Monthly Archives: January 2011

Craig Kausen to Appear at Art Partners Gallery

Chuck Jones' grandson and the President of the Board of Trustees, Chuck Jones Center for Creativity, will be the special guest-of-honor at "Chuck Jones, Frame by Frame: An Animator's Story" art exhibit at Art Partners Gallery in Schaumburg, Illinois Saturday, February 5th beginning at 7:30 PM.  Kausen will present a Chuck Jones film festival that will feature some of Jones' most popular cartoons along with snippets of video interviews that reveal the man behind the characters.  The exhibit will feature important original art from Chuck Jones cartoons along with new releases of limited edition cartoon art. 

Definitely a not-to-be-missed event! For more information, contact the gallery at 800-650-8357 or online by clicking here.

Frame by frame

Remembering Chuck Jones Behind the Projector

One of the earliest memories I have, and certainly one of the most vivid, is watching my grandfather's cartoons in his living room.  Though this, in and of itself, is not a unique experience amongst the world's population, in fact, I dare say a great many have similar memories of watching Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote in their grandparents' living room laughing and smiling as a family.

What might be unique about my experience was perhaps the sounds that I remember so distinctly.  In addition to the music, the banter, the sproooing, or the splat, I distinctly remember the clackety-clackety-clack or Chuck's old, blue Bell & Howell 16mm projector adding a constant pillow of support to the frivolity that played out on the five foot floor-standing pull-up screen that adorned the corner of the room.

On regular occasions we would descend upon their home, if lucky with a friend in tow, to find a seat cross-legged on the floor front and center to witness the productions being shown on our own little silver screen.

The only question would be who would have the honor of playing projectionist for the evening.  If I were lucky (and I am regularly lucky), I would be the one to decide the order of the films taken out one at a time from their rectangular shaped film case placed below the side table which made for the makeshift projector stand.

I learned how to conduct a Bell & Howell before I could ride a bike.

First, turn the play knob only one notch so the bulb won't shine during the feed. Depress the top feed button until it clicks. Then gently feed the leading edge of the film into the tiny slit until the sprockets catch and rapidly draw the acetate into its belly.  Watching carefully as it makes its way through the gearing, down and around toward the back and eventually through, it's imperative to watch its escape to only allow a foot or two to dangle out its aft before switching the play knob back to off. Then there's a gentle tug on the film to release the feed button followed by a gingerly fed loop over the spring-loaded final gearing before inserting the film's edge into the take up reel's opening slit with a few turns to remove the slack. 

Only at that point would the lights be dimmed and the projector placed into its active play position igniting the brightest, and hottest, bulb in the house to flicker the 12 frames per second across the room.

I, as a responsible projectionist, would remain seated next to the projector to minimize the duration of the rhythmic slapping of the film's final tail as it exited its captor and continued to spin and hit the back casing.

The lights then would come up and the film was rewound, at surprisingly dramatic speed, only to find more staccato slapping as it slowed to a stop upon its completion.

I loved those film nights and any ensuing discussion about a character, a scene, or an inspiration during each mini-intermission.  But my most vivid memories from those evenings were the sounds of Chuck, the director, the creator of these films, laughing and enjoying them as if they were being seen for the very first time.

I know most of us have these wonderful memories of enjoying the cartoons again and again (for the very first time), but for me, these few sounds permeate mine more than anything else.

Craig Kausen

(A lucky guy…)

 

Chuck Jones Exhibit at the Art Institute of California–Orange County

Craig Kausen, President of the Board of Trustees of the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity and the grandson of Chuck Jones announced today the installation and opening of an exhibit of the art of Chuck Jones at the Art Institute of California–Orange County.  Located at 3601 W. Sunflower Avenue in Santa Ana, the Art Institute is one of the premier art and culinary schools in the United States.  The exhibit features life drawings by Jones along with a selection of artworks that feature the cartoon characters he is so well-known for, such as Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner and Bugs Bunny.  If you're in the neighborhood, check it out!  Here's a little preview:

 

For more information about the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity, please click here or to learn more about the Art Institute of California, click here.  

Remembering Chuck Jones Behind the Projector

One of the earliest memories I have, and certainly one of the most vivid, is watching my grandfather's cartoons in his living room.  Though this, in and of itself, is not a unique experience amongst the world's population, in fact, I dare say a great many have similar memories of watching Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote in their grandparents' living room laughing and smiling as a family.

What might be unique about my experience was perhaps the sounds that I remember so distinctly.  In addition to the music, the banter, the sproooing, or the splat, I distinctly remember the clackety-clackety-clack or Chuck's old, blue Bell & Howell 16mm projector adding a constant pillow of support to the frivolity that played out on the five foot floor-standing pull-up screen that adorned the corner of the room.

On regular occasion we would descend upon their home, if lucky with a friend in tow, to find a seat cross-legged on the floor front and center to witness the productions being shown on our own little silver stage.

The only question would be who would have the honor of playing projectionist for the evening.  If I were lucky (and I am regularly lucky), I would be the one to decide the order of the films taken out one at a time from their rectangular shaped film case placed below the side table which made for the makeshift projector stand.

I learned how to conduct a Bell & Howell before I could ride a bike.

First, turn the play knob only one notch so the bulb won't shine during the feed. Depress the top feed button until it clicks. Then gently feed the leading edge of the film into the tiny slit until the sprockets catch and rapidly draw the acetate into its belly.  Watching carefully as it makes its way through the gearing, down and around toward the back and eventually through, it's imperative to watch its escape to only allow a foot or two to dangle out its aft before switching the play knob back to off. Then there's a gentle tug on the film to release the feed button followed by a gingerly fed loop over the spring-loaded final gearing before inserting the film's edge into the take up reel's opening slit with a few turns to remove the slack. 

Only at that point would the lights be dimmed and the projector placed into its active play position igniting the brightest, and hottest, bulb in the house to flicker the 12 frames per second across the room.

I, as a responsible projectionist, would remain seated next to the projector to minimize the duration of the rhythmic slapping of the film's final tail as it exited its captor and continued to spin and hit the back casing.

The lights then would come up and the film was rewound, at surprisingly dramatic speed, only to find more staccato slapping as it slowed to a stop upon its completion.

I loved those film nights and any ensuing discussion about a character, a scene, or an inspiration during each mini-intermission.  But my most vivid memories from those evenings were the sounds of Chuck, the director, the creator of these films, laughing and enjoying them as if they were being seen for the very first time.

I know most of us have these wonderful memories of enjoying the cartoons again and again (for the very first time), but for me, these few sounds permeate mine more than anything else.

Craig Kausen

(A lucky guy…)

Success Tips from Chuck Jones (as reported in Business Management Daily)

Writing for Investment Business Daily and excerpted in Business Management Daily, writer Curt Schleier distills some of the points that Chuck Jones makes about his successful career:

"Even as a little kid, cartoon creator and producer Chuck Jones grabbed opportunities.

Jones credits his career to his father’s string of business failures. Every time the old man launched a business, he’d print nice stationery and buy promotional pencils. Using those cast-off tools, Jones drew and drew.

Eventually, he went on to create Daffy Duck, Road Runner, Pepe Le Pew and Wile E. Coyote. He also breathed new life into Bugs Bunny.

Some secrets to his success:

He perceived each character individually. It started with the family cat, Johnson, whose favorite food was grapefruit and who enjoyed swimming in the Pacific Ocean.

Johnson was “different than other cats. … That laid the groundwork, so when I got to doing Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny or Coyote, [I understood] that’s it’s not all coyotes, that it’s the particular coyote. Wile E. Coyote, genius. That’s what he calls himself. He’s different.”

To read the entire article in Business Management Daily, click on this sentence!  

  Chuck Jones by Wile E Coyote sm

Actor Geoffrey Rush on Chuck Jones

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Academy Award-winning actor, Geoffrey Rush (currently in "The King's Speech and nominated this morning for a Best Supporting Oscar for his role!) is also a noted stage actor.  Soon to be appearing at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) in Gogol's "The Diary of a Madman," Rush had this to say about the role he is playing:

"Gogol walks this very knife-edge, fine line between a very sharp observation of someone's descent into madness and, at the same time, playing fairly deliciously with their own sense of delusion," the actor says. Discovering his character, he says, was like constantly having "a Daffy Duck moment — where, you know, his beak has suddenly been smashed around to the back of his face."

"We took a lot of inspiration from [Warner Bros. animation director] Chuck Jones," Rush says. "He said, 'Bugs Bunny is the person we would probably all like to be. Daffy Duck is the person we probably really are.' So it's a comment on that level of self-delusion — [on] what our aspirations might be and how short they might fall."

Read the entire article at NPR.org or by clicking here

Image of the Day: What’s Opera, Doc?

One of the most famous of Chuck Jones (and definitely the most complicated short animated cartoon he directed) is his 1957 "What's Opera, Doc?"  Jones, along with the immensely talented Maurice Noble and his crew of brilliant animators, created a cartoon that is both spoof of and love-letter to "high art." With its primary action the oft-used Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd chase sequence, but this time, set in the mythic grandeur of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle, "What's Opera, Doc?" manages to combine high and low art with equal aplomb, obliterating the barriers between the two.

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Original color model drawing for the production (graphite and colored pencil on animation paper), utilized in 2007 as the  basis for a limited edition fine art print on paper.  

 

Image of the Day: The Scarlet Pumpernickel (Strike that! It’s the th-cript of the day!)

What struck us about Chuck Jones' 1950 short animated cartoon, "The Scarlet Pumpernickel" was not just that he's paying homage to Errol Flynn sword & dagger-type melodramas that were so popular with movie-goers of the time (and coincidentally, skewering them), but also how contemporary this kind of costume drama is (you know the kind, where every actor — usually British — has a major/minor/cameo role all wrapped up in the service of art.)  Here's the first page of the script, edited, we imagine, on the fly, during the recording (remember, there was no extra money for post-production work); it should give you a good idea of the machinations and inside workings of both Jones' and Maltese's creativity.  (The cartoon is below this, you can read along…)

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Chuck Jones Incognito

CHUCK JONES INCOGNITO…

  • Although Chuck Jones’ film credits have identified him for more than six decades as a director of Warner Bros. animated pictures, his stature as a graphic artist is little recognized by the public.  In addition to the trying requirements of any director unifying story, layouts, animation, music, dialogue, etc. into a finished picture, he also has been personally instrumental in the graphic styling of his pictures.  In 1940,  Jones made the first true ‘stylized’ animation picture, The Dover Boys, which set the pattern for much of the animation that we see in theaters and on television today.   

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  • Dedicated as he was to animation as the new graphic medium of his time, Jones had never forgotten that drawing the things and people around him was imperative to assure new ideas as to shape and color and design.  For many years, he drew and painted the human figure in search for new expression and new gesture.  This study is reflected in the continuing freshness of his professional work.
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  • Steeped in an awareness of the importance of dramatics, humor, action and rhythm in telling an animation story, he has managed to instill into his still drawings these same qualities. GICLEE-04 copy
  • Although many artists skilled in making still drawings have enriched animation, seldom has an expert in animation contributed so much to the great tradition of the still drawing.  Here, caricature, an essential factor in all great art, has been exploited on a high level.  Penetrating observation reveals new and daring aspects of ordinary people and their actions.  Each drawing is a statement of an experience and a venture into new graphic structure.  Here, content and form are balanced to insure the intrinsic value of each drawing as a work of art.

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Chuck Jones and the California Watercolor Movement

We ran across this photograph the other day on our way to something else (as usually happens) and delighted in what it said about Chuck Jones' passion for drawing and painting every day of his life.

Chuck Ford Consul 1961
On May 1, 1960 we find Chuck Jones sitting on the back of his 1960 Ford Consul convertible (this car was made in England by Ford Motor Co. and sold in limited release in the U.S.) up in the high desert outside of Los Angeles with his watercolor paints in a tool kit as he contemplates a work-in-progress (or has he completed it?  We're not sure.)  Which put us in mind of two watercolors of the high desert vistas that he did complete: 

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"Joshua Tree," a watercolor on paper (18" x 28") by Chuck Jones was completed around the same time as the photograph.  His classical training really shines through in a work such as this; his facility with the medium is without peer and reminiscent of the California watercolorists such as Phil Dike (who worked at one time for Walt Disney Studios) and Millard Sheets, both of whom taught at Chuck's alma mater, Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts in Valencia.)

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"Storm Clouds" watercolor on paper (20" x 30") by Chuck Jones again indicates his familiarity with the California watercolor movement with its emphasis on color, form and the landscape of the state.  This movement was defined by a large format, expressive brush work and strong colors (you can read more about the movement by clicking here.)  You can see in both works how Jones used the white of the paper as a color and form, another attribute of the movement.