Linda opens the Festivities
Neil receives his just deserts
The next day was Thursday, the official Press Opening and it was attended by hundreds of eager fans that had driven or flown from as far away as Florida to be here. Linda approached the mic and began, "I was seriously considering going to the rest room before coming up here." the audience muffled giggles." Now that I'm up here, I'm not sure I made the right decision." Everyone there cracked up and I mean howled for 5 minutes. Like father, like daughter, eh?
Linda then read a beautiful heartfelt letter written by Chuck to a then 1 year old Grandson named Craig that had many an eye welling up including Craig himself. Craig then commanderred the mic as he smiled, "Don't break the dam mother, don't break the dam." fighting the tears back with a smile. Craig then took time out to thank some of the hard working people responsible for this unique exhibit including Neil Cantor, Robert Patrick and John Ramirez.
The son Mel never knew
He eventually relinguished the mic to the talented Eric Goldberg and after a sutable number of hrrummphs and clearings of his throat, gave us an incredible dead on rendition of Bugs Bunny singing a section from Chuck's 1950 classic "Barber of Seville" finishing with a quick retort from Daffy Duck that Mel Blanc himself would have relished. I would be willing to bet that Eric must be a hoot at Karaoke.
We were also entertained to Chuck's lovely wife Marian Jones who offered her personal recollections of Chuck with such memorable quotes as, "The rules are simple, take your work, but never yourself seriously." Neil Cantor was honored by a hefty and heavy statue of the Coyote for his tremendous work in making this show a reality. I also had the chance to meet and spend a little time with the brilliant John Rameriz who was one of the artistic geniuses behinfd the nuts and bolts of asembling this exhibit.
Before we knew what was going on some of us were then ushered to stand against a wall. I wondered aloud why they hadn't at least given us blindfolds. Suddenly a battery of flash bulbs exploded looking like a fotographic-firing squad. I was relieved they were only wielding cameras as our retinas slowly sizzled away to tiny red dots in the solar flare of flashes. You know as I look at this photo I can't help but reflect on the physical differences between Animation artists and other artists. The 3 fellows on the left (Jeff DeGrandis, Eric Goldberg and Mike Peraza) are all Disney Animators and obviously haven't skipped too many of the free meals offered by Disney when in final production. Also when you compare their rather pale complexions to those radiating healthy tans on the right one wonders how often they escape from their desks to venture outside into the sunlight. Hey, it's just a personal observation and I could be mistaken in my conclusions. What's that waiter? Another Créme Bulée for me? Ahhh, the things one must endure for the sake of one's art.
Pepe LePhew for a lady from Texas
Can't turn down a chance to draw
Speaking of one's art, one of my favorite parts of the experience hands down (pun intended) was what we call the "Big Draw" on Friday morning. The Warner library of toons under Chuck's guidance are just plain fun to draw. Although most of the artists had left by then, Jim and Bob and I were thrilled to have the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people. I did my best at sketching out request drawings for the folks with characters from Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Wile E. Coyote to a Valentine for a lady from Texas with her favorite-Pepe LePhew and his gal Friday.
I would explain how I was constructing the characters while sketching and at the same time regaling the assembled guests with some some stories of my own that got em' laughing. Of course it's questionable whether they were laughing with me or at me. In the end of course all the credit goes to Chuck for having a strong hand in creating all these lovable characters we know today.
A Cartoon Culinary Delight
I was interviewed by another of the jovial Jones grandchildren, Tod Kausen when I was leaving and one of the questions he asked was what I liked about the exhibit. It would have been easier to ask what I didn't like. Chuck's career spanned over 60 years, more than 300 animated films garnering tons of awards including 3 Oscars! To be able to study Chuck's original drawings, see his paintings, both original and reproductions, watch his cartoons, tour a full life size fantasy world of his creations, enjoy a gallery of Animation Fine Art, lean over his personal desk and walk through his workspace and so much more. Well, I turned the tables and asked Tod to try to hurry the interview through, so I could take the tour again.
During this trip I also reflected that the first cartoons I had experienced were the Merry Melodies including some of the ones screening right there in the theater. They would be on when I went to school in the morning and back on to greet me when I got home in the afternoon.Of course back then we only had a black and white Television set (Thufferring thuckatash! ) but eventually I also enjoyed most of them again in full color in series like the "Bugs Bunny Show". Next to Walt Disney, Chuck Jones had definitely been one of the biggest influences in my life.
Bidib-bidid-bidib...That's All Folks!
If you are in Las Vegas, seen the shows, tried your luck but didn't drive away with the new Ferrari, you owe it to yourself to zip down to CIRCUS CIRCUS and see the newly opened "Chuck Jones Experience".
You'll be happily swallowed into the creative world of legendary animator Chuck Jones. You may even be fortunate enough to go home with your very own piece of Chuck Jones artwork, like I did. Besides the very collectable art, you can also pick up themed clothing, toys and my favorite obsession-books! Among the tomes I bought was a gem entitles, "The 100 Greatest LOONEY TUNES Cartoons" by animation historian Jerry Beck. Patty and I actually made the first purchase at the newly open exhibit but after enjoying the place we realized it was just the first of many more to come.