Chuck Jones’s Opinion of Working at Disney Chuck Jones’s Opinion of Working at Disney

Chuck Jones’s Opinion of Working at Disney

I’ve praised this blog before, but the Chuck Jones blog, run by Chuck’s grandson Craig, continues to be a treasure trove of artwork and new information about the director.

My favorite recent post is this letter that Chuck wrote to his daughter Linda following his brief stint working at the Disney studio in 1953. In it, Jones gives his perspective of working at the studio, and it sounds not so different from a lot of contemporary feature animation studios:

At Disney’s it was always necessary to be certain places at certain times. God knows why, nothing ever happened, so it was nearly impossible to work there without a timepiece. You could get along without talent, but not a watch…. Ah..I think this was a good mood–I mean move to return here [to Warner Bros.], I had not realized how much I missed the sweetness of my own solitude. At Disney’s aloneness or desire to be alone generates suspicion, you are always surrounded by people, drifting in and out, exchanging hackneyed pleasantries or just sitting, staring with baleful intensity at one’s own navel. What a waste! What a waste of wonderful talent!

Jones also offered an unflattering opinion of Disney director Ham Luske:

I went to Disney’s with respect for H… L…., I could not fathom him but I felt that there must be some pretty strong talent there, not evident on the surface perhaps but still waters run deep etc. etc. If I still think this then I am the only one who has recently worked there who does. Walt adjudges him a work horse, stolid, unimaginative, but able to get things done if someone else has injected the life and the spark into the material. Many others think of him as simply and purely a dolt and a dull dolt at that. I saw too little of him to make any judgment, but I can no longer assume that he has talent. Isn’t that a pity?

It’s particularly interesting to read this letter in context of Chuck’s later opinions of working at Disney, which can be found in this terrific article by Wade Sampson.

  • The paragraph you quote at the end: is it really in reference to Walt? He writes:

    “I went to Disney’s with respect for H… L….”

    Could that maybe be Ham Luske?

  • Wonder who the dull dolt was.

  • R.A. MacNeil

    Jones also offered an opinion of Walt:

    I went to Disney’s with respect for H… L….

    I think he’s talking about Ham Luske, not Walt.

  • amid

    R.A. MacNeil: You’re smarter than I . Thanks for catching that.

  • In four months at WB, Chuck Jones would have directed three cartoons and probably would have had another three going through production. In four months at Disney, he basically did nothing. Who can blame him for going back to Warners? We’re all lucky that he did.

  • Chuck R.

    That letter has a tone of arrogance that is only hinted at in “Chuck Reducks”. I’m still a fan of Chuck Jones, but I’m afraid that if I lingered around that fansite too long, I wouldn’t be one for long.

  • Danny R. Santos

    When I was at Disney, I worked on stuff that I intended to pitch to the Disney studios but a majority of people there cared less of what I was working on because I felt no one there thought I would get far with what I was working on, so there was no suspision or snooping around…I was oblivious to them. Untill one day at a gong show, I pitched an Idea in front of 30 something people, including Roy E. Disney and I found out through some co-workers that Roy Disney mentioned how inspired he was about my pitch. Nothing came out of the pitch, but to know that Roy thought something favorable about it was the world to me. How do I know that what I was told was the truth, when they called me into the office, to confirm me that they where interested in my pitch. Yeah sometimes ignorance is the blizz, you come with your best ideas that way.

  • Jason

    If Disney wasted “wonderful talent”, how the hell did it come up with so many incredible masterpieces that Chuck, with all his genius, never came close to? Sure, his Looney Tunes are fantastic bits of toon comedy, but he tried a feature film with “Gay Purr-ee”, and it flopped.

    I respect the guy, but I don’t respect his opinion of Disney – at least the Disney that existed when Walt ran the place.

  • Danny R. Santos

    Well Jason, Chuck did produce “The Grinch who stole Cristmas” which became a classic, not all films can be successful, it’s always a gamble. Don’t you think the executives at Disney are tearing their finger nails right now, if god forbid “Frog Princess” fails. My family and I can’t wait to see the movie this December, how will it respond with audiences it everyones guess.

  • David

    I realize that this was from a private letter, but this line strikes me as a little disingenuous:

    “Many others think of him as simply and purely a dolt and a dull dolt at that. I saw too little of him to make any judgment, but …”

    But even though I’m going out of my way to claim that I saw too little of him to make any judgement, I’ll coyly be judgmental anyway by reporting nasty things that other people have said about good ol’
    H … L …

    On the other hand we’re reading something that the man wrote in confidence , not intending that it ever be published, and I’m sure most of us have privately written remarks that are just as cutting and cruel because we didn’t think anyone else would ever read them.

    I’m grateful to have the letters to read his account of working at Disney’s and the other letters where we get a glimpse into life at the Warner Bros. cartoon studio.

  • Chuck is right on some accounts. Disney Animation had its share of “Dolts.” Having worked there since the fifties, I know.

    I just won’t mention any names.

  • Martin

    The man was entitled to his eyewitness opinion and he’s in a safe place at last to (through his daughter) communicate it. ‘You’ll never work at Disney again!’ is the supreme empty threat in Chuck’s case and don’t think that it doesn’t delight him.

  • It’s not surprising to hear an artist having trouble adapting to a major studio. Most of the time those artist are money driven and there’s loads of competition going on(*even if they won’t admit it) so they resort to low company morale and camaraderie. Chuck, and alot of other talented individuals, realize this and want to go back to smaller, friendlier, creator driven companies(*and who’s to blame them!) There’s much to be said about major studios, but smaller ones are just as good to work in. It just depends on one’s personality and tolerance level.

  • Fred Cline

    Chuck told Disney that the only job he wanted at the studio was Walt’s. If Chuck had stuck it out at Disney, maybe he could have had Walt’s job in a couple of years when Disney got busy with the park project.

  • Now that’s an interesting thought. What would have happened if Chuck Jones did somehow get Walt
    s postition? Perhaps a possibility that Jones would have bought the Looney Tunes shorts away from WB, and they would have become a Disney product?

  • Boris

    If Chuck had stuck it out at Disney, maybe he could have had Walt’s job in a couple of years.

    NOPE! Chuck will never be Walt! they’re just too different. Chuck evidently has his own world while, Walt – his imagination is just boundless. Who could ever think of building a theme park and manage a major animation studio at the same time? while Chuck made it great at Warners. They’re just two different personalities– the first letter alone implied a lot “I missed the sweetness of my own solitude.”

  • Jason

    And Walt sure as hell wouldn’t have bought anybody else’s characters. That’s the way the corporate deadheads who run Disney now do things. Walt would have continued creating his own characters, or adapting other works and adding the Disney magic to them. I hate that Disney is buying other properties. The more it does that, the more remote it becomes from Walt and the more it loses its luster.

  • Getting an insider’s scoop is always interesting. Of course, history is written by the people with the writing utensils.

  • Ron

    I would’ve loved to see what Chuck did with directing shorts at Disney. In his early years directing at WB, he was known as the ‘Disney wanna-be’. I bet he would’ve done a great job with the classic characters- Pluto, Goofy, Donald- in fact I always felt Chuck’s Daffy (as opposed to Clampett’s Daffy) was much more like Donald than other incarnations. What if Walt had let Chuck apply his design style to the films? One can only wonder- though we have a pretty good idea what it could have been judging by what he did with ‘Tom and Jerry’.

  • “What if Walt had let Chuck apply his design style to the films? ”

    I can’t guess all the details but I’m sure excess mascara would have been involved.

    I have heard one first-person account suggesting that the “Looney Tunes” aesthetic would never have had a home at Disney while Walt was alive: