First awakened by the jingling of a loosened ornament from her Who Christmas tree, little Cindy-Lou Who's plaintive cry of "Why Santy Claus, why," startles the Grinch and one of the great scenes from Chuck Jones' classic "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" unfolds. The acting is subtle and impressive; Jones often said, "An animator is an actor with a pencil," and no where in this film is that more evident than here.
Original production cel of Cindy-Lou Who with its matching original production background. In the 1970s while the production art from the film was stored at UCLA's film library, a water pipe burst and many pieces suffered water damage as seen in the background of the above piece.
Of course, this post is really about the incomparable June Foray, the voice of Cindy-Lou Who. Chuck Jones writes in his Chuck Reducks, "One of the few misconceptions about June is to think of her wonderful talent as "voice over." Nothing could be further from the truth. June is worthy of the gift-word: actress. She imbues a part with herself, be it a Mama Bear or the deadly cobra Nagaina in Rikki Tikki Tavi. As a vocal Grandma Moses, she brought the redoubtable Granny to life for Friz Freleng; for me, she did the loving mother seal in Kipling's The White Seal. She created three different witches named Hazel for Disney, MGM and Warner Bros., all with different personalities but all with undeniable knowledge of Shakespeare's squacky trio. She could transfer her throat from a sweet Cindy-Lou in How the Grinch Stole Christmas! to a bellowing Red Riding Hood in Little Red Riding Rabbit… From Natasha to (an asexual) Rocky, she dominated Bullwinkle and company for many years. Indeed, she is one of the few actresses I know who would understand John Barrymore's assertion that "an actor cannot say 'pass the butter' without understanding who said it, where it was said, and under what circumstances it was said." In fact–and I speak with the deepest respect for him–I can only compliment Mel Blanc by saying that he could be called the a male June Foray."
Chuck Jones' daughter, Linda, likes to recount that when she was a young girl her father would often 'act out' the cartoons he was working on for her, voices, gags, action, everything. Chuck explains in his book, Chuck Reducks, how he went on the road with the Grinch storyboards and their presentation saga…
"…off to New York to sell the idea to a sponsor. (Today you sell your film to the network; in the those innocent days–1966–you sold to the sponsor, guaranteeing financial support, before you could proceed to the network.)
"That sounded easy enough. After all, I could take great pride in the wonderful story and full professional storyboard, and I could–and did–act all the parts (even Cindy-Lou Who) while presenting the board–twenty-six times!
"Yep. Twenty-six times I did my dog-and-pony, or rather dog-and-grinch, act for the icy-eyed acres of advertising agency people before I could find a buyer." (Eventually the Foundation of Commercial Banks became the sponsor, much to the surprise of Chuck, for who would think that they of all people, would want to promote an entertainment where the main character says, "Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store?")
Ted Geisel (second from left) and Chuck Jones (second from right) pose with members of the Foundation of Commercial Banks for a publicity photo before the airing on December 18, 1966 of the animated television special, "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
And speaking of advertising agencies…below is a telex (pre-fax, pre-email, pre-skype!) from the Chicago office of the giant Leo Burnett advertising agency (think Mad Men) to their New York office counterparts extolling the virtues of Jones' storyboard presentation and how it would behoove them to make sure one of their big clients (Kellogg's or Campbell's Soup) became the sponsor of this most watched and beloved holiday special. An amazing read, isn't it?
June Foray, the legendary voice of such memorable cartoon characters as Witch Hazel and Granny, Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Natasha Fatale along with a host of others, will be the guest-of-honor at the Chuck Jones Gallery in Tustin, California this evening. The reception, "Roast Beast Feast" is a celebration of the artwork of the Chuck Jones directed 1966 classic Holiday animated TV special, "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and for which Ms. Foray provided the voice of little Cindy Lou Who, who was no more than two.
Ms. Foray is shown here with Chuck Jones (left) at a reception in the 1990s. The reception is from 4 to 8 PM this evening, Friday, December 3rd. The gallery is located at 3065 Edinger Avenue, Tustin, California. For more information email Tustin@ChuckJones.com or call 800-959-7175.
Last Friday, we posted a photograph of Chuck Jones taken during the recording session for his 1996 Michigan J. Frog short animated film, "Another Froggy Evening." (Read and see it here.) One of our faithful readers, Brent, responded with a question, "Who are those men in the Roman Coliseum?" Some of you may have recognized Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert as the larger caricatures, but who are all those other people, you may have thought (out loud or to yourself?)
Well, thanks to some help from the inimitable Rose Long who worked at Chuck Jones Film Productions in the 1990s we can now tell you who is who.
1. Tina Raleigh, 2. Don Arioli, 3. Rose Long, 4. Chuck Jones, 5. Michael Breton, 6. Ben Jones, 7. Herman Sharaf, 8. Warren O'Neill, 9. Greg Whitaker, 10. Tod Polson, 11. Lawrence Marvit, 12. Steve Fossati, 13. Bob Givens, 14. Linda Jones Clough, 15. Greg Duffel, 16. Tom Decker, 17. Jill Petrilak, 18. Charlie Puzzo, 19. Ted Bemiller, 20. Mike Polvani, 21. Stan Freberg
"Maurice–Can you get a sort of malevolent face out of this bldg.?", asks Chuck Jones of famed layout designer, Maurice Noble, regarding Noble's design for Scene 3 of the 1954 Jones directed "Claws for Alarm" (production #1288.) Porky and Sylvester star in this spooky animated cartoon that finds them spending the night in a haunted hotel in the ghost town they've found themselves in. Porky blithely overlooks all of the creepy aspects (nooses, mooses, and mouse eyes,) but Sylvester is wise to what's going on and guards Porky throughout a hilarious sequence of frightening events. A classic!
"Darling! I have waited por vu." Pepé le Pew makes his move in this original layout drawing by Chuck Jones for his 1954 short film, "Cats Bah." In this film, the most Boyer-referential outing of the amorous skunk, Pepé is found reminiscing about his greatest love when he his smitten by the "belle Americaine touriste femme skunk." The drawing is graphite on 12 field, two-hole punch animation paper and measures 10.5" x 12.5".
On Saturday, June 19, Craig Kausen, grandson of Chuck Jones led a tour of the exhibition "Chuck Jones: An Animator's Life From A to Z-Z-Z-Z" at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California. A group of about 40 Chuck Jones art collectors, fans and aficianados gathered to hear Craig wax nostalgic about growing up with Chuck Jones and discuss the impact Jones has made on the art of the animated film.
Johnnie Diem and her grandson, Garrett, were among those who enjoyed the afternoon excursion and tour. Garrett is currently interested in stop-motion animation and has been making his own films using legos.
As with all things Chuck Jones, there is always much love to be shared. Craig and Diane Norwine give each other a hug in greeting and excitement at the prospect of sharing this incredible exhibition together.
The exhibition runs through August 22nd at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 8949 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, California. For more information, including hours, please their website by clicking here.
Original layout drawing by Chuck Jones (graphite on 12 field animation paper) from his 1956 short animated film, "Barbary Coast Bunny" starring Bugs Bunny and Nasty Canasta.
Animation director and creator of "Ren and Stimpy," John Kricfalusi has written a wonderful analysis of Jones' "Barbary Coast Bunny" which we recommend. It begins:
"This is one of my all-time favorite cartoons. It has almost every good
trait you associate with Chuck Jones:
Great layouts and
Funny and mean gags
and stylish drawings
also has very tight story structure and lots of little subtle extra
actions – all the things the critics love. I appreciate those too, but
those are nice secondary accessories to me. They can help support a big
central idea if there is one. By themselves they are just technical
details. What's really memorable about this cartoon is the
characterization of the lummox. Chuck is the master of lummoxes and this
Nasty Canasta is his finest. Usually Chuck's lummoxes have funny body
shapes-a huge barrel chest, big head with tiny legs and stubby fingers.
Nasty has all these traits, but on top of them he has a very specific
face – unlike the more plain faced Little John and The Crusher."
To read the rest of John K.'s blog post, please click here.