“Animation isn’t the illusion of life; it is life.” Chuck Jones
In a career spanning over 60 years, Jones made more than 300 animated films, winning three Oscars as director and an honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in 1996. Among the many awards and recognitions, one of those most valued was the honorary lifetime membership from the Directors Guild of America. Jones was a prolific artist whose work has been exhibited at galleries and museums worldwide.
During the Golden Age of Animation, Jones helped bring to life many of Warner Brothers’ most famous characters – Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig. The list of characters he created himself includes Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, Marvin the Martian, Pepe le Pew, and Michigan J. Frog. He also produced, directed and wrote the screenplays for Dr. Suess’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” as well as the feature length film “The Phantom Tollbooth.”
Born on September 21, 1912 in Spokane, Washington, Jones grew up in Hollywood where he observed the talents of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton and worked occasionally as a child extra in Mac Sennett comedies. After graduating from Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles (now the California Institute of the Arts), Jones got his first job in the fledgling animation industry as a cel washer for former Disney animator Ubbe Iwerks in 1932.
In 1936, Jones was hired by Friz Freleng as an animator for the Leon Schlesinger Studio (later sold to Warner Bros.). Jones admired and revered Freleng for the rest of his life, saying, "No one except Tex Avery had as perfect a sense of timing as did Friz Freleng." In 1938, he directed his first film, “The Night Watchman.” He worked with and for directors Tex Avery and Bob Clampett until the early forties when they left the studio, and for the remainder of his years at Warner Bros., he worked in parallel with Directors Freleng and Robert McKimson. He remained at Warner Bros. until the studio was closed in 1962. After a very short stay at the Disney Studios, Jones moved to MGM Studios, where he created new episodes from the Tom and Jerry cartoon series. While there, in addition to “The Phantom Tollbooth” and Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” Jones directed the Academy Award winning film, “The Dot and the Line.”
In 1962, Jones established his own production company, Chuck Jones Enterprises, and produced nine half-hour animation films for television including Rudyard Kipling’s “Rikki Tikki Tavi” and “The White Seal.”
One of his films, the Wagnerian mini epic, “What’s Opera, Doc?” was inducted into the National Film Registry for being “among the most culturally, historically and aesthetically significant films of our time.”
In 2000, Jones established the Chuck Jones Foundation, designed to recognize, support and inspire continued excellence in art and the art of classic character animation. Plans for the Foundation include scholarships, library resources, touring exhibits, a lecture series and access to film, notes and drawings.
In recent years, Jones’ work, including a one-man retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, has been honored at film festivals and museums throughout the world. His autobiography, “Chuck Amuck,” appeared in 1989, and is now in its fifth printing. “Chuck Reducks,” his follow-up to the first book, was published two years later.
Director Peter Bogdanovich once explained the enduring appeal of Jones’ work: “It remains, like all good fables and only the best art, both timeless and universal.”