Chuck Jones is one of the marquee names of American animation history. He created characters such as Pepe le Pew, Marvin Martian, Gossamer, Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, and directed classic shorts like Rabbit Seasoning, Duck Amuck, Feed the Kitty, The Dover Boys, One Froggy Evening, Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century and What’s Opera, Doc?, to name just a few. A lesser known fact about Jones is that during the 1950s he and his wife Dorothy (nickname: Dottie) were avid participants of the Southern California Western square dancing craze, a style of dance explained in this video:
Jones never spoke of his love for square dancing in either of his biographies: Chuck Amuck or Chuck Reducks. His appreciation for the dance never manifested itself in the films he made either. In fact, the quintessential Warner Bros. square dance cartoon, Hillbilly Hare, was directed by Jones’ colleague, Robert McKimson. Jones’ enthusiasm for square dancing was well known around the studio, however. He organized lunchtime dances, and claimed that the other directors, like McKimson and Friz Freleng, as well as producer Eddie Selzer, became fascinated with the dance as well.
Throughout the 1950s, Chuck contributed magazine covers and a regular column to a Southern California magazine called Sets in Order. Within the past year, the University of Denver Digital Archive has added a PDF archive of Sets in Order. (Go HERE for a more clearly indexed list of back issues). In the gallery below, I’ve compiled all of Chuck’s covers, a couple illustrated articles he did, and one of his columns which was especially animation related. Should you wish to dig through the archives, there are dozens of other “Chuck’s Notebook” columns within the 1950s and early-’60s issues. They’re esoteric and often obtuse, but are decorated with Chuck’s spot illustrations and provide some unique insights into his personality.
There are lots of hidden goodies in the columns that Jones wrote, and now that they are so readily accessible, they will hopefully be scrutinized more closely by historians. Animator and historian Greg Duffell introduced me to these drawings when he did an article about them in my ‘zine Animation Blast. In that piece, Greg pointed out astutely how some of Chuck’s drawings in the magazine foreshadowed the designs of characters who later appeared in films like The Phantom Tollbooth, Deduce You Say, Rocket-bye Baby and I was a Teenage Thumb. Whether you recognize the references or not, the drawings that Jones created for Sets in Order stand on their own and can be appreciated today as exquisite examples of mid-century cartooning.
All the material in here was drawn by Chuck Jones for Sets in Order which is copyright Bob Osgood.