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Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood

Chuck Jones

Set your Tivos! Next Tuesday, March 24, is the premiere of Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood, a half-hour documentary on Turner Classic Movies. The film airs at 8pm (ET) followed by eleven Jones shorts and the feature-length The Phantom Tollbooth. Memories of Childhood, directed by Peggy Stern, is based on interviews with Jones from 1997. The documentary also includes new animated sequences by John Canemaker that bring to life moments in Jones’s childhood, as well as clips from his films and archival materials. To anybody familiar with the Jones autobiographies, the documentary won’t shed a whole lot of new light onto his early years (the biggest revelation is that he was physically abused by his father). Nevertheless, it’s a lovely presentation that’s enjoyable to watch and serves as a solid introduction to the master animation director.

For another viewpoint on the documentary, see this review in the NY Press by C. Edwards, which says:

The scenes with Jones, which feel like snippets that didn’t make it into a larger interview, are inter-cut with simple pieces of animation directed by award winner John Canemaker. Designed to draw parallels between Jones’ words and his career, the “newly animated” segments would be overshadowed by the work of Jones, which is probably why they show so little of it.

If you go to the linked review above, there’s also a lengthy response from Jones’s grandson Craig Kausen, who offers his take on the documentary.

  • uncle wayne

    Someone sent me this link….hadda share!:

  • Chuck was abused by his father? That’s news. I was always under the impression, he had nice parents. And wasn’t it his father who encouraged him to become an artist?

    This kinda sheds some light on Chuck always wanting Daffy to get “abused” in the cartoons.

  • Cyber Fox

    The fail about TCM broadcast is that Warner Bros. has put this documentry on the Tom & Jerry Chuck Jones DVD set a month ago in advance, so why bother watching the documentry on TCM if you can own it with his black sheep cartoons (the Tom & Jerrys he worked on), the only reason i could think of why you should tune into TCM that night is for The Phantom Tollbooth alone, as it hasn’t been shown on TV since the early to mid ’90s on Cartoon Network’s defunct “Turner Family Showcase”.

  • I asked Michael Barrier about Chuck Jones “abusive” father. This is what he had to say:


    Chuck’s father was eccentric, I think, but “abusive” sounds like an
    invention by someone who read Gabler’s biography of Walt Disney and decided that to be interesting, a cartoonist had to have had an abusive dad.



  • Among the many reasons for watching TMC this Tuesday, the Tom & Jerry DVD (for which this documentary is a bonus feature) is scheduled for release on June 23rd. . .three months from now!

  • In the documentary, Jones himself states that his father “used to beat the hell out of me”, that he was a “terribly disappointed intellectual” that would whip him “black & blue” when he didn’t get all ‘A’s’. And the only purpose he served was that he pulled Jones out of High School and put him in Chouinard because there was “no hope” for him.

    This comes as a bit of a surprise considering that his autobiographies always described his father as a supportive parent who cleverly motivated his children to take the initiative to self-educate themselves.

  • Bill Field

    No one – including Chuck, himself, have told the REAL story of Chuck Jones, his workplace abuse of Mary Blair, Bob Clampett and Art Davis, for starters… And rumors abound from the years he was ABC’s VP of Children’s Programming. I just think folks like Michael Barrier should point out ALL the inconsistencies, not just cherry pick ones that favor Jones – History should be portrayed accurately, and while Jones was “heaven sent” to animation, he was often hell on those around him.

  • Way back in the 1970’s when I first began my animation programs I rented THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH from MGM.

    When the film began the theater was packed. Could not squeeze an extra person into it.

    Ten minutes into the picture the place was near empty.

    I have never seen a film before or since that had such a negative effect on an audience.

    Jones is Irish. As the child of an Irish father I know what that means.

    To those who do not know it means the extremes of emotions in both directions (something I am conscious of in myself).

    My Dad used to beat the Hell out of me. He did it to the rest of my family as well. The most graphic memnory I have from my earliest childhood is my mother running in terror around the small house we lived in at the time.

    I tried everything to end his beatings.

    One day, in, of all places, Bram Stoker’s DRACULA, I discovered the power of laughter to erase pain (read Norman Cousin’s ANATOMY OF AN ILLNESS).

    I got it into my 13 year old head that if I started to laugh before my father struck me I would feel no pain.

    I engineered the biggest beating my poor father ever gave me.

    He put me over his knee, took a piece of wood from the woodpile and began to beat me.

    He beat and beat and beat and beat until he could beat no more.

    I had felt no pain.

    More importantly, he wore himself out.

    He never touched me again.

    But he still, perversely, took advantage of every opportunity to stick a knife in my back.

    On his death bed he told my brother, Richard, he was the last person on earth he wanted to see. He not only stuck the knife, he twisted it.

    As most of us know, abuse is the father of abuse.

    We have a responsibility to ourselves and to the world around us to not be the victims of our parents (my mother was a piece of work as well. As Alfred Gordon, Lord Byron put it, “I love my mother but I don’t like her.” Well, I do love my mom and, because I know the garden she grew out of, I do like her but it took a lot of doing on my part).

    This is sharing a lot of stuff that perhaps should not be shared. Unless, however, you grew up in the home Chuck grew up in, you really have no idea of the straits he had to pass through.

    Every time I see Bugs Bunny in GORILLA OF MY DREAMS I remember the day I wore my father out with the power of laughter.

    I love the sound of people laughing. It is the main reason I do these shows. There is nothing on earth like the joy of hearing people laugh themselves silly watching Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Bugs Bunny and all the wonderful rest.

    For those of you out there who are experiencing the straits Jones and I (and far too many others) have passed through, I have one piece of advice: FIND A WAY TO START LAUGHING.

    It won’t be easy, I know, but it is the most effective way to end the pain.

    And, for God’s sake, don’t blame your parents as they were the children of their parents going right back to the caves.

    We have the chance to become something new.

  • I recorded both this documentary and THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH (which I hope they get a DVD release for someday). I remember from memory that Cartoon Network used to show this film at one point!

    The documentary is somewhat short, but really nice. Really interesting tidbits that I didn’t know (like his abusive father being the basis for Father Bear)! The end was a fitting tribute.

    Oh, and while it’s not relevant to this topic, I also recorded MR. MAGOO’S 1001 ARABIAN NIGHTS (which came on right after TOLLBOOTH)! While not the best film, it still looks pretty, and the widescreen presentation is very good.