Mel Blanc revealed the secrets of making a great cartoon

Blanc breaks down the production process.

Do we really want to know how the sausage is made? For lots of us, it's easy to take cartoon production for granted. Doesn't Bugs Bunny just show up for work, clock in, and get into some zany antics? The best cartoons make it seem like the characters are just there, and then hilarity ensues. We want to suspend our disbelief, and our favorite animations make it easy.

Part of growing up, though, is recognizing all the hard work that goes into making a Bugs Bunny cartoon. We have to acknowledge that there are humans behind the hare. It's an unfortunate truth, but it is interesting to learn about. So, how does that wascally wabbit get from sketch to screen?

There's no better person to document the process than Mel Blanc, who voiced plenty of our favorite Looney Tunes characters. In his book, That's Not All Folks, Blanc breaks down the production process that imbued these cartoons with such specific characterizations.

"First the writer, or story man, cooked up a basic plot, which was shown to an artist whose job was to illustrate the writer's ideas. Each rough drawing of a scene was cut up and thumbtacked in sequence on a large wall. This visual script is called a storyboard," Blanc wrote.

"Here is where even rabid cartoon buffs get confused. Rather than add audio to video, it was the other way around. Only in the earliest days of talking animated films was sound synchronized to film, an agonizingly exacting procedure. At Warner's, I consulted with the director and the storyman in a sort of brainstorming session: ad-libbing lines, deleting or changing others I felt were out of character. To illustrate how intertwined my identity became with those of the cast members, I'd say something like, 'Bugs Bunny wouldn't do that, he'd do this.' Who could argue?"

Art imitated life which, in turn, influenced the art again. Blanc spoke about how the drawings would inspire his performances and the way his line readings would then inform the finished animation.

"These creative meetings thrived on collective inspiration. The visual rendering of a character enabled me to settle on an appropriate voice, which in turn helped the animators to refine physical characteristics. Together, writers, artists, and voice-men imbued a mere sketched animal with a distinct personality."

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12 Comments

BradBeall 1 month ago
Okay, I learned something new today! I always thought that the video aspect of any given cartoon was completed first, and then the voicing or other sounds were added afterward. After reading this, I can now see how that would be nearly impossible to do accurately.
Avie 1 month ago
"First the writer, or story man, cooked up a basic plot, which was shown to an artist whose job was to illustrate the writer's ideas."

This is ridiculous. Just as with a feature film, they needed a SCRIPT, with dialogue. And as with feature films, that script was often written by more than one writer.
mugens Avie 1 month ago
Not really ridiculous. I have heard essentially the same thing from another in the studio source who was not Mel.
djw1120 1 month ago
This almost makes me want to go to the library and get Mel's book.
It should make for some pretty interesting reading.
Especially for fans of Bugs and all the other Looney Tunes characters.
"Suffering Succotash!" as Sylvester and Daffy would say.
morticia77 1 month ago
Anything is hilarious on the Jack Benny Show
djw1120 morticia77 1 month ago
And what does the Jack Benny show have to do with Mel Blanc and/or Bugs Bunny?
epickett djw1120 1 month ago
There’s also a cartoon “The mouse that Jack built” with an animated Jack Benny mouse. Mel Blanc dors a couple of the voices in that one as well.
bru djw1120 1 month ago
Go to youtube & watch Jack benny Christmas show with mel blanc as a store clerk in a department store. One of the best. Mel was on Jack's TV show for years. He did voices back then you would recognize later in some of WB characters. He always tried to get Jack to crack up out of character.
obectionoverruled 2 months ago
Mel Blanc was a golden era of Radio superstar. He was especially hilarious on the Jack Benny Show.
Runeshaper 2 months ago
That is very interesting insight! Thanks, Me TV (-:
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