Chuck Jones is One Hundred Years Old today, September 21st, 2012.
Chuck was born on Septermber 21st, 1912, in Spokane. He graduated from the Chouinard School (now known as CalArts) in the early 30’s and started working bottom of the barrel animation jobs, such as washing cels. Eventually he made his way to Warner Brothers and started working in the Termite Terrace studio on Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies shorts. He worked as an assistant animator for Tex Avery and Bob Clampett until he directed his first short, The Night Watchman.
Jones started out doing more cutesy material, stuff that was closer in content to Disney rather than what we traditionally think of the Looney Tunes. He broke this habit with The Dover Boys.
From there, Chuck went on to make his most famous shorts: “What’s Opera Doc?”, “One Froggy Evening”, “Duck Amuck”, and of course created Pepe LePew, Marvin the Martian, and Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner.
Later, in the 60’s, Jones left WB (after winning a few Oscars) and pursued other creative endeavors. He teamed up with Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Geisel to make the classic animated “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” tv special, which to this day is still shown on tv during the holidays. He also won another Oscar for his short film subject “The Dot and the Line: A Romance In Lower Mathematics.” He would close out the 60’s by producing the animated/live action hybrid film “The Phantom Tollbooth”.
After that Jones worked on many different things throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, including 520 episode of The Electric Company. He became a lecturer, and even made cameo appearances in movies like “Gremlins” and “Innerspace”, which were directed by his friend Joe Dante, and contributed animated sequences to “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” and “Mrs. Doubtfire”.
Jones is one of the few artists who lived to see his work properly appreciated. He received numerous awards even after he stopped making cartoons regularly. A voracious reader of literature (particularly Mark Twain), he was a thinking man’s animator, someone who approached his cartoons with critical thought and deep philosophy, which only highlighted the humor.
He died relatively recently on February 22nd, 2002, at the age of 89. Robin Williams once referred to him as “the Orson Welles of cartoons”. Today, we celebrate his centennial.
The asterisk links are to the DVD collections each cartoon appears on [because 1) I own them and love them and you might too, and 2) Warner Bros. protects its copyright pretty aggressively, so those links won’t work forever].
Happy birthday, Chuck, and thanks for everything.