From Bugs Bunny To Wile E. Coyote: The Animation Genius Of Chuck Jones

From Bugs Bunny To Wile E. Coyote: The Animation Genius Of Chuck Jones

It’s a good bet that you spent hundreds of childhood hours with Chuck Jones, even if you didn’t know who he was at the time. “What’s Up, Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones” is a new exhibition which chronicles the work of the legendary animator who breathed life into household names like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Wile E. Coyote, and so very many more.

Like many animators, Jones attended what is now CalArts and started working at Warner Bros. during the 1930s. He also worked for Disney and MGM before opening his own company, Chuck Jones Productions. Although he’s best known for his tenure at Warner Bros. drawing Bugs and crew, he directed a total of 300 animated films during his career, from Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, to A Cricket in Times Square, to the Oscar-winning short The Dot and the Line.

Jones died in 2002, but left behind an entire universe of beloved characters who are still a fixture of Saturday mornings and beyond. As the progenitor of so many iconic animated characters it’s tough to distill the genius of Jones into one exhibition. Here are a few photographs, sketches and cells from the exhibition that show his range and his talent. The show is up at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, New York through January. [Museum of the Moving Image]

Jones’s hands

Chuck Jones brings to life two of his most popular characters, Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny. According to his autobiography, Jones began drawing cartoons on the unused reams of stationery brought home by his father.

Duck Amuck, 1953

In Jones’s masterpiece that played with our perception of the way cartoons worked, an animator tortures Daffy Duck with his brush, painting off his clothes and changing the background.

Duck Amuck, 1953

Scene still showing an always-mischievous Bugs Bunny — perhaps Jones’s alter ego? — in Duck Amuck.

Character layout drawing, Bugs Bunny, production unknown

The signature way that Jones’s characters walked became part of their on-screen personalities. He would draw these sketches to show animators how to make their movements fluid.

What’s Opera, Doc?, 1957

Frame still from What’s Opera, Doc? which brought Wagner’s Ring Cycle of operas to six-year-olds, who would forever hear “Ride of the Valkyries” as, “Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit…”

What’s Opera, Doc?, 1957

Character layout drawing from What’s Opera, Doc? showing Bugs Bunny on his white steed.

Robin Hood Daffy, 1958

Frame grab from Robin Hood Daffy, showing Daffy Duck as Robin Hood alongside Porky Pig as Friar Tuck and more.

One Froggy Evening, 1953

Frame still from One Froggy Evening, showing the debut of Michigan J. Frog, a frog who sings enduring classics from “Hello! Ma Baby” to opera, but only to a construction worker.

The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, 1965

Jones won an Academy Award for this delightful film, which actually is quite educational on the maths front!

Pictures: Chuck Jones Center for Creativity. Looney Tunes Characters © & TM Warner Bros.