Chuck Not So Amuck
July 18, 2015 12:58 AM   Subscribe

"If you grew up watching Looney Tunes, then you know Chuck Jones, one of all-time masters of visual comedy. Normally I would talk about his ingenious framing and timing, but not today. Instead, I’d like to explore the evolution of his sensibilities as an artist." Tony Zhou's "Every Frame a Painting" (previously here) 'breaks the format' to show how the great animator started with gags and developed characters (visually and psychologically), using clips from over 60 of his Warner Bros. shorts.
posted by oneswellfoop (26 comments total) 99 users marked this as a favorite

I think that if that doesn't make you both laugh and cry, you might not have a soul.
posted by mikelieman at 1:13 AM on July 18, 2015

If you like Chuck Jones, please read "Chuck Amok". Really great autobiography.
posted by lkc at 1:25 AM on July 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

I vividly recall the one time I saw Chuck Jones in person; an Animation Festival was doing a tribute to him in the early '80s and between big screen showings of some of his best toons, he was onstage being interviewed by a long-time friend - Ray Bradbury. A lot of awesome on that stage, and from the 15th row seat I felt damned lucky to get, Jones actually resembled Bugs Bunny, except at the moments when he was somewhat mischievous, and then I saw a touch of Wile E. Coyote. (I think the interview segments in this video showed a little bit of Bugs)

Of course, there is a notable MeFite with a lot more personal experience with Chuck.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:46 AM on July 18, 2015 [12 favorites]

There's a line in Chuck Amok where Jones says that Daffy Duck is smart enough to realize when he's being screwed over, but not smart enough to figure out what to do about it. That line comes back to me sometimes, in my darkest hours. Some days, I feel way too much like Daffy Duck.

Oneswellfoop, just recently I was thinking that if Bugs was a person he might look a bit like Russell Brand.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:06 AM on July 18, 2015 [23 favorites]

I've been watching a lot of classic cartoons, including Looney Tunes / Merrie Melodies and some others, with my daughter. The Wile E. Coyote / Road Runner films more than anything else show why Jones was so good. Aside from a few shorts where the Coyote speaks to the audience, and the Road Runner's "meep meep," he developed the characters completely without dialogue. It's so demanding, but it's part of why those particular cartoons hold up so well: they weren't driven by pop culture references or dialogue. Whereas, especially in the '40s, the Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck ones really were. The Road Runner films had to be perfect in execution.

It's not quite fair to give Jones all the credit for developing the characters that were heavily shared, like Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck. Not that his ethos didn't shine through in the episodes he did, but other directors were a big part of their evolving personalities and styles.
posted by graymouser at 3:34 AM on July 18, 2015

I am proud to have met Chuck Jones, years ago at ComiCon. What a brilliant man!
posted by SPrintF at 4:35 AM on July 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

I saw this yesterday and was thinking, "is this enough to post?" I guess the answer was yes! It's great.
posted by JHarris at 5:20 AM on July 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

So many memories. So many Saturday mornings.
posted by Fizz at 5:59 AM on July 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

I saw this yesterday and was thinking, "is this enough to post?" I guess the answer was yes! It's great.

I thought the same thing, and I should have realized the truth: Anything by Tony Zhou is worthy of a post.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 6:04 AM on July 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

The thing that has stuck with me the most is the music. I'll be watching a serious movie and they will use a classical song that reminds me of nothing more than popeye.
posted by rebent at 6:13 AM on July 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I say this every time a Chuck Jones thread comes up, and I'm going to say it again. Michael Maltese deserves far more credit that he gets for the peak Warner Brothers cartoons. Check the credits on whatever your own favourite Chuck Jones masterpiece might be, and I can pretty well guarantee you Maltese's name will on there as the cartoon's writer.

Jones was a genius for sure, but it's when his direction joined with Malteste's writing that the real magic happened. The cartoons they made together include:

For Scent-imental Reasons
Beep Beep
Rabbit Seasoning
Duck Amuck
Bully For Bugs
One Froggy Evening
Ali Baba Bunny
What's Opera, Doc?
Robin Hood Daffy
Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century

I mean, come on....
posted by Paul Slade at 6:21 AM on July 18, 2015 [20 favorites]

Oh man, I forgot how much I loved Duck Dodgers.

And apparently the (much) later theme song was done by the Flaming Lips with Tom Jones on vocals. Weird.

posted by rosswald at 6:27 AM on July 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

And apparently the (much) later theme song was done by the Flaming Lips with Tom Jones on vocals. Weird

Not weird... awesome. Duck Dodgers was a great coda for Daffy that kept all of the important elements but updated them. The theme song was a perfect fit.
posted by ashbury at 7:15 AM on July 18, 2015

I once saw a cartoon picturing the Acme Corporation boardroom with all its directors sitting round a big table. Every one of them was a roadrunner.
posted by Paul Slade at 7:26 AM on July 18, 2015 [9 favorites]

What a great talent. Thanks for this article!
posted by tunewell at 7:58 AM on July 18, 2015

Can't wait to watch this. Thanks.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:21 AM on July 18, 2015

Recent Tony Zhou vids that seem to have been missed on the blue:

Lynne Ramsay - The Poetry of Details
In Praise of Chairs
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:33 AM on July 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was wondering why nobody had posted this before me; after all, Tony Zhou and Chuck Jones are two of MeFi's favorite people, but then, Zhou had noted himself that he was breaking his usual format... still, clips from 60+ cartoons!

And a HELL YEAH for Paul Slade re: Michael Maltese. (Zhou's narration did briefly credit him and Tedd Pierce for their writing). Another notable thing about Maltese was how, as the theatrical cartoon studios shut down, he dared to go and work on Hanna-Barbera's early limited-animation TV toons, and contributed so much to making them among the best. Because they were, obviously, a very different thing to write. (I started paying close attention to the credits on cartoons as soon as I could read and Maltese was one name that stood out, just because it showed up in different places)
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:59 AM on July 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thirding praise for Michael Maltese. Legitimately one of the funniest people in the history of film and TV, and gets nowhere near the recognition for it that he should.
posted by jscalzi at 10:09 AM on July 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

My favorite of his is probably "Rabbit of Seville," not just for the fluent musicality but for the masterful animation choices. The gloriously deadpan expressions. The way Bugs's face and hands shift with every hammer blow.The elegantly three-dimensional dancing. Every detail is so well-considered.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:35 AM on July 18, 2015 [11 favorites]

I remember almost passing out from laughter when I first saw "Rabbit Of Seville". Age 4 or 5, I guess.
posted by thelonius at 10:59 AM on July 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Every time I see the Nine Rules of Roadrunner, I am always disappointed the first rule isn't "The Coyote may not injure the Roadrunner, or through inaction allow the Roadrunner to come to harm."
posted by ckape at 11:31 AM on July 18, 2015 [12 favorites]

Every Frame A Painting, Literally
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:28 PM on July 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just watched this with my husband, and it was a delight. Thank you for posting it!
posted by immlass at 8:01 PM on July 20, 2015

I loved this very much. BUT (and there's always a but) I wish Tony had done a little with his usual brilliant eye towards the actual setup and composition of shots. What has always struck me about Chuck Jones' cartoons is how beautiful and artistic they can be. These cartoons are not merely hilarious, they're visually stunning.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 6:58 AM on July 21, 2015

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