Art, Astoria, Museums and Galleries
Jul 15, 2014

The Chuck Jones Animation Exhibit, “What’s Up, Doc?” at MOMI is a Must See

Earlier today I had a chance to view the new animation exhibit at MOMI, What’s Up, Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones, and absolutely loved it. This is a (…)

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Earlier today I had a chance to view the new animation exhibit at MOMI, What’s Up, Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones, and absolutely loved it. This is a fantastic exhibit of Chuck Jones’s work—he is probably best known as one of the developers of Bugs Bunny for Warner Brothers (originally Leon Schlesinger Productions). At the exhibit you’ll see an extensive collection of 125 drawings, story boards, photos, production backgrounds, some animation cels, audio clips, and videos (23 in all) of his cartoons. It opens Thursday, July 19 and is at MOMI until Monday, January 19, 2015.

Awesome detail alert: we are the first to get this exhibit; after it’s done here, it goes on a thirteen-city tour through 2019.

The exhibit takes up the third floor (most recently, the amazing Jim Campbell: Rhythms of Perception exhibit was in this space). As you ascend the stairs, you see lots of interesting images, which tend to be some of the most colorful paper items in the exhibit. You may recognize some of the characters on display, too!

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As you move through the exhibit, you’ll encounter quotes by Chuck Jones, a section on the evolution of Bugs Bunny, videos of well-known Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, pencil tests, and more. The exhibit is divided into seven sections:

  • The Art of Animation Directing
  • Adapting Characters for the Screen
  • Bringing Characters to Life
  • Creative Experiments
  • Situating the Story
  • Road Runner and Coyote: The Art of the Gag
  • Chuck Jones Legacy

Things I learned today include:

  • Groucho Marx was an inspiration for Bugs Bunny (Groucho’s cigar and Bugs’s carrot have similar uses)
  • Chuck Jones created a cartoon especially for the film, Mrs. Doubtfire, with new characters Pudgie the Parakeet, and Grudge the Cat
  • Chuck Jones created animation sequences for Gremlins 2
  • It took a year to make What’s Opera, Doc?
  • He had an interest in abstract art

And that’s just a handful. And I hope you’ll get as much of a kick out of their use of the Comic Sans font as I did!

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Craig Kausen

While talking to Craig Kausen, Chuck Jones’s grandson, I learned that Chuck was very much about living life to the fullest and finding the joy in life. He really loved what he did. And the organization that Kausen works with (as Chairman of the Board of Directors), the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity, is using cartoons and other forms of creativity, to help seniors stay sharp and fight things like dementia. The research obtained through this work will be incredibly important for years to come.

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About 3/4 of the way through is a sizable screening room where they are showing some of Chuck Jones’s best work, including One Froggy Evening, The Dot and the Line, and Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. There is also some commentary by John Lasseter of Pixar. There is a carpeted raised area on which to sit as well as pillowy objects on the floor, on which you can relax back into.

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Also, about half way through is a video of the amazing What’s Opera, Doc?, probably Chuck Jones’s most famous work. It condenses down about 14 hours of Wagner’s Ring Cycle into a fraction of that time. You may remember the famous words from this piece, “Kill the Wabbit!

Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Looney Tunes Characters © & TM Warner Bros.

Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Looney Tunes Characters © & TM Warner Bros.

On a very personal note, I loved seeing the Carl Stalling musical score for one of the Road Runner cartoons. “BEEP BEEP” was written throughout, and it brought back many memories of watching those cartoons after coming home from school for the day.

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All throughout the exhibit I found myself smiling and just feeling good. It’s a wonderful display of creativity and an honor to witness one of America’s true artistic geniuses. We are so lucky to have his art and have it in such a fun format. I hope you can make it to MOMI for this amazing exhibit!

What’s Up, Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones
Thursday, July 19 to Monday, January 19, 2015
Free with Museum admission
Museum of the Moving Image
36-01 35th Ave, New York, NY 11106, (718) 777-6800

This exhibition is a partnership between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity, and Museum of the Moving Image.

About Meg Cotner

Meg Cotner was trained as a harpsichordist and now works as a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to Queens," and is a skilled and avid home cook, baker, and preserver.

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