Friends, I had the opportunity to listen to the extremely amazing Talkin’ Toons with Rob Paulsen on the way to the Vault this evening – whose guest happened to be Michael Bell. Much like Paulsen, Bell ranks as a legend in voice acting alongside Frank Welker, Peter Cullen, Susan Blu, Alan Oppenheimer, as well as Mel Blanc to name just a few. They have all provided countless hours of entertainment over the years as characters from animated TV shows like Looney Tunes, The Transformers, G.I. Joe, Voltron: Defender of the Universe, Smurfs, TaleSpin and so many more. Michael Bell alone has over 350 acting credits to his name – but it’s his Speed Buggy story that he shared on Paulsen’s Talkin’ Toons show that made me want to write this article.
As you are no doubt aware, Speed Buggy was one of the classic Hanna-Barbera Saturday Morning cartoon offerings. Using a similiar formula as other Hanna-Barbera shows like Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! or Josie and the Pussycats – Speed Buggy found three teenagers and a sentient dune buggy traveling the world in race competitions. Along the way they would find themselves thwarting the plans of all manner of villains ranging from Dr. Kloog whose world domination plans involved ‘slave’ cars to Professor Krishna who relies on an invisibility concotion to abscond with ancient treasures. Michael Bell played Mark, with The Andy Griffith Show‘s Arlene Golonka as Debbie, and Phil Luther Jr. as Tinker – not only the mechanic of the group but Speed’s official driver. Speed Buggy of course was voiced by Mel Blanc – using a stuttering and even sputtering voice for the character – which is how a dune buggy might sound if it had the capability of speech, right?
As revealed on Paulsen’s show, the origin of the way Speed talked was thanks to Blanc’s role on the popular The Jack Benny Program old time radio show. While Mel Blanc also made appearances in the television version of the show – the overall impression of Speed Buggy began on the radio series – as Jack Benny’s Maxwell Car. I’ve read some accounts that say that Blanc actually stepped in when the sound effect to be used for vehicle failed to work – being ‘The Man of a Thousand Voices’ it wasn’t too difficult a task for the actor!
Now then, if you are a fan of animation in general you really owe it to yourself to listen to Talkin’ Toon with Rob Paulsen – although I want to CAUTION YOU that adult language is frequently used in the show. You can listen to the audio version of the show on iTunes or Spotify and if you wish you can watch the video version that is provided on the Nerdist – although you will have to pay for that pleasure. Now we are in luck as the very story that made me want to share the origin of Mel Blanc’s Speed Buggy with you is available on YouTube – part of a panel from the San Diego Comic-Con. It involves not just Michael Bell and Mel Blanc but Alan Oppenheimer who learned not to sit next to Blanc during recordings of Speed Buggy!