What’s Up Doc?

—Anaé Petito
The Animation Art of Chuck Jones
—Anaé Petito

 Through Jan. 19, 2015, Astoria’s Museum of Moving Image will be hosting an exhibit featuring the life and work of award-winning animation director and artist Chuck Jones. Hailing from Spokane, Washington, Charles Martin “Chuck” Jones created iconic cartoons such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Wile E. Coyote and the exceedingly fast Road Runner. The exhibit follows his journey as artist and animation director for Warner Bros.

Exploring the lengthy exhibit, located on the museum’s third floor, you will be introduced to Jones’ beginnings in animation. One of the first discoveries involves Jones’ particular interest in abstract drawing, which he borrowed for works as early as 1942 for Warner Bros. You can spot Jones’ experimentation with style in “Fast and Furry-ous” which launched the appearances of the characters Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner. Similarly, Jones’ training as a fine artist is apparent in a scene in which he borrows Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles for “One Groggy Evening.”

As always, the museum incorporates multiple television screens and a showroom to display the transformation of the subject at hand. There is also a large theater room that features five of Jones’ most creative films. These include “One Froggy Evening” (1955), “Beep Beep” (1951), “Duck Amuck” (1953), “The Dot on the Line” (1965), and Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (1966). The showcase also explores Jones’ biography, which includes commentary by John Lasseter, the co-founder of Pixar Animation and director of Toy Story (1995), Toy Story 2 (1999) and Cars (2006).

The exhibition is fitting for both children and parents, as nearly all of Jones’ cartoons have been part of childhoods across the decades. I was able to catch “One Froggy Evening,” a particularly amusing short featured in the showroom and noticed a mesmerized crowd of all ages. You might remember the short film as following a lucky frog whose penchant for dapper dress, song, and mischief gets his human friends in trouble.

The exhibition also includes both replications and original versions of Jones’ sketches. A large part of the event features the evolution of Bugs Bunny. Bugs’ history is particularly fascinating, as it covers around four phases in his development. The sketches are fascinating considering they were created before digital animation. These hand-drawn caricatures are reason enough to take a chance on the exhibit.

Have you ever wondered how your appreciation for Bugs Bunny came about? You’ll learn that Bugs became a significant symbol after World War II. Specifically, his “cool-under-fire persona became a symbol of American heroism,” according to the exhibit.

An important component of Chuck Jones’ work is his interest in developing characters with distinct personalities. Bugs Bunny specifically, is a culmination of silent film comedians like Groucho Marx and Buster Keaton. The exhibit reflects upon the influence by quoting Jones who once indicated: “Like our distinguished forbears, we made pictures for ourselves, believing with childlike innocence that if we laughed at and with each other, others perhaps would follow.” In fact, you’ll discover just how much the Warner Bros.cartoons imitated the acting techniques of silent film comedians. Delving into technique, the exhibit indicates the importance of character layout drawings for Jones’ animations. Looking at characters like Bugs Bunny and Pepe Le Pew for instance, each characters’ movement and personality is distinctive.

Particular about precision, Jones insisted on the exactness of movement to be key for comedic timing. If you look closely at the drawings, you will find Jones’ shorthand notes indicating specific movements.

The exhibit concludes with a few final fun facts. It was Jones who teamed up with Theodore Geisel, better known as “Dr. Seuss” for the animation of his novel The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Jones was able to bring Geisel’s characters to life and helped create a present-day audience.

Warner Bros. was nominated for 41 Academy Awards and won five. Jones was creator of three of these winning cartoons.

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2014-09-01 digital edition