Happy Birthday, Chuck Jones!

AWM attended the animation legend's swanky 85th birthday party.

Download our exclusive Quicktime movie interview with Chuck Jones!

Animation legend Chuck Jones celebrated his 85th birthday on Sunday, September 21, 1997. To honor the occasion, Warner Bros. invited 500 of his friends, colleagues, fans and family members to a special evening honoring the four-time Academy Award-winner. Following a cocktail reception and viewing of Chuck Jones' personal art collection in Warner Bros. Museum's new Animation Gallery, Leonard Maltin hosted an evening of accolades by more than 20 people, peppered with a selection of classic films directed by Jones like, What's Opera Doc?, The Rabbit of Seville, Broom-Stick Bunny and One Froggy Evening. Among the speakers were voice artist June Foray, The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, Hope Freleng Shaw, daughter of the late animation director Friz Freleng, Warner Bros. Television Animation President and Kids WB! Programming President, Jean MacCurdy and numerous Warner Bros. executives. Pre-recorded salutations were also presented from the likes of Robin Williams, Ted Turner, Martin Scorcese, Phil Hartman and Quincy Jones. Even Bill and Hillary Clinton sent their regards to Chuck in the form of a letter read by Peter Starrett, President of Warner Bros. Studio Stores.

Chuck Jones with his daughter Linda, admiring the 85th birthday cake, given to him by Warner Bros. © 1997 Animation World Network.

During the presentation, Warner Bros. confirmed and signed an "unprecedented long term agreement" with Chuck Jones, contracting him exclusively to create and develop projects and serve as a creative consultant to the studio. Jones has already been acting in a similar capacity through Chuck Jones Film Productions, which has produced several contemporary animated shorts using classic Warner Bros. characters. However, in his new role with the studio, Jones will serve more as an advisor than a producer or director. "It is an extraordinary pleasure for us to sign this unique agreement that guarantees this incomparable talent and legendary member of the Warner Bros. Animation family will continue to be a vital creative force for Warner Bros. as long as he wants," said Robert A. Daly and Terry Semel, Chairmen and Co-CEOs of Warner Bros., as quoted in an announcement of the deal between the studio and Chuck Jones.

Chuck Jones closed the evening on stage, sharing memories of his career in animation. He recalled the many letters he had sent to Walt Disney in his early years, and how Walt personally replied to each one. Later, when he met Walt, Chuck thanked him for those letters and Walt replied, "Well, of course, you're the only animator that ever wrote to me!" With this example, Chuck inspired everyone in the audience to take the time to acknowledge our peers' accomplishments, and write to them in appreciation.

Chuck Jones looking very dapper during his interview with Animation World Magazine. © 1997 Animation World Network.

In our interview, Chuck Jones responded enthusiastically to Animation World Magazine's question: "Based on your years of experience in animation, what would you like to say to the young aspiring talent coming into the industry?" Chuck Jones stressed the importance of both life drawing and reading, while studying to be an animator. He said, "I think you'll find that any studio, they don't want you to draw Bugs Bunny. They want you to be able to draw the human figure. If you look back through the history of art, all the way back to the cave paintings, you'll notice that the great painters always were able to paint with a simple line, just like we do in animation. The main thing is to learn how to do it, then have something to say with your skills. Any writer will tell you that it doesn't do any good to write if you don't have something to say." This point should be well-taken by not only our younger readers, but everyone in the entertainment industry! You can view a video clip from our interview with Chuck, by downloading this Quicktime movie.

June Foray shared with the audience a drawing Chuck Jones made for her over 30 years ago. © 1997 Animation World Network.

Chuck Jones Biography

Chuck Jones began his career in 1932 as an animation cel washer at Ubbe Iwerks Studio, after graduating from the Chouinard Art Institute (now the California Institute of the Arts). Four years later, he joined the Leon Schlesinger Studio (which was later sold to Warner Bros.) as an animator, and was assigned to Tex Avery's unit. In 1938, at the age of 25, Chuck directed his first animated cartoon, The Night Watchmen. During his 24 years at Warner Bros., Jones created characters such as Marvin the Martian, Pepe Le Pew, Michigan J. Frog, Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. He also helped create Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig and many others. He worked a brief stint at The Walt Disney Studios in 1955, but then returned home to Warner Bros. When Warner Bros. closed its' animation unit in 1962, Jones went to MGM Studios to head their animation division. There, he collaborated with Dr. Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss), producing and directing animated film adaptations of the Seuss' children's books Horton Hears a Who and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Among the distinguished guests of the evening Warner Bros. Feature Animation President Max Howard (left) and director Bill Kroyer. © 1997 Animation World Network.

Upon leaving Warner Bros. in 1962, he launched Chuck Jones Enterprises, which produced numerous television specials and other projects from 1970 onwards, including The Cricket in Times Square (1973), Gay Purr-ee (1962) and animation for feature films such as Mrs. Doubtfire (1993). In 1993, Jones formed a new studio, Chuck Jones Film Productions, under contract with Warner Bros. Based on the Warner Bros. Studio lot, Chuck Jones Film Productions most recently created several animated shorts for theatrical release, including Chariots of Fur, Another Froggy Evening, Pullett Surprise and Father of the Bird. Chuck Jones Film Productions closed its' doors earlier this year, but Jones will continue to influence new production through his new long-term agreement with Warner Bros.

Matt Groening (left) and Animation World Magazine publisher Ron Diamond. © 1997 Animation World Network.

In the late 1970s, with his daughter, Linda Jones, Chuck began to create limited-edition animation art depicting characters and scenes from his films. Through a unique license agreement with Warner Bros., they began producing and distributing the limited-edition art through Linda Jones Enterprises, Inc.(LJE). In December 1996, Linda Jones wrote "Through The Looking-Cel. . . Er, Glass," an article for Animation World Magazine about how these endeavors in animation art began. Now, in addition to operating three dedicated Chuck Jones Showroom galleries, LJE has product in more than 150 galleries and museums worldwide.

During his more than 60-years in animation, Chuck Jones has created more than 300 animated films, and has directed some of the most acclaimed animated shorts of all time, including Rabbit Seasoning, Duck Dodgers in the 24th 1/2 Century and Duck Amuck. He has won three Oscars, and received an honorary Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1996. In addition, he has received numerous lifetime achievement awards and honorary doctorate degrees, has been subject of many retrospectives and exhibitions, and has a star in his name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Further Reading:

"Through The Looking-Cel. . . Er, Glass," by Linda Jones. Animation World Magazine, December 1996.

Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of An Animated Cartoonist, by Chuck Jones. Farrar Straus Giroux, New York. 1989.

Wendy Jackson is Associate Editor of Animation World Magazine.

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