Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy birthday, Chuck Jones!

Hi everyone,

Earlier this month, TCM ran a half-hour documentary called Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood. I'd seen it before long ago, but by the time I finished re-watching it last week, I was so inspired that I planned to sign up for a bunch of drawing classes, get a job at the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity, and turn Melissa's Kitties into an empire!

So, maybe you're wondering who Chuck Jones is, especially if you didn't grow up as I did on a healthy diet of Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. Chuck Jones is the guy behind most of those classics, featuring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, and others who make up that fantastic cast of characters! People have asked me where my drawing style comes from. While I'm not quite sure how to answer that question, I consider Chuck Jones a huge influence.

From this documentary, I discovered that he and I have a few things in common: We both fell on our heads as babies (he off a second-story back porch and I down the basement stairs--twice). He said that's probably what led him to become an animator. (My falls can't live up to that.)

He also met an interesting stray cat when he was a kid. This cat walked like a bulldog, had an evil eye, a bent ear, and loved to eat grapefruit. He had a raggedy tag around his neck with "Johnson" written on it, a prized possession he wouldn't let anyone touch. Johnson would follow Chuck to the beach and swim with him, starling everyone else in the water. When he grew tired out there, Johnson would sit on Chuck's shoulder and wait. "I learned something about cat behavior at that time--and animal behavior--because I didn't realize that cats were individuals," Chuck Jones said. "Maybe that enabled me to be a better animator than I ever thought I'd be."

Tragedy strikes Marc Antony in Feed the Kitty.
All those classic cartoons of the '40s, and '50s were group efforts, and Chuck Jones was just one member. There were other directors of equally hilarious Looney Tunes adventures, such as  I. Fritz Freleng and Bob Clampett, and  I encourage you to check them out too. But Chuck Jones drew the best faces! Sometimes, I draw The Kitties and recognize their expressions as a salute to a Chuck Jones moment. And, sometimes when I'm stuck on how to draw something, I wonder how he would do it.

While I'm already celebrating Gene Kelly this year, I'm adding Chuck Jones to the party because, today, he too would have turned 100. (1912 was a good year!)

You must know his cartoons: Even if you don't think you do, I'm sure you'd recognize them. Here's a list of some of my favorites that you can look up on YouTube. (Beware, you'll get lost in Warner Brothers' cartoon awesomeness that extends far beyond this list!)
Since I can't post every cartoon Chuck Jones worked on here, I've settled on one. Bully for Bugs (1953) never gets on any Top 10 lists that I've seen, but I've always rooted for the bull. I love all of his expressions and reactions. This cartoon has some great lines too! My sister and I still quote these cartoons in everyday conversations, and we probably always will. (We're ultra-maroons.)

© Warner Brothers

Chuck Jones's cartoons always lift my spirits. No matter what mood I'm in, they'll put me in a better one. I think the same will happen for you, so wish Chuck Jones a happy birthday and have fun watching the gifts he gave us!


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