Apologies in advance for the sound quality on this one, but we couldn’t resist sharing Eric Bauza’s excellent voice-work.
With the launch of HBO Max today comes a new batch of Looney Tunes Cartoons. The Warner Bros. Animation series honors both the long history that came before it and brings a fresh new energy to classic characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Marvin the Martian, and Tweety. Voicing those characters is the one-and-only Eric Bauza, the Emmy-nominated voice-actor who has long been a part of the Looney Tunes (and other famous franchise) story but now gets to step into the cartoonishly large shoes of the late Mel Blanc.
I had a chance to chat with Bauza ahead of the platform’s launch and the debut of the first season of new Looney Tunes Cartoons episodes. Bauza had just learned of his most recent Emmy nomination, an honor that takes on a new sort of appreciation in a world and industry in the grip of the global pandemic, something we talked about early on in this chat. He also shared an update on the status of Space Jam 2, also known as Space Jam: A New Legacy, and his part to play in it.
Listen above, read along below, and be sure to check out Looney Tunes Cartoons on HBO Max!
So fresh off of a voice recording session. Can you tell us what that was about, or are you sworn to secrecy for that one?
Eric Bauza: Oh, no, no. Well, actually it’s been on TV for definitely another network. Muppet Babies on Disney Junior. I actually … just during this session found out I got nominated again for the same role. Fozzie Bear, waka waka.
Eric Bauza: Yeah, thanks. And it’ll be interesting because there will be no in-person ceremony because of this pandemic we’re going through. It’s going to be in June. But I believe this’ll be the first time in a long time that the Daytime Emmys will be televised. So because we can’t be there in person, they’re going to do a special TV broadcast of it. It’ll probably be like 20 minutes because there won’t be any acceptance speeches. But at the same time, it’s kind of neat. And I hope I get to tune in and see. And see me lose again two years in a row. No, I’m just kidding. It’s exciting. Very exciting, to say the least.
Well, fingers crossed for you on that one, but since you mentioned, obviously everyone’s talking about the pandemic, you’re currently clearly still staying busy, but how are you adjusting? How are you holding up during the quarantine and having this kind of sea change of everything new taking place?
Eric Bauza: Well, definitely it is a change. It’s a big change. And the one thing I can say is you miss the people that you work with. That’s number one. There’s something about having that chemistry and being in the same room as your co-actors, as well as the directors, the showrunners, the writers. There’s something missing. I know we can still communicate and voice-over is just the voice, but there’s something about being there in person that is an element that I miss very much.
However, that being said, being able to communicate through platforms like Zoom or Skype or Source-Connect, these are all softwares that are built for occasions like this, where maybe an actor couldn’t be there and they have to be patched in some way, somehow. Now for the last six weeks, it’s just been normal. This is the new standard of voice recording.
And in addition to all those elements, I’m not one of those voice actors that has a home setup. Mainly just to audition, I’d say, but I use my walk-in closet as my studio. The mountain of cartoon tee shirts that I’ve collected over the years and hoodies have now acted as really good soundproofing and insulation. And I’ve had zero notes about the quality that I produce from home. So this is broadcast quality you hear.
I talk to a lot of animators, a lot of voice actors, and they say that not a lot has really changed professionally because of the quarantine situation. Some of them even have an uptick in the amount of work that they’re able to either get done or that they’re offered. So have you seen any kind of big changes either personally or professionally for you in the last few weeks?
Eric Bauza: Well, I’m actually showing up to sessions on time now. I have zero excuse. If there’s a 9:00 AM call time, I sleep until 8:57, go brush my teeth, and then I hop on the call. It’s really funny. Again, you’re giving up seeing people.
But the turnaround time, usually about right now, if I’m not on an interview, I’m actually uploading gigabytes of sound files, audio files to a server. That’s another difficulty. It’s a bonus, but you could get technical difficulties, especially around the hours of 4:00 and 6:00 PM where that’s the new traffic. Instead of driving home, it’s on the internet. You can’t get a good signal, you can’t get fast uploading speeds around that time because everyone’s probably doing the same thing. They’re either online or uploading files.
Exactly. Now, today we get to chat because we’re talking Looney Tunes Cartoons, the new launch series for HBO Max. So was production affected by that at all, or had you pretty much wrapped on your portion of things when you got involved with this?
Eric Bauza: No, this production has been going on for some time, I would say almost two years now and we’re still chugging along and making cartoons. And I keep forgetting the amount of animation that we will be releasing in less than a week on HBO Max. It’s 80 11-minute episodes, and within those 11-minute episodes, there are episodes that are a minute, anywhere between two to five minutes, and it varies episode to episode, so there’s going to be a lot of to see.
And always, regardless whether you’re in a pandemic or not in animation, it always seems like we got the horse blinders on and we’re just working, working, working, working, working, and then magically after nine months to a year or two, these cartoons are done.
And you’re just like, “Oh my gosh. Now I get to sit back and enjoy them with the rest of the world.” And it’s quite the thing when you’re just kind of in your own head and in a marathon, and now we’re even more disjointed, more than ever. But again, because of how simple it is, that what we’re producing, any animator could even work at a Starbucks even when there wasn’t a pandemic, as long as you had a good internet connection.
And who knows? It might change the future of how we do things now, too. Because if you’re spending millions of dollars on renting a studio, you could save valuable production money there and just put it back into better animation, buy yourself more time.
And speaking about kind of efficiencies of the animation process, I had a chance to check out the first three full roughly half hour episodes of the series. They’re fantastic. I can’t wait to see more.
But what is amazing to me and impressive, and we’ve talked before about being versatile and being able to wear a bunch of different hats, you’ve got a ton of roles in this new series, and it’s not your first brush with the title either. So what was new for you with Looney Tunes Cartoons that you hadn’t done before?
Eric Bauza: Well, just like you said, what was new with me with this show was marquee characters like Bugs and Daffy and Tweety. For the last 8 to 10 years now, I’m calculating, I’ve been the voice of Marvin the Martian. So I’ve always been in the room seeing other people perform Bugs or Daffy or Tweety, notable mentions go to Jeff Bergman and Bob Bergen, all the Bergs. I’ve got to change my last name. Bauzaberg. How about that?
Perfect. That’s perfect.
Eric Bauza: Yeah. These are all actors that took over for Mel Blanc when Mel passed away in 1989. I’m witnessing people that have played these characters long enough to keep the characters interesting, long enough for me to join the family, and I’m so thankful. Maurice LaMarche, another actor. Jim Cummings, he was noted for playing Taz for a very, very long time. And these are guys and girls, Candi Milo, who’s now taking over for some June Foray roles in Looney Tunes, these are people that I watched as a kid growing up in the 90s, and now I’m lucky enough to call them my colleagues and my friends. And who are very encouraging, and we all wouldn’t be working if it weren’t for Mel. That’s the other thing. We all realize that. We don’t claim any ownership over these characters because none of us created them, really, we are, pardon the pun, filling in the blank. We’re kind of taking over for Mel and hopefully inviting new generations. I can’t wait to see who’s going to voice Bugs after me and I will welcome them with open arms, Doc.
Perfect. Definitely big shoes to fill, both obviously for yourself and your coworkers, but then like you said, for the people who come after you. I think with this new adaptation of a very, very familiar and iconic and historic series, you get a chance to do something new, too.
So Looney Tunes Cartoons is kind of an homage back to the original classics visually, you’re using a lot of the same music that Carl Stalling developed almost a century ago, but you also have this new kind of energy, too. What can you say about the newness you bring to this production, the energy of it, and also how you honor the original?
Eric Bauza: Well, yeah. It always goes back to the original, but even in the original run of Looney Tunes, which was on for decades, it went through its own evolution. If you trace back the very first episodes of Bugs, when he first started talking, it was almost like there was a hint of New York in there, but it didn’t sound like the nasally what we know, and I feel like a lot of people forget, there was an origin to all these characters. Before Daffy was a jerk and a greedy actor, he was Looney. He was Daffy. He was “hoo-hoo! hoo-hoo! hoo-hoo!”, always bouncing off the walls. And Bugs was that wisecracking guy. “Ain’t I a stinker?” Had a high energy too.
And I feel like that’s something that only the true die-hard fans out there are going to recognize. And I hope, again, it inspires a new generation of folks to really love these characters in our way, but also maybe will spark curiosity to go, “Hey, let’s look at those originals,” and look back. And they will all be there on the same streaming service.
The amount of content that is about to be released on HBO Max is kind of insane. When you look at these ads for it, you’re like, “Oh yeah, there’s a lot of movies that were made under these brands and these titles and these companies and studios.”
And Looney Tunes, again, is its own universe. We’re talking about the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, maybe not so much in the 70s, definitely it picked up again late 80s. And then the 90s, we’re talking the Space Jam era, we’re talking The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries, Tiny Toons, and Animaniacs. All the Looney Tunes made cameos in that. And who could forget Space Jam?
I’m glad you name-dropped it because that’s definitely going to be a follow-up question for me. I know you have a ton of current projects that you’re working on, upcoming titles as well. Are there any you’d like to tease? And can you say if maybe the Space Jam sequel is on your schedule?
Eric Bauza: Well, I cannot confirm or deny my association with Space Jam.
Eric Bauza: But I could say that I’ve contributed some temporary dialogue for the film.
Eric Bauza: In the last couple weeks, I know that LeBron [James] had dropped a little teaser with a certain baseball cap that had the logo on it. And soon after, they released the official image of the logo. And there was a statement saying that he is still hoping for that 2021 release in theaters, and hopefully by then we would have found some solutions to our current problems with world health. And hopefully we’re back to normal by then, but it’s a miracle that it hasn’t been affected by this pandemic. They’re still animating and every now and then they’ll give me a shout to do some temp voices for these classic characters.
Well, I, for one, am thrilled that we have new Looney Tunes to check out and your work and your co-workers’ work is fantastic so far, and I can’t wait for audiences out there to see more. But unfortunately, that’s all the time I have with you today, so I’ll let you get back to work. Thank you so much for your time and best of luck with the rollout.
Eric Bauza: And that’s all, folks!
Perfect. Thank you.