Sunday, December 02, 2007

Chuck Jones

I think Chuck Jones' best character design is Wile E. Coyote. Especially the early version. This is from "Beep Beep"... the second cartoon? From 2. I can't find the first one "Fast and Furryous" from 48 or 49 where he looks even better.
Chuck's style was an outgrowth of the general 40s animation style, and in particular, Bob McKimson's. What Chuck did to the pears and spheres style was add more complex shapes, inspired by anatomy. He combined the two types of forms and created an organic style with complex variations of the standard cartoon shapes.
The Coyote's head is actually the same basic construction as Bugs Bunny's, but with much more extreme contrasts and a long elaborately constructed nose with interwoven 's' curves.
I like this period of Chuck's work, before he got too angular. The angles in these designs are softened at the corners which makes them feel much more alive, as opposed to being graphic symbols.

CHUCK'S EXPRESSIONSChuck invented some expressions that are physically impossible, yet we instantly understand them and empathise with them when we see them. A great use of cartoon magic.

These expressions are more specific than say, Disney expressions. Disney expressions tend to be more general and much softer. These Jones expressions are much more like feelings actual humans experience.

Look at the beautiful asymmetry.
Constructed, complex shapes, human emotion and organicness.
Jones' great posing and expressions elevated the roadrunner cartoons that had pretty much standard cartoon jokes. The Coyote's reactions and his thought process made the physical gags funnier because of the irony in his plans.

Here's Chuck's smug expression. This was funny a long time ago, but I guess this eventually morphed into our modern 'tude expression. It was funny when it meant something.

Now we just paste in onto everything for no reason.

These frame grabs are from the Looney Tunes DVDs. Note the super skinny itchy ragged lines around the characters. On a TV screen they jitter and strobe and really flatten out the animation. What a shame, because these cartoons are so beautifully animated and once looked smooth as silk.

Oh, remind me to tell you about the difference between invention and variations on a theme.

Chuck invented a few things, but he was a master at doing variations on ideas that he liked...