The Great Cartoon Directors: Chuck Jones

I have selected some passages from Jeff Lenberg’s book The Great Cartoon Directors to share here.  I chose them for their practical examples of creating funny cartoons, or if they support the idea of being inspired by live comedians.

Chuck first became infatuated with the movie business at the tender age of six.  It was several years after his birth on September 21, 1912 that Jones and his parents moved from Spokane Washington, to Hollywood.  They lived on Sunset Boulevard, right across from Hollywood High School.  It was here that Jones learned about movie making.  Just two blocks down from his house was the Chaplin Studios.

Jones has a snub nose, he says, from pressing it too hard against the fence in front of the Chaplin Studios to watch how comedies were made.  As he recalled, “I learned a great deal from watching Chaplin.  Father came home one day, and said he saw Chaplin film a scene he’d done 52 times to get it right for fifteen seconds on the screen.  It had a lot to do with timing.”  The bit Chaplin was trying to perfect was his famous one-legged turn.

Jones analyzes Bug’s personality as such:  “Bugs stood with one leg straight and the other leg akimbo.  Because he’s not afraid, he engages in the matter.  We always started Bugs out in a natural rabbit environment and somebody came along an tried to do him in.  And then he fought back.  So it was no more like Groucho Marx. Once the battle is joined you can’t get him loose even with a pair of crowbars.  Because it’s a joy.  As Groucho said, “You know of course this means war!”  And so it was with Bugs.  He was something more personal and special to me, more than any other character I have directed.”

See, this is why I don’t like the new Looney Tunes TV show.  Bugs lives in a house.

“We followed certain disciplines.  Bugs always made his appearance in a natural rabbit situation.  Unlike Woody Woodpecker, he was never mischievous without a particular reason. Only when he was disturbed did he then decide the time has come to war.  In a sense, in a sense, he was a counterrevolutionary.”

The world could be coming to an end, but Bugs opted to be the straight man rather than the comic.  Bugs was the straight man to a myriad of characters in his cartoons; thugs, gremlins, aliens from outer space, and giants.  By playing it straight, Bugs delivered the necessary comic punch in putting the comedy across.  Bugs in the role of the straight man was as important to the success of the comedy as Bud Abbott was to Lou Costello, or as George Burns was to Gracie Allen.


The animated duo reminded moviegoers of the same chemistry seen in comedies staring Laurel and Hardy.  Fudd was much like Laurel; he was a slow thinker and even slower to react.  He had a slow burn quality about that would have made Edgar Kennedy , the technicians originator, especially proud.  In other ways, he was also like W.C. Fields since he kept his gestures close to his body.  Bugs, in contrast, was like Hardy; he had quick reactions and was fast footed when it was time to make chase.  Like most slender comedians, Bugs gestured freely and was never afraid to go outside his own boundary; Fudd was.

While their personalities are possibly that way, I don’t see Bugs and Elmer’s relationship that way at all.  Laurel and Hardy worked together, they weren’t at odds, intentionally.  There was certainly a chemistry between Bugs and Fudd, but not like L&H.


“The Coyote is victimized by his own ineptitude.  I never understood how to use tools, and that’s really the Coyotes problem.  He’s not at war with the gods, but with the miniscule things of every day life.  It is out of mounting frustration that the comedy develops.”


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