Thursday, June 09, 2005

Homage to Chuck Jones

Homage to Chuck Jones

Homage to Chuck Jones (2003)

From the Official Site of Chuck Jones:

In a career spanning over 60 years, Jones made more than 300 animated films, winning three Oscars as director and in 1996 an honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement. Among the many awards and recognitions, one of those most valued was the honorary life membership from the Directors Guild of America.

During the Golden Age of animation Jones helped bring to life many of Warner Bros. most famous characters -- Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig. The list of characters he created himself includes Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, Marvin Martian, Pepe le Pew, Michigan J. Frog and many others. He also produced, directed and wrote the screenplays for "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas," a television classic, as well as the feature-length film "The Phantom Tollbooth." In addition, Jones was a prolific artist whose work has been exhibited at galleries and museums worldwide.

Jones often recalled a small child who, when told that Jones drew Bugs Bunny, replied: "He doesn't draw Bugs Bunny. He draws pictures of Bugs Bunny." His point was that the child thought of the character as being alive and believable, which was, in Jones' belief, the key to true character animation.


In 2000, Jones established the Chuck Jones Foundation, designed to recognize, support and inspire continued excellence in art and the art of classic character animation. Plans for the Foundation include scholarships, library resources, touring exhibits, a lecture series and access to film, notes and drawings.

Director Peter Bogdanovich once explained the enduring appeal of Jones' work: "It remains, like all good fables and only the best art, both timeless and universal."

After hearing that Jones had died, a four-year-old child asked her mother, between sobs, "Does this mean the bunny won't be in the barber chair any more?" The answer is, "No, the bunny will be in the barber chair forever."

Wile E. Coyote

"Mr. Coyote, there's a bill collector from Acme on line three..."

From an interview with Chuck Jones on the Academy of Achievement:

We've been asking people that we interview "What person inspired you the most?" But in your case, I believe there was a cat.

Well, there was a cat with the unlikely name of Johnson, the only cat I've ever known who had a last name for a first. We were living in Newport Beach, California, this was around 1918, I was 6 years old. It was early in the morning, and my brother and I saw this cat come strolling over the sand dunes. He had scar tissue on his chest, and one ear was slightly bent. He had a piece of string tied around his neck, an old wooden tongue depressor, and in crude lettering, in lavender ink, it said, "Johnson." We didn't know whether that was his blood type, or his name, or his former owner's name, or anything, so we called him Johnson. He answered to that as well as anything else. Like most cats, he answered to food, that's what he answered to.

Anyway, he came to live with us, and he turned out to be a rather spectacularly different cat. He came up to my mother while she was finishing breakfast and she figured he wanted something to eat. So she offered him a piece of bacon, and piece of egg white, and a piece of toast, all of which he spurned. He obviously had nothing like that in mind. Finally, in a little spurt of whimsy, which was typical of my mother, she gave him a half a grapefruit, and it electrified him. Suddenly, there was this flash of tortoise shell cat whirling around with this thing. Then he came sliding out of it and the thing slowly came to a stop. The whole thing was completely cleaned out and we looked at him in astonishment. He loved grapefruit more than anything else in the whole world. So each morning for a while we gave him half a grapefruit, and that was nothing to him. So we gave him a whole grapefruit. And he'd eat it until all the inside was gone. Sometimes he'd eat it in such a way that he ended up wearing a little space helmet, which is really the whole grapefruit, with a flap hanging down on one side like a batter's helmet. But when he had it on, he seemed to like it. And sometimes he'd walk out on the beach with this thing on his head, until it really bothered him, then he'd kick it off.


Johnson the cat -- wearing his grapefruit helmet

In your book you make it clear that Johnson provided a lesson for you about human nature.

You cannot take anything for granted. The basic thing about Johnson was the fact that he was different than other cats. He was not every cat, in other words, any more than any of us are really every man, or every woman. That laid the groundwork, so when I got to doing Daffy Duck, or Bugs Bunny, or Coyote -- that's not all coyotes, that is the particular coyote. "Wile E. Coyote, Genius." That's what he calls himself. He's different. He has an overweening ego, which isn't necessarily true of all coyotes.

Mark Twain's Roughing It is a book that many people don't know about, but I highly recommend to anybody at any age. He and his brother crossed the United States in a stagecoach, how romantic can you get? They went from Kansas City and Independence, Missouri and out across the Great Plains, with four horses, pulling them across the plains.

Mark Twain went on to start telling the first time he met a coyote. And his expression -- when I was 6 years old I read this -- and he said that the coyote is so meager, and so thin, and so scrawny, and so unappetizing that, he said, "A flea would leave a coyote to get on a velocipede, (or a bicycle)." There's more food on a bicycle than there is on a coyote. And he said how the coyote always looked like he was kind of ashamed of himself. And no matter what the rest of his face was doing, his mouth was always looking kind of crawly. And there are some wonderful expressions about how the coyote exists in that terrible environment, but how fast it is. And he said, "If you ever want to teach a dog lessons about what an inferior subject it is, let him loose when there's a coyote out there."

And, finally, from Slate -- a cartoon by Mike Peters:

Special Delivery

Today's image tries to capture some of the saturated colors and cartoon faces associated with the animation pioneer. It's a small tribute for all the laughs he gave me through his work when I was growing up -- and, many years later, for the joy I saw in my daughter's face when she encountered (and I re-discovered) his art.

Ba-dee-ba-dee-ba -- That's all, folks!

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