Monthly Archives: June 2011

Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was

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The Academy Award-winning director of "Duck Amuck," "What's Opera, Doc," "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" and other timeless classics, created dozens of cartoon characters throughout his decades-long career: Pepé Le Pew, Marvin the Martian, Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote… and Crawford, an accident prone, nine-year-old boy whose daily routine includes surviving his own boyhood.

Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was follows the twenty-seven year journey it took Jones to bring "Crawford" to the public, from conception to storyboard to newspaper strip. This incredible volume is loaded with never before seen sketches, drawings, storyboards and production notes, and the six-month run of the Crawford newspaper comic strip from 1978. Accompanying the artwork is a biography of Chuck Jones's career in the sixties and seventies and how it influenced the creation of Chuck's only foray into the world of comic strips.

Marian Jones, Chuck's widow had this to say about the project, "Kurtis Findlay, an admitted comics addict, is too young to have ever read Chuck Jones’ 1970s short-lived comic strip, “Crawford”, in the newspapers.  But he came across some copies not too long ago and was hooked.  He was also puzzled.  “Crawford” was the least known of all of Chuck’s work; he thought that was a loss.  He also wondered how it had started, what had become of it, and how Chuck had developed it.

"A query to  CJCC [Chuck Jones Center for Creativity –ed.]led to Kurtis visiting us and proposing to write a book assembling all the original strips with any  information he could ferret out.  He and I spent several days in the archives, with Kurtis registering more and more amazement and excitement over Chuck’s drawings and historical source material.

"Even though I had worked with Chuck at that time, and was myself writing a comic strip (originated by someone else —Rick O’Shay and Hipshot) I had totally forgotten about some of the material that Kurtis discovered.  His book traces a never before spelled out story of a character that chased around in Chuck’s head, and in various ways onto film, over the years, but never quite came to fulfillment." 

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Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was is a dream come true in that almost all the art is being reproduced from Chuck Jones's originals! It is a treasure trove of previously unknown artwork that is a must for all fans of animation and comics.

Visit the official Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was website. All-new, never before seen Chuck Jones art will be added in the coming weeks and months leading up to the book's release this holiday season.  You can find them on Facebook as well.

 

Pepé le Pew: Stinky

Conceived as a new character for the short film, Forever Ambushed, Stinky became the familiar francophone-challenged skunk known throughout the world today as Pepé le Pew.  The film was eventually retitled Odor-able Kitty and premiered on the silver screen nationwide January 6, 1945.  It follows the misadventures of a bedraggled and abused tomcat who, wishing to avoid the derision and despair of life as an alley cat, paints himself black with a white stripe, rolls in Limburger cheese and wreaks revenge upon his tormentors as a sly skunk.   At which point the French-accented skunk (Stinky/Henry/Pepé) brimming with amour (ooh la la, mon petit chou) enters and a Feydeau farce of co(s)mic proportions is born (beaucoups de rire).   Although famed storyman Michael Maltese was to write the majority of Pepé’s ‘aromantic’ adventures (c’est bon!), the legendary Tedd Pierce penned (écrivait) this first cartoon (et très bien aussi!).

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“Characters always start with an idea rather than a drawing.  Before I drew Pepé for his first appearance in a cartoon, I knew something about his character, and I knew he was a skunk, but I did not know what he looked like.  Live-action directors call casting sessions at this point to find an actor to match their notion of a character, but I begin drawing—my casting session.  I did more than 200 drawings of Pepé before I was confident he would work according to our conception of him.  From that moment on, he was as much subject to the limits of his physical ability as I am.

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“When we were writing Odor-able Kitty, in which Pepé made his first appearance (under the name Henry), the odious Eddie Selzer [the producer at Warner Bros. Cartoons] tried to block the project on the grounds that skunks talking French are not funny.  (The French themselves find these cartoons very funny.)  But when For Scent-imental Reasons later won an Academy Award, Eddie Selzer contentedly collected the credit and the Oscar, which he took home.” — Chuck Jones, Chuck Reducks, Drawing from the Fun Side of Life

Filmography (all Jones, except where noted):

  • Odor-able Kitty (1945)                                                                     
  • Scent-imental Over You (1947)
  • Odor of the Day (Davis, 1948)
  • For Scent-imental Reasons (1949 Academy Award-winner)
  • Scent-imental Romeo (1951)
  • Little Beau Pepe (1952)
  • Wild Over You (1953)
  • Dog Pounded (Freleng, 1954, in cameo)
  • The Cats Bah (1954)
  • Past Perfumance (1955)
  • Two Scents Worth (1955)
  • Heaven Scent (1956)
  • Touché and Go (1957)
  • Really Scent (Levitow, 1959)
  • Who Scent You? (1960)
  • A Scent of the Matterhorn (1961)
  • Louvre Come Back to Me (1962)

100% Charlie Dog

Rescued by Chuck Jones from the Warner Bros. character pound where he had been abandoned, Charlie Dog had first appeared in Bob Clampett’s 1941 Porky’s Pooch.   Jones, however, had found an altogether different dog upon his release from the ‘pound’ and it is this dog that debuted in Jones’ Little Orphan Airedale of 1947.

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“Charlie Dog is one of my favorite characters.  I don’t understand him, but I do like him.  He is so unquestionably a dog.  Charlie is merely trying to find a master and a home, which are perfectly natural ambitions for any dog.  Comedy is always concerned with simple matters such as this.”—Chuck Jones, Chuck Reducks, Drawing From the Fun Side of the Life

Filmography, all directed by Jones:

  • Little Orphan Airedale (1947) with Porky
  • The Awful Orphan (1949) with Porky
  • Often an Orphan (1949) with Porky
  • Dog Gone South (1950) with Colonel Shuffle and Belvedere
  • A Hound for Trouble (1951)

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Although foreshadowed in Little Orphan Airedale, it wasn’t until Often an Orphan that Charlie Dog produced his greatest sales pitch, to be whatever you need him to be.  Whether it’s 50 percent Pointer (pointing), 50 percent Boxer (boxing), 50 percent Setter (setting), 50 percent Spitz (into a spittoon, no less!), 50 percent Pinscher (ouch!) or 100 percent Labrador Retriever!  He says, “If you doubt my word, get me a labrador and I’ll retrieve it!”  Best of all, Charlie Dog is 100 percent “Saint" Bernard (with the emphasis on saint.)  

Notes on Wile E. Coyote & Road Runner

“I see nothing in the Coyote that I can’t find in almost any human being.  Most of us share his desire for something small and special, be it diamonds, doughnuts, or Road Runner.  Wile E. Coyote devotes enormous ingenuity and energy to chasing the Road Runner.  People wonder what good it would do him to catch the Road Runner, as there’s obviously very little food on that scrawny frame.  A rabbit would seem to be more nutritious prey, but Wile E. considers roadrunner to be a luxury item on the coyote’s food chain.  There are delicacies as yet unknown to the human palate, and one of them is this apparently succulent avian.   

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“A Road Runner cartoon is basically a series of separate blackout gags with an underlying structure, as the Coyote returns obsessively to the fray.  Mike Maltese and I found that we needed about eleven gags to make a film, and the trick was to proceed in a more or less orderly fashion up to a strong climax.  Gags varied considerably in length and could be as short as four seconds, as long as four minutes, or almost as long as the film itself. 

“Humor is often a series of sensible statements ending in an unexpected oddity that completely changes the meaning of the scene.

“The Road Runner did not change a lot visually over the years; he has very little personality, as he is a force.  I tell students that the secret of drawing the Road Runner is learning how to draw dust:  just draw a cloud of dust and hook a Road Runner onto it…My Road Runner is a rare case in which the animated animal is almost exactly like its living model. 

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“The Road Runner’s immortal “beep-beep” was an accidental find, inspired by the sound Paul Julian made as he blindly tried to clear a route for himself along a Termite Terrace corridor.  It seemed unimaginable to ask anybody but Paul to record this sound, so we invited him into the studio and it is his voice that is heard in every Road Runner cartoon, although Mel Blanc is given credit for it.

“Eddie Selzer [producer after Leon Schlesinger] hated the first Road Runner cartoon, Fast and Furry-ous, because it had no dialogue.  “Goddamit,” he fumed, “we pay Mel Blanc and you should use his voice.”  He sulked about it.  I told him that the film wouldn’t work with dialogue, but he persisted: I don’t give a damn if it would work or not—WE PAY MEL BLANC!”

Chuck Jones Exhibition at Art Institute Closing June 13th

This is the last week that you will be able to view the Chuck Jones exhibition at the Art Institute of Southern 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 of what you'll see while you're there:

For more information about the Art Institute, click here.

“Kill da Wabbit”

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Arguably the most famous short animated film ever created, Chuck Jones’ What’s Opera, Doc? of 1957 has been feted, lauded, praised and applauded.  The first animated short film inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry and the #1 animated cartoon as selected by 1,000 animation art professionals, critics and collectors (so sayeth Jerry Beck), What’s Opera, Doc? is the boisterously rhapsodic retelling of Wagner’s operatic Der Ring des Nibelungen cycle.

What normally would take three full days (with intermissions…) to stage and produce has been condensed in the Jones version to just seven sweet and sublime minutes.  And not a nuance of the original is lost.  Bugs Bunny in horned helmet and Brunhilde braids, Elmer Fudd with sword and magic helmet continue their epic struggle to the Wagnerian strains of the Valkyrie’s melody.   Even co-librettists (Jones and Maltese) tune in for a mournful Return My Love as Bugs’ deception is revealed to the love-struck Bavarian bumbler, Elmer. 

What’s Opera, Doc? succeeds on many different levels with the audience.  It is first and foremost a deliciously devilish send-up of the pretensions of the opera world, but at the same time, handled with great sincerity and honesty.   We are invited to share in the antics of the very well known characters as they romp through a magnificently mythic stage set (designed by the incomparable Maurice Noble) and yet they themselves are somewhat mythical in their own right.  A punch and counter-punch effect is created that enhances the silliness factor tenfold. 

“For sheer production quality, magnificent music, and wonderful animation, this is probably our most elaborate and satisfying production.”  —Chuck Jones, quoted in The Fifty Greatest Cartoons As Selected By 1,000 Animation Professionals

This video is of George Daugherty conducting the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra as they play the music that accompanies the Chuck Jones 1957 masterpiece, "What's Opera, Doc?" during a presentation of his "Bugs Bunny on Broadway."  George is bringing his revamped, enhanced and newly titled "Bugs Bunny at the Symphony" to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine, CA this coming August 6th.  Click here to buy tickets or here to learn more about Bugs Bunny at the Symphony.

 

“United Hare Lines”

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Chuck Jones loved to travel.  Europe, Australia, the Far East, or even East L.A.  Regardless of where he set his sights, his sketchpad and paints were sure to follow.  "United Hare Lines" addresses the Jones wanderlust with wit and his trademark droll sense of wordplay.   

Chuck received his ‘wings’ (silver plastic) with this handwritten commendation, “On this day, in the year of our Lord, June 26, 1971, Chuck Jones is hereby instated as a distinguished Junior Pilot.  Mr. Jones is to be extended all courtesies and honors befitting such a command for his tireless efforts and unending talents.”  It was signed by the entire crew of Astrojet Flight 53 from Toronto to Los Angeles and now hangs in a place of honor at the offices of Chuck Jones Enterprises.

With his undaunted sense of whimsy (who ever heard of a rabbit flying an airplane?) and an unerring hand with a paint brush, Chuck Jones has placed the intrepid Bugs Bunny at the helm of a flying machine whose motto is “Good to the last drop” (it would only take one…)   Even the most discriminating acrophobe is sure to love this painting!

 

Chuck Jones Image of the Day: Daffy Duck Model Drawings

As happens here, on our way to other things we stumbled across these two beautiful Daffy Duck model drawings by Chuck Jones (graphite on 12 field animation paper.)  They so perfectly capture the character of Daffy (Chuck once remarked, "I dream of being Bugs Bunny, but I wake up Daffy Duck."), that it was imperative we stop and share them with you.  And because they are so classic, we're following them with Chuck's 1953 masterpiece, "Duck Amuck".  Enjoy!

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What the Heart Desires
One Man Exhibition

What the Heart Desires

 New works on paper and canvas

Fabio Napoleoni

Solo Exhibition 

San Diego, CA:  The Chuck Jones Gallery is pleased to welcome painter Fabio Napoleoni as they unveil his first solo exhibition in San Diego.  The vernissage is scheduled for Friday, June 3rd from 5 to 8 PM at the gallery, 232 Fifth Avenue, in the heart of San Diego’s famed Gas Lamp District.  Mr. Napoleoni will unveil an original painting promptly at 6 PM.  Artesa Winery will host a wine-tasting in celebration of the opening.  An open house is scheduled for Saturday, June 4th from 2 to 5 PM with Napoleoni in attendance; he will be signing dedications at both events.

What the heart wants and the heart needs can be found in a Fabio Napoleoni painting.  Nostalgia, sorrow and elation; all are there for the world to see and experience.  His vivid use of color and the captivating characters he has created welcome you to an emotional experience that affects not only your mind but deeply touches your heart.  Napoleoni has been influenced by some of the world’s great artists; he has taken that influence and imbued his work with its essence, creating masterpieces that are uniquely his.  Napoleoni’s simple landscapes set the stage for dramatic emotional revelations that speak to our common humanity. 

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Many events influenced Fabio’s artwork but none more than the traumatic events that followed the birth of his second child.  His daughter, born with severe heart abnormalities, had to face several surgeries to correct issues that could have prevented her from having a future.  Overwhelmed with his daughter’s poor health and surrounded by an emotional sea of sorrow from other parents in the same situation, Fabio grew.  While his wife and daughter slept in her hospital room, Fabio wandered the halls of the Children’s Care Unit looking for a spot where he could sketch out his personal thoughts.  From these thoughts a new form of creativity was born.  The doors to Fabio Napoleoni’s heart were now opened for the world to experience.

The Chuck Jones Gallery is pleased to present the work of Fabio Napoleoni and will premier two new editions on paper, “Your Voice Makes My Heart Sing” and “I Just Wanted You to Know.”  The fine art print of his “Love Bugs Do Bite” will be our free gift to collectors with each purchase (some restrictions may apply.) 

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The Chuck Jones Gallery, located in the heart of San Diego’s historic Gaslamp District at 232 Fifth Ave., is the destination for art collectors and visitors from around the world.  Owned by Linda Jones Enterprises, the publisher and distributor of the art of the legendary animation creator and director, Chuck Jones, it is the only gallery in San Diego devoted to the art of the animated film.  Included in the on-going display is art from all major animation studios as well as original paintings and limited edition fine art from a variety of internationally known artists and photographers whose work is entertainment related.  For more information please call the gallery at 888-294-9880 or online at www.ChuckJonesGallery.com.  Blog: Chuck Redux