Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chuck Jones Experience, PART 1

A great reason to visit Las Vegas!
This last week my wife and I were invited as guests of the Chuck Jones family to attend the opening of the "Chuck Jones Experience" located at Circus Circus In Las Vegas. It was an amazing event attended by a who's who of Disney and Warner animation  artists and a crowd of fantastic fans honoring one of the undisputed pioneers of animation, Chuck Jones

Like my wife, the rooms were beautiful.
Patty and I flew out to the event arriving early Wednesday morning and checked into our spacious rooms at Circus Circus. Realizing that wabbit season was long over but the Chuck Jones Experience was about to begin, this pair of bunnies quickly burrowed downstairs.  We popped up at the event in time to see the Jones family gathering in front of the as yet sealed exhibit for a sneak preview of the event that would officially open the next day to the press and public. Chuck's gracious daughter, Linda Jones Clough, received the crowd in her usual warm fashion and shared family tales as well as insight into her dad's philosophy, "Of course Chuck made it very clear to us the he definitely did not want any sort of monument or legacy to be created about him after he was gone, " and added with a twinkle, "we of course completely ignored that." gesturing to the huge exhibit behind her. The crowd erupted into laughs and applause, then Craig Kausen, her son and a major force behind this exhibit and the "Big Draw" joined in with more tales along with moving anecdotes of his legendary Grandfather. 

Linda Jones Clough at the Preview
for the Chuck Jones Experience
One of the Classroom wall murals
With Linda and Craig leading the way, we were then treated to a private tour of the new facilities by first entering a classroom topped with video screens running non-stop Chuck Jones classics. Among the artistic equipment furnished for the budding artists, this room is filled with drawing tables, easels, rolls of paper and boxes upon boxes of chalk and markers. You pass a billboard sized blowup of one of Chuck's paintings on the far wall that the assembled animators and other artists were asked to sign and doodle which of course was an honor for us. From there we  viewed a top rate gallery showcasing some sparkling animation artwork.

There are works of other artists, (including yours truly ) that were created as a tribute to Chuck and are for sale in the Gallery. For me the main draw just has to be the works of Chuck's inspiring originals and limited edition works that you also have the unique opportunity to buy and own. These include original rough model suggestions of his famous creations such as Wile E. Coyote and Pepé Le Pew that are true collector's items. You can also pick up limited edition prints of his unique interpretation of the Warner tribe that were originally executed in oils. Hallways are adorned with fun and sometimes even thought provoking Chuck quotes such as, "I often dream that I am Bugs Bunny only to wake-up and discover I'm Daffy Duck." 

Craig and Linda invite you into a piece of Chuck's studio
One of the first stops is a movie theater that shows some of the most famous animated film from Chuck's mind. You quickly realize how much you miss these gems when compared to the slop that mascarades these days as cartoons. If you can tear yourself away from the fun, you'll turn a corner and find yourself in Chuck Jones's studio or at least a very accurate recreation of it including his animation desk and a few well stocked bookshelves he referred to frequently when creating his films. One thing I couln't understand, Chuck's desk is soooooo clean! I mean come on, mine is layered with erasure crumbs, push pin holes, broken pencil leads, paint splatters etc. I have a sneaky suspicion they cleaned it up for the masses because I seem to remember stacks of drawings, half used pencils, books etc when I knew and worked with him on a Bugs Bunny film in the late 70s.

Chuck Jones Experience Measures Up
Around yet another corner you will find one of the golden Academy Awards Chuck won while directing at Warner Brothers with amusing letters from friends ranging from Tex Avery to Walt Disney. You can also stand beside and take a picture with a lifesize Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck statues as they attempt to direct an off stage Merry Melody. If you ever wondered how you measure up to the original animaniacs, well here's your big chance. Linda took me to a stage where they blew up and cut out one of Chuck's comparative size model sheets and you can see how tall in the saddle or short in the stirrups you measure alongside these toon legends.

Colonel Blip model by Chuck
There is treasure seemingly around every corner and no matter how closely you look, you will nevertheless miss something. Also keep in mind that since this is a revolving exhibition, most likely there will be updates and new pieces the next time you visit the "Chuck Jones Experience."

Mike, Rob and Patty at the Steak House
That evening, after we had all enjoyed the marvelous sneak peek, we attended a suptous feast at the Steak House, rated as the number one steak resturant in Vegas and deservedly so. My wife Patty ordered the Prime Rib and being a lady, asked for the "petite cut". Not being a lady but rather a greedy slob, I went with the "Bone in cut" which the waiter said was a heartier serving. He wasn't kidding. When he brought around my serving, I thought the table would buckle under the Bedrock size slab which stretched across the plate.

Between gastronomic gags we were able to catch up with out dinner mates such as another of the key people responsible for putting this together and a wonderful friend Robert Patrick. We also broke bread and shared stories with artist Bob Elias, photographer Steven Russo, animator /director Rob Minkoff and his lovely wife Crystal Kung Minkoff. It's always a bit unusual but lots of fun to see animation folks in formal wear on the town instead of the usual jeans and t-shirts slumped over their animation desks. Rob and Patty look great as they get ready for desert but I'm definitely more comfortable on the other side of the camera. Now then where's my Créme Brulée?


  1. Dude, I am so jealous of you!!! this must have been amazing!!! I would love to go see that someday. I grew up on his work.

  2. Hi Steve. No need to be jealous of me, lol, just head on out to Vegas and enjoy it for yourself. I know what you mean, I grew up on his work too.