Eric Bauza confides to me over Zoom that voice acting is not about speaking in zany dialects or crafting kooky cadences – it’s simply about delivering a convincing performance.
It isn’t until the prolific voice actor pulls one of his most iconic impressions from his magician’s hat of vocal impressions that he truly illustrates his point.
Bauza starts speaking in a nasal tone embellished with a Brooklyn accent synonymous with the voice of Bugs Bunny, saying, “Even when it comes to cartoon rabbits…” He then shifts to his natural voice and says, “You have to cheer that character on, and that only comes from a good believable performance.”
The California-based voice actor’s knack for crafting voices for a diverse cast of characters is rooted in his upbringing as a Filipino immigrant raised in a culturally vibrant suburb of Toronto called Scarborough.
“There’s so many different personalities, so many different dialects. So many different pitches and sounds that you hear from a Looney Tunes cartoon that I would often hear like from friends,” Bauza explains. “I was in a household where my parents had accents that were different from even mine because I was born in Toronto. Even just that alone was enough inspiration.”
Bauza, who started out as a cartoonist before transitioning to voice acting, has been studying the Looney Tunes cartoons throughout his entire career.
“My education in animation started with Looney Tunes. Like the 1940s cartoons, not just for the voices, but for the art,” Bauza says. “Before voiceover artists, I was a cartoonist, and I used to love recording these cartoons, the classics and pausing it and drawing from my screen.”
While he was originally planned on working in the animation industry as an artist, Bauza honed his voiceover skills on the side by filling in for other voice actors and doing temporary scratch dialogue— a hobby that would pay off big time.
“One time, I did a temporary voice for a pilot episode. It got picked up for series, and the creators loved my voice so much that they fought hard to keep me in, and I became part of the show,” Bauza wrote on Backstage.
His career and craft
Since bursting onto the voice acting scene, Bauza has been credited in everything from commercials to video games to many of the biggest franchises in showbiz, including “Steven Universe,” “Rick and Morty,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Spider-Man.”
“All the hard work was done by people like Chuck Jones and Bob Clampett and of course, Mel Blanc, who created the voices,” Bauza says. “There are [also] people that voiced Bugs after Mel in the past 80 years like Bob Bergen, Jeff Bergman, Billy West, the late great Joe Alaskey and the late great Greg Burson, and they kept these characters alive long enough for me to join the table, which I’m grateful for.”
Despite portraying characters that are so deeply entrenched in animation history and tradition, Bauza aims to give his performances a unique spin to make each role his own.
“Well, I think when you’re an impressionist, there’s such a thing as being too precise and too careful that you kind of put yourself in this box,” he says. “And when you look back at Mel Blanc’s performance as something like a character like Bugs Bunny, there are so many moments in time where he would go out of the character’s voice and do this crazy manic man scream which is just his kind of natural DNA voice. And that’s the one thing that I always want to try to do… out-of-the-box moments with Bugs that I feel really round out that character.”
Leaving a looney legacy
Bauza’s latest project — a Looney Tunes TV series targeting preschool-aged children called “Bugs Bunny Builders” — treads unfamiliar waters for the franchise, which rarely creates content targeting such a young demographic.
“[Bugs Bunny Builders] is a great opportunity to attract obviously one of the best audiences out there. I have a six-year-old son, and we love watching things over and over again,” Bauza says. “It’s the ultimate babysitter for him and me watching cartoons over and over again. And, you know, there isn’t really a representation of Looney Tunes for the preschool audience.”
Bauza reveals that the new show will retain “the same integrity and humor of the characters from the 40’s classic” but will dial down on the intensity of Looney Tunes’ signature slapstick humor, which might be “a bit too much for a preschooler.”
“Now, [authentic storytelling] should also extend to who’s writing the story. If you’re going to say, ‘Hey, this is a movie about a Filipino growing up in Canada,’ there’s no better person to write that story than a Filipino who grew up in Canada,” Bauza says. “It goes for superheroes [too]… We’ve seen the white Superman before, why not make it different? It could be an alternate universe. Now, we’re dealing with multiverse scenarios. It’s an interesting time with what’s happening politically and socially in the world, and I love that in entertainment, diversity and representation are always championed.”
Bauza also emphasizes that even within the scope of the voice acting industry, where a person’s voice is far more important than their outward appearance, representation is crucial, if not necessary, for inspiring the next generation of performers.
“When the news came out that I was the new voice of Bugs Bunny for Looney Tunes cartoons and ‘Bugs Bunny Builders,’ I didn’t think of it as such a big deal,” Bauza says. “But if a kid that shares our face might not have the courage to use his voice or speak up or her voice, I could be that beacon or inspiration for that young performer and give them the courage to say, ‘Hey, look, he’s… voicing an iconic character, maybe that’s something I can do.’”
“If I’m an inspiration to people like them,” Bauza concludes, “then I’m all for it.”
The first eight episodes of “Bugs Bunny Builders” will be released on July 25 on Cartoon Network and on July 26 on HBO Max.
Featured Image via Gage Skidmore