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Will Finn Analyzes Chuck Jones

One Froggy Evening

Animator and director Will Finn recently watched the entire Warner Bros. output of Chuck Jones and has composed a thoughtful blog post analyzing the work of Jones. Lots of good insights throughout, especially this spot-on comparison between the work of Jones and fellow WB director Bob Clampett:

“Unlike his arch rival Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones wants to prove to us that he is smart, tasteful and always in control of everything. Clampett of course is ultimately “in control” too, but his genius is for giving the genuine impression that all Hell is breaking loose onscreen. Much like that other Jones, namely bandleader Spike, Clampett makes us feel (frequently throughout an entire film) that every person in his troupe has gone out of their minds. This never happens in Jones’ world because he won’t allow it. Clampett’s embrace is wider: he can grasp the highbrow world of surrealism in one hand and the lowbrow crudeness of burlesque with the other–he has no boundaries. Boundaries are Chuck Jones’ stock in trade, his main theme is pitting the rational against the irrational. Even when he adopts the point of view of an irrational character, (as with the Coyote), he only does so to mock himself.”

  • Keith Paynter

    An excellent read, and it helps me understand better why some of Jones’ work is so good, and yet why some of it is just so bad. I also agree with him on Bully For Bugs vs. One Froggy Evening. Excepting of course for the musical numbers, the short succeeds so well at being (to borrow from Jones) anti-“animated radio”, while similar dialogue-less shorts like the Roadrunner shorts (and “Ralph and Sam” for that matter) to me just seem anti-climactic.

  • I always thought the guy that brought the best out of Jones wasn’t a writer or an animator he collaborated with, but background genius Philip DeGuard. The more wild, free flowing and surreal the backgrounds DeGuard provided, the more irreverent and genius Jone’s direction, timing, and jokes would be.

  • Not only was Chuck Jones the greatest animation director of all time, he along with Billy Wilder were the two greatest Hollywood directors film has ever known.

  • Franklin

    Funny, Billy Wilder said the greatest Hollywood director was William Wyler.

    He was correct.

  • Karl Wilcox

    “Always in control”? Is there a better example of no boundaries than the Chuck Jones masterpiece “Duck Amuck”?

  • All due respect Karl, DUCK AMUCK (which I love) may be the most controlling cartoon of all time. Early on it is evident someone omnipotent (Bugs!) is deliberately (and brilliantly) unfastening the boundaries for the express purpose of irritating Daffy (who remains rational, though angry, throughout).

    Compare this to a runaway freight train like BABY BOTTLENECK (Clampett), where every department behind the scenes (layout, music, animation, direction most of all) seems to be veering wildly out of control just for the hell of it. Avery and Kimball go for this effect too, so I don’t mean to credit only Clampett, who I like just as much as I do Jones. It’s going to sound like a cop-out but I don’t expect or demand the same traits from each any more than I do my own kids.

    BTW animation artist Dave Nethery has a wonderful post on Jones featuring a hand-written letter from the man himself, which many will enjoy far more than my blather. It’s well worth checking out:

  • Will: I completely concur and want to give you a big high five on excellent observations all around. I feel like Clampett was more of a jazz musician with his ensemble and Chuck certainly was a more calculating composer when it came to arrangements of not only story, but animation and layout as well. Maurice and Phil DeGuard and of course Mike Maltese and the animators all certainly helped Chuck achieve a spirit of zaniness, but in reality, their work was incredibly calculated to hit every moment as they saw fit. It feels like Clampett really shot from the hip with confidence and the results are a true testiment to that sort of genius. It all proves there’s really no one correct way to make things sing.

  • I had the opportunity to ask Chuck Jones point blank about all the controversy that surrounded the creative relationship of he and Clampett. Chuck simply said “There’s a difference between acting crazy and being crazy, Daffy Duck is not crazy.”

  • Gray

    Chuck Jones is a director who can make great cartoons under the right circumstances. His timing and character frustration is excellent but it takes Mike Maltese to give edge and creativity to the cartoons. Chuck always strived to be the best and was intimidated when Bob Clampett and Friz Freleng were making better cartoons than him. He probably hates Bob because when the two were both directing, the Clampett cartoons were much better than Jones’.

  • Steve Carras

    Now anyone wanna talk McKimson or Art Davis?:)