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The Dot and the Line

The Dot and the Line(1965)

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teaser The Dot and the Line (1965)

Charles M. (Chuck) Jones created some of the most enduring characters in cartoondom, including Road Runner and Coyote, Pepe le Pew, Marvin Martian, Michigan J. Frog, and many more. He began as an animator at Warner Bros. in 1934, working under such directors as Bob Clampett, Tex Avery, and Friz Freleng. When Frank Tashlin left the studio in 1938, the relatively young Jones took over his production unit and began his long directing career.

When Warner Bros. slashed their budgets for cartoons in the early 1960s, Jones left for MGM, where he picked up the Tom & Jerry series from directors Hanna and Barbera, who had gone into television production. Toward the end of his run at MGM, Jones co-produced and co-directed (with designer Maurice Noble) the unique one-shot cartoon The Dot and the Line (1965 - aka The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics). This cartoon was based on, and closely adhered to, a book by Norton Juster which told the story of a straight line in love with a dot; the line is in competition with a more exciting squiggle, however, for the affections of the dot. Jones and Noble had already had some practice in giving expression to geometric shapes - at Warner Bros. they had created the memorable High Note (1960), about the doings of a staff full of musical notes.

In his book, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, Leonard Maltin describes some of the technical challenges that Jones faced with this cartoon. "At one point a hairy line was needed, and this led to a variety of experiments. Finally Jones inked his line on Japanese rice paper, let it bleed, and photocopied the result onto cels." The Dot and the Line, narrated by Robert Morley, was a great success - it won the Oscar for best Cartoon, and it was picked up for showings in schools for many years.

Producer: Chuck Jones, Les Goldman
Director: Chuck Jones
Story: Norton Juster
Music: Eugene Poddany
Production Design: Maurice Noble
Animation: Ken Harris, Ben Washam, Tom Ray, Phil Roman, Richard Thompson, Don Towsley
Backgrounds: Philip DeGuard, Don Morgan.
Narration: Robert Morley.C-10m.

by John M. Miller

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teaser The Dot and the Line (1965)

Charles M. (Chuck) Jones created some of the most enduring characters in cartoondom, including Road Runner and Coyote, Pepe le Pew, Marvin Martian, Michigan J. Frog, and many more. He began as an animator at Warner Bros. in 1934, working under such directors as Bob Clampett, Tex Avery, and Friz Freleng. When Frank Tashlin left the studio in 1938, the relatively young Jones took over his production unit and began his long directing career.

When Warner Bros. slashed their budgets for cartoons in the early 1960s, Jones left for MGM, where he picked up the Tom & Jerry series from directors Hanna and Barbera, who had gone into television production. Toward the end of his run at MGM, Jones co-produced and co-directed (with designer Maurice Noble) the unique one-shot cartoon The Dot and the Line (1965 aka The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics). This cartoon was based on, and closely adhered to, a book by Norton Juster which told the story of a straight line in love with a dot; the line is in competition with a more exciting squiggle, however, for the affections of the dot. Jones and Noble had already had some practice in giving expression to geometric shapes at Warner Bros. they had created the memorable High Note (1960), about the doings of a staff full of musical notes.

In his book, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, Leonard Maltin describes some of the technical challenges that Jones faced with this cartoon. "At one point a hairy line was needed, and this led to a variety of experiments. Finally Jones inked his line on Japanese rice paper, let it bleed, and photocopied the result onto cels." The Dot and the Line, narrated by Robert Morley, was a great success it won the Oscar for best Cartoon, and it was picked up for showings in schools for many years.

Following The Dot and the Line, Jones created the timeless animated adaptation of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966), the first of many TV specials he would helm. Jones turned to television because the theatrical short subject was essentially dead. 1967, in fact, saw the release of the last of the Tom & Jerry cartoons, as well as the very last theatrical cartoon produced by MGM: The Bear That Wasn't. Ironically, The Bear That Wasn't was an adaptation of a 1946 children's book by Frank Tashlin, whose Warner Bros. cartoon unit Jones had taken over back in 1938.

Tashlin had a varied and active career following his initial exit from Warners after a brief stint as a gag-man at Disney Studios, he took over Columbia's cartoon unit, where he created The Fox and the Crow series. Tashlin returned to Warner Brothers in 1942 and directed some of the most highly regarded Looney Tunes of the 1940s. Also in the 1940s, Tashlin wrote several books on cartooning, as well as a pen-and-ink illustrated children's book, The Bear That Wasn't. The book, which became a bestseller, was a parable about individuality it is told from the point-of-view of a bear that, after a long hibernation, wakes to find that a factory has been constructed around his den. He wanders through the structure trying to remind everyone that he is a bear while being told by every dull-witted low, mid, and high-level executive that "You're a silly man that needs a shave and wears a fur coat." For all his success in the 1940s, Tashlin's real desire was to become a live-action director; he left cartoons for good and became a gag-man for Harpo Marx and Eddie Bracken, which led to a screenwriting stint. Following work on The Lemon Drop Kid (1951), Bob Hope gave Tashlin his first chance to direct with Son of Paleface (1952), and he went on to helm such comedies as The Girl Can't Help It (1956), Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957), The Glass Bottom Boat (1966), and no less than seven features with Jerry Lewis. Tashlin had several offers over the years to animate The Bear That Wasn't, but turned them all down until Jones came to him in 1965. As Tashlin told interviewer Michael Barrier in 1971, "I had seen the thing Chuck had made called The Dot and the Line, where they had taken a book and faithfully put the book on the screen. And that's all I wanted." Ultimately, Tashlin was less than happy with the end result:

I never went near it, 'cause I figured that was in the best hands. Why worry about it, [Jones] was gonna take the book and put it on the screen, and he was a very capable man. I went to see it in a theater, and the thing started, and I guess it wasn't into a minute and a half where they had done a thing that destroyed the whole picture, and that's why it never got anywhere. ...I almost cried. I never talked to Chuck about it, I've never talked to him since. It was a terrible thing. This bear, he goes to sleep under a factory, when he wakes up they try to convince him he's a [man], as you well know, and he keeps insisting he's a bear, and that's the point of it. Up front in the beginning of this thing, when they are telling him he is a man and he is insisting he's a bear, they put a cigarette in his mouth. Now, the picture was destroyed there, because by the acceptance of a cigarette - you never saw where he got it - by putting a cigarette in his mouth, he was already a man. You know what I mean? Psychologically, the picture was ruined.

As with The Dot and the Line and many of the later Tom & Jerry cartoons, The Bear That Wasn't was essentially co-directed by long-time Jones designer Maurice Noble. The MGM contract allowed for only one director's credit however. In a 1991 interview Noble modestly dismisses his contributions, saying "I would go in and check the animators, maybe sit in on a recording session. I was just all over the place, kind of pulling things together, ironing out a lot of spots while Chuck was going ahead with the next picture. I really don't recall a role as co-director. Someone called me the catalyst." Clearly, in both of the one-shot MGM theatricals, Noble played a key role in the fresh, modern look of the visuals. The characters, though whether human, bear, or squiggle bore the unmistakable stamp of Chuck Jones.

The Dot and the Line (1965)

Producer: Chuck Jones, Les Goldman
Director: Chuck Jones
Story: Norton Juster
Music: Eugene Poddany
Production Design: Maurice Noble
Animation: Ken Harris, Ben Washam, Tom Ray, Phil Roman, Richard Thompson, Don Towsley
Backgrounds: Philip DeGuard, Don Morgan.
Narration: Robert Morley.C-10m.

The Bear That Wasn't (1967)

Producer: Chuck Jones, Frank Tashlin
Director: Chuck Jones
Story: Frank Tashlin, additional story by Irv Spector
Music: Dean Elliott
Production Design: Maurice Noble
Animation: Ben Washam, Tom Ray, Phil Roman, Richard Thompson, Don Towsley
Backgrounds: Philip DeGuard, Don Morgan.
Narration: Paul Frees.C-10m.

by John M. Miller

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