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
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.”
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.
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.