Archive for the ‘chuck jones’ Category

Monday, June 13th, 2022

Theory: Chuck Jones- Animation Is A Gift Word

Chuck Jones

Assistant Archivist, JoJo Baptista brought in some magazines for the archive donated by his teacher, and long-time archive supporter, Dave Brain. Among them was an AFI publication with this great article by Chuck Jones…

By Chuck Jones

A young man was once sent fresh from Columbia University with a mutual friend’s introduction to Robert Frost. Frost scanned the young man’s writings, then looking quizzically up through his craggy white brows he asked, “What do you do, son?” The young man drew himself up proudly; he was, after all, one with the great Frost. “I am a poet,” he said. Frost gently answered, “The term ‘poet’ is a gift word, son; you cannot give it to yourself.”

The term “artist” or “animator” are gift words too, and yet they are employed as self-description by an astonishing number of our colleagues.

Chuck Jones Layout

The Marx Brothers, Laurel & Hardy, Harold Lloyd, W.C. Fields, as well as Chaplin, are now considered to be artists, but I grew up in Hollywood when they were in the height of their power and I know that the term would have staggered and surprised them. They were honestly and simply trying to make funny pictures and were about as aware of dramatic and comedic theory as a bunch of otters. They were a joyous, funny, often drunken, usually wild and impetuous group and all I wanted in the whole world when I grew up was to be one of them. This horrified my mother, who felt that the mayhem and violence of the Keystone Cops, Larry Semon and even Chaplin when, for instance, he gassed or blew people up, was hideous fare for my budding libido.

Chuck Jones Lion

She was right. When I did kind of grow up my hideously budded libido found that the one-reel comedy was no longer around, but I managed to stumble into another company of comedians who would have been just as unaware as their great live-action predecessors to find themselves characterized as “artists”: the animators. Tex Avery, Friz Freleng, Ham Hamilton, Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising, Hanna and Barbera (when they directed the marvellous Tom & Jerrys), Grim Natwick, Bob Cannon, Ted Sears, the Fleischers, Walt Lantz, Paul Terry, Shamus Culhane, Bill Littlejohn, Ken Harris, Pete Burness, Emery Hawkins- to mention only a few who were doing animated short subjects- were all working in a field which was a logical extension not only of the motion picture itself, but of the old one-reel live action comedy.

If as a child you drew stick figures on the edge of a tablet or a school book, then flipped the pages to get a spastic and funny little dance, you were animating. Anything beyond that is only sophistication and embellishment. For even today those dancing sticks are absolute in the art of animation, just as the unique essence of the art of painting is the application of pigment to a reasonably flat surface, and the essential isolating quality of sculpturing is a three dimensional representation in some solid material. These are the disciplines that isolate these methods of creativity. Therefore, animation can be created without any embellishment whatsoever, for an audience of one and without a camera. Anything that squiggles, wiggles, waggles, will likely excite in us a feeling of stimulation, an emotional reaction, even a revulsion. We all know that such reactions cannot, or should not be aroused by inanimate things. We should not be angered by a rake when stepped on in the dark since it has no quality of life. Breaking a golf club or throwing a tennis racquet is a natural reaction against seemingly human qualities in an inanimate object. Inanimate objects are diabolically funny indeed in animation. Remember Disney’s piano in Moving Day or the clock in Clock Cleaners or Norman McLaren’s A Chairy Tale?

Chuck Jones Layout

McLaren’s delightful laughing squiggles and strokes brought universal and deserved praise. Each of us drew our own conclusions as to what the films meant, but very near the surface was an area of response that had very little to do with rationality, and depending upon our area of interest all of us react to other forms of life in quite different ways: a tumor may be beautiful to a pathologist; herpetologists have small, sinewy, evil snakes where other people carry watches; an entymologist may stroke a tarantula with more thoughtfulness and understanding than a parent spends on his own child.

Animation’s potential and scope is literally boundless. In many parts of the world today great experiments in the field are taking pace- new thoughts, ideas, wild flights of fancy, much of it in surface techniques. Color; graphic breakthrough; startling, sometimes shocking in cruel subject matter; animation is being used as political commentary, abstract expressionism, pop and op art experiments, stop live action, painted stones, self-cannibalism, the black experience, textural adventures and sex. Many of these animated films are shown only in garages. But in many countries, notably the United States, most studios have been captured by an avalanche of network demands for low cost Saturday morning television.

Chuck Jones Layout

One team in Hollywood which once turned out eight to ten seven minute shorts a year now turns out four half-hours a week during the production year, an increase from one hour a year to at least 130 hours, or a 13,000 per cent increase.

A few animators are getting wealthy- which is a happy novelty indeed.

Some of the best work being done in animation, both in the United States and throughout the world, is in the field of animated commercials. Some are brilliant, nearly all are exquisitely timed and cut. This field may be the best training ground available for animators, directors, writers and designers. The disciplines are implicit in the United States: the film is one minute or less, it must tell a story, display a product, make a sales point, have a beginning, middle and an end, be unique yet comprehensible and bear constant repetition.

It is a pity that the experimentalists and the commercial animators could not exchange personnel occasionally, because the disciplines of commercial production would serve the laboratory animator well. Art and experimental and even student films usually run three times too long. The commercial animator would benefit from a little soul-waching and freedom from the very disciplines his opposite needs. The average commercial director would feel grossly sinful if he had an extra 14 seconds to play with.

Chuck Jones Layout

I believe that every studio that makes a substantial income off this market, or the so-called "kid-vid" market, owes a serious obligation to the future to pour part of it back- five to ten per cent- into training programs, internships, but above all to pure research. The trade unions support the idea; it is just common sense, not altruism.

There is a tendency in the history of any art form when a preoccupation with new instruments or unusual techniques preoccupies the time of the practitioners of that art form, and we get quaint and cacaphonous sounds and sights in our galleries and halls. This is a natural occurance, to be expected and enjoyed, but the tools of the artist have remained very much the same for hundreds of years and I cannot remember when the last valid musical instrument was introduced into an orchestra, perhaps because my father could not remember either.

It is well, I think, to learn from an Edward Steichen, I believe it was, who undertook a photographic assignment from Life magazine limiting him to a 30-year-old Brownie box camera. The result should have surprised no one: a series of exquisite, striking Steichen pictures, because Steichen does not confuse a convenience with a necessity. Steichen and Lincoln’s Matthew Brady are the same cut of man, and each would have flourished in the other’s time.

Chuck Jones Layout

Occasionally, an artist should look at his tools and ask himself what he cannot do without -the essentials- what he must have to pursue his form of expression in animation. In animation as different from other art forms, he must have only three things: a pencil, a number of sheets of paper and a light source. With these things he can animate, without them he cannot.

All other additions are conveniences and embellishments which shade his art form toward others. He does not even need a motion picture camera. The first valid animation, indeed the first motion pictures, were without such cameras. Do you remember the photographic flipping machines at penny arcades?

One of the odd misunderstandings about animation even by those who work in the field is the supposition that an individual drawing in animation has the same importance as doing an illustration.

In animation, drawing is indeed important and great draftsmen as well as great animators are required for such episodes as Bill Tytla’s Night on Bald Mountain or Art Babbitt’s Mushroom Dance. But a single drawing to an animator represents a time interval of 1/24th of a second.

Animation is a chorus of drawings working in tandem, each contributing a part to the whole of a time/space idea. If a single drawing, as a drawing, dominates the action, it is probably bad animation, even though it may be good drawing.

Chuck Jones Layout

So many of the greatest animators were and are men who became masters of their craft without once having to resort to cleaning up a single drawing. They simply didn’t think that way. Norm Ferguson, the great "Fergie" of Pluto fame who worked in a kind of fluid shorthand, catching the elements of motion in dazzling simplicity, was probably the outstanding example of the animator in his purest form. But Ham Hamilton, Ben Clopton, Ken Harris and many, many others could not draw and found no need to draw, in the conventional sense, which in no way diminishes their artistry; it simply identifies the form.

Different kinds of animation are suitable and correct for the needs of different products. John Halas has been quoted as saying that animation can now get along with four drawings a foot where it once required 24. Actually, animation can get along with no drawings a foot if the subject requirements are such- but it should not be denied 100 drawings per foot if they are needed. The Four Poster required only two actors, but staging Julius Caesar with such restrictions might prove difficult. The point is, if you can only afford two actors, don’t do Julius Caesar.

Chuck Jones Layout


The simple question we must ask ourselves about limited animation is this: would we use better animation if we could do so? I contend that the average director on Saturday morning television or in his experimental or laboratory film would rather- far rather- employ the finest animators available and have them deliver not 200 feet but 20 feet a week. And everywhere I have gone in Europe and the Orient the hunger has been for animators, animators in the grand tradition, because a great animator can do anything from a dancing dot to a dinosaur- and every director dreams of working only with great actors, or great animators, as well as great graphics, set designs, lighting and cameramen.

All of us must eventually do what the matador does: go out and face not only the bull, but the crowd. It does the matador little good, provides him little satisfaction to make beautiful passes alone in a moonlit pasture.

If in animation we are to advance our craft we must each eventually face the terror of creativity and each of us must some day do it before the great crowd, for animation is not only an art form, it is also a method of entertainment and a method of communication.

Chuck Jones Layout

MODERN Animation

We are fortunate, all of us, that animation is so appealing in its verstility. All over the world the most extraordinary things are happening. From Yugoslavia to Japan, South America to, I suppose, Lapland, young men and women are trying new ideas of the most imaginative sort. The medium is springing into life on a thousand fronts with a million facets.

But if we ignore our heritage, if we forget or allow to lapse one of the most important factors, the art of pure animation- a drop of water, a dinosaur, a paramecium, a McLaren dancing line, a blob a silver wind, a silver flute, a beautifully animated, delightfully floating mass of our own introspection- if we forget that these wonders cannot be accomplished by simple means, if we use limited animation only because we can get away with it, then we are overlooking the very essence of our craft and callously destroying history itself.

Chuck Jones
AFI Report (Vol 5, No 2)
Summer 1974

Since Jones wrote this, things have gotten worse, not better. If anyone had the right to complain about the sorry state of modern animation, it was Jones. When you work in the animation industry, and read words like this from a master of the medium, it’s hard not to feel a sense of shame when you see what we put on television today.

Many thanks to Dave Brain for this great article, and thanks to the Van Eaton Galleries for allowing us to digitize these wonderful Chuck Jones drawings for our database.

Stephen Worth
Animation Resources


This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit entitled Theory.

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Friday, April 1st, 2022

Exhibit: Grim Natwick- The Greatest Animator Who Ever Lived

Grim Natwick

Grim Natwick with his "kid assistant",
Chuck Jones (Iwerks/1933)


Like most animators, Grim Natwick had a unique sense of humor. He was famous for his limericks, scribbled in on the margins of his animation drawings. Here are a couple of doozies by Grim…

CaricatureCaricatureI’ve broken my friendship with Babbitt
Because of his slovenly habit
Of eating out loud
And I’ve never been proud
Of his nibbling bones like a rabbit!

"It’s true!" said the painter to the prude
"I sketch all my ladies in the nude
A dress is OK
For a window display
But on my girls, it wouldn’t improve."

A nail sitting Hindoo said "I
Have perched here and gazed at the sky
Till I’ve punctured my hide
Fillagreed my back side
I’m damned if I’ve ever known why!"

Grim Natwick

Grim prized his studio gag drawings above all the others in his collection. He described how they came to be for me one day…

Grim Self CaricatureGrim Self Caricature"At Lantz, we all worked very hard. But occasionally, we would need to take a break and have fun. One of us would draw a quick caricature of one of the other animators, or do a cartoon on a funny situation that had taken place. He’d tiptoe out into the hallway and pin it up on the board and sneak back to his desk. Pretty soon, someone else would come along and see the drawing and run back to his desk to answer the gag, pinning up their sketch on the board alongside the other one. By the end of the day, the board would be covered with funny drawings. We’d pull them all down and start all over again the next day."

Lu Guarnier
Grim’s most treasured folder of drawings was the gag
sketches involving Lu Guarnier’s window at UPA New York.

A Series Of Studio Gag Drawings From UPA NY (ca. 1955)

As an "animation historian", I’ve never been as interested in the dates and figures related to animation as much as the process- and how it felt to be a part of a golden age studio. These sketches give a clear indication of that, better than words could ever tell…

Animator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY


CaricatureCaricatureWell… It says "conclusion" up there, so I better get to telling you why Grim Natwick was the greatest animator who ever lived. I don’t know how many readers of this blog have had a chance to digest all of my articles from this week. It certainly has been very difficult to summarize a career as long and varied as Grim Natwick’s. I had always intended to write a book on Grim, but the weblog may actually be the best format for telling his story.

Books on animation history are usually organized by studio. If you read Leonard Maltin’s great book, Of Mice & Magic, Grim Natwick’s name is sprinkled throughout six chapters. That might give you the idea that Grim was a marginal figure who moved around a lot. But when you read his life story chronologically- not inserted into six separate chapters- you realize that Grim’s life story IS the story of the history of animation. The history of animation isn’t the story of studios and characters- it’s the story of the artists whose talents created the magic up there on the screen.

Grim Natwick was the greatest animator who ever lived. But I still haven’t told you why yet!

CaricatureCaricatureGrim loved to tell long, convoluted stories that would inevitably ramble back around to his point. Here’s a story like that…

Antran Manoogian, president of ASIFA-Hollywood heard that Grim was in town and was celebrating a birthday, so he threw a party for him. As he was blowing out the candles, Grim announced that he was pleased to spend his 100th birthday in such fine company. Everyone in the room gasped. No one had any idea that it was Grim’s 100th birthday. The room burst into applause. Antran drove Grim home after the party. In the car, Grim was uncharacteristically quiet and sheepish. He finally said, "Young man, I have a confession to make… I told everyone that I was 100, but I’m only 97." Antran laughed and promised Grim that ASIFA would throw him an even better party in three years- the best birthday party ever.

Antran kept that promise. when Grim turned 100, ASIFA threw a huge celebration at the Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City. Hundreds of people attended, including co-workers from every studio Grim ever worked with. Grim described it as "the most illustrious gathering of animators since Winsor McCay’s testimonial dinner in the late 1920s". At the end of the evening an announcement was made for all of Grim’s former coworkers and assistants to gather on the stage for a photo. Animator, Michael Sporn recently posted this photo…

Grim Natwick's Birthday Party
Grim Natwick's Birthday Party

Grim By ChuckGrim By ChuckThree of Grim’s former assistants were chosen to address the audience that evening… Walter Lantz (Hearst), Chuck Jones (Iwerks) and Marc Davis (Disney). All three spoke of Grim’s generosity and friendship. They credited Grim with teaching them their trade and inspiring them to become better artists. Those three men weren’t alone in that. Dozens of other great animators… Bill Littlejohn, Irv Spence, Willard Bowsky, Berny Wolf, Tissa David, Shamus Culhane- too many to mention- all traced their own accomplishments back to Grim’s example when they were just starting out. Grim’s "kid assistants" went on to form the artistic core of every major animation studio in the United States.

Grim is the greatest animator who ever lived, not just for his own accomplishments, but for what he shared with the people he worked with. Animation was never just a job to him. It was his passion. He instilled that passion in his assistants, and those assistants went out into the world and became great themselves. Grim Natwick was the catalyst who made the entire history of animation possible. That’s why he is the greatest animator who ever lived.


Grim Natwick
Top Row: Caricatures of Grim (left to right) Self caricature* (ca.1926/Hearst) / Self caricature with assistant, Chuck Jones* (1933/Iwerks) / Caricature of Grim on studio outing to Catalina by Chuck Jones (1933/Iwerks) / Caricature of Grim in his fancy suit (ca. 1942/Lantz) / Caricature of Grim at his "studies in Vienna" possibly by Art Heinemann (UPA ca.1955)

Middle Row: (left to right) Two sketches depicting the love/hate relationship between Emery Hawkins and Grim Natwick* (ca. 1944/Lantz) / Bill Nolan at the Krazy Kat Studio* (ca. 1926) / Studio gag drawing (ca. 1959/Robert Lawrence) / Studio gag drawing* (ca. 1936/Disney)

Bottom Row: Tony Sgroi and "Bugs" Hardaway (ca. 1947/Lantz) / Manny Gould* & Sammy Stimpson* (ca. 1926/Krazy Kat Studio) / Bill Nolan with a cold* (ca. 1919/Hearst) / top: Dick Lundy* (ca. 1936/Disney) bottom: Freddie Moore* (ca. 1936/Disney) / Studio gag drawings* (ca. 1929/Fleischer) / Caricatures of Jack Carr* (ca.1923/Krazy Kat Studio)

* denotes a drawing by Grim Natwick

Grim Natwick Exhibit
Assistant Archivist, Joseph Baptista views the exhibit.


This travelling exhibit has appeared at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive in Burbank, CA and at the South Wood Historical Society Museum in Wisconsin Rapids, WI, birthplace of Grim Natwick.

Stephen Worth
Animation Resources

TheoryGrim Natwick

This posting is part of an online exhibit entitled Grim Natwick’s Scrapbook.

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Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Biography: Chuck Jones

This posting is a stub. You can contribute to this entry by providing information through the comments link at the bottom of this post. Please organize your information following the main category headers below….


Birth: 1912, Spokane, WA
Death: 2002


Animator, Director

Bio Summary

Early Life/Family

Jones moved to Hollywood with his family, finding work there as a child ?extra in Mac Sennett comedies.


Chuck graduated ?from Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles (now California Institute of the Arts). In ?1932, he got his first job in the animation industry as a cel washer for the former Disney ?animator Ubbe Iwerks.

Career Outline

In 1936, he was an animator for Leon Schlesinger Studio (later sold to ?Warner Bros). There, he animated with Tex Avery. He headed his own unit at WB. He ?remained at Warner Bros. Animation until it closed in 1962. The first Road Runner ?cartoon was conceived as a parody of the mindless chase cartoons popular at the time, but ?audiences around the world embraced the series. Had a brief stint at Disney in ?1955 during a hiatus at WB. Went on to MGM to create new episodes of Tom and Jerry.?While there, he produced, co-directed, and co-wrote the screenplay for the critically ?acclaimed full-length feature THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, and directed the ?Academy Award-winning film THE DOT AND THE LINE. For a year in 1972, he ?worked as vice president of the American Broadcasting Company to improve children’s ?programming. There, he made many animated specials for television.

Comments On Style

Jones is considered by many to be a master of characterization and ?timing


Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Mark Twain, Tex Avery ,Friz Ferleng, His cat Johnson.



“While at the breakfast table, Chuck would eat silently while reading a ?novel, and expected everyone at the table to do the same” (Linda Jones)




Oscar: The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics 1966
Cannes Film Festival: Golden Palm 1966

Oscar for lifetime achievement: 2002

Annie Award: Winsor McCay Award 1974

Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists Award: Golden Award 1984

Chicago International Film Festival: Special Jury Prize: The Magical World of Chuck Jones (1992)

Denver International Film Festival: Special Jury Prize: The Magical World of Chuck Jones (1992)

Directors Guild of America DGA Honorary Life Member Award 1996

World Fest Houston: Grand Award: Peter and the Wolf (1996)

Danta Clarita International Film Festival: Lifetime Achievement Award 1999

Honorary Doctorates

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