10 Greatest Chuck Jones Short Films

Spencer Smith ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Chuck Jones may arguably be the most influential, if not, the greatest artist in American Animation. Today marks, what would be, Jones’ 104th birthday and we have been without The Father of Contemporary Animation for 14 years, his films will likely remain for many, many years. So today let us run down the cream of the cream of the crop. The Best of the best of the best. The crème de la crème de la crème. For when Jones made a film it was above most others, yet when he made a masterpiece (and he made many) it stood towering above the lot. Though it is hard to separate some of the greatest works in all of animation, we’re going to try. Though it’s hard to rank lists like this, assume that we are going from most masterful to the mostest of masterful. Yet before even that, here are some other wonderful shorts by the master to check out!

10. Hair­-Raising Hare (1946)
Hair-Raising Hare. Warner Bros.
In many ways, Hair-­Raising Hare actually represents the majority of Jones’ earliest work. Though Jones had hit a great stride during this time period, he wasn’t quite the Chuck Jones that we know nowadays. It isn’t to say that Jones’ earliest works were bad, but rather they couldn’t usually be anything more than great gag after great gag. Still, there was always something truly joyous seeing Jones when he simply laid down great gag after great gag. Case of the Missing Hare was also up for this spot when picking from Jones’ early 40s work but Hair­-Raising Hare deserves a spot solely do to its comedy factor. It’s Jones simply having the time of his life playing around with classic gags. Most notable is Bugs asking the audience if “there’s a doctor in the house” and a silhouette stands up to announce his credentials. Thus, “Ehhhh, what’s up Doc?”. A comedy masterpiece.
9. Fast and the Furry-ous (1949)
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Fast and the Furry-ous. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
Jones’ most famous “original” characters were undoubtedly Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner. Everyone who grew up on these classic cartoons always remember the two iconic characters perhaps most fondly. It’s the most seemingly simplistic and even predictable of the classic characters. We almost always know how the coyote will fail and yet we never tire. Jones’ rules and discipline ultimately make it timeless. While it was tempting to include more Wile E and Road Runner adventures, it’s the introduction that is remarkably in full form, there they are just as they should be. Most Looney Tune characters had to develop over time, yet the image of the Coyote and the Roadrunner were always the way they are now. It’s only fitting.
8. Long-Haired Hare (1949)
Long-Haired Hare. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
Thus we get our first glimpse at Jones’ love for lampooning music, particularly classical music. There of course are three notable musical films in Jones’ works (wink, wink). Thus we start with Long-­Haired Hare, which is perhaps most famous for it’s climatic sequence in which Bugs, disguised as ‘Leopold’ manages to torture an egotistical opera singer to the point where his face is going through all the colors in a color pallette. Oh and so that the entire stadium collapses on his face. Yet Jones seems to also use this short as a comment on the relationship between classical music and popular music, and though Jones knows that the works of say Wagner are of a whole different calliber, it doesn’t jusitfy condemning popular music. After all, Bugs sings along with a banjo while the increasingly incensed Opera Singer becomes horrified that he starts singing along. So Jones shows, with that famous ending, never underestimate what a Banjo can do.
7. Feed the Kitty (1952)
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Feed the Kitty. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
If everyone based the quality of art on it’s adorable factor, then Feed the Kitty would be the greatest film ever made. It’s Jones’ most adorable work, one that simply tickles your heart and funny bone too. After a thugish bull dog discovers the single cutest kitten ever drawn by man, he instantly falls into a motherly love with the cute little thing. Yet, since his owner doesn’t want him to bring anything new to the house, he tries to keep the kitten secret. What follows is the typical Chuck Jones splendor, yet it’s heart is what elevates it beyond a simple slapstick situation. Jones actually never intended to make the film evoke a sense of pathos, yet much to his surprise, the audience he saw it with was moved to tears by it’s sentimentality.

6. Rabbit of Seville (1950)
Rabbit of Seville. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
The second in Jones’ musical ode to the greats and, as the title suggests, the music is that of Rosini’s Barber of Seville. Jones said that the goal in Seville (and a certain other “opera cartoon”) was to both parody/play the original while also inserting jokes that went with the music. This gives Seville a unique quality that can’t be found in other cartoons, nearly the entire film is timed to the music. Though occasionally Bugs and Elmer get some lines, most of the film is conveyed through synchronized action. This offers a sense of comic wonder, Jones is like the maestro of his film. The funniest moment in the film is when Bugs gives Elmer a head massage and a full head of flowers from ‘Figaro Fertilizer’ and all to the now famous melody of “da da da dah dah dah da­da­da daaaaaa”.

5. Duck Dodgers in the 24 1⁄ 2 Century (1953)
Duck Dodgers in the 24 1⁄ 2 Century. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Before there was the awful spin­off TV show, there was the original masterpiece of Duck Dodgers in the 24 1⁄ 2 Century. If anything it could be called the first truly great science fiction comedy and like great science fiction, Jones uses the future to talk about the present. Daffy is Duck Dodgers in the century between 24 and 25, and seeks out Planet X to claim it but runs into Marvin the Martin who wants to take the planet for Mars. What follows is Dodgers’ attempts to defeat Marvin, and completely failing to do so without the help of Porky as his First Cadet. The not so subtle parallels of Daffy to the US and Marvin to the Soviet Union are quite clear. Dodgers uses ACME products, of which result in some of Jones’ greatest gags. Including Marvin suddenly shooting Daffy from inside a spy monitor. Eventually it culminates with both sides using their super weapons which ultimately obliterates the Planet. Jones’ statement, that this conflict eventually destroys the goal, doesn’t get through to Daffy “America” Duck, who pushes Marvin off of the last inch of Planet X remaining.
4. The Hunting Trilogy (1951), (1952), (1953)

Rabbit Fire. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
“Rabbit Season! Duck Season! Rabbit Season! Duck Season!” and on and on it goes. On the most iconic lines from the original Looney Tunes run was that exchange along with the middle entries’ “Run through that again”. The Hunting Trilogy makes up three shorts which all revolve around Daffy trying to get Elmer to shoot bugs. Respectively they are Rabbit Fire, Rabbit Seasoning, and lastly Duck! Rabbit, Duck! The first two are very well known but Duck! Rabbit, Duck! is often forgotten despite it being an astounding bit of slapstick as well as containing perhaps the single funniest Daffy moment there is. After the routine of Daffy being shot countless times, he suddenly… snaps by screaming the following:
Pure comedy gold.
3. What’s Opera, Doc? (1957)
What’s Opera, Doc?. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Placing Jones’ magnum opus at number three on this list may sound shocking. Even for the master there are times when you can see the cracks within the gold, after all, Jones was shoving one of the single greatest composer’s works into a seven minute cartoon. Also, then again, what a glorious seven minute cartoon it is, and one that defied everyone’s expectations of short form animation back in its release. The film required a great extra amount of work from Jones and his animators. They spent more time on this short than perhaps any other, and the result is one of grandiose and sentimentality. The placement of Bugs and Elmer in the original roles is hilarious yet, remarkably, never sells Wagner’s original piece short. It’s handled with the grace and boldness of a master. The way Jones brings classical music to contemporary animation is breathtaking, awe­inspiring, and ambitious to a fault. It certainly aspires to be the best, an admirable thing, but there are two other of Jones’ works that might even outdo it.
2. One Froggy Evening (1955)

One Froggy Evening. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
If you happen to be one of those people who see the dancing frog above, yes, this is where the “Hello Mah Baby” Frog came from. Now go watch it immediately. The frog is named Michigan and is discovered one day by a poor construction worker who tries to profit from this spectacular amphibian but finds that whether by accident or on purpose, the frog only sings for him. One Froggy Evening was called “the Citizen Kane of animated film” by Steven Spielberg, and he isn’t necessarily wrong. It didn’t invent new concepts but it pushed the limits of animation as an artform, notably in how animation doesn’t need words. Jones, when making this film, enforced one main discipline onto himself: have no dialogue except for the Frog’s songs. Thus magic happened. One Froggy Evening shows the beauty in animation, how expressive it can be and how it can be pushed into any direction. Within is a modern American fable, a cautionary tale about greed and a sad portrait of something wonderful (the Frog) being unable to show his talents to the rest of the world. Though he gives his heart into every performance, only one person can hear it and that person doesn’t want to hear it but to sell it. A magical fairy tale of the age, one that would cement its place above most of Jones’ works. However, there is one film that, with hindsight, might be more important than any could even imagine.
1. Duck Amuck (1953)
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Duck Amuck. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
People sometimes forget that animation is nothing but a bunch of drawings. Nothing on the screen is actually real, it is, in many ways, alien to us. Jones took that as a challenge. In their Top 50 Cartoons, 1,000 animation professionals declared What’s Opera, Doc? number one with Duck Amuck in second. Yet Duck Amuck is arguably Jones’ finest film, an animated masterpiece even by his standards. Jones asks us who Daffy Duck is, and he wouldn’t be satisfied with something like appearance or voice. No. It simply isn’t just the animator, Daffy became his own being, free of his creators. The animator, Daffy’s metaphorical God, robs Daffy of his environment, body, voice, species, even his reality. Daffy’s battle for his identity becomes existential. It’s a battle we all face in our lives, and yet we see the ultimate frustration in Daffy’s struggle. It’s a film that explored the very concept of a character and what makes that character a character. It’s ironic. While Jones accomplished a grandiose satire with Bugs, it is in Daffy instead where Jones explores our almost simplistic id. Jones pushed the boundaries of animation not just with the animation itself, but what was possible with the medium. Chuck Jones reportedly said, “Bugs is who we want to be. Daffy is who we are.” It’s only fitting that Daffy’s struggle for recognition and fame reflects humanity’s own struggles, and ultimately reveals more about animation than perhaps any other film could. Something only the master of American animation could achieve.

Honorable Mentions:
The Scarlet Pumpernickel, The Dover Boys, For Scent­imental Reasons, Haredevil Hare, The Ducksters, Robin Hood Daffy, Case of the Missing Hare
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