Chuck Jones’s pay stub for the week ending December 9, 1944. At the time, he was directing animated short films for Leon Schlesinger Studios.
On January 6, 1945, just a month after the pay stub, Chuck Jones’s famous skunk, Pepe le Pew, made his debut in “Odor-able Kitty”, which had originally been titled, “Forever Ambushed”.
The model sheets were drawn by Chuck Jones and used by the animators to stay “on model” during the drawing of the cartoon.
Side note: “Forever Ambushed” is a take-off on the title of bestselling romance novel of 1944, titled, “Forever Amber”. The book was eventually made into a film in 1947 by 20th Century Fox. The Chuck Jones pay stub is from the Linda Jones Clough archive.
Conceived as a new character for the short film, Forever Ambushed, Stinky became the familiar francophone-challenged skunk known throughout the world today as Pepé le Pew. The film was eventually retitled Odor-able Kitty and premiered on the silver screen nationwide January 6, 1945. It follows the misadventures of a bedraggled and abused tomcat who, wishing to avoid the derision and despair of life as an alley cat, paints himself black with a white stripe, rolls in Limburger cheese and wreaks revenge upon his tormentors as a sly skunk. At which point the French-accented skunk (Stinky/Henry/Pepé) brimming with amour (ooh la la, mon petit chou) enters and a Feydeau farce of co(s)mic proportions is born (beaucoups de rire). Although famed storyman Michael Maltese was to write the majority of Pepé’s ‘aromantic’ adventures (c’est bon!), the legendary Tedd Pierce penned (écrivait) this first cartoon (et très bien aussi!).
“Characters always start with an idea rather than a drawing. Before I drew Pepé for his first appearance in a cartoon, I knew something about his character, and I knew he was a skunk, but I did not know what he looked like. Live-action directors call casting sessions at this point to find an actor to match their notion of a character, but I begin drawing—my casting session. I did more than 200 drawings of Pepé before I was confident he would work according to our conception of him. From that moment on, he was as much subject to the limits of his physical ability as I am.
“When we were writing Odor-able Kitty, in which Pepé made his first appearance (under the name Henry), the odious Eddie Selzer [the producer at Warner Bros. Cartoons] tried to block the project on the grounds that skunks talking French are not funny. (The French themselves find these cartoons very funny.) But when For Scent-imental Reasons later won an Academy Award, Eddie Selzer contentedly collected the credit and the Oscar, which he took home.” — Chuck Jones, Chuck Reducks, Drawing from the Fun Side of Life
Filmography (all Jones, except where noted):
Odor-able Kitty (1945)
Scent-imental Over You (1947)
Odor of the Day (Davis, 1948)
For Scent-imental Reasons (1949 Academy Award-winner)