Category Archives: History

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

A Great Yellow Dog and a Letter from Uncle Lynn

These two items, a drawing by Chuck Jones of “The Great Yellow Dog” and a letter from Uncle Lynn to Chuck and his siblings on the death of their beloved dog, Teddy, are not mutually exclusive, but they do underscore the importance of character animation that Jones was such a master of and his deep well of resourcefulness.

"The Great Yellow Dog", graphite and crayon on 12 field MGM animation paper, 10.5" x 12.5", circa mid-1960s, by Chuck Jones.

“The Great Yellow Dog”, graphite and crayon on 12 field MGM animation paper, 10.5″ x 12.5″, circa mid-1960s, by Chuck Jones.

Dear Peggy and Dorothy and Chuck and Dick,

I had a telephone call last night. “Is this Uncle Lynn?” someone asked.

“Why yes,” I said. “My name is Lynn Martin. Are you some unregistered nephew?”

“This is Teddy.” He sounded a little impatient with me. “Teddy Jones, Teddy Jones the resident dog of 115 Wadsworth Avenue, Ocean Park, California. I’m calling long distance.”

“Excuse me,” I said. “I really don’t mean to offend you, but I’ve never heard you talk before—just bark, or whine, or yell at the moon.”

“Look who’s talking,” Teddy sniffed, a really impatient sniff if ever I’ve heard one. “Look, Peggy and Dorothy and Chuck and Dick seem to be having a very rough time of it because they think I’m dead.” Hesitate. “Well, I suppose in a way I am.”

I will admit that hearing a dog admit that he was dead was a new experience for me, and not a totally expected one. “If you’re dead,” I asked, not being sure of just how you talk to a dead dog, “how come you’re calling me?” There was another irritated pause. Clearly he was getting very impatient with me.

“Because,” he said, in as carefully a controlled voice as I’ve ever heard from a dog. “Because when you are alive, even if the kids don’t knowexactly where you are, they know you’re someplace. So I just want them to know I may be sort of dead, but I’m still someplace.”

“Maybe I should tell them you’re in Dog Heaven, Teddy, Maybe to make ‘em feel—”

“Oh, don’t be silly.” Teddy cleared his throat. “Look, where are you?”

“Oh, no, you don’t. We’re trying to find out where you are,” I barked.

“Hey, I didn’t know you could bark.” He sounded impressed with my command of the language.

“Wait just a minute,” I said. “You had to know where I am, or you couldn’t have called me on the telephone, right?”

“Boy, you know so little,” said Teddy. “I simply said I called you long distance. Who said anything about a telephone? They asked me if I knew where you were, and I said you were someplace else, besides 115 Wadsworth Avenue. So they dialled someplace else and here I am and here you are.”

“Can I call you back?” I asked dazedly. “Maybe that’ll give me a clue.”

“Be reasonable,” said Teddy. “How can you call me back when neither you nor I know where I am?”

“Oh, come on, give me a clue,” I begged desperately. “For instance, are there other dogs around there? I’ve got to tell the kids something.”

“Hold it,” said Teddy, apparently looking around. “I did see a pug/schnauzer with wings a minute ago. The wings could lift the schnauzer part of him off the ground, but the pug part just sort of dragged through the grass bumping into fireplugs.”

“Fireplugs?”

“Orchards of them, hundreds of ‘em. Yellow, red, white, striped. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have to pee anymore. I strain a lot, but all I get is air. Perfumed air,” he added proudly.

“Sounds like Dog Heaven to me,” I said. “Are there trees full of lamb chops and stuff like that?”

“You know,” Teddy sighed. “For a fair to upper-middle-class uncle, you do have some weird ideas. But the reason I called you was Peggy, Dorothy, Chuck, and Dick trust you and will believe anything you say, which in my opinion is carrying the word ‘gullible’ about as far as it will stretch. Anyway, gullible or not, they trust you, so I want you to tell them that I’m still their faithful, noble, old dog, and—except for the noble part—that I’m in a place where they can’t see me but I can see them, and I’ll always be around keeping an eye, an ear, and a nose on them. Tell them that just because they can’t see me doesn’t mean I’m not there. Point out to them that during the day you can’t see the latitudes and you can’t really see a star, but they’re both still there. So get a little poetic and ask them to think of me as ‘good-dog,’ the good old Teddy, the Dog Star from the horse latitudes, and not to worry, I’ll bark the britches off anybody or anything that bothers them. Just because I bit the dust doesn’t mean I can’t bite the devils.”

That’s what he said. I never did find out exactly where he was, but I did find out where he wasn’t—not ever very far from Peggy, Dorothy, Chuck and old Dick Jones.

Sincerely,

Lynn Martin, Uncle at Large

Elephant Walk

A few words from Craig Kausen, Chuck Jones’s grandson on this elephant walk:

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“Whether you’re an artist, an animator, a scientist, a veterinarian, or just an observer of life, you can probably get inspired and intrigued by this simple yet elegant six frame walk sequence created by Chuck Jones in the 1960s.

“Notice the bends in the joints, the weight of the steps, the rhythm of head movement, or the minor details of the tail.

“The details and small nuances are what historians discuss when they look at the work of Chuck Jones.  He was a student of life and had the passion and the skill to translate his observations into character and movement.”

Chuck Jones Centennial Film Tribute at Cinefamily

This past weekend, Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre in West Hollywood, California hosted a two-day film tribute to Chuck Jones. Hosted by animation film historian and author, Jerry Beck, on Saturday, they screened eight of Chuck's masterpieces from his days at Warner Bros. including such classics as "What's Opera, Doc?" and "One Froggy Evening" both of which are in the Library of Congress's National Film Registry. The late afternoon event wrapped with a rare screening of Chuck Jones's 1973 TV special, "A Cricket in Times Square." The Chuck Jones Center for Creativity provided Cinefamily with Chuck's personal 35mm prints of the cartoons. 

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Jerry Beck (L) and Alexander McDonald, program director for Cinefamily, outside the Silent Movie Theatre.

Jerry's special guest on Saturday was animator, art director, and theme park designer, John Ramirez, who had worked with Chuck Jones in the 1980s and 1990s. He and his colleagues were the designers of the Chuck Jones exhibition at the Capitol Children's Museum, Washington, D.C. in 1990. 


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Jerry Beck (L) and John Ramirez discuss the finer points of a Chuck Jones cartoon at the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre in West Hollywood.

There was even cake! (Who doesn't like a good carrot cake, I ask you?)


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On Sunday, Craig Kausen, chairman of the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity and Chuck's grandson, made opening remarks before a screening of Jones's only feature film, "The Phantom Tollbooth." Special guest, actor Butch Patrick, who starred as Milo in "The Phantom Tollbooth" made an appearance and spoke with the near-capacity crowd. All-in-all it was a great weekend for Chuck Jones fans!


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Animator and fan, Thom Nicolette (L) with actor Butch Patrick ("The Munsters", "The Phantom Tollbooth") at the Cinefamily Chuck Jones Film Tribute. 


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Craig Kausen (L) and Butch Patrick at the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre in West Hollywood.


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Craig Kausen (R) brought a portfolio of material from the making of "The Phantom Tollbooth" to share with the crowd of fans. He's seen here with Alexander McDonald (far left) of Cinefamily and Jerry Beck (center), author, animation historian and host/moderator for the weekend film tribute to Chuck Jones.


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Photographer Stephen Russo (R) seen with Butch Patrick outside the Silent Movie Theatre. Mr. Russo provided all of the photos for this post. Thank you, Stephen!


Ray Bradbury and Chuck Jones

With the passing of Ray Bradbury this week, it brought to mind a wonderful quote from him when he was at a birthday party celebrating Jones's 55th.  Someone asked Bradbury what he would like to be when he grew up and he replied, "I want to be 14 years old, just like Chuck Jones."

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Chuck Jones (r) and Ray Bradbury enjoying each other's company.  

Daffy Duck 75? Not Possible, Why He Doesn’t Look a Day Over…

On April 17, 1937, a star was born. Tex Avery's "Porky's Duck Hunt" premiered in theaters nationwide and audiences were introduced to a duck unlike any other duck in cartoon history. He was wacky and wild, some might even say crazy, but the germ of an idea was born, and the directors and animators at Warner Bros. took the nutty, black-feathered guy and made him into the star he is today, Daffy Aloysius Dumas Duck. 

Daffy Duck starred in 134 +/- cartoons and arguably reached his apogee in the hunting trilogy directed by Chuck Jones: "Rabbit Fire" 1951, "Rabbit Seasoning" 1952, and "Duck! Rabbit! Duck!" 1953. 

"I have watched with fascination his [Daffy's] growth from his earliest haphazard puerile personality, through adolescence, to the splendid bombast of his maturity in the fifties. Daffy has become the spokesman for the egoist in everyone, but he remains always undaunted by the inevitable requital: the fear of consequences that makes cowards of the rest of us." –Robert D. Tschirgi, M.D., PH.D., professor of Neurosciences, University of California, La Jolla, February 14, 1985

"The first surfacing of that part of my character that was later to show up in Daffy Duck occurred at the age of six. My sixth-birthday party, to be precise. I was immensely proud–it seems to me that all my life I have taken the most pride in things over which I have little or no control. Even though I had older sisters, it never occurred to me that anyone had ever become six years old before, and the splendid cake, candles bravely ablaze in salute to my maturity, was ample evidence that I had entered manhood.

"Having blown out the candles and, as a side benefit, managing to send most of the smoke up my little brother's nostrils, I was handed the knife, my first baton of any kind of authority in six misspent years, and was told to cut as large a piece as I liked. At this point Daffy Duck must have had, for me, his earliest beginnings, because I found to my surprise and pleasure that I had no desire to share my cake with anyone. I courteously returned the knife to my mother. I had no need for it, I explained; I would simplify the whole matter by taking the entire cake for myself. Not knowing she had an incipient duck on her hands, she laughed gently and tried to return the knife to my reluctant grasp. I again explained that the knife was superflous. It was impossible, I pointed out with incontrovertible logic, to cut a cake and still leave it entire for its rightful owner. I had no need and no desire to share.

"My father thereupon mounted the hustings (he was nine feet tall and looked like a moose without antlers) and escorted me to my room to contemplate in cakeless solitude the meaning of a word new to me: "selfish." To me then, and to Daffy Duck now, "selfish" means "honest but antisocial"; "unselfish" means "socially acceptable but often dishonest." We all want the whole cake, but, unlike Daffy and at least one six-year-old boy, the coward in the rest of us keeps the Daffy Duck, the small boy in us, under control." –Chuck Jones writing in his autobiography "Chuck Amuck" 1989

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All drawings are by Chuck Jones, graphite on paper, circa 1950s through mid 1990s.

Chuck Jones + New Mexico Celebrate Their Centennial in 2012

Chuck Jones said that part of his great pleasure in visiting the Land of Enchantment (New Mexico) was probably due to the fact they both came to be the same year, 1912.  "New Mexico" magazine celebrates the state's centennial in their latest Collector's Edition, which included a great note about "taking a left turn at Albuquerque".  

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It reads: "1953: Cartoonist Chuck Jones popularizes Bugs Bunny's phrase, "I knew I shoulda tooke that left toin at Albakoikie," [sic] sparking a pop-culture onslaught of references to getting lost near the Duke City.  Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies creator Chuck Jones lived in California, but traveled frequently to New Mexico.  Reflecting his attachment to the state, a gallery of his work operates in Santa Fe today."

Send in the Clowns: Chuck Jones and Ringling Bros. Clown College

Chuck Jones met the clown TJ Tatters, also known as Steve Smith, in the early 1990s.  Smith, a graduate of the Ringling Bros. Clown College and its director from 1985 until 1995, invited Jones down to Sarasota, Florida on several occasions to speak with the students.  As was his nature, Chuck gifted many of the students a drawing of their favorite Warner Bros. character.  On one such trip he drew this:
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 This past September, the Clowns (past, present and future) got together on Cape Cod for a reunion and to celebrate Chuck's birthday, Valerie Kausen, Chuck's granddaughter went out to join them in their festivities.  

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“Being at the Clown College Reunion made my heart so happy to feel the love and respect that each and every one of those fabulous laugh loving people loved Chuck as much as I do. My face hurt from smiling so much. I had such a great time!", said Valerie, seen here with Steve Smith (aka TJ Tatters), Clown Hall of Fame member, and the talent development coordinator for Chuck Jones Film Productions, in Provincetown this past September for their Reunion.  

 

The Night Watchman

We're busy curating the exhibition for the Chuck Jones Experience opening in Las Vegas at Circus Circus (truly, it's coming, promise!) One of the exhibitions will feature some marvelous telegrams and a charming letter from Chuck's brother Dick (Richard Jones, who also worked as an in-betweener and animator at Schlesinger Studios and for a while was a part of Chuck's unit; after enlisting in the Service during WWII, went on to make quite a career for himself as a noted photographer and painter,) on the release of this, "The Night Watchman", his first directorial effort (although they called it then 'supervision'.)  Here's the letter from his brother, followed by the cartoon.

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