Chuck Jones, Producer, Director, Animator

Chuck Jones, Producer, Director, Animator

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Chuck Jones, Producer, Director, Animator

Chuck Jones was born on September 21, 1912. Jones entered the animation industry in 1932 as a cel washer at Ubbe Iwerks Studio after graduating from the Chouinard Art Institute (now California Institute of Arts). He joined the Leon Schlesinger Studio, later sold to Warner Bros., as an animator in 1936. There, Jones was assigned to Tex Avery’s animation unit. In 1938, at the age of 25, he directed his first animated film “The Night Watchman.” Jones remained at Warner Bros. animation until it closed in 1962, though he had a brief stint with Disney Studios in 1955 during a break at Warner Bros.

In 1966, while heading up the animation division at MGM Studios, Jones directed one of the most memorable holiday television specials ever produced, “Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” First aired on Sunday, December 18, 1966, the half-hour special was met with glowing reviews from newspapers across the country and has since become one of the most beloved holiday programs on television.

Translating “Dr. Seuss’ book into animation was not a easy as it looks. With great persistency and a little charm, director and co-producer, Chuck Jones, had finally convinced his old friend Ted Geisel (author of the book) to give him a shot at How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Ted and Chuck were always fans of each other’s work.

Ted was reluctant to have anyone animate his books, so he wanted it done carefully and well. Chuck Jones and Ted Geisel first met doing the Private Snafu cartoons about a goof-up soldier made by Warner Bros. for the army between 1943 and 1945.

When you read How The Grinch Stole Christmas, it takes about 10 minutes. Chuck Jones’ challenge was making those same rhyming couplets and drawings come alive for television. Jones worked hard to create the Grinch model based on Dr. Suess’ book.

Geisel was not always entirely satisfied, but knew Chuck well enough to trust him with the character design and the story to make an attractive half hour special.

Making character animation without any CGI enhancements is an expensive offer, but Chuck insisted on doing it correctly and using the best animators, Maurice Noble, Auril and Richard Thompson, Hall Ashmead and Phil Roman.

Good character animation costs $110,000 - $150,000 per minute, multiply that by 20 and you realize the money involved.

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There was a variety review at the time claiming The Grich was the most expensive animation made for CBS-TV. After 30 years, its success is proof it was not waste of money. The story was expanded from the book with musical numbers. Jones made Max a major character. Chuck says a good film must have a point of view for the audience. Everyone watching can identify with Max. Even though the Grinch is mean, Max still loves him unconditionally. Max became the audience’s point of view.

Jones has become a true icon of creativity by directing such mini-epics as “What’s Opera, Doc?” (1957) which featured Elmer Fudd against a cunning Bugs Bunny. On Dec. 4, 1992, “What’s Opera Doc?” became the first-ever animated film to be admitted into the National Film Registry, an honor presented on only 100 films to date, for being “among the most culturally, historically significant films of our time.”

At the age of 86, Jones has enjoyed more than 60 years in animation and is still very active. In 1993 he contracted with Warner Bros. to create animated short subjects for theatrical release using many of the classic Warner Bros. characters. Jones has created over 300 animated films in his career, has won four Academy Awards, including an Honorary Oscar in 1996. Today Jones is the most widely collected animation artist in the world.


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