Chuck Jones was an American artist and animator, best known for the classic 'Looney Tunes' and 'Merrie Melodies' shorts he directed for Warner Bros. Born in Spokane, Washington, and raised in Los Angeles, California, Charles Martin Jones graduated from Chouinard Art Institute. He started his animation career in the early 1930s as an assistant in Ub Iwerks' and Walter Lantz's studios. In 1933, he joined Schlesinger Productions, the newly built cartoon studio of Warner Brothers. There, he worked with such industry giants as Tex Avery, Friz Freleng, Frank Tashlin, Bob McKimson and Bob Clampett. During World War II he worked with Dr. Seuss on the 'Private Snafu' cartoons. After the war he directed many cartoons starring Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. He also introduced new characters, such as the amorous skunk Pepe Le Pew (1945), the aggressive extraterrestrial Marvin the Martian (1948) and the always hungry Wile E. Coyote and his superfast prey The Road Runner (1949).
Jones' three major graphic influences were Winsor McCay, Walt Disney and Tex Avery. His early cartoons show his debt to Disney in terms of melodramatic sentimentality. Gradually - under influence of Avery - they would become funnier and more experimental. An avid reader since childhood, Jones had a more intellectual approach compared to other animators. His cartoons often reference classic novels or musical pieces. The comedy is less zany and more subtle. Under his direction Bugs became a suave and refined hero who only attacks others in self defense. Daffy evolved into a vain, selfish and unlucky fall guy. Jones is particularly praised for his verbal comedy, hilarious facial expressions and innovative spirit. He often tried out new graphical styles, designs, backgrounds, camera scenery and plot lines.
Most of his Looney Tunes shorts have achieved classic status and are widely regarded as some of the best animated films ever made. Among the most popular and critically lauded are 'The Dover Boys' (1942), 'Long-Haired Hare' (1949), 'Rabbit Hood' (1949), 'Rabbit of Seville' (1950), 'Rabbit Fire' (1951), 'Rabbit Seasoning' (1952), 'Duck! Rabbit! Duck' (1953), 'Feed the Kitty' (1952), 'Duck Amuck' (1953), 'Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century' (1953), 'One Froggy Evening' (1955) and 'What's Opera Doc?' (1958). He won Academy Awards for 'For Scent-imental Reasons' (1950), 'So Much for So Little' (1950) and 'The Dot and the Line' (1965). Three of his cartoons have been inducted in the American National Film Registry for their historical, cultural and aesthetical importance, namely 'What's Opera Doc?' in 1992, 'Duck Amuck' in 1999 and 'One Froggy Evening' in 2003.
From: What's Opera, Doc?
Jones left Warners in 1962, and founded his own animation company, Sib Tower 12 Productions, with Les Goldman. Between 1963 and 1967, he produced cartoons for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, including Hanna-Barbera's 'Tom and Jerry', but felt the characters didn't suit him. He also created animated TV specials based on Walt Kelly's 'Pogo' and books by Dr. Seuss, such as the 1965 Christmas classic 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas!' (1965). When MGM closed its animation division in 1970, Jones started a new studio, Chuck Jones Enterprises. There he directed many one-shot TV specials and periodically worked on 'Looney Tunes' related works. In 1989 he published his autobiography 'Chuck Amuck', which had a foreword by long-time admirer Steven Spielberg. The 1994 reprint had an extra foreword by Matt Groening. Spielberg used clips from the Road Runner short 'Whoa, Be-Gone!' (1958) in his road movie 'The Sugarland Express' (1974) and 'Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century' in his SF classic 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' (1977). George Lucas once claimed that 'Duck Dodgers' inspired him to become a film maker. He also ordered film theaters to screen that particular cartoon before showings of 'Star Wars'.
In the later years of his life Jones enjoyed the status of animation legend. His work was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1985 and again in 1997. He received many honorary doctorates, a star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1995), a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award (1996) and was named Chevalier des Arts et Lettres in 1999. The TV documentary 'Chuck Jones: Extremes & In-Betweens: A Life in Animation' (2000) featured contributions from admirers such as Matt Groening, John Lasseter (Pixar), comedians Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg and film directors Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante. He passed away in 2002, leaving behind a legacy of cartoons that still entertain audiences and inspire other animators to this day. He is one of the few animators whose work is subject of serious film analysis.
Few people know that Chuck Jones was also the artist of a comic strip called 'Crawford' (also known as 'Crawford & Morgan'), about a group of children. It was syndicated for the short period of six months by the Chicago Tribune-NY News Syndicate in 1977-1978. The entire run is collected in the 2011 IDW book 'Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was'.
His second wife was Marian Dern, writer of Stan Lynde's comic strip 'Rick O'Shay' (1958-1981).