There are cartoon characters and then there are really famous cartoon characters.
And then there's Bugs Bunny.
Plenty of things make Bugs who he is: his coolness under pressure, his quick wits, his carrot chomping. But above all is his voice. As soon as you hear his trademark, "Ehhh ... What's up, Doc?", you know who it is.
One thousand voices
For nearly 50 years (from 1940 to 1989), that voice was done by Mel Blanc. Blanc, a.k.a. The Man Of 1,000 Voices. He was responsible for hundreds of voices across many different cartoons during the Golden Age Of American Animation (the late-1920s through the 1960s).
His most famous work was in the original Looney Tunes cartoons, which included Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, Marvin The Martian, and, of course, Bugs Bunny. What an amazing career!
Since Blanc stopped doing Bugs in 1989, many different people have tried the rabbit's voice in new cartoons. And the most recent person comes from not Hollywood or New York City, but Scarborough, Ontario!
Eric Bauza is a Filipino-Canadian voice actor who is among the busiest in the world. He has voiced Puss In Boots, Luke Skywalker (in Lego Star Wars shorts), and worked on countless animated series, including SpongeBob Squarepants, Transformers, Muppet Babies, Teen Titans, and many more!
But his greatest achievement is following in the footsteps of Mel Blanc as the voice of Bugs. In fact, he voices many of the great legend's signature characters, like Daffy, Tweety, and Marvin. Recently, he won an Emmy award for the Looney Tunes Cartoons series—the first person ever to win this top TV prize for his work with the rabbit. Not bad!
Eric speaks in his real voice (plus a few others!)
With so much success, we jumped at the chance to do a video chat with this Canadian talent.
OWLconnected: How do you come up with so many different voices?
Eric Bauza: The characters sound different, but they also act different. They are less voices now to me and more personalities. Especially when it comes to established characters.
OC: Like Bugs and Daffy?
EB: Yes. You have to make sure that not only do they sound good, but is your performance having them act the way that they would?
Anyone can say, (changes to Bugs Bunny voice) “What’s up, doc?” or (goes to Daffy Duck voice) “You’re despicable!”
But (goes back to Bugs voice), “It takes a good actor to talk about Teletoon+, now available!” (goes back to normal voice) You know? I’m going to read stuff that no one has ever read before as Bugs. And that’s the key.
You have to be able to start your sentence as Bugs, say what you’re going to say, and stick that landing. Because the audience these days are looking for those loose threads. They like to pull on them and go, “Hey! This isn’t the [real Bugs]!”
OC: Do you ever bring your own personality to the characters?
EB: For sure! A good performer always brings life experience to the job. Even in a kids’ cartoon! You have to be convincing. And you need good acting.
A lot of people think, “Oh, I could do wacky voices, too, this should be easy.” Then you get to the sound booth and you’re there for four hours hammering out this story line and it has to be believable. (The audience) has to care about the characters. And that’s where it becomes less about the voice and more about the personality and the performance.
That is especially true of (brand new) characters—this is a voice that no one has ever heard, not even you! You have to dig deep within yourself.
OWL: Voice actors do much of their work alone in a recording booth. How much do you need imagination to act out the characters?
EB: There’s always the script. And in between the lines of dialogue, there’s description. And in that description, it sets up the scene. You definitely want to take your time and read that whole script.
And sometimes, you get a storyboard. This is like a really basic comic book that shows you the action—even something as simple as proximity (how near or far) from character to character. You could be talking to a character that is this close to you, or you could be talking between two rooftops and have to yell across the street! And (those differences) affect your performance.
You do have your imagination, but hopefully, the writers, producers, other actors will clue you into the atmosphere and the setting for the scene.
OWL: So you recently won an Emmy …
EB: You mean this old thing that I carry around just in case? (Pulls up his Emmy award for us to see.)
OC: Haha! Yes, that!
EB: I like to have this thing just in case burglars come into the house or I need to chop onions. (laughs) I don’t want to say that it’s changed me, but getting to do the work is the award and the recognition is just the (uses Bugs voice), “Ehhh, the carrot on the carrot cake, Doc!”
OWL: How does it feel to be someone that kids can look up to?
EB: It’s still very surreal to me. I always feel that there is more to learn. There’s definitely some knowledge that I can pass on to younger actors who are just getting their foot in the door.
But even as someone who has been in the industry for two decades now, there are people ahead of me (who have worked even longer) that still haven’t been nominated for an Emmy, never mind actually won one. And it surprises me that I’ve been blessed with that recognition. Especially for a character like Bugs Bunny.
This is the first time in 80 years that anyone who has played Bugs Bunny, including Mel Blanc, has ever won an award for Bugs Bunny.
EB: Yeah! My winning the Emmy is dedicated to the memory of Mel Blanc, because I wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t for the tentpoles that he had set up. It’s so surreal to know that my win is in the history books.
Thanks so much for talking with us, Eric!
If you want to see more of this super talented Canadian in action, check out this funny reel of some of Bugs' best moments in the new series.
And if you want to see even more of Eric, his work on the hit shows Looney Tunes Cartoons, Bugs Bunny Builders, and King Tweety are all available in Canada through Teletoon's new streaming service, TELETOON+. That's all folks!