Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Talks Like a Duck

Daffy-blogging, essay 7 of 15 blog entries on
Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½th Century

Part One, The Acme Arsenal

Sometimes Acme products do what they promise.  Here,
Duck Dodger's Acme Disintegrating Pistol very effectively

The effectiveness of an Acme product often depends upon the
character of the user.  When reliable Space Cadet Porky uses an Acme
Integrating Pistol, it works just fine.

The first appearance of an Acme product in a Warner Bros. cartoon:
An Acme Super Outfit for Wile E. Coyote in the first of the Coyote/
Road Runner series, Fast and Fury-ous (1949).

Another Acme product that delivers what it promises.  Wile E. Coyote
neglects to read the fine print (and holds the pebble over his head
while adding water) in Scrambled Aches (1957).

Acme Aspirin may be effective for curing some pain but not for relief
from crashing into the ground after falling off a mountain.  A hard lesson
learned by Wile E. Coyote in Beep, Beep (1952).

"Mr. Coyote believed that this product would enable him to pounce
upon his prey in the initial moments of his chase, when swift reflexes
are at a premium."  From "Coyote V. Acme" by Ian Frazier, published
in The New Yorker, February 1990.  The still is from Beep, Beep (1952).
Note that Acme Rocket-Powered Products, Inc. is located in Fairfield, NJ!

Part Two, Talks Like a Duck

There were great voice artists in animation before Mel Blanc.  Two of my favorites are:

Jack Mercer
Jack Mercer who did the ever-mumbling, ad-lib spouting Popeye for most of the great Fleischer cartoons of the 1930s.

Pinto Colvig who was the lovable, folksy voice of Goofy in the Disney cartoons.

Both were great.  They mastered their Popeye and their Goofy and kept discovering new shades and depths to their characters.

Perhaps more importantly, there was Mae
Pinto Colvig
Questel, who could be considered an authentic precursor of the Mel Blanc phenomenon.  Her Betty Boop and her Olive Oyl have fully developed vocal personalities, expressed through dead-on mimicry and solid acting chops. 

But Mel Blanc redefined the field, creating a whole new set of expectations regarding what voice artists can accomplish in animation.  Through force of personality and natural acting talent, he developed the distinctive speaking characters of Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Pepe le Pew, Yosemite Sam,
Mae Questel
Speedy Gonzalez, and a host of others.  His vocal talent was actually not as broad as many others who have done well in the field—but his vocal acting ability was boundless.

Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½th Century is a one-man voice extravaganza, with Blanc effortlessly differentiating Daffy, Porky, Dr. I.Q. High, and Marvin the Martian.  There’s never a slip.  Each is always perfectly in character.

Mel Blanc
In reality, these performances required a bit more work than it sounds.  Blanc would do all the Daffy lines in one session, the Porky lines in another, and then the Marvin lines.  He wasn’t performing in a vacuum either.  Jones was right there with him, feeding the cues (doing his own versions of Daffy, Porky, and Marvin in turn), and setting the tempo.  Every aspect of these cartoons required teamwork—even Blanc’s high-flying solo contribution.

Reference Sources
Chuck Amuck by Chuck Jones
Chuck Reducks by Chuck Jones
Hollywood Cartoons by Michael Barrier
Looney Tunes: The Ultimate Visual Guide by Jerry Beck
Warner Bros. Animation Art by Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald
7 Minutes by Norman M. Klein
That's All Folks by Steve Schneider
Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume One DVD set, Duck Dodgers commentary by Michael Barrier
Friends at the IMDb Classic Film message board including Rollo Treadway, Chloe Joe Fassbender, Illtdesq, and Fish Beauty
... and an occasional sneak glance at Wikipedia entries (but always double-checking everything!)

Watch Duck Dodgers...
Purchase Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume One DVD set at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Rent Disc Two of Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume One DVD set at Netflix or other rental service.

© 2011 Lee Price

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