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If you like Chuck Jones's story, you might also like:
Michael Eisner,
George Lucas,
James Rosenquist,
Fritz Scholder,
Julie Taymor,
Wayne Thiebaud
and Robert Zemeckis

Chuck Jones's recommended reading: Roughing It

Chuck Jones also appears in the video:
Passion, Creativity and the Arts: Writing for Motion Pictures

Related Links:
Chuck Jones
Chuck Jones Center
Looney Tunes

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Chuck Jones
Chuck Jones
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Chuck Jones Interview (page: 4 / 5)

Animation Pioneer

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  Chuck Jones

You've said we laugh at ourselves when we laugh at Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny, and that laughter can be therapeutic because it makes people feel less alone. Do you have a sense of doing that for people?

Chuck Jones: It's a marvelous thing when it happens. I've never gotten used to the idea that I can do anything that way. When people laugh, and they respond, it's a gift.

There's one rule that I feel is vital. It was set down by G.K. Chesterton, who said, "I don't take myself seriously, but I take my work deadly seriously." Comedy is a very, very, very stringent business. Jackie Gleason said it's probably the most difficult and demanding of any form of drama. Because you have an instant critic: laughter. If you don't get that isn't tragedy. You don't know if people are suffering enough or not in tragedy, but in comedy you know. If you're making it for films, you don't know until you've taken it to an audience. I never had the courage to take any of mine to an audience. I would die. The first picture I ever made, I thought that it wouldn't even move when it got out of there. And they had to lure me out -- I was in a terrible funk -- to go out and see it in front of an audience. It scared the hell out of me. And I pretended like I wasn't there, you know. And so, we were sitting in the balcony in Warner's theater in Hollywood, 1938, and the cartoon came on and there was a little hesitation. And the little girl sitting in front of me said to her mother, she said, "Mommy, I knew we should have come here." You know, "I knew we should have come here." The tenses get all mixed up. But I wanted to adopt her and take her home, because she was laughing at six or eight years old. She was past that terrible age. If she had been five she would have destroyed me.

[ Key to Success ] Courage

The remarkable thing, I think, about all creative endeavors, whether it be music, or art, or writing, or anything else is that it is not competitive, except with yourself. And all business, and all manufacturing, and everything that's presented to the public is competitive. They are trying to present the same object perhaps under a different name to supersede the other person and it's competitive, it's a foot race. But art can't be.

[ Key to Success ] The American Dream

One thing is you don't know what the other guy is doing. I'm talking about good writing and good art. It can't be competitive.

You said that you actually have this fear that you might wake up and not be funny?

Chuck Jones: Yeah, or that you might make a picture and you've lost the whole skill. Arthur Rubinstein said that when he walked out on a stage and saw 2,000 people who had paid money to see him perform, he said, "I could not give them less than the best that I have." And that's what I feel. You have no right to diminish an audience's expectations. You have to give them everything that you have. And with children, with anything that's supposedly being done for children, the requirement becomes much more stringent. You've got to do the best you can. You have no right to pull back. You have no right to "write for children." You do the best thing that you can do. And the audiences -- for children -- all the more so, because you're building a child's expectation of what is good and what is bad. And all this stuff -- the word "kidvid," which is used so freely, is one of the ugliest words in the English language. It means you're writing down to children. How are you going to build children up by writing down to them?

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

There is a one proof always, as to what makes a great children's book, or a great children's film, and that is this: If it can be read or viewed with pleasure by adults, then it has the chance to be a great children's film, or a great children's book. If it doesn't, it has no chance. Every film should be pursued in that way. I've always felt that the very best I can do is the very least I can do. I don't think about the audience, I think about me. And I think about how grateful I am that I blundered into that group of whimsical, wild, otterish type people that are in there, all of them nutty and all of them intense. Because don't forget, we talked a lot about how free times were then, but every one of us had to turn out 10 pictures a year, in order to get the 30 that Warner Brothers needed. And so, it was frivolous, to be sure, plenty of frivolity and plenty of laughter, but for every bit of laughter there has to be 90 percent of work.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

I do three to 400 drawings on every picture -- the three to 400 pictures that I used. But sometimes... I might draw 50 drawings trying to get one expression, so that it will look right for Bugs, or Daffy. Or something like this. Sometimes it came quickly, like writing, sometimes you come to a dead stop. And I'd have to haul off. I'd have to go and do something, because I couldn't break through, couldn't find what the guy was supposed to be doing, and that's all. You don't have to worry about drawing. After a while it's as easy to draw Daffy, or Bugs, or anything as just movement. I know how to do that, but what's he thinking about? And I have to get that expression to indicate what he's thinking about.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

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This page last revised on Sep 23, 2010 14:36 EST
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