Great Voice Actors Past and Present: Mel Blanc and Mark Hamill

Past: Mel Blanc

Well you didn’t think I was going to do one of these without mentioning Mel Blanc, did you? “The Man of a Thousand Voices”. I have no desire whatsoever to check on the accuracy of that moniker, but I can tell you that the man has over one thousand credits on IMDB. Over. One. Thousand. 1,021, to be exact, leaving me to wonder if the man ever slept. But I guess it’s possible to rack up that kind of resume if you did voices until you were 81 years old. That is a fantastic accomplishment at an age where most people’s vocal cords have long gone downhill. There really is so much to say about the man that I feel he’s being cheapened by whatever I can get down in this short article.

He began his nearly 60-year radio career back in 1927, when he first caught attention for his amazing ability to voice multiple characters on the KGW program The Hoot Owls. He continued to work in radio until he signed up with Leonard Schleshinger Productions, a company which made cartoons for Warner Bros.  Mr. Blanc’s first voice for the company was in the short Picador Porky as a drunken bull, but didn’t voice Porky until Porky’s Duck Hunt in 1937, which also marked the debut of his original character Daffy Duck. Soon afterward came Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird, Yosemite Sam, and almost every single Warner Bros. animated character from that era. Being the voice of almost an entire company earns one a lot of pull; in 1944, a time where voice actors, even his peers at WB, didn’t receive screen credits Mel Blanc demanded, in return for not receiving a pay raise from Mr. Schlesinger, that he be credited for his work and he got it. He paved the way for respect and recognition in the industry.

His work with WB continued until the 60’s when his exclusive contract with the company ended and he began working for Hanna-Barbera, most famously as Barney Rubble from The Flintstones and Mr. Spacely in The Jetsons. In 1961 he suffered a fractured skull and coma from a near-fatal accident. The story goes, and is verified by IMDB, that he was brought out of his coma by a doctor asking if Bugs Bunny was in there, to which he replied “What’s up, Doc?”. Through getting him to talk as various characters they brought him back. In a testament to his talent and professionalism the man was absent from his voice work only a short time, continuing his work on as Barney Rubble from his hospital bed and his home in full body cast with all his co-stars and the recording equipment in the room with him.

As previously mentioned he continued doing voice work until his death in 1989. He changed his name from Mel “Blank” to “Blanc” because he was mocked by one of his teachers, who told him he would always be like his name: a zero, a “blank”. But in my opinion there will never be another human being quite like Mel Blanc.

You’ve Probably Also Heard Him As:

  • Sylverster the Cat, which was his natural speaking voice, minus the lisp.
  • Woody Woodpecker. He only voiced him for the first four episodes, but he created the character and his trademark laugh.
  • Bugs Bunny. Yes, I know I already mentioned this above, but how else could I awkwardly work in this little bit of trivia: Mel Blanc was not, in fact, allergic to carrots as was long believed. The rumor started because he was seen spitting out carrots after crunching on them to mimic Bugs doing so. It was assumed he spat them out to keep from getting ill, but it the reality was actually quite simple: You can’t do a voice with your mouth full of carrot.
  • Also as said before, nearly every single Warner Bros. character, from the well-known to the extras down to the sound effects!

Present: Mark Hamill

I fully expect two different responses to that name being featured in this article. One being “Mark Hamill? Mark STAR WARS Hamill? Luke Skywalker is a great voice actor? Why I can hardly believe my ears! Whatever do you mean?” All that in an overly dramatic falsetto. THEN there is the other camp of nerdier nerds who immediately say “WHOOPEE! Mark Luke Skywalker Joker Hamill!? My geeky heart is all aflutter”. I’m not sure what the voice is for that one, but probably nasally and something quite silly.

What was going on in that last paragraph? I don’t know, but indeed there are quite a few of us who love Mark for his work in Star Wars AND as the barrel full of crazy known as the Joker AKA Jack Napier. There is really only one way to describe the full immersion of Hamill as Joker: Genius. He plays Joker with a manic glee that can go from giddy to downright terrifying in .3 seconds. That laugh of his…I wouldn’t feel comfortable listening to it in the dark, and sometimes not even in the light. Go type Mark Hamill into the YouTube search bar right now. No really, I’ll wait. The friggin’ thing starts filling up with Joker links for you before you’ve even hit the Enter button, doesn’t it? He’s played Joker’s voice more times than anyone else, as a video game and an animated character, to the point that he rivals Steve Blum as “Guy You Associate A Famous Comic-Book Character’s Voice With”.

Something of note that’s probably interesting only to me: He played Wolverine’s voice in the X-2 video game and Steve Blum did Joker in the Lego Batman video game. I need to mention that I’ve played all the way through the latter and don’t recall anyone voicing more than hums and guttural noises, but maybe if you’re Just That Crazy about voice actors you’ll recognize Mr. Blum’s growl.

Now of course that’s all well and good, but did you know this: Four years before he went from farm boy to intergalactic hero he had already had a lead voice acting role. He played a character named Corey Anders in Jeannie, a 1973 animated series loosely based on the 60’s sitcom I Dream of Jeannie. It only ran for 16 episodes but still; in a profession where many perform their brilliance behind animated masks, largely unknown to the public, this man started off in a lead voice role at 22, at 26 became an international star in one of the biggest movies of all time, then proceeded to voice what is arguably the most iconic villain of all time.  That is pretty darned impressive.

Top Left: Adrian "Rip" Ripburger; Top Right: Joker; Bottom Left: Fire Lord Ozaki; Bottom Right: Bin

You’ve Also Probably Heard Him In:

  • Full Throttle as Adrian “Rip” Ripburger. In my book this adds an extra 1000 points of awesome to his already astronomical score of awesome.
  • A few episodes of Spider Man as the Hobgoblin
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender as Fire Lord Ozai
  • Afro Samurai: Resurrection as Bin
  • Darksiders as The Watcher
  • Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic as Alighiero. A few other impressive names in this cast as well, such as Steve Blum and Christopher Guest.

8 comments

  1. Full Throttle was an AMAZING game. Fantastic animation, great lines, and comical gameplay.
    Also, the rest of this article is good…

  2. When my wife and I were first dating, I proposed marriage on around the 3rd date (jokingly) because she was not only a die-hard fan of Batman: TAS, she also knew that Mark Hamill was the Joker. Talk about the stars aligning. 😉

  3. Thank you for the compliments, everyone! I’m really glad this series is so well-received. I’m looking forward to doing a lot more of them in the future.

    Jamal- yes, I agree Full Throttle was an AMAZING game! “I’m not puttin’ my lips on that.” Heh.

    Prof. Beej- Funny story. Sounds like you hit the jackpot there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s