Monday, January 22, 2007

CHUCK JONES (1912 - 2002)

Chuck Jones

Chuck Jones.

A legend of the golden age of animation, Charles Martin ("Chuck") Jones was born on September 21, 1912, in Spokane, Washington. He grew up in Hollywood, where he observed the talents of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton while working occasionally as a child extra in Mack Sennett comedies. After graduating from Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles (now California Institute of the Arts), he drew pencil portraits for a dollar apiece on Olvera Street. Then, in 1932, he got his first job in the fledgling animation industry as a cel washer for former Disney animator Ubbe Iwerks.

In 1936, he became an animator for the Leon Schlesinger Studio (later sold to Warner Bros.). There, he was assigned to Tex Avery's animation unit, joining the Warner Bros. team that made LOONEY TUNES and MERRIE MELODIES in a back-lot building that he and other Warner animators and directors nicknamed "Termite Terrace." It was there that the personalities and characteristics of Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny, and Daffy Duck were developed and produced.

At the early age of 25, Chuck Jones directed his first animated film, THE NIGHT WATCHMAN, which was released in 1938. Up to 5,000 animation drawings were used for the six-minute cartoon. As director, he timed the picture, finalized all of the writing, produced more than 300 layouts, and directed the art design, music, sound effects, and animation.

During World War II, he directed Army training films with a popular 1940s character, Private SNAFU, as well as a re-election film for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Heading his own unit, he remained at Warner Bros. Animation until it closed in 1962, though he had a brief stint with Disney Studios in 1955 during a hiatus at Warner Bros. He then moved to MGM Studios, where he created new episodes for the Tom & Jerry cartoon series. While there, he also produced, co-directed, and co-wrote the screenplay for the critically acclaimed full-length feature THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, and directed the Academy Award-winning film THE DOT AND THE LINE.

The Grinch


In 1966, he directed one of the most memorable holiday television specials ever produced -- Dr. Seuss' HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS. First aired in December 1966, the half-hour special was met with glowing reviews from newspapers across the country and has since become one of the most popular holiday programs on television. He won a Peabody Award for Television Program Excellence for his work on Dr. Seuss' HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS as well as Dr. Seuss' HORTON HEARS A WHO. For a year, he worked as vice president of the American Broadcasting Company to improve children's programming in 1972. There, he made many animated specials for television.

Chuck Jones has become a true icon of creativity by directing such mini-epics as WHAT'S OPERA, DOC? (1957), which featured a Wagnerian Elmer Fudd invoking the great elements against a cunning Bugs Bunny. In December 1992, WHAT'S OPERA, DOC? was inducted into the National Film Registry for being "among the most culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films of our time." And last December, he became the only director to have two animated shorts among the Registry's 275 films when DUCK AMUCK was added.

In a career spanning more than 60 years, he has made more than 300 animated films and has earned four Academy Awards, including an Honorary Oscar in 1996. He has been awarded three Honorary Doctorates, most recently by the American Film Institute in June 1997, and has received countless awards and distinctions from throughout the world, including the Directors Guild of America's Honorary Life Membership Award.

Chuck Jones

Chuck Jones at his gallery.

He is the most widely collected animation artist in the world. His work has been exhibited at more than 250 galleries and museums, including a one-man film retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. His 1989 autobiography, CHUCK AMUCK, is in its fifth printing and was published in paperback in 1990, both in the U.S. and abroad. CHUCK REDUCKS, his follow-up to CHUCK AMUCK, was published in 1996.

The eternally youthful octogenarian recently created a new character, Timber Wolf, for a series of cartoons on the internet for Warner Bros. Online and Entertaindom. He also revisited one facet of his creativity by dedicating himself to the creation of fine arts drawings and limited editions, which can be collected through the family-owned Chuck Jones Studio Galleries in Laguna Beach and San Diego, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. In order to recognize, reward, support, and inspire continued excellence in the art of animation, he created The Chuck Jones Foundation in the spring of 2000.

Chuck Jones died at his home in California on Friday, February 22, 2002 at the age of 89.

No comments: