Eric Bauza was destined to voice the Looney Tunes characters, even if he didn’t know it as a kid.
“I used to run around the house saying, ‘What’s up, doc?'” He told Day 6. “Whether or not it was good, that’s up for debate.”
The Scarborough, Ont., native is one of the stars of Space Jam: A New Legacy, which hit theatres today. The film follows basketball superstar LeBron James as he teams up with a basketball squad comprised of Looney Tunes characters to save his son from a tyrannical A.I.
I think people are going to rejoice when this movie comes out.– Eric Bauza
Bauza lends his voice to Looney Tunes all-stars Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Foghorn Leghorn and Marvin the Martian in the film.
He also voices characters like Bugs Bunny and Tweety Bird in various other Looney Tunes cartoons and video games.
“Getting to work with the Looney Tunes characters, period, I’m like a kid in a candy store,” he said.
Bauza said he’s been obsessed with the Looney Tunes ever since he was five or six years old. While other kids were attracted to Disney’s wholesome storylines, he was drawn to Looney Tunes’ slapstick and edgier tone.
“It kind of reminded me of [the] Three Stooges, I guess; the kind of slapstick humour [where] characters would get hit in the head with the anvils,” he said. “Just outrageous stuff that wouldn’t exist in any other cartoon except the Looney Tunes cartoon.”
An unlikely partnership
But Bauza wasn’t just a Looney Tunes fan; he was also an NBA fan. He and his brother used to watch VHS compilations of some of the NBA’s greatest players, including Michael Jordan.
So when his two passions collided in a 1992 Nike sneaker ad featuring Bugs Bunny and Jordan, Bauza was shocked.
“You might say the greatest of all time in basketball and the greatest of all time for cartoons together, and it just blew my mind,” he said.
A few years later, Bugs and Jordan’s beautiful friendship was renewed. In this second ad, the unlikely duo teamed up to outsmart Marvin the Martian, who had stolen all of the Hare Jordans on earth.
The commercials were a dream come true for the young Torontonian.
“I bought the shoes; I bought the shirts. It was my entire life. I used to draw Bugs Bunny in basketball shoes,” he said.
Neither commercial prepared Bauza for what was to come next, though: an animated film featuring Bugs, Jordan and various other Looney Tunes characters and NBA players.
Bauza remembers everything about the 1996 movie, from the the Nerdlucks’ transformation scene to Jordan’s cartoonish game-winning dunk. He even remembers — and owns — some of the film’s posters, which he often saw while boarding the subway at Kennedy Station.
“I wish I had a digital camera or a cell phone or something to take a picture because that memory is still ingrained in my head, seeing these cool posters for this movie that I was such a fan of even before it was a movie,” he said.
One of his favourite parts of the movie wasn’t even a scene or a play; it was a song from the film’s soundtrack. Titled Buggin’, this song was written by Jay-Z and featured Bugs Bunny, voiced by Billy West, rapping about Space Jam.
“I believe one of the best [Bugs Bunny] performances of anyone aside from Mel Blanc came from Billy West singing that song,” he said.
A new legacy
Now, 25 years later, Bauza stars in the standalone sequel to the original Space Jam film — and he couldn’t be more thrilled.
“As a voiceover artist, you would do almost anything to be a part of this franchise because of how much joy it brings people,” he said.
Bauza looks forward to watching the film with his son, who’s growing up loving the Looney Tunes like his father. He’s also excited to see the reaction from viewers in the coming weeks.
“I think people are going to rejoice when this movie comes out,” he said.
Written and produced by Mouhamad Rachini.
Hear full episodes of Day 6 on CBC Listen, our free audio streaming service.