Today is Chuck Jones’s birthday. If he were still alive today, he would be 108! On his birthday, I have made it an annual tradition to take Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was off my bookshelf and re-read my introduction. It is hard to believe that this book came out 9 years ago!
I have never met Chuck Jones. He died in 2002 right when I was only beginning to discover The Golden Age of Animation for myself. But when I began researching the history of the Crawford comic strip for The Dream That Never Was, I got the opportunity to travel to the Chuck Jones Enterprises archives, and digging through boxes and boxes of drawings, cels, and notes allowed me to learn more about Jones that I had before. Couple that with meeting his daughter, Linda, and spending a lot of time with his wife, Marian, I really did feel like I had stepped into his world. The only thing that would have made it complete would have been to meet the man himself, but I was about a decade too late for that.
If you haven’t read The Dream That Never Was, it follows Jones’s career after he was unceremoniously let go from Warner Bros in 1962. He started up his own company, Tower 12, and worked with MGM to produce new Tom and Jerry cartoons, among other things.
Jones never really talked much about his post-Warner years. His two autobiographies sort of gloss over that period. This book goes into great detail about the Tower 12 years with the main thread of the Crawford comic strip as a guide through it all. Animation historian Michael Barrier, a man whose work greatly inspires me, says “Kurtis’s supporting text is excellent, the best account I’ve ever read of Jones’s career after he left Warner Bros.”
The book reproduces 99% of the Crawford comic strip. Most of the original art could be found in the CJE archives. We used syndicate proof sheets and newspapers for most of the rest, and in a few cases we had to use microfilm. Crawford only ran in a small handful of newspapers and most of them dropped it after a couple of months. Even through our searching we couldn’t find strips for two dates – May 18 and 20, 1978.
Recently, I found May 18, 1978 in the Santa Rose Press Democrat which had been added to an online newspaper archive! I checked the May 20 date to see if the other missing strip was also there, but it appears they didn’t run Crawford on the weekend. The search continues.
Here is the missing strip, seen for the first time since 1978, followed by some Chuck Jones originals that we couldn’t fit into the book.