Video: “The Dot and The Line” by Chuck Jones, 1965.
Through out my boyhood of watching cartoons on TV, I always find myself staring at shows like the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, Bugs Bunny, and Daffy Duck, without taking much notice to the creators of these incredible animations. The front man behind stage, as it were, is of course Chuck Jones. Besides his impeccable timing for the movements of the characters, what makes Jones an animation Godfather is his sense of storytelling through these moving pictures. He’s able to make you laugh and cry in the same clip, for he understands the logic of tragedy inevitably always turn into comedy (and vise versa).
Jones is the prime example of the potential of what an animator can do. Not only as a means of personal expression, but also animation as the very reflection of our present western society. For instance, is not the destined failure of the Road Runner in catching Wile E. Corote the very same failure of (so called) democracy trying the keep up with Capitalism? Likewise, is not the erratic behavior of Bugs Bunny emerging as the inconsistencies within our western Liberal-domocratic Capitalism? One can say that the recurring theme in all of Jones’ short films is the problem of absurdity. Namely, the absurdity within the Modernist project which began in the late 1800s, during the Industrial Revolution. All of his cartoons deal with the deadlock of absurdity: of getting trapped in a cycle destined for failure (Road Runner), of having revenge for some trivial detail (Bugs Bunny), Of being insanity itself (poor Daffy).
Animation must become an art form once again. It must not be satisfied with its present frantic, unsanitary, dead humor. It must push boundaries once again as Jones did. And here “pushing the boundary” doesn’t mean making the grotesque public (like what most postmodernist love to do–Duchamp’s Fountain is the prime example). What I mean is we need to imagine a new narrative in which the multiplicity do not appear as separated from one another. A narrative that includes all differences, not in spite of these differences but because of them. Jones understood this in his animations: the difference of all the characters are essential to storytelling. The antagonism is what makes the character come to life. Maybe we should accept the antagonism as the primordial fact of living within civilization. Perhaps what we coined as the enemy (terrorism, immigrants, Godzilla, Aliens, etc.) is not really the enemy. Maybe it is the antagonism of a certain social deadlock that propels us to see the enemy as such.