Category Archives: Blogs of Special Note

Chuck Jones on What Makes a Comedian Funny

Many thanks to the editors at BigThink.com and to Patrick Allan at LifeHacker.com for sharing this terrific story and quote from Chuck Jones!

CJ Photo 1 72 dpi

From BigThink.com:

Chuck Jones (1912-2002) was an American animator, cartoonist, and director of animated films. His most famous work consisted of numerous Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies shorts for Warner Brothers featuring characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Wile E. Coyote, and others. Jones was nominated for eight Oscars, won three, and was awarded an honorary statuette in 1996. Robin Williams called Jones “the Orson Welles of cartoons.”

Many luminaries of humor peddle varying definitions of comedy. Jones’ stance was that comedians are funny people who do funny things against a backdrop of relative normality.

“A comedian is not a person who opens a funny door — he’s the person who opens a door funny.” [Wikiquote]

Source: “The Art of Chuck Jones: John Lewell Interviews the Veteran Hollywood Animator [1982],” in Animation – Art and Industry, ed. Maureen Furniss (John Libby Publishing Ltd., 2009), 134.

From Patrick Allan writing at LifeHacker.com:

Having a good sense of humor can make you more charismatic and become the type of person people like to be around. Being funny isn’t always easy, however, and legendary animator Chuck Jones believes the main ingredient is how you say or do something—not what you say or do.

Chuck Jones—most known for his animation and direction on Looney Tunes—has been nominated for eight Academy Awards and received four for his cartoon work. Needless to say, Jones—who passed away in 2002—knew comedy pretty darn well. Jones believed there was a secret to it all:

“A comedian is not a person who opens a funny door — he’s the person who opens a door funny.”

Ever tried to listen to someone repeat a stand-up comedian’s joke? It’s amazing how unfunny it can be. So as you work on your jokes and humorous conversation, remember that you don’t need to stress about material. Instead think of ways to be funny without relying on a “funny door.” Of course, you don’t want to be all jokes all the time, but a sense of humor can get you a lot farther than you think.

Chuck Jones in the News–Recent Press

Sabeena Khosla writes in the online magazine, “Highbrow”, about Chuck Jones and the exhibit “What’s Up, Doc? — The Animated Art of Chuck Jones” currently on view at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, NY. Read the article here.

In the online blog, “War is Boring” Steve Weintz writes about the professional and personal relationship of Ted Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss, and Chuck Jones. You can read it here.

Key Master set-up from "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas", 1966.

Key Master set-up from “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, 1966.

Animators & Mirrors

Found this at EliseMerand.tumblr.com and thought it was too good not to share with you. You’ve probably wondered where an animator gets those facial expressions, you know, the ones that just seem so extreme. Well, now, we have the answer! They looked in the mirror! Take a gander at these terrific animators and their reflections vs. their drawings.

Ken Harris at Warner Bros. (the Chuck Jones Unit)

Ken Harris at Warner Bros. (the Chuck Jones Unit)

Ward Kimball at Disney

Ward Kimball at Disney

Carlo Vinci (Terrytoons & Hanna-Barbera)

Carlo Vinci (Terrytoons & Hanna-Barbera)

Charles "Nick" Nichols (Disney, Hanna-Barbera + other studios)

Charles “Nick” Nichols (Disney, Hanna-Barbera + other studios)

Fred "Freddie" Moore at Disney

Fred “Freddie” Moore at Disney

Norm Ferguson at Disney

Norm Ferguson at Disney

Irv Spence (Leon Schlesinger, MGM, Hanna-Barbera)

Irv Spence (Leon Schlesinger, MGM, Hanna-Barbera)

Ollie Johnston at Disney Studios

Ollie Johnston at Disney Studios

Wolfgang "Woolie" Reitherman at Disney Studios

Wolfgang “Woolie” Reitherman at Disney Studios

Incomplete Manifesto for Growth–Bruce Mau Design

You know how the internet can be…one minute you're looking at pictures of cats and the next one you're reading the Incomplete Manifesto for Growth from Bruce Mau Design and you find yourself nodding your head in agreement, stopping to ponder the veracity of "Creativity is not device-dependent" and generally thinking this is an incomplete manifesto. (How could you limit it?) This then is what they had to say:

  1. Allow events to change you. 
    You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens
    to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness
    to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.
  2. Forget about good. 
    Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not
    necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may
    not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real
    growth.
  3. Process
    is more important than outcome.
     
    When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already
    been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will
    know we want to be there.
  4. Love your experiments (as you
    would an ugly child). 
    Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit
    the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations,
    attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of
    failure every day.
  5. Go deep. 
    The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.
  6. Capture
    accidents.
     
    The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect
    wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.
  7. Study. 
    A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity of production as an excuse to
    study. Everyone will benefit.
  8. Drift. 
    Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment.
    Postpone criticism.
  9. Begin
    anywhere.
     
    John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of
    paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.
  10. Everyone
    is a leader.
     
    Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it
    makes sense. Let anyone lead.
  11. Harvest
    ideas.
     
    Edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, generous environment to sustain
    life. Applications, on the other hand, benefit from critical rigor. Produce a
    high ratio of ideas to applications.
  12. Keep
    moving.
     
    The market and its operations have a tendency to reinforce success. Resist it.
    Allow failure and migration to be part of your practice.
  13. Slow
    down.
     
    Desynchronize from standard time frames and surprising opportunities may
    present themselves.
  14. Don’t be
    cool.
     
    Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this
    sort.
  15. Ask
    stupid questions.
     
    Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question.
    Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.
  16. Collaborate. 
    The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction,
    strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.
  17. ____________________. 
    Intentionally left blank. Allow space for the ideas you haven’t had yet, and
    for the ideas of others.
  18. Stay up
    late.
     
    Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, been up too long, worked too
    hard, and you’re separated from the rest of the world.
  19. Work the
    metaphor.
     
    Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is
    apparent. Work on what it stands for.
  20. Be
    careful to take risks.
     
    Time is genetic. Today is the child of yesterday and the parent of tomorrow.
    The work you produce today will create your future.
  21. Repeat
    yourself.
     
    If you like it, do it again. If you don’t like it, do it again.
  22. Make your
    own tools.
     
    Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things. Even simple tools that
    are your own can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools
    amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.
  23. Stand on
    someone’s shoulders.
     
    You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before
    you. And the view is so much better.
  24. Avoid
    software.
     
    The problem with software is that everyone has it.
  25. Don’t
    clean your desk.
     
    You might find something in the morning that you can’t see tonight.
  26. Don’t
    enter awards competitions.
     
    Just don’t. It’s not good for you.
  27. Read only
    left-hand pages.
     
    Marshall McLuhan did this. By decreasing the amount of information, we leave
    room for what he called our "noodle."
  28. Make new
    words.
     
    Expand the lexicon. The new conditions demand a new way of thinking. The
    thinking demands new forms of expression. The expression generates new
    conditions.
  29. Think
    with your mind.
     
    Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.
  30. Organization
    = Liberty.
     
    Real innovation in design, or any other field, happens in context. That context
    is usually some form of cooperatively managed enterprise. Frank Gehry, for
    instance, is only able to realize Bilbao because his studio can deliver it on
    budget. The myth of a split between "creatives" and "suits"
    is what Leonard Cohen calls a ‘charming artifact of the past.’
  31. Don’t
    borrow money.
     
    Once again, Frank Gehry’s advice. By maintaining financial control, we maintain
    creative control. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s surprising how hard
    it is to maintain this discipline, and how many have failed.
  32. Listen
    carefully.
     
    Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more
    strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the
    details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their
    world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.
  33. Take
    field trips.
     
    The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the
    Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered,
    object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic–simulated environment.
  34. Make
    mistakes faster.
     
    This isn’t my idea — I borrowed it. I think it belongs to Andy Grove.
  35. Imitate. 
    Don’t be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You’ll never get all the
    way, and the separation might be truly remarkable. We have only to look to
    Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel Duchamp’s large glass to see how
    rich, discredited, and underused imitation is as a technique.
  36. Scat. 
    When you forget the words, do what Ella did: make up something else … but not
    words.
  37. Break it,
    stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.
  38. Explore
    the other edge.
     
    Great liberty exists when we avoid trying to run with the technological pack.
    We can’t find the leading edge because it’s trampled underfoot. Try using
    old-tech equipment made obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with
    potential.
  39. Coffee
    breaks, cab rides, green rooms.
     
    Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial
    spaces — what Dr. Seuss calls "the waiting place." Hans Ulrich Obrist
    once organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a
    conference — the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals — but with no actual
    conference. Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing
    collaborations.
  40. Avoid
    fields.
     
    Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to
    control the wilding of creative life. They are often understandable efforts to
    order what are manifold, complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump
    the fences and cross the fields.
  41. Laugh. 
    People visiting the studio often comment on how much we laugh. Since I’ve
    become aware of this, I use it as a barometer of how comfortably we are
    expressing ourselves.
  42. Remember. 
    Growth is only possible as a product of history. Without memory, innovation is
    merely novelty. History gives growth a direction. But a memory is never
    perfect. Every memory is a degraded or composite image of a previous moment or
    event. That’s what makes us aware of its quality as a past and not a present.
    It means that every memory is new, a partial construct different from its source,
    and, as such, a potential for growth itself.
  43. Power to
    the people.
     
    Play can only happen when people feel they have control over their lives. We
    can’t be free agents if we’re not free.

Our hats are off to Bruce Mau Design for these terrific thoughts on creativity!

Meet Your Mind–A User’s Guide to the Science of Consciousness

Chuck Redux stumbled upon To the Best of Our Knowledge website the other day and we were really taken by this series on the User's Guide to the Science of Consciousness, particularly the part on the neuroscience of creativity. There are six components that range from "Memory and Forgetting" to "Extraordinary Minds", each one is available as an audio interview accompanied by its transcription. Really amazing stuff, here's the intro to the series:

Your thoughts and feelings, your joy and sorrow….it’s all part of your identity, of your consciousness. But what exactly is consciousness? It may be the biggest mystery left in science. And for a radio show that loves 'Big Ideas,' we had to take up the question.  

In our six-hour series, you’ll hear interviews with the world’s leading experts – neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists, philosophers, writers and artists. We’ll take you inside the brains of Buddhist monks, and across the ocean to visit France’s ancient cave paintings. We’ll tell you how to build a memory palace, and you’ll meet one of the first scientists to study the effects of LSD.
 
How do our brains work?  Are animals conscious? What about computers?  Will we ever crack the mystery of how the physical “stuff” of our brains produces mental experiences?

What does science tell us about the most personal question of all:

Who am I?

Take some time and investigate. It's well worth your time. 

Cartoonist Lynda Barry to Teach University-Level Course on Doodling and Neuroscience

Lyndabarry
From the January 26 issue of the website "Open Culture" comes this report about cartoonist Lynda Barry and her new course on doodling and neuroscience:

Cartoonist Lynda Barry, who has helped legions of adults grope their way back to the unselfconscious creativity of childhood, is teaching at the university level. Barry’s Unthinkable Mind course is designed to appeal to students of the humanities.  Also hardcore science majors, the sort of lab-coated specimens the first group might refer to as “brains.” The instructor describes her University of Wisconsin spring semester offering thus:

A writing and picture-making class with focus on the basic physical structure of the brain with emphasis on hemispheric differences and a particular sort of insight and creative concentration that seems to come about when we are using our hands (the original digital devices) —to help us figure out a problem.

The twenty-one grads and undergrads accepted into Professor Barry’s course have been warned, via the illustrated letter above,  handwritten on legal paper, that the workload will be heavy.

Lyndabarry2

You should be warned as well, if you elect to audit this course from home. Enrollment is not necessary. Professor Barry will be posting her weekly assignments and curriculum materials on her tumblr, a forum where her abiding interest in science is as apparent as her devotion to undirected doodling. Your first assignment, posted above, requires a box of crayons, the coloring pages of your choice, downloaded to four types of paper, and a significant chunk of time set aside for brain-related articles and vintage videos starring Cognitive Neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga and astronomer Carl Sagan. You should also be committed to keeping a four-minute diary and serving as your own guinea pig.

Who’s in?

A big H/T @kirstinbutler

 

 

“The Chuck Jones School of Creativity” by Jen Myers

Chuck Redux stumbled upon the blog of Jen Myers, a professional designer/writer/speaker/teacher, and a post she wrote recently titled "The Chuck Jones School of Creativity". In her post, Ms. Myers writes about how she came to understand and nurture her own creativity as she read Chuck's autobiography, "Chuck Amuck." Her perspective is one well-worth sharing and so we've posted a bit of it with a link at the end to the rest of her story on her own website. Enjoy!

School of creativity

When I was a teenager, after I had completed the mandatory girl career aspiration phase of marine biologist, I determined I wanted to grow up to be an animated cartoonist. It seemed to be the natural fruition of my interest in sketching, my attraction to the bright and frenetic and my affinity for philosophical anarchy. I studied the limited number of films I had access to, planned to go to art school and thought that, since Disney was likely out of my reach, I would shoot for a job at one of the smaller network studios.

I am not an animator now. I didn't even come close. I decided not to go to art school, with the help of stunningly nonsensical logic along the lines of "I'm not good enough" (isn't that what you go to school to fix?), and thus began an almost comical progression of educational and professional missteps, false starts, backtracks and strange, unforeseen successes. I managed to stumble into a job I love but which is very unlike the one I first anticipated.

At least, it is superficially. As a web and interface designer, I'm not drawing cartoons. But I am creating things, and creativity draws both inspiration and instruction from a variety of sources. There are still lessons I learned from cartoons that I apply to my life and work now – especially as it concerns the creator who me want to make them in the first place.

I have a theory that Chuck Jones is the most well-known and yet most overlooked creator of the twentieth century. Everyone knows what he made, but not many people know he made it. Which is a shame, because beyond his legacy as the artist/director who made some of Warner Brothers' most famous characters and short films during the 1930s-60s, he was also an astute observer of human character, a learned storyteller and one hell of a writer. Most notably, he knew how describe and explain his process of creation. This is very rare, and equally valuable to someone else learning the process. His two autobiographies/drawing manuals are treasure troves of stories, advice and guidance on how to be creative. Which, as I've discovered, you can be no matter what you do.

START ANYWHERE AND STICK WITH IT

… my first instructor at Chouinard Art Institute, like Nicolaides at the Art Students League, greeted his beginning classes with the following grim edict: "All of you here have one hundred thousand bad drawings in you. The sooner you get rid of them, the better it will be for everyone." ¹

More than ten years after I more or less gave up on being an artist, I started drawing again. It was, in a word, demoralizing. Whatever skill I once had has most certainly fled with disuse, and I'm essentially a beginner again. There's an impulse to repeat history and declare I'm simply "not good enough" as a precursor to quitting.

But I think often about this anecdote. It's not truly grim, even if you're just starting out. In fact, when you're just starting out, it's liberating. It takes away the pressure of being judged. It's okay if you create something bad. It's okay if you create many things bad. You need to get it all out.

And it leads you into the next lesson – you need to keep doing it, over and over again, until it is good.

To continue reading, click on The Chuck Jones School of Creativity, it will open in a new window.

 

 

Looney Tunes: Chuck Jones, The Mouse Chronicles to Be Released this August

LooneyTunesMouseChronicles

On 8/28/12, Warner Home Video will release "Looney Tunes: Chuck Jones Mouse Chronicles", a 2-disc Blu-ray set featuring 19 classic cartoons. There is no word yet on pricing or special features, but reportedly, it will have special material.

The included shorts: (all directed by Chuck Jones)
Naughty But Mice (1939) – Sniffles
– Little Brother Rat (1939) – Sniffles
– Sniffles and the Bookworm (1939) – Sniffles
– Sniffles Takes a Trip (1940) – Sniffles
– Egg Collector, The (1940) – Sniffles
– Bedtime For Sniffles (1940) – Sniffles
– Sniffles Bells the Cat (1941) – Sniffles
– Toy Trouble (1941) – Sniffles
– Brave Little Bat, The (1941) – Sniffles
– Unbearable Bear, The (1943) – Sniffles
– Lost and Foundling (1944) – Sniffles
– Hush, My Mouse (1946) – Sniffles
– Aristo Cat, The (1943) – Hubie & Bertie
– Trap Happy Porky (1945) – Porky Pig
– Roughly Squeaking (1946) – Hubie & Bertie ; Claude Cat
– House Hunting Mice (1948) – Hubie & Bertie
Mouse Wreckers (1948) – Hubie & Bertie ; Claude Cat
– Hypo-Chondri-Cat, The (1950) – Hubie & Bertie ; Claude Cat
Cheese Chasers (1951) – Hubie & Bertie ; Claude Cat

Many of these films can be seen at ChuckJonesCenter.org Chuck Jones Filmography.

Source: Toonzone.net

Chuck Jones’s Favorite Pencil Is Back!

BLACKWING 602
A few of the Blackwing 602 pencils used by Chuck Jones.

Did you even know it was gone?  Maybe, maybe not, but the truth of the matter is that not only was the Blackwing 602 Jones's favorite pencil but it was also the favored writing tool of author John Steinbeck and musical theater genius, Stephen Sondheim.  Anyway, there's a wonderfully informative article about the fortunes (and misfortunes) of this very popular pencil in the current CNNMoney online news source.  

The brouhaha over Blackwing pencils – May. 19, 2011.

Here's a photo of Chuck Jones's hands with a Blackwing 602.

Chucks Hands-001 with copyright

Grim Natwick & Chuck Jones

Grim Natwick Chuck Jones caricature
Grim Natwick and his "kid assistant" Chuck Jones at Ubbe Iwerks in 1933, graphite on 12 field animation paper by Grim Natwick.  

Stephen Worth, the art historian for ASIFA-Hollywood has written a detailed account of the impact that the artist and animator, Grim Natwick, had on the nascent animation film community.  Natwick's story is the story of animation in America and I think you'll find it a marvelously entertaining and informative read (plus there's a terrific short interview with Natwick about Ub Iwerks, where he met and worked with a young animator named Chuck Jones.)  

All of the posts on Natwick can be found here.



 

 


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