What's down, Doc?

February 22, 2002 7:37 PM   Subscribe

What's down, Doc?
Animation genius Chuck Jones has died of conjestive heart failure.
Has any other creative-type-person brought more joy and laughter to the last three-or-four generations?
At least his website had already started paying tribute to him while he could still see it (click on "Letters from the Heart", optional Flash).
posted by wendell (29 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I believe Porky Pig said it best: "That's all folks"
posted by riffola at 7:41 PM on February 22, 2002

this is freaky. a few nights ago i was screening the dot & the line. rest in peace, chuck.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:42 PM on February 22, 2002

Chuck Jones was one of my idols among the animation world. His hilarious artwork and brilliant comic timing are feats that have yet to be matched by any animator since.

This is truly a loss for animation fans around the globe.

Arrivederci, Chuck.
posted by Down10 at 7:55 PM on February 22, 2002

God, this is a loss. Between the Grinch and all the great Warner Brothers toons, this man was responsible for creating a lot of what I use as the entertainment equivalent of anti-psychotic drugs.Not to mention all the great animation/comix fun of the past three decades(MAD, R. Crumb, Ren & Stimpy, Beavis&Butthead, South Park) none of which would have happened without Chuck and Company's initial genius.
I especially remember this one toon where Porky goes to Africa to hunt the Last of the Dodo's and walks thru a forest where pocket watches hang from the trees. Then a heat wave blows thru and the watches melt and hang limply between the branches. It wasn't until my teens that I realized this was a reference to Dali's Persitence of Memory(?) which made it that much cooler. Looks like Chuck and the boys were pomo way ahead of schedule, huh?
posted by jonmc at 8:01 PM on February 22, 2002

If you appreciate the classics of the genre, this will be worth a moment.

I gave a print to an old girlfriend years ago.
posted by NortonDC at 8:11 PM on February 22, 2002

Sucks. Magnificent work.
posted by owillis at 8:16 PM on February 22, 2002

Best. Cartoons. Ever.
posted by tommasz at 8:20 PM on February 22, 2002

Truly a genius. He will be missed.

*looking up at Marvin the Martian cel on the wall*

you are making me very angry.
posted by ebarker at 8:26 PM on February 22, 2002

I'm in tears hearing this. He was one of the greats.
posted by dejah420 at 8:45 PM on February 22, 2002

Wendell!!! Welcome welcome welcome back!
posted by EngineBeak at 8:56 PM on February 22, 2002 [1 favorite]

Persistance of Vision. Salvador DalĂ­ was a pompous ass but that is for another thread, perhaps in the future, perhaps in the past (jarring chord).

Yeah, I know nothing about animation but what strikes me is the sheer variety of material he could come up with, characters, settings, etc. His body of work must be absolutely vast, and for the pieces to have the immediacy and resonance that they have must mean something.
posted by Settle at 9:03 PM on February 22, 2002

Absolutely revolutionized cartoons. His Barber of Seville, Grinch, and What's Opera Doc are animation masterpieces. Am I wrong, or didn't he do the dancing frog too?
posted by Gilbert at 9:09 PM on February 22, 2002

Not only a genius of comic timing and animation direction, but also of line, bringing still-distinctive and genre-defining line work to cartoons, both animated and still.
Probably the most borrowed from visual artist of the twentieth century.
And yeah, he did the dancing frog, too.
posted by dong_resin at 9:14 PM on February 22, 2002

He worked with great talents too. I remember the music, especially the wacky electronic stuff by Raymond Scott (died in 1994).
posted by vacapinta at 9:24 PM on February 22, 2002

Chuck and I were members of a conspiracy, and we met every Saturday morning.
posted by dglynn at 10:32 PM on February 22, 2002

The measure of how important someone was is to imagine your life without what he/she gave/left us. Right... Chuck Jones was/is very important. I see him drawing wacky angels in Heaven. I'd never seen his face before, such a nice, mischievous face. God bless him.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:41 PM on February 22, 2002

As odd as it may sound, I grew up loving Rossini because of Chuck Jones.

Nothing ever struck me as funny as moments like "The Bunny of Seville" or the Duck Dodgers or Marvin the Martian cartoons.

I'm glad he was here and I sure hope that wherever he is now he is getting back even a small fraction of the joy and fun he helped put into the world.
posted by pixelgeek at 11:17 PM on February 22, 2002

posted by acridrabbit at 2:10 AM on February 23, 2002

Cartoon Network runs The Chuck Jones Show on Sunday evenings. My sons are fans of Tom & Jerry, so I've had a chance to see a bunch of his '50s or '60s work on that cartoon. It's wonderfully imaginative stuff, and his interior designs make me want to live in one of those animated hepcat homes.
posted by rcade at 5:11 AM on February 23, 2002

Lance Morrow wrote "It Bugs Me That Chuck Jones Hasn't Got a Nobel": "The gaudy fuss everyone made over the millennium may have obscured the real significance of the year 2000: It mark[ed] the 50th anniversary of the debut of the Coyote and Roadrunner. As such, 2000 represent[ed] a milestone in the career of the greatest living American, Chuck Jones...Chuck Jones' work is a bridge that carries Isaac Newton across into Chaos Theory."
posted by Carol Anne at 6:56 AM on February 23, 2002

"Yoinks...and away!"
-Robin Hood Daffy
posted by Ty Webb at 8:08 AM on February 23, 2002

Chuck Jones was responsible for some real gems, as cited in the comments above. But there was also Bob McKimson, Robert Clampett and "Friz" Freleng. They were the ones who made some of the all-time best Merrie Melodies and Looney Toons. But they weren't so self-promoting as Jones.
Jones stepped-into an established realm of animation mastery. He made some important contributions, but WB animation started going downhill in the 60's. Rising costs of animation and declining studio profits were mostly to blame, I suspect, but some of the toons themselves got lamer. (Daffy Duck as a foil for Speedy Gonzales?)
I think I must be aquainted with almost every classic WB cartoon ever made, and I saved a lot of them to VHS. I've got several hours' worth there of Grade-A animation, and Chuck Jones is by no means the most prominent name in my collection.
Again, I'm not slighting Jones, but WB was making great toons before he came along.
posted by StOne at 9:09 AM on February 23, 2002

This is tragic.
posted by waxpancake at 9:22 AM on February 23, 2002

Saw the great Chuck in person at an animation festival umpteen years ago.
Duck Dodgers, Michigan J. Frog, Road Runner and others back to back on the big screen (which they were originally made for), followed by the man himself sitting down being interviewed by and chatting with a long-time friend of his - Ray Bradbury (whew!)
One thing I noticed: with his grey hair and beard, the 70-something Chuck Jones actually resembled Bugs Bunny when he smiled; when he was thoughtful, he looked more like Wile E Coyote. Honest.

And no, StOne, I'd be the last one to slight the rest of the assembled geniuses at WB's Termite Terrace he worked with (most of whom have already passed away), but Chuck Jones' toons always struck me as among the most visually creative, with character animation that was either more fludily comic or more expressive (or both) than the high standard for Warners animation.
He did his best work with the best writing (and getting the best writing is a talent by itself), but nobody ever made a Dr. Seuss story into moving pictures better.

And thanks for the shout-out, EngineBeak. Just wish I could've brought better news.
posted by wendell at 10:50 AM on February 23, 2002

It doesn't get any better than curling up with my wife (and the cats...) and watching cartoons.

And if you're going to do that, might I suggest watching "Feed the Kitty"? The cuteness factor goes right off the charts!
posted by insomnia_lj at 2:33 PM on February 23, 2002

One of my favorites, insomnia!

I think that one quote in his obit summed it up, where a child was told that Jones drew Bugs Bunny, and the kid emphatically said "No, he draws *pictures* of Bugs Bunny." Chuck Jones said he then realized that his characters had come to life.
posted by Oriole Adams at 3:14 PM on February 23, 2002

Well, I can't really argue with you, wendell; Jones had a style all his own and true wit that made his work sparkle. I just always preferred the gorgeous old-school art of the 50's cartoons--and they were hilarious. Now that I think of it, Jones probably contributed a lot to their greatness but wasn't getting prominently credited.

Older isn't always better, of course. The toons of the 30's were great in their day but really look antiquated now...except that I liked the Max Fleischer Popeye series much better than the ones Paramount made after WWII.

The thing about me is, I hate most animated fare (most of all I hate live actors combined with animation). The WB golden-agers and a few of those Fleischer Popeyes are the only ones I consider "keepers."

Very sad to see the last of the Termite Terrace's great ones gone.
posted by StOne at 10:29 PM on February 23, 2002

Timber Wolf is an original web toon Chuck Jones created recently
posted by owillis at 12:35 AM on February 24, 2002

With this death, it's the end of the great ones. As StOne pointed out, Chuck Jones was the last of the Termite Terrace great ones. I was in tears part of the weekend over this.

As an avid collector of cartoon cells, I am very saddened to see the last of the great ones passing away. It is funny to see that most of the cartoons we love and cherish are from the 40s and 50s, a time when most of us weren't born. And yet, they have endured the test of time and will probably continue to be enjoyed for decades and centuries to come.

To me, the standards established by Termite Terrace were far and away the most important development in cartooning history. Without people like Chuck Jones, no alternative cartoon would have existed. In a time when Disney was pandering to the lowest common denominators, WB cartoonists were chasing the edge, always trying to pack more in each of the 24 frames they were alloted for each second of film. They introduced us to Opera ("What's Opera Doc" and "Rabbit of Seville"), Science Fiction ("Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 century").

They dared satirize other styles ("Robin Hood Daffy", "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery", "Duck Amuck") and their influence can be felt in sketches by Monty Python and modern cartoons like Shrek.

Each of the cartoons was a little morality play packed into 5-10 minutes of Looney lunacy.

I, for one, will definitely miss that and hope that others will take the mantle.
posted by TNLNYC at 6:35 AM on February 25, 2002

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