Chuck Jones (September 21, 1912 - February 22, 2002) was an American artist and director of animated films, most memorably for the Warner Brothers movie studio. He directed many of the classic short cartoons starring Bugs Bunny and the other WB characters, including the memorable What's Opera, Doc and Duck Amuck, which were both later inducted into the National Film Registry.
In his autobiography, Chuck Amuck, Jones credits his artistic bent to his father, who was an unsuccessful businessman in California in the 1920s. His father, Jones recounts, would start every new business venture by purchasing new stationery and new pencils with the company name on them. When the business failed, his father would turn the useless stationery and pencils over to his children. Armed with an endless supply of high-quality paper and pencils, the children drew constantly. Jones and several of his siblings went on to artistic careers.
Jones worked under Tex Avery and other great Warner animators, and then established himself as an innovator and storyteller. In addition to reinventing Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, Jones created such characters as the Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, and Pepe Le Pew.
Many of Jones' cartoons of the 1930s and early 1940s were lavishly animated, but lacking in genuine humor. Often slow-moving and overbearing with "cuteness," Jones' cartoons seemed to be an attempt to follow in the footsteps of Walt Disney (especially with such cartoons as Tom Thumb in Trouble and the Sniffles cartoons), until he broke new ground with the cartoon The Dover Boys in 1942. Jones credits this cartoon as the film where he "learned how to be funny." The cartoon is also seen as one of the first major attempts in animation to break away from the style of ultra-"realism" in animation. This was also the period where Jones created many of his lesser-known characters, including Charlie Dog, Hubie and Bertie, The Three Bears, Claude Cat, and Marc Antony and Pussyfoot. Despite their relative obscurity today, the shorts starring these characters represent some of Jones earliest work that was strictly intended to be funny.
According to his own views, Jones' major contribution to the cartoon genre was a profound emphasis on character and personality, which had been superficial in previous works. His reinventions of Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, and Daffy Duck, when compared with other director's work, support his claim: He remakes the characters into personality archetypes, most notably in the trilogy of cartoons Rabbit Fire (1951), Rabbit Seasoning (1952), and Duck! Rabbit! Duck! (1953).
Other notable Chuck Jones projects include the animated feature Gay Purr-ee (1962), featuring the voices of Judy Garland, Robert Goulet and Red Buttons as cats in Paris, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (animated version), featuring the voice (facial features) of Boris Karloff. He also directed a series of Tom and Jerry cartoon shorts but critics complained that, while lavishly produced, the characters were not any more suitable for his style than the characters' creators, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, would have been working on the Road Runner cartoon series. His animated short film The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Higher Mathematics won the 1969 Oscar for Best Animated Short. In the 1970s his most notable work was three animated TV adaptations of short stories from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Brothers, The White Seal and Rikki Tiki Tavi.
Like many modern cartoon legends, Chuck Jones never retired: he was an active artist and cartoonist up until his last weeks. Through the 1980s and 1990s (and until 2002) Jones was painting cartoon and parody art, sold through animation galleries by his daughter's company, Linda Jones Enterprises. He was also creating new cartoons for the Internet based on his new character, "Thomas Timberwolf". Jones wrote of contemporary animation as "Illustrated Radio."
Jones' intellectualism, writing ability, and capacity for self-analysis made him an historical authority as well as a major contributor to the development of the animation genre throughout the 20th century.