Interesting Facts

How Being Bugs Bunny Helped This Voice Actor Out of Coma

Mel Blanc; the voice of Bugs Bunny, had been in a serious car accident that put him in a coma. After many unsuccessful attempts to get him to talk, a doctor asked “Bugs, can you hear me” Mel responded in the voice of bugs bunny, “Whats up, Doc? The doctors used this to lead him out of his coma.

Mel Blanc Joins Warner Bros. in 1937

On May 30, 1908, Melvin Jerome Blank was born in San Francisco, California. At the age of six, his family relocated to Portland, Oregon. Young Blank developed a passion for music and picked up the bass, violin, and sousaphone, among other instruments. He had a fondness for making up voices, which amused his classmates and annoyed his teachers. Blank was told by a teacher when he was 16 years old, “You’ll never amount to anything. You’re just like your last name: blank.”

Following his graduation, Blanc was hired by KGW, an Oregon radio station, for The Hoot Owls, a late-night variety show that he wrote for and performed on. The incident forced Blank to change the spelling of his last name to “Blanc.”

The youngest musical director in the nation, Blanc was appointed by the RKO Orpheum Theater in Portland on March 26, 1931 (as stated in the previously cited Encyclopedia). Blanc developed his ability to create a range of voices through his work on radio, in part to compensate for the lack of any supporting cast members. Blanc was hired by San Francisco-based NBC affiliate KGO in May 1931 to emcee The Road Show. However, after the show’s failure, he moved to Los Angeles, where he eventually met and wed Estelle Rosenbaum in 1933.

After moving back to Portland, Blanc and his spouse started a new late-night program for KEX called Cobwebs and Nuts. Following the conclusion of the show in 1935, the Blanc family relocated to Los Angeles. In 1936, Blanc secured employment performing impressions on NBC Blue Networks’ The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny, in addition to other radio assignments in the vicinity. Blanc had been unsuccessful in her attempts to get a voice acting audition with Warner Bros. at that time. Then destiny intervened, and after the manager who had repeatedly turned Blanc down died in 1936, his successor gave him another chance and ultimately hired him.

After Blanc voiced a drunken bull in his first Warner Bros. project, Picador Porky, he was approached to take over as Porky Pig’s voice actor, according to Encyclopedia. 1937 saw the release of Picador Porky, which was not only Blanc’s first Warner cartoon but also the place where he improvised and came up with the famous “Th-uh-th-uh-th-that’s all, folks!” The same year also saw the appearance of Daffy Duck, and in 1940 Blanc contributed to the creation of Bugs Bunny, the character he would be most closely associated with throughout his career.

Bugs Bunny Saves Mel Blanc After a Serious Car Accident

As they say, the rest is history. According to Britannica, Blanc voiced 90 percent of the Looney Tunes characters, which catapulted her to international stardom. Subsequently, in January 1961, Blanc was hospitalized following a tragic accident. After a recording session in San Francisco, Blanc was driving home in his sports car, heading east on Sunset Boulevard, when he was struck by a college student right at the famous “Dead Man’s Curve.” When he was finally pulled from the wreckage, Blanc was unconscious, and the situation did not look good. Blanc had sustained multiple fractures, including two broken legs, a fractured pelvis, and numerous other broken bones. Blanc spent fourteen days unconscious. Dr. Louis Conway, the neurosurgeon attending to Blanc, and Blanc’s family, would try calling out his name, but to no avail. They feared the worst, as did Blanc’s fans around the world.

Curiously, this is where the story is connected to the Bugs Bunny cartoons. When Dr. Conway arrived in Blanc’s hospital room, the television was on and running a Bugs Bunny cartoon. The doctor had an idea because of the timing, whether it was a coincidence or a sign from God. A crazy notion, some might say. “So finally, he [the doctor] said, ‘Bugs, can you hear me?’ Believe it or not – and I was there with my mom – he responds in character, ‘Yeah, what’s up doc?’ I was stunned.” Blanc’s son, Noel Blanc, narrates what transpired next in an interview with Fox News. “He recuperated and even took on jobs while wearing a full-body cast.”

Among other things, Blanc continued to voice a wide variety of cartoon characters in the years after his accident. At the age of 22, Blanc’s son started working at Mel Blanc Associates, an advertising agency that Blanc had founded shortly before his accident with John Burton, a former executive producer of Warner Bros. (as per the previously cited Encyclopedia). Mel Blanc established the Mel Blanc School of Commercials in 1972, offering classes on voiceovers for radio and television, commercial acting fundamentals, and other subjects. However, financial issues forced the school to close after just two years. In 1988, Blanc provided the voice of the Looney Tunes characters that starred in the hugely popular live-action/animation hybrid movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit. That would be the last film Blanc worked on that was released while he was still alive, with Blanc passing away at 81 years old on July 10, 1989.

The breadth of Blanc’s legacy is astounding. He worked on several Looney Tunes character development projects. Additionally, Blanc’s 1937 opening line and “last words he ever said on-camera or off-camera,” “That’s All, Folks,” are inscribed on his tombstone.

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