmanian Devil and going “Beep! Beep!” as the Road Runner.
Mel Blanc passed away in 1989, but people will be enjoying his voice work for many more years to come. Check out the videos below for some unforgettable Mel moments. And if you meet anyone who doesn’t know it’s Mel’s birthday today–look them in the eye and say, “That’s desthpicable!”