Animation has only been around for a little of over a hundred years and it has shown that it has no limits to what it can accomplish. Literally anything that the filmmaker can imagine can be put made into something. It can give life to still images. Animation is a series of drawings, pictures, images, etc. played rapidly in a sequence to give the viewer the illusion of movement. Animation has its advantages when compared to live action. Every single frame can be controlled to what goes on; whether it be the design of it, technology used, technique, and cinematography. Chuck Jones, famous for his work with Warner Bros. Cartoons., is one of the masters of animation. Through his animated work, Chuck Jones demonstrates that he understands the full potential of what animation is capable of.
Cel animation was the main technique used by Chuck Jones. Before becoming a director of animation and running his own projects, he worked in the 1930s as an animator at Warner Bros.
What differentiates animated characters from the real world is how varied they are in their designs. They come in all different shapes and sizes. Why are some of the world’s most iconic cartoon characters all so different from each other? It is because of the ability to distinguish them from one another. Examples like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny. Mickey has his big ears, black fur, and red pants with white buttons while Bugs had his white and grey fur, his long ears, buck teeth, and white gloves. They are are build from simple shapes. Chuck Jones knew this, and he incorporated it into his animated works at Warner Bros. Porky’s Party from 1938 is animated short he worked on under Bob Clampett.
Here, Porky is a portly pig. He is drawn in a way that can be made with shapes. Two different scaled circles make up the basic body. Slowly, minor details are added to the image. His eyes are ovals stretched out. The ear and tail were made with a using a triangle. His legs were made using ovals. Once the shapes are all placed, the final drawing is created. His clothes and small details are added to complete it.
In the cartoon, Porky has two of his friends over and their designs are not at all similar to his. The goose is much more slicker and thinner than Porky. It is a smaller build. He is given a long, narrow neck rather than just his head plotted on his body. His arms and legs are much smaller. His feet are given more shape than Porky’s. The Penguin is somewhat similar to the goose and Porky. His beak and eyes are drawn differently than the goose and his body and arms are similar to Porky’s. The thing is, in animation characters can be designed in anyway the animator wants. It is much easier to be able to differentiate characters in animation than in live action because they can be drawn so distinctly. Chuck Jones knew this and he went on to help create some of the most beloved cartoon characters of all time.
A character’s design must take their motion into account. How one character moves across the screen or interacts with something is key to this. It adds to their personality and character. This is why no characters in a Chuck Jones cartoon are ever copy and paste versions of one another.
This image is from Injun Trouble from 1938. This character moves all clumsily. His arms and legs jump and down as he moves from one place to another. It works because it goes back the whole design aspect Chuck Jones believed in, individuality.
A character needs to be their own. How this bearded man moves separates him from the other characters in the cartoon short. Motion is another factor of what gives characters distinction.
In animation, cinematography contrasts from live action filmmaking. The filmmakers can control everything that happens on screen. Each frame is drawn by the animator. For example, a light source can come from anywhere whether it be the top, bottom, left, or right of the character. In Chuck Jones’ works, he used cel animation. The two go hand and hand together.
This is The Blow Out from 1936. Here, all the audience sees is an empty black screen, white eyes, and the frame of a clock. Yet it is able to communicate what is happening on screen effectively without using much animation. Porky hands back the bad guy’s bomb. It Freaks him out, so his eyes widen creating reaction.
He run’s away from porky to eventually be lit up by this light hanging from the ceiling. Each frame is animated in a way that the bad guy is brought out of the darkness to get a glimpse at him running away from Porky. The closer he got to the light, the more visible he is to the audience. When directly under the light, he is drawn like he normally would while above ground in this short. Out of the light, he is much dimmer and fades out to black going back to the oval shapes eyes again. This communicates what is going on to the audience.
So Chuck Jones had a legacy of widely acclaimed cartoons underneath him. He had so much talent for the craft of animation that to not consider him one of the greatest animators of all time would be damning. His understanding on how to approach animation took in the big picture. A good and simple character design was key to not only animating, but to have the audience remember that character and have it stick with them. His work is the reason why so many Warner Bros. characters are still staples of pop culture all around the world today. He helped them rise to star power. That is why characters like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck have become known by everyone. Animation history would have been very different without him.
Works Cited in MLA format
Jones, Chuck. Chuck Amuck: The Life and times of an Animated Cartoonist. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1989. Print.
Kenner, Hugh, and Chuck Jones. Chuck Jones: A Flurry of Drawings. Berkeley: U of California, 1994. Print.