Category Archives: The Jones Family: Family Gatherings & Memories

The Egyptian Theater Gets Looney with Chuck Jones!

Terrific article by Susan King in today’s Los Angeles Times about the upcoming film tribute on Chuck Jones’s 101st birthday, Saturday, September 21 at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. She writes in part:

Linda Jones considered herself “incredibly lucky” to have had a father like Chuck Jones, the Oscar-winning animation director of Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies fame.

“He was probably the best father anybody could have,” said Linda Jones, an only child. “His father had a difficult time being a father, and he vowed he would never impose that kind of difficulty and challenge on a child.”

Her dad, she said, “was pretty much a 9 to 5 guy. He didn’t bring his work home with him.” Follow this link to read entire article.

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Jones Family Gathering Welcomes a Special Guest!

At last night's gala dinner on the patio of Lou & Mickey's (at the very heart of San Diego's historic Gaslamp Quarter–previously known as the "Stingaree"), the Jones Family Gathering welcomed a very special guest, one of Chuck Jones's favorite authors and wits.

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This author has been gone from this world for over a century, so our 'reception' was at times a little blurry, but we kept fiddling with the knobs and dials of our "Way Back Machine" (not to be confused with Peabody & Sherman's WABAC machine), and he eventually came into clearer focus.  

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To everyone's amazement and delight it was that rascal and raconteur, the inimitable Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens).  Mr. Twain was gracious enough to stroll among us, delighting us with bits and pieces of his encyclopedic knowledge of all things west of the Mississippi (and some things east of it too!)

Chuck Jones began reading at age three and around the age of seven (circa 1919) discovered the writings of Mark Twain, in particular a book Twain wrote about his and his brother's trip by stagecoach out to the gold fields of the Sacramento basin in 1849 ("a miner, a 'forty-niner', oh my darlin' Clementine…"), titled "Roughing It".  One particular passage stuck with Chuck, and it was Twain's description of the coyote (which is repeated below for your edification); it was a description, Chuck said, that resonated with a scrawny, seven-year-old, and one that when needed about 20 years later, provided much of the characterization of one of Jones's most enduring and popular characters.  Let's see, who could that be?

Twain wrote: 

"Along about an hour after breakfast we saw the first prairie dog villages, the first antelope, and the first wolf. If I remember rightly, this latter was the regular coyote (pronounced ky-o-te) of the farther deserts. And if it was, he was not a pretty creature or respectable either, for I got well acquanited with his race afterward, and can speak with confidence.

The coyote is a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton, with a gray wolfskin stretched over it, a tolerably bushy tail that forever sags down with a despairing expression of forsakenness and misery, a furtive and evil eye, and a long, sharp face, with slightly lifted lip and exposed teeth. He has a general slinking expression all over. The coyote is a living, breathing allegory of Want. He is always hungry. He is always poor, out of luck, and friendless. The meanest creatures despise him, and even the fleas would desert him for a velocipede. He is so spirtless and cowardly that even while his exposed teeth are pretending a threat, the rest of his face is apologizing for it. And he is so homely! -so scrawny, and ribby, and coarse-haired, and pitiful."

A Special Message to Chuck Jones on his 99th Birthday

Today is my grandfather’s 99th Birthday.  Maybe some will say “But he passed away nearly 10 years ago, so it should be ‘would have been…’”  It is certainly true that he, the man, is no longer here, but he, the presence, the teacher, the giver of smiles and laughs is certainly still among us.

If he sat here before me today, I would tell him a personal Happy Birthday, but also tell him that his birthdays always meant a little more than just the cake and the attempts at getting him a gift.  What has always been so wonderful about Chuck’s birthdays to me is that it seems as though everyone celebrated it with him.  Whether it was at the Hollywood Bowl with 18,000 people singing him Happy Birthday during Bugs Bunny on Broadway, or showing his cartoons to packed house of 500 at Warner Bros. to celebrate his 85th or 88th, it was always a celebration of everyone’s joys in life. 

And even back when we were very young, we would gather at home to watch him blow out his candles (always the accurate number no matter how difficult it was to get them all on the cake), and to see how he might cut the cake this time.  Somehow he never cut that first piece quite the same.  Sometimes it might have been small, sometimes large, and sometimes a handful that would be delicately deposited on the adjacent plate.  

Regardless of the memory, the ever-present feeling was always that of joy and fun. And that is something that I can continue to celebrate until long after I cannot fit even one more candle on my birthday cake. 

Happy 99th Birthday, Chuck! 

With much love, Craig

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Chuck Jones with his grandson, Craig Kausen, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity.

News about the Chuck Jones Centennial Celebrations

"We have a major Chuck Jones exhibit opening this month at the Port of Portland’s International Airport that will be viewed by nearly one million travelers as well as an exhibition of original production art at the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio coming in November,” said Craig Kausen, “and also this November will be the grand opening of the Chuck Jones Experience at Circus Circus in Las Vegas, all of which we feel is a grand way to launch my grandfather’s centennial celebrations.”    

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Jones, one of the fathers of Bugs Bunny and the creator of such iconic cartoon characters as Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner, Pepé le Pew and Marvin Martian, was born in Spokane, Washington, on September 21, 1912.  The four-time Academy Award recipient, including a Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 1996, enjoyed a seven decade career in animation and fine art, beginning in 1932.  His life and life’s work spanned the history of animation, from the first tentative steps of Gertie the Dinosaur, animated by Windsor McKay in 1912, to the brilliant CGI (computer generated imagery) of John Lasseter and Pixar Studios. 

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The Chuck Jones Centennial Celebrations will include a revamped version of the multi-media extravaganza “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony” created and conducted by George Daugherty, with planned appearances at Wolf Trap and the Kennedy Center in 2012 as well as with other notable symphony orchestras around the country.  The Center is working with its local Congressman in the hope that United States Congress will designate Jones’s birthday as National Chuck Jones Creativity Day in 2012.  

 

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…)

 

Growing Up with Chuck Jones as Your Father

We spent a few minutes with Linda Jones Clough, daughter of Chuck Jones, the other day and we asked her what it was like to grow up with Chuck Jones as your father.  She had this to say:

"People have often asked me what it was like to grow up with Chuck Jones.  I wish I had taken notes so I would have more wonderful anecdotes to share, but I can tell you this:  We often went for drives with no destination in mind, just the two of us, and as we rolled along the boulevards and streets of Los Angeles we played word games, imagination games, and talked about all manner of things.  I can honestly say that no one has ever had a better, more wonderful father than I had. 

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Chuck Jones and his daughter, Linda, out for a drive in Hollywood, 1941.

"My father often said that they (at the studio) couldn’t possibly have realized that they were working in what would later be dubbed “The Golden Age of Animation.”  They did know, however, that they were making animated films that often amused themselves.  They agreed that was the great freedom of the times for them, and they all seem to have been grateful for it.  

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Dorothy, Margaret, Richard and Chuck Jones on Balboa beach, Newport Beach, 1916.

"My paternal grandparents encouraged creativity of mind, body and thought in their four children, which resulted in all four being artists in their own right: brother Richard a talented photographer and painter; sister Margaret a brilliant textile designer and weaver; and sister Dorothy, an excellent writer, illustrator, and sculptor.  It seems likely to me that that the same creative encouragement he provided for me at home, may have also contributed to his directorial excellence."

Chuck Jones, September 21, 1912 — February 22, 2002

Today is eight years since my Grandfather, Chuck Jones, passed away.

It was eight years and three days ago that I went down to say goodbye to him.

He wasn't conscious, at least as far as I could tell as I sat by his bed at his home in Corona del Mar.  But I believed that at some level he was aware of me by his side.  It was just the two of us in the room and I sat quietly for a long time.

For some reason, I brought "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain.  After sitting there for a while, I opened the book and just started to read.  The only part that I remember distinctly from the few pages that I read was:

"We got an old tin lantern, and a butcher-knife without any handle, and a bran-new Barlow knife worth two bits in any store, and a lot of tallow candles, and a tin candlestick, and a gourd, and a tin cup, and a ratty old bedquilt off the bed, and a reticule with needles and pins and beeswax and buttons and thread and all such truck in it, and a hatchet and some nails, and a fishline as thick as my little finger with some monstrous hooks on it, and a roll of buckskin, and a leather dog-collar, and a horseshoe, and some vials of medicine that didn't have no label on them; and just as we was leaving I found a tolerable good curry-comb, and Jim he found a ratty old fiddle-bow, and a wooden leg.  The straps was broke off of it, but barring that, it was a good enough leg, though it was too long for me and not long enough for Jim, and we couldn't find the other one, though we hunted all around."

I laughed out loud when I got to the end of this paragraph (as I always do) at the discontinuity and yet logic of looking for a matching wooden leg.

Chuck breathed a little more sporadically and a little deeper for a few moments then, I suppose due to my outburst of laughter.

Each and every February 22nd I make a specific intention to laugh more, to live more deeply, and to be more grateful for the things I have and have had in my life, including Chuck.

Today is no different as we've told some stories, had many laughs about the absurdities of life, and thoroughly enjoyed the day; just as I know Chuck is doing as he discusses the poetic nature of the written word with Mark Twain.

I hope that each person that loved him and his work will laugh an extra laugh in Chuck's honor today.  –Craig Kausen

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Chuck Jones: One Side of the Paper, Please!

By Craig Kausen

I was asked recently about the lore that Chuck only drew on one side of a piece of paper.

The short answer is that, yes, he rarely drew on both sides.

I think from a purely practical point of view having images on both
sides of the paper often created a difficulty to view or reference both
drawings.  He used to jest that it certainly would have been
troublesome if da Vinci had painted the Mona Lisa on one side of a
canvas and the Last Supper on the other.

The entire practice of using only one side of a piece of paper
actually started for him and his siblings when they were very young. 
As Chuck would tell the story, my great-grandfather, Charles Adams
Jones, started a new business venture quite often.  Each time he
created a new company, he bought reams of new paper and boxes and
boxes of new pencils, each complete with the new company name and
letterhead.  And, invariably, the new venture would find its demise
sooner than later.

He notes in the documentary Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood,
“We were forbidden—actually forbidden—to draw on both sides of the
paper.  Because, of course, Father wanted to get rid of the stationery
from a defunct business as soon as possible, and he brought logic to
bear in sustaining his viewpoint: ‘You never know when you’re going to
make a good drawing.’”

On a rare occasion, we would find the beginnings of a sketch on one
side of a page and a completely different portrayal on the reverse.  I
never knew if this was just an abandonment or an oversight as the paper
flowed easily through his home studio.

I include here a few sketches from different times of his life as a memory of his creative endeavors on paper…

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7 Years and Still Living On…

Seven years ago today, my grandfather passed away.  It was definitely a difficult transition for me, for my family, and truly for the world (as I have heard from literally thousands of people over the past seven years).

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However, he lived, contributed, experienced, and learned for nearly 90 years.  At 89 he once told me that he was still amazed that he got to do what he loved to do all of his life, even make a living at it along the way. 

During his acceptance speech for his Lifetime Achievement Academy Award 13 years ago he quoted Robert Frost in conveying how he felt about his life:

My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.

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I know that he achieved that in his life.  Truly a remarkable achievement for anyone and perhaps a goal that more of us (or even all of us) could bring into focus. 

I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend so much time with him.  Whether it was with a single person in hallway on one of our trips, at a dinner with friends or family, or in front a group of 500 or 10,000, he mesmerized by giving his full attention to being with that person or those people right then and there.  I still meet people consistently who convey the memories of the one time they met Chuck and their special connection with him.

I think what I felt seven years ago was that there was a gaping hole left by him not being in our lives.  But as I heard so many wonderful memories from so many people over the following weeks, months, and years, that I truly feel that he continues to live on through our memories, through his films, through his art, and through all that continue to be insprired by his genius.

Just this morning my daughter, Samantha, came into the room and asked, "What ya doin', Doc?"  Yes, he lives on.

Now or sometime in the future I would enjoy hearing any of your favorite memories of Chuck, his films, or inspirations you may have attained from him or his work.

Happy memories to all of you!

Craig

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A Flashback to Chuck Jones and Family – 1999

I found a great photo the other day of Chuck at my son Alex's 8th grade graduation ceremony.  Chuck was definitely the only one who was wearing the plantation hat and vest on that day.  As the eldest great-grandchild, Alex and Chuck had a special relationship. 

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Chuck and Alex had a special greeting when he was little where they would shake hands and then each pretend they would put something in their hip pocket.  I never saw Chuck do that with anyone else and it was his special thing with Alex.

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Rose Parade – Road Runner & Wile E. Coyote – Memory of a Lifetime

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Posted by Craig Kausen

It was an incredible honor and one of my most memorable days to ride on the New Mexico Rose Parade Float on New Year's day this year.  This is me (Craig), my mother (Linda), and a great new friend of ours, Jim Garcia from Albuquerque as we started down Orange Grove Blvd as we left our starting position. 

The experience actually made me giddy.  I felt like a little kid getting to play out a magical fairy tale dream that lasted for, what seemed like, hours and hours! (Ok, it actually was hours and hours…)

We actually first were introduced to the float the day before when the official judging occurs. 

4035 NM Float in hangar med Although it doesn't show in this picture, the morning of the judging there were hundreds of people previewing the floats, talking to the float builders and riders.  It's quite an event in itself.

As a float rider, we needed to be in full regalia and seated on the float.  Unfortunately, I cannot share photos with you because they shoo everyone out of the hangar that is not part of the float building crew. 

Obviously we were judged worthy because they awarded the New Mexico Float with the Bob Hope Humor Trophy for most comical and amusing entry. 

On New Year's morning, we were picked up a few miles from the parade route at 5:15 am (or as my brother said O'Dark Early). (Special thanks to our friends John and Leanne for hosting us nearby so we didn't need to wake up at 3am instead of 4!)  It was a brisk 38 degrees and I had much sympathy for the float crew who spent the entire night on Orange Grove Blvd with the Road Runner and Coyote.

We had the opportunity walk the entire staging area before we got underway.  The detail and magnitude of the presentations in each of the floats was amazing.  We bumped into our dear friend John Ramirez (of Acme Animation www.AcmeAnimation.org) who designed three floats for the parade and won three awards!

4068 NM Float Jones Family cropWe waved until our arms nearly fell off and yelled "Happy New Year" until our voices nearly vanished.  I also carried Chuck's cane and hat the entire way to help celebrate his animated creations. 

I think the most amazing thing to me about the parade is the sheer magnitude of it.  Before we even made the turn onto Colorado Blvd, we passed thousands upon thousands of people who had slept out on the curbside, arrived early to stand toward the back of the crowd, or continued to wander up and down in front of the mansions lined up along the road.

As we turned the corner onto Colorado I wish I had video from my perspective of the grandeur of the grandstands, the cacophony of the crowds, and the legion of cameras, photographers, news people that reached for as far as I could see.

Here's a link to the snippet from the local coverage by KTLA…. and yes I received dozens of emails, texts and even some Facebook postings asking me if I was one of the "Humans" who were referred to by host Stephanie Edwards during the broadcast…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnnniNJO5Z4

The remaining five plus miles of the parade route was packed with people for the entire distance (again the magnitude of it all).  If you can't picture five plus miles with enthusiastic, cheering families, think of nearly 100 football fields lined up end to end with 20 to 200 people deep on both sides for the entire distance.

IMG_0717 A huge thank you to Raul Rodriguez, the float designer, for doing such an incredible job with the design and for respecting the characters that were created 60 years ago this year.  Raul is here with us in ready to ride the China Airlines Float he designed as well.

And thank you to the State of New Mexico for celebrating Chuck's most famous characters and the long relationship Chuck, New Mexico, and the Road Runner have all had.

Trivia:  Did you know that Chuck and the State of New Mexico were both born in 1912?

More:   Did you know that Chuck created the Road Runner in 1949?  And that New Mexico chose the roadrunner as their state bird the exact same year…  coincidence?  I don't think so…