Auctions | February 13, 2013

Original Chuck Jones Animation Art at Heritage Auctions

NEW YORK — One of the very early developmental sketches that legendary animator Chuck Jones made of Wile E. Coyote, dating back to within a few years of the character’s creation, is expected to bring $10,000+ as the lead lot of offerings from The Chuck Jones Archives, part of Heritage Auctions’ inaugural Animation Art Signature® Auction, Feb. 21, at the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion (Ukrainian Institute of America), 2 East 79th Street (at 5th Avenue), in New York City.


The 30+ piece grouping — with more than 20 pieces that come directly from the hand of Chuck Jones himself — has been consigned by Jones’ family, the first time since the 1990s that the family has released any “new” work. This is the first time that the pieces in the trove have ever been offered at public auction.

“There are few modern animators more famous, more popular or more influential than the late great Chuck Jones,” said Jim Lentz, Director of Animation Art at Heritage, “and this Wile E. Coyote drawing is one of the most important pieces of Chuck Jones artwork to ever be offered. While we can all look at this spectacular piece and see the character we all love so well, Jones did it as he was figuring out just who Wile E. Coyote was and what he looked like.”


The Chuck Jones Archives cut a broad swathe across the storied career of this most important of American animators, touching on most every major character that he helped place in the American popular imagination: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Marvin Martian, Michigan J. Frog, Sylvester the Cat and many more. It also includes samples of his work with Dr. Seuss on “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Horton Hears a Who,” his work at MGM on Tom and Jerry and his Academy Award-winning short “The Dot and the Line.”


Importantly, too, the trove highlights some of the lesser explored corners of Jones’ career, including comic strips, one-off animation specials and fine art paintings and drawings, showcasing the tremendous talent he possessed that transcended his sublime cartoon work. Within this section of the grouping are character studies and portraits, all done by Jones himself, in mediums ranging from pencil and watercolor to charcoal and mixed media, and all with estimates ranging from $2,500+ to $10,000+.


One of the most interesting wrinkles in Jones’ career was a short-lived daily comic strip title “Crawford,” which is represented in the auction with an original “Crawford” daily from May 2, 1978. It is expected to bring $5,000+.


“‘Crawford’ was introduced to the New York Times-Chicago Tribune syndicate on Jan.9, 1978,” said Lentz. “Few of his hand drawn ‘Crawford’s’ have ever come to market. The history of the ill-fated strip was detailed in the coffee table book ‘Chuck Jones - The Dream That Never Was,’ where this actual strip can be seen on page 173.”


A rare Jones original watercolor painting of Pepe LePew not only presents the character in a decidedly fragrant light, contrary to his foibles in the cartoon, but also showcases the artist’s deep talent, seamlessly blending color, line and subject into a charming and transcendent painting. It is estimated at $20,000+.


Of all the classic cartoons that Jones directed, it’s hard to imagine a more significant short than 1957’s “What’s Opera Doc,” voted the number one cartoon of all-time in Jerry Beck’s 1994 book “The 50 Greatest Cartoons.” The classic is represented in the auction by an exceedingly rare original production layout drawing of Elmer Fudd, in full Viking regalia, estimated at $5,000+.


The legions of Bugs Bunny fans will find a tremendous amount to celebrate in the grouping, with numerous drawings and animation cels representing the famous rabbit, one of the most popular of which is sure to be an original hand-painted gag cel drawn by Jones showing Daffy Duck as a magician pulling Bugs out of his hat. The drawing, which is expected to bring $4,000+, will be featured in the upcoming 2013 book “Chuck Jones: Drawing on Character - 100 Classic Drawings by an American Icon.”


Further highlights include, but are certainly not limited to:


1961 “Lickety Splat” Original layout drawing of Wile E Coyote drawn by Chuck Jones: Original Chuck Jones Production Drawing. Estimate: $5,000+.


1960 “Ready Woolen and Able” five original layout drawings in sequence of a classic Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner gag sequence: Drawn by Chuck Jones. Estimate: $6,000+.


1953 “Duck Dodgers in the 24-½ Century” background layout/concept art for the first appearance of Daffy Duck as Duck Dodgers and the first named appearance of Marvin Martian: Duck Dodgers was a take-off on Buck Rodgers and it introduced the world to Marvin Martian, one of Jones’ most popular and enduring characters. The artwork may be from the hand of Maurice Noble, who did the layouts for the film. A special piece of Looney Tunes history, estimated at $3,500+.


Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote hand painted studio publicity cel set up, on studio hand painted background, of two of Chuck Jones most famous characters: Hand-signed by Jones and one of the nicest Road Runner and Coyote set ups Heritage experts have seen. Estimate: $2,500+.


1995 Michigan J. Frog Set Up: In 1995, Jones directed the follow up to his legendary short “One Froggy Evening, called “Another Froggy Evening.” This specially prepared cel and background toured with a major exhibit that traveled the U.S. to showcase artwork form the cartoon. This is a one-of-a-kind hand painted “EXHIBIT ONLY” cel and one of the best Michigan J. Frog set ups ever. Estimate: $3,500+.


1966 “Dr. Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas” hand-painted production cel from the classic Chuck Jones holiday classic. Estimate: $3,500+.


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