IntroductionThroughout his life, Chuck Jones wrote letters to friends, family, heroes and fools. Many of his letters were typed (with three or four fingers) on a manual typewriter, and a carbon copy stayed in his files.
In the fall of 1952, at the age of 15, I departed for boarding school in Arizona and started receiving weekly letters from my father.
Sadly, letters from my mother did not survive the intervening years. Most of my letters home, saved by a doting mother, did survive and are, by and large, unnecessarily dramatic and adolescent. Please forgive me, as I was, in fact, an adolescent. Nevertheless, most of my letters are similar in tone and content to any teen-age girl’s rants, and few are important to record for posterity.
Chuck’s letters, however, as is true of so many of his writings, deserve a public outing, and I have decided to share passages here, for those who might wish to get a glimpse of the 40-year-old mind of the man who was, at the time, directing some of the most memorable cartoons ever made: Feed the Kitty; Rabbit Seasoning; Don’t Give Up the Sheep; Duck Amuck; Much Ado About Nutting; Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½ Century; Bully for Bugs; Duck, Rabbit, Duck!; Claws for Alarm; From A to Z-Z-Z-Z; My Little Duckaroo; Beanstalk Bunny; Jumpin’ Jupiter; and One Froggy Evening… to name just a few.
Below, we’ll start with September 19, 1952…the day I left home.
September 19, 1952 (part 1)
[My mother and father saw me off on the train from Los Angeles to Phoenix (where I was to be met by someone I didn’t know) on the morning of September 19, 1952. I had just turned 15 and in a daze of mixed emotions, expectations, and fears, I set off on my new adventure…boarding school. This letter arrived a few days after I arrived]
As you read this I presume you are pulling out of Los Angeles station on your way to Phoenix and what will be a happy and exciting year for you. (and for me too, for this is the sort of thing that I so dreamed of when I was your age and I am going to enjoy every minute of it with you, just as if I at long last had this wonderful opportunity) “Opportunity” is one of those words I always have to look up in the dictionary, to see if it has one or two “p”s.
I’m afraid that I’m going to be unable to write the kind of a letter I’m supposed to write as a father to a daughter going away for the first time, full of “don’t’s” and “watch out fors” and “avoids” and “promise me’s”. I seem to just be full of love for you and delight for you and confidence in you. I find little room in my mind for in my heart for doubts about your ability to cope with any situation, critical or otherwise. There will be crises, some you will meet with wisdom and instant dispatch, some will take thought and some you will doubtless fumble…like other human beings, as different from machines.
Carl Stallings is in the next room writing the music for the next Pepé picture, the one set at the Paris World’s Fair of 1900. He runs the sound track on his Moviola and I keep hearing Pepé singing, over and over again, to the tune of “Billie Boy” (“Billy”?): “Can you kees a preety girl, Pepé Boy, Pepé Boy? Can you kees a preety girl, charmeeng Pepé?? I can kees a preety girl, ‘fore she can shake a preety curl, I’m a yong theeng and cannot leave my mo-thair” … I think it will be very cute.
[more of this letter next time…]