The other side of Chuck Jones


The great animator Chuck Jones once said that the difference between getting a laugh and not getting a laugh in a cartoon could be one frame out the 24 that flashed past in every second. Jones knew everything there was to know about motion. There's a great moment in a Roadrunner cartoon called Gee Whiz-z-z-z-z-z-z (1956), in which Wile E. Coyote allows himself a brief look of triumph as he finally gets his Acme brand bat wings to work. It always seemed to me that what made the moment work was the absolutely perfect two-beat pause between the look and the inevitable crash into the mountainside. Not one beat; not three; two. That was Jones understanding motion. As it turns out, he had a pretty good grasp of stillness too. Here's a fantastic watercolor from the late 1950s, via Chuck Redux.