"If Walt Disney was the first animator who taught me how to fly in my dreams, Chuck Jones was the first animator who made me laugh at them." Charles M. "Chuck" Jones
on Chuck Jones, in Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist
(1912-2002) is one of the most revered animators, directors, and writers in the History of Animation
. If Tex Avery
, hypothetically speaking as the original cartoon gag man, was the Trope Maker
, then Chuck Jones could well have been the Trope Codifier
of much of what we consider cartoon comedy on the Western Animation
side of the fence. During his tenure, he directed an impressive 207 Looney Tunes
and Merrie Melodies
shorts (220 if you count his Private Snafu
work), four Looney Tunes TV specials, The Bugs Bunny / Road Runner movie, and seven modern Looney Tunes shorts.
During The Golden Age of Animation
, Chuck began working as a cel washer for Ub Iwerks
before working his way up the corporate ladder so to speak, being mentored by the likes of Tex Avery
and Friz Freleng
and animating for Bob Clampett
. In 1938, he finally received a shot at directing a cartoon, inheriting the crew of the recently departed Frank Tashlin
. His early work mirrored Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies
in content and tone, heavy on childlike fantasy and completely lacking in comedy; many featured the ever-so-cute Sniffles the Mouse as the main character. After a few years at Warner Bros. he would eventually Grow the Beard
and adopt the more humorous and zany style of his contemporaries at Warner. Sniffles would become a bit of a cute Screwy Squirrel
with an uncontrollable Motor Mouth
before Chuck ended his series and began writing for other characters, eventually inheriting Bugs, Daffy and the rest of the more famous Looney Tunes
and Merrie Melodies
Chuck's work as an animation director for Warner Bros.
in the 1950s took the elements Tex laid out and stretched them to their most logical (illogical?) extremes. On one hand, his most prolific original characters, the Road Runner
and Wile E. Coyote, used next to no dialogue, instead relying on expertly timed facial expressions and slapstick
that even The Three Stooges
might have envied. On the other end of the spectrum, Jones' work with Bugs Bunny
and Daffy Duck
, while not discarding the slapstick, brought comedic wordplay to a level not seen in animation up to that point. In addition, he deepened their personalities such as making Bugs generally bedevil people only
after they've threatened or mistreated him: a classic Karmic Trickster
. Daffy is made an insecure pretender to Bugs' trickster throne.
On top of all that, with shorts ranging from "One Froggy Evening
" to "Duck Amuck
," as well as recurring characters like Charlie Dog, Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, and Pepe Le Pew
, Jones created some of the best loved shorts in the Looney Tunes
series. Jones' time at Warner Bros. ended rather abruptly when it was discovered he had violated his exclusive contract - a violation that was discovered by him leaving his name on the offending independent project that was ultimately shopped to the studio, that being the UPA film Gay Purr-ee
Post-Warner Brothers, Jones still had a few tricks up his sleeves. He went to MGM
and took over the Tom and Jerry
franchise for a time (though due to a lower budget and Chuck's admitted lack of understanding of the characters, his Tom and Jerry
shorts are often criticized for not being up to his standards [never mind that the Gene Deitch cartoons that came before his shorts were deranged
and worse than what Jones put out]), while also creating a few memorable shorts based on childrens books. He also found himself teaming up with Ted Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss
, and with the help of the voice of Boris Karloff
, turned How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
, a nine minute book, into twenty-four minutes or so of animation, which is still rebroadcast every holiday season on Time Warner-owned networks. He is also famous for his well-animated version of The Phantom Tollbooth
Jones's later projects came less frequently. He produced several TV specials in the '70s such as three hailed adaptations of stories from Rudyard Kipling
's The Jungle Book
, tried his hand at Newspaper Comics
with the short-lived strip Crawford
, storyboarded a bit for Who Framed Roger Rabbit
(something else he came to hate), and helmed several Looney Tunes revival shorts such as "Chariots of Fur" and "Superior Duck". He started inking and painting cels as collectibles and sold at various venues. His absolute last project would be the Adobe Flash
web series Timber Wolf
, hosted on the Warner Bros. official site.
In addition, it can be claimed that the animated segments he did for Stay Tuned
and Mrs. Doubtfire
make him a One-Scene Wonder
for a couple of films he didn't technically appear in.
- The Miller's Daughter: First animation credit.
- Those Beautiful Dames
- Buddy of the Legion
- My Green Fedora
- Buddy Steps Out
- Hollywood Capers
- Porky the Wrestler
- Picador Porky
- Ain't We Got Fun
- Porky & Gabby: Co-directed with Bob Clampett, although Ub Iwerks was credited for direction.
- Porky's Super Service: Same as above.
- Porky's Badtime Story
- Get Rich Quick Porky
- Rover's Rival
- Porky's Party
- Porky & Daffy: Animated the Pelican in the film, with rumor being that he based the pelican's flappy chin off of Clampett's own testicles.
- The Night Watchman: Directorial debut.
- Dog Gone Modern: Debut of the Curious Puppies characters.
- Robin Hood Makes Good
- Prest-o Change-o: Second appearance of the Bugs Bunny prototype. Second appearance of the Curious Puppies.
- Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur: Chuck's first experience with Daffy Duck. This short is interesting, as it shows Daffy as more calculating than he was at the time, possibly a foreshadowing of his later characterization, whereas during his time he was usually a Screwy Squirrel-type character.
- Naughty But Mice: Debut of Sniffles the Mouse.
- Old Glory: Probably the most un-Warner Bros. like cartoon ever made. One of The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes.
- Snow Man's Land
- Little Brother Rat: Second Sniffles short.
- Little Lion Hunter: Debut of Inki.
- The Good Egg: Third Sniffles short.
- Sniffles and the Bookworm: Fourth Sniffles short. First appearance of The Bookworm.
- Curious Puppy: Third appearance of Jones' "Curious Puppies" characters.
- The Mighty Hunters
- Elmers Candid Camera: Fourth appearance of the Bugs Bunny prototype. Jones personally loathed this cartoon and trashed it in his autobiography.
- Sniffles Takes A Trip: Fifth Sniffles short.
- Tom Thumb In Trouble
- The Egg Collector: Sixth Sniffles short.
- Ghost Wanted
- Stage Fright
- Good Night Elmer: A rare case of an Elmer Fudd solo cartoon.
- Bedtime for Sniffles: Seventh Sniffles short.
- Elmer's Pet Rabbit: Jones' first use of the officially named Bugs Bunny character—however, he still hadn't nailed Bugs character, as he is portrayed as an extremely foul-tempered heckler here.
- Sniffles Bells the Cat: Eigth Sniffles short.
- Joe Glow, The Firefly
- Toy Trouble: Ninth Sniffles short.
- Porky's Ant
- Porky's Prize Pony
- Inki and the Lion: Second Inki cartoon.
- Snow Time For Comedy: Another appearance of Jones' Curious Puppies.
- Brave Little Bat: Tenth Sniffles short.
- Saddle Silly
- Porky's Midnight Matinee
- The Bird Came C.O.D.: Debut of Jones' short lived pantomime character Conrad Cat.
- Porky's Cafe
- Conrad the Sailor: A Daffy Duck short. Notable for Jones experimenting with Match Cuts.
- Dog Tired: Final appearance of Jones' Curious Puppies.
- The Draft Horse: A short that Jones considered a turning point in his career, when he started beginning to make funny cartoons.
- Hold the Lion, Please!: Second use of Bugs Bunny.
- The Squawkin' Hawk
- Fox Pop
- The Dover Boys: #49 of The 50 Greatest Cartoons, and one of The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes. Jones considered this the point where he found his voice, so to speak.
- My Favorite Duck
- Case of the Missing Hare: Third use of Bugs Bunny.
- To Duck or Not to Duck
- Flop Goes The Weasel
- The Unbearable Bear: 11th Sniffles short.
- The Aristo Cat: Debut of Hubie and Bertie and Claude Cat. One of The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes.
- Wackiki Wabbit
- Fin N' Catty
- Inki and the Mynah Bird: Third appearance of Inki. Animator Shamus Culhane contributed much animation to this short.
- Coming Snafu: A promo for the Private Snafu shorts.
- Spies: A Private Snafu short.
- Infantry Blues: A Private Snafu short.
- Tom Turk and Daffy
- Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears: Runner-up on The 50 Greatest Cartoons list.
- The Weakly Reporter
- Angel Puss: One of the Censored Eleven.
- From Hand to Mouse
- Lost and Foundling: 12th Sniffles short.
- Hell Bent For Election: A UPA short that Jones moonlighted on.
- Private Snafu Vs. Malaria Mike
- A Lecture on Camouflage: A Private Snafu short.
- Gas: A Private Snafu short.
- Outpost: A Private Snafu short.
- Odor-able Kitty: Debut of Pepe Le Pew.
- Trap Happy Porky
- Hare Conditioned
- Fresh Airedale
- Hare Tonic
- In the Aleutians-Isles of Enchantment
- It's Murder She Says
- Going Home: unreleased
- No Buddy Atoll: unreleased
- Seaman Tarfu in the Navy: unreleased
- Scent-imental Over You
- Inki and the Circus: Fourth Inki cartoon.
- A Pest in the House: One of The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes.
- Little Orphan Airedale
- A Feather in His Hare
- What's Brewin' Bruin?
- Rabbit Punch
- Haredevil Hare: Debut of Marvin the Martian.
- You Were Never Duckier
- House-Hunting Mice
- Daffy Dilly
- My Bunny Lies Over the Sea
- Scaredy Cat: One of The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes, runner-up on The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
- Feline Frame-Up
- No Barking
- Cat's Bah
- Claws For Alarm
- Bewitched Bunny: Debut of Witch Hazel.
- Stop, Look and Hasten
- From A to Z-Z-Z-Z: One of The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes.
- Lumber Jack-Rabbit: The only 3-D Warner Bros. cartoon.
- My Little Duckaroo: Remake of "Dripalong Daffy".
- Sheep Ahoy
- Baby Buggy Bunny
- Bugs Bonnets
- Broom-Stick Bunny
- Rocket Squad
- Heaven Scent
- Gee Whiz-z-z-z
- Barbary Coast Bunny: Only Bugs Bunny short where he appears with Nasty Canasta.
- Rocket-Bye Baby: One of The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes.
- Deduce, You Say: One of The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes.
- There They Go-Go-Go
- To Hare is Human
- Robin Hood Daffy: One of The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes.
- Hare Way to the Stars
- Whoa, Be Gone!
- To Itch His Own
- Hook, Line and Stinker
- Hip Hip—Hurry
- Cat Feud
- Baton Bunny: Co-directed by Abe Levitow.
- Hot Rod and Reel
- Really Scent
- Wild About Hurry
- The Fastest with the Mostest
- Who Scent You?
- Rabbit's Feat
- Ready Woolen and Able
- Hopalong Casualty
- High Note: One of The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes.
- Zip 'N' Snort
- The Mouse on 57th Street
- The Abominable Snow Rabbit: From here on out, Maurice Noble would frequently get co-director status.
- Lickety Splat
- A Scent of the Matterhorn
- Compressed Hare
- Beep Prepared
- Nelly's Folly
- A Sheep in the Deep
- Zoom at the Top
- Louvre Come Back to Me
- Martian Through Georgia: Co-directed by Abe Levitow.
- I Was A Teenage Thumb
- Now Hear This
- Hare-Breadth Hurry
- Mad as a Mars Hare
- Transylvania 6-5000
- To Beep or Not to Beep
- Pent-House Mouse: First short produced in the newly-formed Sib Tower 12 studio. Also his first Tom & Jerry short.
- War and Pieces: Last short for the original Warner Bros. animation studio.
- The Cat Above, the Mouse Below
- Is There a Doctor in the Mouse?
- Much Ado About Mousng
- Snowbody Loves Me
- Unshrinkable Jerry Mouse
- The Dot And The Line
- Ah-Sweet Mouse Story of Life
- Tom-ic Energy
- Bad Day at Cat Rock
- The Brothers Carry-Mouse-Off
- Haunted Mouse
- I'm Just Wild About Jerry
- Of Feline Bondage
- Tom Thump
- The Year of the Mouse
- The Cat's Me-Ouch
- Jerry Go-Round
- Duel Personality
- Jerry Jerry Quite Contrary
- Love Me, Love My Mouse
- The Bear That Wasn't: The final MGM short of the golden age of animation.
- Cat and Duplicat
- Cannery Rodent
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
- Gillette Commercial
- The Cricket in Times Square
- A Very Merry Cricket
- Yankee Doodle Cricket
- The White Seal
- Carnival of the Animals
- Mowgli's orthers
- Bugs Bunny in King Arthur's Court
- Raggedy Ann and Andy in: The Great Santa Claus Caper
- The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie
- Daffy Duck's Thanks-For-Giving Special
- Bugs Bunny's Looney Christmas Tales
- Raggedy Ann and Andy In: The Pumpkin Who Couldn't Smile
- Soup or Sonic
- Bugs Bunny's Bustin' Out all Over
- Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24 1/2 Century
- Warner Bros. Golden Jubille: Animation producer on it.
- Another Froggy Evening (1995)
- From Hare to Eternity (1997)
Tropes Associated With Chuck Jones:
- Abusive Parents: Pa Bear in the Three Bears shorts. Sadly, Jones' own father could be abusive, as he recalls (with some reluctance) in the documentary Chuck Jones: Memory of a Childhood.
- Acme Products: Jones was the originator of this Running Gag.
- Amusing Injuries: His characters are often injured, but always for one temporary gag.
- Aside Glance: As a subset of breaking the fourth wall (see below).
- Black Comedy: His shorts are often quite cynical and jaded in their humor, and Jones was quite fond of using Chew Toy characters such as Wile E Coyote, and portraying his interpretations of the characters as more nasty and flawed than the other directors (such as his iconic Straw Loser take on Daffy Duck, turning Bugs into a more veangeful, passive aggressive trickster with somewhat less playfulness, creating Marvin, an alien villain who wants to destroy the earth for blocking his view of Venus, etc.). Even some of his oneshots like Fresh Airedale and Chow Hound run on this. Ironically, as the Looney Tunes franchise ran its course, Jones toned down this aspect of his cartoons to be lighter and sometimes even sentimental in tone.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Happens regularly in his work, most notably in Duck Amuck.
- Disney Owns This Trope: Chuck trademarked his own name, so that he could use it as a brand in his later years.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: Everyone knows and loves Jones late 40's and 50's shorts which got him his reputation, but take a gander at his pre-'42 shorts and you'll be shocked to find those were directed by the same guy who made gems like "What's Opera, Doc?". To elaborate, Jones was going in a very different direction from Tex Avery and Bob Clampett by doing Disney-esque cartoons. While well drawn and animated, they also suffered from sluggish pacing and from being overbearingly cute. Jones even said himself that, if he could, he'd get rid of everything he made before 1948, as everything prior to that was not considered his best work.
- Facial Dialogue: Compared with many classic animators Jones' cartoon characters have very subtle facial expressions that sometimes tell you more than actual dialogue.
- Follow the Leader: As mentioned already, he was heavily influenced by Disney in his early directing years, but feared that he could never get a job at Disney's due to them only wanting fresh recruits at the timenote , so he just did his own take on what he thought was the Disney style in his early cartoons. Strangely, he would return to more Disney-like storytelling in his later years with shorts like "Nelly's Folly" and TV specials like "The White Seal", now a much wiser, more skilled man than he was in his early days, resulting in actually hitting the mark.
- George Jetson Job Security: Jones was almost fired for the experimental "The Dover Boys", which was so visually different from cartoons at the time, due to its heavy use of motion smears and held poses.
- Jones actually did get fired from WB in the early 60s, when he was caught "moonlighting" on the film "Gay Pur-ee". However, he was brought back to WB in the 70s.
- Let's See You Do Better: Jones apparently created the Road Runner series as an Affectionate Parody of chase cartoons such as Tom and Jerry, mocking the simplistic formula and slapstick. A couple decades later, MGM actually hired Jones to work on the series itself, which he admitted was more complex to get down pat than he had expected.
- Pun-Based Title: Several cartoons have puns in their titles.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: Quite a lot, among them Pussyfoot the kitten, Kotick the white seal pup, Cindy-Lou Who and more.
- The Rival: To fellow animator Bob Clampett.
- Screwy Squirrel: Jones had a very vocal hatred for such characters, but neverless used them in excess during the forties, and even created recurring examples such as Hubie and Bertie. As his work refined during the early fifties they were phased out, in particular Jones was a large pivot in evolving Bugs and Daffy out of such roles.
- Strictly Formula: Was notable for making iconic formulas for many recurring characters who had previously interchanged into endless random scenarios and personas throughout their evolution. He was largely responsible for reinventing Bugs as a Karmic Trickster who brought fantastic retribution to a foe bullying him at the start of each short, while reinventing Daffy as a hero wannabe who walked into endless beatings against an obviously outmatching foe. His Road Runner shorts perhaps exist as the most formulaic cartoon series ever made, to the point you could interchange gags and scenes between shorts with little effect on the story whatsoever (with Art Evolution and Animation Bump as the only way you can tell the cartoons apart, if you're an especially eagle-eyed cartoon viewer).
- Talking with Signs: A frequent way of communication in the Road Runner cartoons.
- Tastes Like Diabetes: A weakness of Jones' early work (and occasionally his later work). Walt Kelly also accused Jones of this when expressing his disappointment with Jones' The Pogo Special Birthday Special.
- Write Who You Know: Chuck Jones (according to the book Chuck Amuck) has stated that Pepe Le Pew was based on cartoon writer Tedd Pierce, who was considered a total Casanova Wannabe who partied all night, then went to work the next day without showering or bathing and wrote off women rejecting him as "She's flirting" or "She's playing hard to get." Also, according to the documentary, Chuck Jones: Extremes and In-Betweens: A Life in Animation, Jones himself said that Pepe Le Pew was based on his own insecurities and failures at getting women when he was younger.
- Chuck Jones also based Daffy's Jerk Ass persona on himself, as he liked to portray Bugs as a winner and Daffy as a loser. He explained that Bugs was the person he wanted to be, but Daffy was who he "feared he was".
- The short "A Bear for Punishment" is based on his own experiences on Father's Day.
- Some of the catch phrases and other mannerisms of his characters were likewise copied from the animators/studio execs he worked around. Daffy and Sylvester's lisping, Yosemite Sam's temper, Daffy's disgusted "Thanks for the sour persimmons, cousin!" in Duck Amuck, the list goes on and on.
- The 50 Greatest Cartoons: He dominates the list, having directed ten of them overall, four of the top five, five of the runners-up, and numero uno itself, What's Opera, Doc?