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Every Frame a Painting video essay on the evolution of the artistry of Chuck Jones and Looney Tunes


you may not be aware of just how brilliant the classic shorts were. Sure, Wile E. Coyote chasing after the Road Runner and Daffy Duck getting shot in the face over and over again was great, but could you put your finger on exactly why it was so appealing?

The latest video essay from notable movie dissector Tony Zhou (“Every Frame a Painting”) does an excellent job of breaking down the artistry of director and animator Chuck Jones, whose career with Warner Bros. spanned nearly 30 years. He focuses on the very detailed and intense process behind Jones’ creation of characters (their individual desires, for instance) and how they evolved over time. He also smartly answers a perfectly reasonable question: How did Jones and his cohort keep their recurring cartoons from being too formulaic or repetitive?

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Chuck Jones methods:

Two step humor: Assumption, proving it wrong - reality.

Amount of work put into character: What do they want?

Every desire is very simple.  The more simple, the more vivid the character.  You know what the character is thinking by the way the character moves.

Personality of the character: You know certain characters will do certain things.  Avoid danger of formula: discipline.  What are your disciplines?  The challenges and restrictions you set for yourself.  Think about what you won't do about the world, the characters, and their behaviors.

Character express themselves by using smallest possible facial gestures to get laughs.

All humor comes from: Human behavior + logic

How do you improve in understanding human behavior?  There is only one way, and it is not by watching films.  Have to have interests, real life, reading.  In other words, inspiration.

Human behavior can inspire both comedy and tragedy.

It's one thing to believe it, but it's another thing to be able to achieve it in art.

Definitely.  This feels like a subset of a larger framework.

It is. On that page I linked he talks about how every frame in Simon Pegg movies matter.

And how the director Scott Pilgrim learned the same lesson. 

I meant that Edgar Wright's choices feel like they are using a particular subset of the algebra of a larger system.  Film making technique of course, but I haven't seen a coherent system; I get the feeling that people in that field look at lots of examples of what works and doesn't and choose mostly intuitively.

Edgar Wright seems to follow the same philosophy as Pixar: Storyboard every shot.

Is that what you mean?

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