The Guest Curator page on the soon-to-be-brand-new-exciting-and-thrilling Chuck Jones Center for Creativity website will be devoted to commentary provided by a variety of experts and fans of the art and films of Chuck Jones. Throughout this series, we plan to bring you new insight and fresh perspectives on Jones's oeuvre. Stay tuned!
Animation expert, author, and historian, Jerry Beck, graciously agreed to inaugurate the Guest Curator page on the Center's website, but due to a delay in launching that brand-new-exciting-and-thrilling-website, we've decided to share his insights with you today here at Chuck Redux. Selecting three Chuck Jones cartoons to highlight proved a challenge, but one he met with his usual gusto, delight, and expertise. Read on!
ONE FROGGY EVENING – Chuck Jones probably never set out to create a classic when he began directing this one-shot cartoon (originally titled “It Hopped One Night”), but that’s exactly what he did. Michael Maltese’s premise, about a singing frog that performs only in view of its owner, must have appealed to Chuck for its witty use of popular tunes from an earlier generation, and a story told virtually through pantomime, poses and facial expressions.
But it turned out to be (in my humble opinion) his greatest piece of animation storytelling, where every subtle nuance conveys feelings we can all relate to, including happiness, greed, frustration and failure. One Froggy Evening plays upon our desire to achieve the American Dream of easy success, and finds humor in the realities of how that success may or may not be obtained. Jones’ animation unit at this time was at the height of its talents, producing cartoons as contemporary as the UPA shorts, as timeless as Disney, and utterly original on their own terms. A masterpiece!
Unfortunately, One Froggy Evening is only available by hyperlink, click on the title in this sentence to watch the cartoon.
OPERATION RABBIT – The best cartoon characters represent identifiable personalities that are either who we are – or who we want to be. Operation Rabbit presents the eternal battle between those two forces. Bugs Bunny has always been smarter than his various adversaries (think Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam and Taz), but here he encounters his brainest foe – a “genius” in fact – Wile E. Coyote.
Jones concocted the coyote as the personification of his own bewilderment with tools, machinery or simply building things. He knew how funny this sort of character could be up against the cool, calm and confident Bugs, just as he was in his debut film versus the Road Runner two years earlier.
Operation Rabbit is Wile E.’s second screen appearance and his first speaking role (not to mention the first time the character is named). I personally think its one of the best Bugs Bunny cartoons ever made and debatably the funniest. The scene of the coyote hanging on a rock ledge, having just been blown to bits by a train hitting his nitro glycerin shack, repeating his name “Wile E. Coyote, Super-Genius” – that never fails to make me laugh out loud. I know that guy. He’s me, he’s Chuck and he’s probably you.
Unlike the Coyote, Jones hit the Bullseye with this one!
SCAREDY CAT – Scaredy Cat is the first of several Porky Pig and Sylvester “Gothics”, three cartoons Jones made with a similarly eerie premise, and one of my all-time favorites. This one has the pair spending a hair raising night in an old dark house. The humor comes from Sylvester’s observations and actions to protect an oblivious Porky from a legion of killer mice.
Every director at Warners had their shot to work with Porky and Sylvester and each succeeded in creating an individual persona for the characters. Jones’ Porky is never more appealing than he is here – optimistic, self-assured and quite a strict pet owner. Sylvester is also tweaked in a Jonesian way: silent and scared, paranoid yet uncharacteristically brave. Oh, and I also believe this is the first cartoon where the cat (unnamed in previous screen appearances under Clampett, Davis and McKimson – and dubbed “Thomas” in Freleng’s Oscar winning “Tweetie Pie”) is given his proper name, Sylvester.
That sound like something Jones and Maltese would make up for this speech-impaired putty tat. “Sufferin’ Succotash!”
Not much has changed in the nearly 40 years since Chuck Jones directed "A Very Merry Cricket". There is still the mad rushing around from this store to that one, the short tempers, the car horns, and the endless mall parking lots ("…wherever did I park that car?" you very well could be asking yourself about right now.)
But the perfect antidote to all that madness, is to take a 25 minute break, right now if you can, and enjoy this beautifully animated television special that was released late in 1973 after the success of Chuck's animated interpretation of George Selden's beloved "A Cricket in Times Square." Merry Christmas!
We can't let Friday slip by without a Chuck Jones cartoon. "Hare Conditioned" dropped into theaters nationwide on August 11, 1945 starring Bugs Bunny–"A rabbit's woik is never done"–and a character based on Throckmorton P. (Philharmonic) Gildersleeve, a popular character from radio's "Fibber McGee and Molly". Much hilarity ensues. Directed by Charles M. Jones with story by Tedd Pierce. Animation provided by Ken Harris, Ben Washam, Basil Davidovich and Lloyd Vaughn.
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.
Contrary to popular belief, it does rain in southern California. Today is one of those days. We couldn't think of a better way to chase away the rainy day blues than with a fab Chuck Jones cartoon. So, without further ado, presenting the Chuck Jones directed 1959 short cartoon staring Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner…
California artist and long-time Orange County resident, Bob Elias, will be a featured artist at the Chuck Jones Big Draw, Sunday, August 7th from 11 AM to 5 PM. Throughout the day Elias will be working on a new painting of two of Chuck Jones's iconic characters, but who they are will remain between Bob and I until Sunday. So, start excersizing your drawing arm and come down to SoCo, 3303 Hyland Avenue, Costa Mesa on Sunday, August 7th for the Chuck Jones Big Draw and see what this noted artist and surfer will be working on! Help us set a Guinness World Record for the largest art class held in one venue, register today!
Artist Bob Elias at the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity with his most recent painting that pays homage to an American classic, the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons created and directed by Chuck Jones.
Bob Elias works on a painting inspired by Jones's "Duck, Rabbit, Duck" cartoon of 1953. He says he always loved cartoons (both Warner Bros. and Disney–he's also a noted painter for the theme parks) and that growing up in the artist community of Carmel-by-the-Sea in the 1950s gave him the inspiration to pursue his calling after a storied career in the hand-painted sign business. "Those rich, deeply pigmented paints that are used for sign painting inspire my use of color to this day," said Elias. "I had so much fun at the last Chuck Jones Big Draw talking with the children and adults about painting and my technique, that I can hardly wait for this one!" You can find Bob every so often off the shore at San O (San Onofre Beach just south of San Clemente, California) sitting on his board waiting for the perfect wave and a little bit of inspiration.
Since the Chuck Jones Big Draw will be setting a Guinness World Record for the most people taking an art class in one venue on Sunday, August 7th at exactly 2 PM PDT (location: 3303 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa, CA) and since we're all going to learn how to draw Bugs Bunny, it seems completely appropriate and timely that we should start learning from the master himself, Chuck Jones. See you there!