Chuck Jones.

Don’t get me started on the man. Ever since the tender age of seven or eight, I have been a rabid Chuck Jones fan — mainly due to the fact that he managed to breathe life into two-dimensional characters that noone before thought even possible. Nothing against the likes of Robert McKimson or “Friz” Freleng — or even modern innovators like John Kricfalusi (the creator of Ren and Stimpy, which I dearly love) — their contributions to the greatness of animation history are duly noted and I adore them — but Jones was The Man.

Before him, the characters of Warner Bros. and MGM were predictable stooges — he gave them personalities, which explained things in an archetypical way. From Bugs Bunny’s wile to Daffy Duck’s ego, to the modest earthy gist of Porky Pig, in a Jones short you knew these characters as well as he knew them, and our shared pleasure was watching them clash and tumble into bizarre resolutions. He had given each a seperate nature, and his humor extended from the almost endless permutations of their confrontations with each other. “Wabbit season, duck season”, anyone?

It may sound like I’m waxing a bit too philosophical on the subject, but honestly I don’t think so. Who else but Jones could take the hunter/hunted schtick of Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny to ridiculous heights like Rabbit Fire and What’s Opera, Doc? To this very day, I can’t get through that one without busting out laughing.

There just weren’t many people who truly understood animation before Jones, who took characters to be personages and not simply tools for gag generation, who managed to create some of the greatest animation moments in the history of the medium.

His deconstructionist and surrealist contributions have yet to be matched in mainstream animation. Someone has yet to completely redefine what goes on in an animated short to the extent that Jones did. I don’t know if that’s because Jones was so ahead of his time, or that animation as a whole has been so lazy since — maybe a little of both.

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