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Mel Blanc: Man of a Thousand Voices

Although you may have never seen Mel Blanc's face, you've definitely heard his voice -- he voiced hundreds of classic cartoon characters including Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Speedy Gonzales, Barney Rubble, Foghorn Leghorn, and bunches more. Known as the "man of a thousand voices," he actually claims roughly 400 voices in the video below -- a late 80's interview with David Letterman (Blanc died in 1989).

In the interview, Letterman asks Blanc how he develops the characters' voices. Blanc replies, "They show me a picture of the character, and then they show me a storyboard which shows what the character is going to do in the cartoon. From this I have to create the voice. Like, Bugs they said was a 'tough little stinker.' So I thought, 'Which is the toughest voice in this country? The Brooklyn or the Bronx?' [speaking in Bugs Bunny voice] So I, uh, put the two of them together, and that's how I got the voice of Bugs, doc!" (Blanc's tombstone bears the motto "That's All Folks")

Watch as a master performs a few of his famous voices and explains his process. After the jump (below the video) is a partial list of his most notable cartoon voices, cribbed from Wikipedia.

  • Porky Pig (1936-1989, assumed from Joe Dougherty)
  • The Maxwell (Jack Benny's car in "The Mouse that Jack Built")
  • Daffy Duck (1937-1989)
  • Bugs Bunny's prototype/Happy Rabbit (1938-1940)
  • Bugs Bunny (1940-1989)
  • Woody Woodpecker (1940-1941)
  • Hiawatha (1941)
  • Cecil Turtle (1941-1947)
  • Tweety Bird (1942-1989)
  • Private Snafu, numerous World War II related cartoons (1943)
  • Yosemite Sam (1945-1987)
  • Pepe Le Pew (1945-1989)
  • Sylvester (1945-1989) aka Thomas (1947) in some films.
  • Foghorn Leghorn (1946-1987)
  • The Barnyard Dawg (1946-1989)
  • Henery Hawk (1946-1989)
  • Charlie Dog (1947)
  • Mac (of Mac & Tosh) (1947)
  • K-9 (1948) (sidekick to Marvin the Martian)
  • Marvin the Martian (1948-1989)
  • Sylvester J. Pussycat, Jr. Mel also plays Sylvester's son Sylvester Junior when the young cat was introduced (1949)
  • Beaky Buzzard (1950)
  • Curt Martin (1950-1 episode Hillbilly Hare)
  • Elmer Fudd (1950, 1958, 1970s and 1980s, replacing Arthur Q. Bryan)
  • Bruno the Bear (1951)
  • Wile E. Coyote (silent until 1952, first spoke in the short "Operation: Rabbit")
  • Speedy Gonzales (1953)
  • The Tasmanian Devil (1954-1960) aka Taz
  • Barney Rubble (1960-1989)
  • Dino (1960-1989) (Fred Flintstone's pet.)
  • Cosmo G. Spacely (1962-1989)
  • Hardy Har Har (1962-1964)
  • Tom Cat and Jerry Mouse (1963-1967)
  • Secret Squirrel (1965-1966)
  • Frito Bandito (1967-1971)
  • Bubba McCoy from "Where's Huddles?"
  • Chugga-Boom/Yak Yak/The Bully Brothers also from "The Perils of Penelope Pitstop"
  • Speed Buggy (1973)
  • Tucker the Mouse from "The Cricket in Times Square" (1973) and two sequels
  • Captain Caveman (1977)
  • Twiki from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979)
  • Heathcliff (1980, appeared in syndication from 1984-1987)
  • Gideon from Pinocchio
  • Bertie Mouse (of Hubie and Bertie)
  • Marc Antony
  • Moo the Cow in Berkeley Farms Radio Ads. "Farms in Berkeley....Moooo"
  • Officer Short Shrift, several Lethargians, three out of five of the royal palace guards, The Word Speller, The Dodecahedron, and The Demon of Insincerity from The Phantom Tollbooth (1969)

You can read more about Mel Blanc at Wikipedia.

(Via Kung Fu Grippe.)

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AFP/Getty Images
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History
5 Surprising Facts About the Battle of Dunkirk
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AFP/Getty Images

With the release of Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed Dunkirk, the world’s attention is once again focused on the historic events recounted in the film, when a makeshift fleet of British fishing boats, pleasure yachts, and cargo ships helped save 185,000 British soldiers and 130,000 French soldiers from death or capture by German invaders during the Fall of France in May and June 1940. Here are five surprising facts about those heroic days.

1. THE GERMAN ATTACK WAS SUPPOSED TO BE IMPOSSIBLE.

By Weper Hermann, 13 German Mobile Assault Unit - Imperial War Museums, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The main reason France collapsed so quickly in 1940 was the element of surprise enjoyed by its German attackers, thanks to General Erich von Manstein, who proposed an invasion route that was widely believed to be impossible. In Manstein’s plan, the main German column of tanks and motorized infantry would force their way through the forests of Ardennes in southeast Belgium and Luxembourg—a thick, hilly woodland which was supposed to be difficult terrain for tanks, requiring at least five days to cross, according to conventional wisdom based on the experience of the First World War. The French and British assumed that little had changed since the previous conflict, but thanks to field studies and updated maps, Manstein and his colleague General Heinz Guderian realized that a new network of narrow, paved roads would allow just enough room for tanks and trucks to squeeze through. As a result the Germans passed through Ardennes into northern France in just two-and-a-half days, threatening to cut off hundreds of thousands of Allied troops, with only one escape route: the sea.

2. ONE FRENCH WORD WAS BURNED INTO WINSTON CHURCHILL’S MEMORY: “AUCUNE.”

Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The German invasion of France began on May 10, 1940, the same day Winston Churchill became Prime Minister. By May 14, when he paid his first official visit to Britain’s ally, Holland had capitulated and Paris was preparing for evacuation. But an even worse surprise was in store. In one of the most famous passages of military history, Churchill recounted the moment he learned that the French didn’t have any troops in reserve:

"I then asked ‘Where is the strategic reserve?’ and, breaking into French … ‘Ou est la mass de manoeuvre?’ General Gamelin turned to me and, with a shake of the head and a shrug, replied. ‘Aucune.’ [There is none] … I was dumbfounded. What were we to think of the Great French Army and its highest chief? It had never occurred to me than any commanders … would have left themselves unprovided with a mass of manoeuvre … This was one of the greatest surprises I have had in my life.”

3. HITLER MADE A FATAL MISTAKE.

On May 24, 1940, the Allied troops on the French and Belgian coast had been totally surrounded by powerful German tank columns, rendering them essentially defenseless against the impending German onslaught. And then came a brief reprieve, as the attackers suddenly stopped for 48 hours, allowing the British to dig in and create a defensive perimeter, setting the stage for the evacuation.

For reasons that still aren’t clear, Hitler—over the protests of his own generals and to the bafflement of historians—had ordered Guderian to halt for two days to rest and resupply. It’s true the German troops were worn out after two weeks of fighting, and Hitler may have worried about a repeat of 1914, when exhausted German troops were forced to withdraw at the Marne. He may also have been swayed by Hermann Göring, chief of the German Luftwaffe, who boasted that air power alone could destroy the helpless Allied forces at Dunkirk. Less likely is the speculation that Hitler purposefully “let the Allies go” to appear magnanimous or merciful as a prelude to peace negotiations (which was not really in keeping with his character). In the end we will probably never know why Hitler choked.

4. GERMAN DIVE-BOMBERS WERE EQUIPPED WITH SIRENS TO SPREAD TERROR.

Among many examples of Germany’s evil genius for psychological warfare, one of the most famous was the decision to equip its Ju 87 dive bombers with air-powered sirens that emitted a shrieking, unearthly wail as the plane went into attack. The siren, known as the “Jericho Trumpet,” was intended to spread terror among enemy troops and civilians on the ground—and it worked. To this day the Jericho Trumpet is one of the most recognizable, and terrifying, sounds of war. It was certainly one of the lasting impressions of the Dunkirk evacuation for ordinary troops caught beneath the German bombs. Lieutenant Elliman, a British gunner who was waiting to be evacuated on Malo-les-Bains beach, later recalled the Stukas “diving, zooming, screeching, and wheeling over our heads like a flock of huge infernal seagulls.”

5. THE FRENCH FOUGHT A HOPELESS BATTLE TO COVER THE EVACUATION.

By Saidman (Mr), War Office official photographer — Photograph H 1636 from the Imperial War Museums, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Although Churchill and other Brits were quick to criticize the failure of France’s generals during the Fall of France, many ordinary French soldiers and officers fought bravely and honorably—and one hopeless “last stand” in particular probably helped enable the successful evacuation of Dunkirk.

As British and French troops withdrew to Dunkirk, 40 miles to the southeast French troops in two corps of the French First Army staged a ferocious defense against seven German divisions from May 28 to May 31, 1940, refusing to surrender and mounting several attempts to break out despite being heavily outnumbered (110,000 to 40,000). The valiant French effort, led by General Jean-Baptiste Molinié, helped tie up three German tank divisions under Erwin Rommel, enabling the British Expeditionary Force and the remaining troops of the French First Army to retreat and dig in at Dunkirk, ultimately saving another 100,000 Allied troops.

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Radio Flyer
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Pop Culture
Tiny Star Wars Fans Can Now Cruise Around in Their Very Own Landspeeders
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Radio Flyer

Some kids collect Hot Wheels, while others own model lightsabers and dream of driving Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder through a galaxy far, far away. Soon, Mashable reports, these pint-sized Jedis-in-training can pilot their very own replicas of the fictional anti-gravity craft: an officially licensed, kid-sized Star Wars Landspeeder, coming in September from American toy company Radio Flyer.

The Landspeeder has an interactive dashboard with light-up buttons, and it plays sounds from the original Star Wars film. The two-seater doesn’t hover, exactly, but it can zoom across desert sands (or suburban sidewalks) at forward speeds of up to 5 mph, and go in reverse at 2 mph.

The vehicle's rechargeable battery allows for around five hours of drive time—just enough for tiny Star Wars fans to reenact their way through both the original 1977 movie and 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. (Sorry, grown-up sci-fi nerds: The toy ride supports only up to 130 pounds, so you’ll have to settle for pretending your car is the Death Star.)

Radio Flyer’s Landspeeder will be sold at Toys “R” Us stores. It costs $500, and is available for pre-order online now.

Watch it in action below:

[h/t Mashable]

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