Museum of the Moving Image Opens Exhibit on Animation Director Chuck Jones Today
Animation director and artist Charles Martin "Chuck" Jones (1912-2002) brought to life some of the most iconic cartoon characters in animation history. He perfected the wisecracking Bugs Bunny and the exasperated Daffy Duck and a host of other characters, including Wile E. Coyote, the Road Runner, and Pepé Le Pew. He brought an unparalleled talent for comic invention and a flair for creating distinctive, memorable characters to the art of film animation. What's Up, Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones, a new Smithsonian traveling exhibition that explores Jones's creative genius, influences, and legacy, will open at Museum of the Moving Image in New York City today, July 19, 2014 and will be on view through January 19, 2015.
The exhibition is a partnership between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity, and Museum of the Moving Image. After debuting at the Museum, the exhibition will continue on a thirteen-city tour through 2019.
"Chuck Jones is one of the enduring geniuses of American comedy, as accomplished in the art of animation as his hero Mark Twain was in literature," said David Schwartz, Chief Curator of Museum of the Moving Image, who curated the exhibition with Barbara Miller, the Museum's Curator of the Collection and Exhibitions. "His work is marked by its ability to convey the distinctive personality of his characters, his endless comic invention, and his mastery of timing and visual and verbal humor."
In an interview produced for the exhibition, John Lasseter, director of Toy Story and Toy Story 2, and Chief Creative Officer at Pixar, said "Chuck Jones's cartoons are timeless. They are as funny today as when they were made."
Trained as a fine artist, Jones graduated from the Chouinard Art Institute (now California Institute of the Arts) in Los Angeles in 1931. By 1933, he was an assistant animator making cartoons distributed by Warner Bros. In a career that spanned seven decades, he created more than 300 animated films and received an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement. After leaving Warner Bros. in 1962, Jones continued to create award-winning films, including his collaborations with Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss).
What's Up, Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones features 23 of Chuck Jones's animated films, a short documentary and an interactive experience-both of which give insight into the animation process-and more than 125 original sketches and drawings, storyboards, production backgrounds, animation cels, and photographs that reveal how Jones and his collaborators worked together to create some of the greatest cartoons ever made. In addition to the cartoons Jones made for the Warner Bros.'s Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes series, the exhibition explores his collaborations with author Theodore Geisel on the enduringly popular television specials Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) and Horton Hears a Who! (1970); films that featured the hapless animated character Private Snafu, made for the U.S. Army during World War II; the Oscar-winning public health film So Much for So Little (1949); and the television special Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (1975), based on a story by Rudyard Kipling.
Among the artifacts in the exhibition are a production sheet from Jones's directorial debut The Night Watchman (1938); layout artist Maurice Noble's background designs for such popular favorites as Duck Amuck (1953) and Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century (1953); a range of artwork created for Jones's masterpiece What's Opera, Doc? (1957); Jones's character layout drawings that showed his animators how a character, such as Bugs Bunny or Wile E. Coyote, should move in a particular scene; and animation cels from Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
The films, shown as large wall projections and on monitors throughout the exhibition, include such classic Warner Bros. cartoons as What's Opera, Doc? and One Froggy Evening (1955), and the Academy Award-winning short The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics (1965), which expanded the boundaries of the medium with its experimental techniques. Some of the films and clips include introductions by John Lasseter.
The exhibition also includes behind-the-scenes audio of Jones directing Mel Blanc (voice of Bugs Bunny) and Arthur Q. Bryan (Elmer Fudd), and excerpts from interviews with Jones. An interactive experience will allow visitors to take on the role of animation director by manipulating character movement and timing.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Museum of the Moving Image will present Chuck Jones Matinees, an ongoing series of screenings and programs, and education programs. Each weekend afternoon, the Museum will screen films directed by Chuck Jones in its majestic Sumner M. Redstone Theater; some will be accompanied by personal appearances by Jones's collaborators and top creative figures in animation who considered him an influence on their own work. The cartoons and feature films in Chuck Jones Matinees will be shown in 35mm and 16mm prints provided by the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. For young visitors, the Museum will offer animation demonstrations and related activities in the Saturday Drop-in Studio (12:00 to 5:00 p.m.) with special workshops and tours planned over holiday periods. The Museum is also developing programs for student groups. A full schedule with descriptions for screenings and education programs will be announced soon.
Museum of the Moving Image Curator of the Collection and Exhibitions, Barbara Miller, and Chief Curator, David Schwartz, served as exhibition curators for What's Up, Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones. Wendell Walker, the Museum's Deputy Director for Operations, Exhibition, and Design, also served as part of the team developing the exhibition for the Museum and its national tour.