On Friday, August 20, a group of Chuck Jones' most devoted fans and collectors were invited to a private screening on the Warner Bros. Studio lot of the three new theatrical cartoons that the studio has produced.
We drove up to lovely downtown Burbank from the Chuck Jones Gallery in Tustin (3065 Edinger Avenue) and entered Warner Bros. through the Forest Lawn gate. [Little known fact: Forest Lawn became a cemetery because it was originally zoned as open space, the only 'business' that could be built there was a cemetery. The original owners were eager to develop their acreage and consequently the legendary burial ground of so many Hollywood stars was born (so to speak.)]
Arriving on the lot is always exciting; what with the security checks and the ever-hopeful thought that you'll spot one of your favorite actors or actresses walking in costume from a sound stage. The sound stages are as imposing (and iconic) as they appear in the opening of any Warner Bros. movie; they are great monoliths erected to the 10th muse, Cinema.
We were greeted at the screening room by the gracious & talented Sam Register, Executive Vice President, Creative Affairs, Warner Bros. Animation. The screening room was on the second floor of executive offices, one of the office 'bungalows' on the lot; these buildings always appear smaller on the outside than they really are and the screening room looked like it could comfortably seat a couple of hundred studio moguls in plush luxury.
Not only was Linda Jones Clough there with her husband, Jim, but sitting directly in front of them was author, critic and essayist, Leonard Maltin, and sitting next to him was the blogger, animation historian and author, Jerry Beck! So after catching our breath and exchanging hellos and air kisses (so Hollywood!) with everyone, getting seated, who should walk in but the president of Warner Bros. Television, Peter Roth. Mr. Roth welcomed us warmly and spoke briefly with Linda Jones before heading back to his office to take a meeting. ('Take a meeting' is showbiz lingo; don't you feel like an insider already?)
Sam Register (3rd from left, standing) introduces Peter Roth, President of Warner Bros. Television to Linda Jones Clough and her husband Jim.
Mr. Register extended a few warm words of welcome to those assembled and then the first of the three, "Coyote Falls", which has been released with the movie "Cats and Dogs II" and has been met with much critical acclaim (the cartoon, not the movie) was shown.
Leigh Yetsko (and her family from left, Matt, John Jr., Leigh & John Sr.) had this to say about the new films, "…we were delighted with the new 3-D Coyote/Road Runner shorts! Chuck's particular sense of humor is tough to match and seeing his characters recreated, as a fan you can't help but be skeptical going in, but in this case we were blown away with how successfully the creative team captured the themes and the humor. Instead of being gimmicky, the 3-D added dimension, not distraction. We saw fur and feathers (and explosions!) like never before. All that said, if it's not really funny, you only need to see it once. I can't wait to see these again and again!"
After the first short was shown, the director of the shorts, Matt O'Callaghan spoke for a few minutes and then we were shown the final two short films.
(from left: Matt O'Callaghan, Linda Jones Clough, Leonard Maltin)
Longtime collector and fan of the art of Chuck Jones, Bill Heeter shared this with us, "…I have to say, after previewing the three Road Runner & Coyote cartoons last Friday, I couldn't have been more pleased! As if the CG/3D issues weren't enough, compressing the a cartoon into three minutes without sacrificing the story sounded impossible, but Matt [the director, Matt O'Callaghan] sure did it. The story lines were funny, the gags well-executed, and most importantly he didn't lose sight of what made Chuck's cartoons stand out–the subtlety."
From left: Craig Kausen (grandson of Chuck Jones and Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity,) Matt O'Callaghan, Linda Jones Clough, Leonard Maltin, Katherine Concepcion and Jerry Beck.
Craig Kausen summed it up best, "The consensus was unanimous: we enjoyed them all!"
Our day didn't end with here but continued on into the evening and those events will be detailed in an upcoming post. Look for it!