Chuck Jones’s first cartoon as a director premiered in October of 1938 “The Night Watchman”. His advancement to ‘supervisor’ from animator at Leon Schlesinger Productions was noted in the film trade journal, Daily Variety, prompting not only a flurry of congratulatory letters from co-workers (Grim Natwick, for instance) and family (his brother Dick, an in-betweener at Schlesinger), but also a few telegrams from the likes of Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney, and Max Fleischer (sent, we believe, with a wink from his co-workers.)
Top: Model drawing of the head rat from “The Night Watchman” by Chuck Jones, colored pencil on 12 field animation paper, 10.5” x 12.5”. Model drawings of the Night Watchman by Chuck Jones, graphite on 12 field animation paper.
Bonus feature: “Text messages from the early 20th century”!
Chuck Jones's first film that he directed (noted as 'supervisor' in the credits) was "The Night Watchman" of 1938. His promotion to supervisor was noted in Daily Variety and other industry publications and the congratulatory letters poured in. As we're preparing for the exhibition of art and artifacts from his life at the Chuck Jones Experience at Circus Circus Las Vegas, we've found some really wonderful, and oftentimes quite touching, notes and letters sent to Chuck on the occasion of his promotion, which at age 26 made him one of the youngest directors at Leon Schlesinger Studios. The letter below is from the venerable Grim Natwick, who not only offered his expert guidance to the young Jones as he began his career in animation, but is also known for his talent at drawing the human form (he is responsible for bringing Snow White to life for Walt Disney.)
The envelope is dated April 17, 1938.
Somebody told me you got a very important blurb in Variety to the effect that you are a Supervisor in charge of Looney Tunes — I believe — Have not seen the issue but my informer seemed to stress its importance so I am acting on that report. Let me be the last to congratulate you. You must be doing all right and that is enough to make me very happy — Grim N-
Grim Natwick and his "kid assistant" Chuck Jones at Ubbe Iwerks in 1933, graphite on 12 field animation paper by Grim Natwick.
Stephen Worth, the art historian for ASIFA-Hollywood has written a detailed account of the impact that the artist and animator, Grim Natwick, had on the nascent animation film community. Natwick's story is the story of animation in America and I think you'll find it a marvelously entertaining and informative read (plus there's a terrific short interview with Natwick about Ub Iwerks, where he met and worked with a young animator named Chuck Jones.)