Tag Archives: Balboa

Cats That Have Known Chuck Jones, a Portfolio

The cat has been domesticated since ancient times.  Of the genus Felis, the common (and as we’ll discover, uncommon) house cat, Felix Sylvestri (wherever did those cat names come from?), has been the visual inspiration for untold centuries of artists, from the tombs of the Pharaohs to contemporary society.   For Chuck Jones it began with one cat called Johnson.   

Johnson entered the Jones household one foggy morning in 1918, carefully picking his way through the sand at Balboa, to stand looking up at their home requesting admission.  “He moved into our house that morning, bag and baggage.  The bag was that cat bag all cats live in, one of the few characteristics he shared with other cats.  He sat fat and walked thin like other cats, but the resemblance to other cats stopped there,” reminisces Chuck Jones in his autobiography, Chuck Amuck.  “His baggage was what appeared to be a very old, very used tongue depressor, fastened securely about his neck…bearing the crude inscription…Johnson.”

Chuck Jones recalls that morning because he realized that it marked a turning point in his perception of character and one of the most important lessons of animation: individuality.  Johnson demonstrated for Jones that it is the individual, the oddity and peculiarity of character that counts.  In response to the question, “Why do animated cartoonists use animals?” Jones has said that it is easier and more believable to humanize animals than to humanize humans. 

The Cat Portfolio is a limited edition collection of 9 cats drawn by Chuck Jones over a 50-year period.  The ten fine art reproductions on paper (one cat is seen in x-ray as well) that comprise the portfolio are led off by a drawing of Johnson, jauntily wearing three-quarters of a grapefruit rind on his head like a space helmet.  “On such occasions he seemed to enjoy this raffish adornment and would saunter out onto the sand, often with only one eye visible under the overhang, a curious sight to many people, a delight to our family, and a source of sheer terror to small dogs and old ladies,” Jones continues in his autobiography.  And if that weren’t enough, Johnson liked to swim in the ocean, too.   

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Image of the Day: What’s Gnu?

Sometimes things happen for a reason.  If you've been following this blog, particularly the Image of the Day posts, you'll know that some of our favorite images by Chuck Jones are those done at the regional zoos, whether it was the Los Angeles Zoo in Griffith Park or the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park or even the smaller Santa Ana Zoo in Orange County, Chuck Jones loved to draw animals (and homo sapiens!)  So, imagine our delight when today, poking around in a file we hadn't had our nose in before, we came across this terrific photo of Chuck speaking with a zoo keeper at the San Diego Zoo.  

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But, of course, this post would not be complete without a drawing of a denizen of the zoo, so please welcome our 'gnu-est' addition to Jones' 'gnu'anced bestiary portraits, 'Gnu'dara Gnu from Gnu York (pen and ink, with brushwork, on sketch pad paper, 9" x 11" approx.)  

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