The first and teaching voice of cartoon animations for Walt Disney and Looney Tunes.
count Gaetano Mazzaglia Cutelli, better known as “Count Tano Cutelli”, was an Italian nobleman and worked as a ventriloquists, synchronist and voice effects maker in the American movie industry -working with companies such as Disney and Looney Tunes-. He was also an actor, and a pioneering sound effects engineers in Europe and the United States of America. Known in the movie gentry as "The Big Noise" he could reproduce more than 2,000 sounds, from animals to nature and mechanical. Contracted also by Leon Schlesinger for making the voices of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. He is best known for being one of the original voices of both Mickey Mouse and Porky Pig.
The furthest record of the Cutelli family name starts with Mario Cutelli where he earned the title of count, by Philip IV. Born in 1985, in Catania (Italy), where his ancestor was the founding beneficiary of Convitto Cutelli, he displayed talent of ventriloquism as a child, and started imitating the barks of different breeds of dogs. Married to Ida Paladino, always of noble background, they had 2 children, Rosanna and Angelo. When the World War was over, count Cutelli found his ancestral estate in ruins, and his financial situation somewhat depleted. He set out on the vaudeville stage of Europe -as seen in a video by British Pathè titled Hearing's Believing - Sometimes!- and later travelled to America. Not all of his career was on stage. With the begging of talking pictures, he found a ready market for his talents and passion of sound imitations. The first movie that he worked on was The Trespasser, and more after that (i.e. The Love Parade, Obliging Young Lady) although he used to say he rarely knew just what picture he was working on, all he was interested in was what sounds he had to make (e.g. Howling winds; sea crashing to shore; air plane squadrons; etc). His abilities made him specifically ideal to work in cartoons, as he could voice many of the characters in new ways, such as Mickey Mouse and Porky Pig, to many many others.
His rapid success and notoriety in America was due to his ability to free space in radio stations where, at the time, they used to be filled with very large machinery to reproduce only a handful of sounds. In Berlin, he found the inspiration seeing two men in an artificial pool, trashing inside it, to reproduce a stormy sea. It was something he could easily do with his voice. When his voice couldn't do it, he would use his mental recollection of the sound, and use everyday things to reproduce the specific sound he wanted. He was able to duplicate the exact sound of Graf Zeppelin using the shell of an English Walnut. The same thing happened all over America as he travelled the country to free the space of clunky machinery, and replacing it with a mch smaller gadget that could fir in a corner of a room, where his 2,000 sounds could be replicated in quick succession and at low expense.
Working with sound introduced him to many aspects of linguistic mannerisms and derivations, to which he declared to the Chino Champion, on November 6, 1942, that 'there are 2,025 ways in which to say "yes" and mean "no", and 1,645 ways in which to say "no" and mean "yes" '. He also declared, in the Middle Times Herald that "sound is actually a mental impression and varies with the individual". When asked why they should use his voice over a direct recording, his answer was "Ninety-two per cent of the natural noises needed in the movie business cannot be recorded directly by the microphone. and that's where i come. When you start a baby crying directly in the microphone you soon find out the he yells so loud he drowns out the voice of the actress".
His love for the study of the sounds of nature often led him to undertake long voyages, even in a whaling ship, so that he could record in his mind what he heard... the sound of whales, sea birds, seals, bears, etc. His vocal cords became so accustomed to change in tonality and frequency that at one point in his life, he taught himself to sing in 4 different notes at the same time. He always stated he started to find the passion when being a small boy in Sicily imitating the barks of different breed of dogs, as he said that every breed had a different tonality to the bark.
When he later became sea captain for the Italian navy, he further expanded from dogs to sea sounds. After some time spent fighting the war on the African desert, he returned to Sicily and, on a dare, went on stage in Palermo where he gave some imitations of the sounds that he had so vividly recorded in his mind. The audience like it. Later, when arriving in America, he was called by Gloria Swanson's manager who had heard his imitations over the radio, where he was asked to "cry like a baby" as he did on radio. The recording was held secretly as a test, but the result was better than the real thing, as the tonalities and volume could be adjusted at will. That "baby's cry" was then used to voice Abraham Lincoln baby cry in the 1930 film Abraham Lincoln.
During his time in America, he worked closely with Leon Schlesinger and held short introductory seminars all around America, promoting the synergy they had created between the voices and sounds and it's interaction in cartoons. Working outside of movies, was as much involving as working in them. His initial business started in Europe providing radio stations with specialised equipment that could reproduce many sounds, and if it was too complex and couldn't be done with the equipment he devised he would simply record a sound made by his voice.
The New York Times in the paper published on August 4, 1929, in the article titled THE WESTERN FRONT describes his career as essential to movie sound effects. His works were echoed everywhere because of how unusual his gift was, making newspapers from all over the world write about his death while eating during a wait for the train.
The development of his vocal cords was an amazing feat for The Berlin Anthropological Institute, who had offered -2000 dollars at the time- to purchase Tano Cutelli's head (a request that was refused by the family), so that it could be studied and understand a little more about the amazing capabilities that the human body holds, and his abilities.
[Click image to view]