Cartoon legend Chuck Jones dies
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Chuck Jones, the creator of some of Warner Bros.' most famous characters, including the Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, and Pepe Le Pew, died Friday at the age of 89, the Orange County Coroner's office said.
The animator died at home of congestive heart failure with his wife of 20 years, Marian, by his side, his family said.
"He was never rich, but he was paid enough to ... do what he loved," said Craig Kausen, Jones' 39-year-old grandson, who worked with him for the past decade in the family's art business.
Born September 21, 1912, in Spokane, Washington, Jones grew up in Hollywood, where he observed Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton while working as a child extra in silent comedies.
After graduating from Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles -- now the California Institute of the Arts -- Jones drew pencil portraits and sold them for a dollar each on the street. In 1932 he got his first job washing cels, or transparent sheets of celluloid, in the fledgling animation industry.
"He thought he was going to be cleaning in a prison," Kausen said.
Four years later, he became an animator for the Leon Schlesinger Studio. The studio later was sold to Warner Bros., where he was assigned to the team that made "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" cartoons. AOL Time Warner is the parent company of Warner Bros. and CNN.
He directed his first animated film, "The Night Watchman," at age 25. The six-minute cartoon used 5,000 animation drawings.
Later, he moved to MGM Studios, where he created new episodes for the "Tom & Jerry" cartoon series, co-directed and co-wrote the full-length feature "The Phantom Tollbooth" and directed the Academy Award winning film, "The Dot and the Line."
In his 60-year career, Jones made more than 300 animated films -- including the Peabody Award-winning special "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" -- and won two other Oscars, according to his Web site.
"Animation isn't the illusion of life; it is life," Jones once said.
Whatever the technical quality of the animation, Jones felt character development was the most important element in any piece, according to Kausen.
His grandson said the animator had no regrets about some of his now controversial portrayals of certain ethnic and racial groups -- including World War II-era films depicting Japanese with buck teeth and a small black boy named "Inky" who lived in the jungle.
"He looked back and said that was part of the time," Kausen said. "He wouldn't agree that is appropriate not to show them, because it is part of history. ... He never portrayed anybody as a lesser of a person."
Two years ago, Jones set up the Chuck Jones Foundation to encourage the proliferation of classic animation and art and provide promising art students with scholarships and grants.
A memorial for the animator is planned in Newport Beach, said a statement from Linda Jones Enterprises, a company run by Jones' daughter, Linda. Private services will be held for family members only.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Jones is survived by three grandchildren.
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