Lorax voice actor Noel Blanc and son Byron on making the show and losing their dad

Byron Onion joined us to talk to Noel Blanc’s son about his family’s decades-long career in animation, the now-infamous Aug. 11, 1990, episode of Looney Tunes in which Buster the cat went crazy and covered his owner with a pool noodle, and the making of Horton Hears a Who! – the 1994 animated children’s movie that featured the voices of Count Olaf and, of course, Bugs Bunny. A clip from the interview, which also features the man himself, is below.

Hello, Byron!

Congratulations on becoming the new voice of Lorax.

Very nice, thank you.

How did you wind up being asked to do it?

I don’t know, one of those things. It’s a part they always had me in mind for.

I was familiar with the character from as far back as my childhood, when my mom used to play with Alvin’s original take on it. So when Universal sent me the script, I was totally on board with it. Lorax is a very heartwarming character. I was hoping I’d be able to get into the character and the way he thinks. He has a sense of responsibility for the world. He’s not a greedy baby. He has a lot of compassion and a lot of kindness.

And there’s that little bit of paranoia.

Exactly. But there’s also humor in there. He’s a good creature and a good businessman, and in fact he really is the next step in nature: man-machine hybrids.

How did your dad [the late comedian Mel Blanc] react to that idea?

I don’t think he was against it. I think it’s hard to say. I don’t think he didn’t like that. I don’t think he was in favor of it, but I don’t think he had a problem with it. It was really important for me to explain to him exactly what Lorax was about. He was really happy.

When you think of the animation world, you think of Bugs, but it was you, Noel Blanc, who voiced every character on the air. Did that give you any special bonds with the producers, the talent behind the scenes?

It’s all part of my life. I didn’t care if they had me do Bugs Bunny. I don’t know if I would have done, you know, if my parents had been in town. I couldn’t afford to get on the road with them.

What was that scene that terrified you so much that he had to be woken up?

He was so crazy that you just don’t know what he is going to do next. But he had gotten very depressed because of all the problems he had been facing, and he didn’t know what to do. I think that he was going to jump out a window if he had to. I think he felt like his family and his home – it was all his – it wasn’t his. And in the middle of it all, the cat decided that he needed a demonstration that people weren’t to mess with him. So he took out a pool noodle and covered me. And then all of the sudden I felt a sensation of pain, and I thought, “I can’t feel anything.” I thought it was terrible. I just thought I was paralyzed. I was stunned.

Would you say it was an accident?

It was definitely an accident. I really don’t know exactly what he was going to do. [At the hospital] I think he just put me back into a situation that was not pleasant. It wasn’t the end of the world. I think a lot of things happened so quickly in that hour.

Read the rest of the interview here.

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