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Friday, April 14, 2017

CINESCAPE PRESENTS: WICKED COOL ANIMATION - CHUCK JONES

CINESCAPE PRESENTS:

WICKED COOL ANIMATION 


CHUCK JONES


The sun slowly creeps above the cities of the land, children stir in their beds, opening their sleep crusted eyes to look at the time. The seconds hand on the clock tick on an never ending circle and the minute hand ticks over to read 7:45 am.

Rubbing the sleep out of their eyes, sitting up, yawning and stretching, the children of the land head off in to the darkened corridors of hallways or down stairs of their homes and into the kitchens, grabbing milk, a bowl, their favorite cereal box and a spoon (most likely oversized).
Settling in after turning on the television set (a manual maneuver that actually requires pulling on a knob, that also served as the volume or pressing a button), slowly turning the channel (another manual job) knob to the station of choice, which usually had the best cartoons on.

After making the rather large bowl of cereal for breakfast, the familial tunes of Merrie Melodies/Looney Tunes fades in and just like every Saturday morning during the early years of most of our lives, we were treated to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Foghorn Leghorn, Tweety, Sylvester, and Porky Pig, as they moved about in their cartoon lives.

One of the men responsible for bringing these characters to life was Chuck Jones. Now, there was a distinct difference between all the animators there at Termite Terrace, which made the cartoons even better. Each of these animators (Directors, really) generally worked with their own favorite characters. Jones primarily worked with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Wyle E. Coyote, Road Runner and Porky Pig, for whatever reasons. It seems that these particular characters were top priority when it came to developing shows because they brought in the bigger audiences. But that is a guess.

The cartoons were magical. Funny with an adult sense of humor that even the kids could laugh at and the violence of these shows was so unrealistic that it amped up the hilarity. I mean, who would seriously try to fight a gorilla on an apartment ledge? Or pack the underside of their house with dynamite? It was hyper-realistic nonsense violence.

Jones seemed to let the other animators work in that medium of "crazy wacky" gags, whereas, his area was more musical, symphonic even. In What's Opera Doc, The Rabbit of Seville and others, Jones let his musical knowledge dictate the flow of the scenes, but he wasn't afraid to take on other styles.

The Scarlet Pumpernickle was a parody of Zorro, The Scarlet Pimpernel and partially The Three Musketeers. With Daffy Duck playing the lead role. Boyhood Daze and From A to ZZZZ was Chuck's way of looking at the world through a child's eye, from an adult perspective, even though only two Ralph Phillips cartoons were made, they showed Jones' range of being able to tell a story through different mediums. Especially From A to ZZZ where Ralph gets to fight numbers in a math problem and through all of this leads us to The Dot and The Line, which was based on the book written by Norton Juster, which is as basic as it gets. A dot falls in love with a line, but the story and accompanying animation is some of the best that's ever been produced.

Chuck Jones was also able to bring about a sense of realism to his work. If you watch the Wyle E. Coyote cartoons, you should take the time to notice the little details that Jones put into his work. Like when Wyle E. is poking at a rock above his head and little pieces of dirt and dust fall all about him, or when Bugs Bunny picks lint or crumbs off of another person, or the way clothes didn't properly fit all of the characters, because of their height. Like in Robin Hood Daffy or Duck Dodgers in the 24th 1/2 Century.

Jones hit his stride with Warner Bros. animation in the 50's, directing Rabbit Seasoning, the Rabbit of Seville, What's Opera Doc, Rocket Squad and many others. Transylvania 6-5000 and many others. He was unfortunately fired from Warner Bros, after breaking his exclusive contract with them, while working on the animated movie Gay Pur-eee. Moonlighting on the project with his former colleague Abe Levitow, the feature was produced by UPA and when it was available for distribution, upon completion, Warner Bros. picked it up, that's when they found out that Chuck Jones had violated his contract. The studio then closed it's animation unit, shortly thereafter in 1963.

After Warner closed it's animation unit, he moved over to MGM where he worked on new Tom and Jerry Cartoons, The Bear That Wasn't and The Dot and the Line, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short. He also teamed up with Dr. Seuss to make How The Grinch Stole Christmas!, as well as Horton Hears A Who! and several adaptations of Rudyard Kiplings short stories - Mowgli's Brothers, The White Seal and, what seemed to be a constant on Saturday Morning Television, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi., before returning to Warner Bros. to finish off his animation career. With his final project being a series of 13 episodes of Thomas Timber Wolf, based on a character that he had created in the 60's.

His influence is still seen today. From Ren and Stimpy and Rocko's Modern Life to Spongebob Squarepants, Dexter's Laboratory and Teen Titans, but it's not just cartoons. Todd McFarlane, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Joe Dante, Robert Zemeckis, and many others have been influenced by Chuck Jones and his style.

His approach to animation was to make everything in the picture, from the environments to the characters, although slightly exaggerated, feel natural, almost realistic, like you could have these characters step right out of the TV set and resume their lives and it would be normal. Like nothing happened. That's how good Chuck Jones was.

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