Friday, 21 September 2012

Charlie Jones' Charlie Dog

Animation sites and blogs aplenty are marking the 100th birthday of Charles Martin Jones today. I’ll leave to others an analysis of his evolution as a cartoon director but will remark there was a wonderful period in the mid-1940s to the early-‘50s where he didn’t try to use art to impress the viewer, he used it in an equal measure with comedy and acting, at times very subtle acting. That’s when he made some of best cartoons in Warner Bros. history.

There was no mistaking they were Chuck Jones cartoons, either. They had poses that screamed Jones. For example, would you find this shot in a Bob McKimson cartoon?

That, of course, is Charlie Dog. Though you have to wonder: Jones insisted that each of his characters represented a part of himself. Does that mean Charlie Dog represented the side of Charlie Jones that craved for acceptance but kept being rejected? Was Charlie Dog the insecure part of Jones? Did Charlie disappear from the screen because Jones’ ego overpowered his insecurity?

Oh, here I am analysing when I said I wouldn’t. Let’s look at a cartoon instead.

Charlie Dog was one of several characters developed by Jones’ writer Mike Maltese in that fine period who never became real stars. They headlined a number of cartoons before Jones moved on to something else.

Charlie’s cartoon “Dog Gone South” (released in 1950) featured some smear animation. Ben Washam and Lloyd Vaughan both animated on it and both were known for smears. Here’s one from the start of the cartoon when Charlie is kicked off a train. There’s some nice acting here, too. Charlie sniffs a flower then puts it in his hair.

Another smear.

Smear with banjo. Another fine expression in the last frame.

I like this effect at the end of the cartoon. Brush lines and multiples as Charlie zips into the scene.

Besides Washam and Vaughan, Ken Harris and Phil Monroe animated on this cartoon, along with Emery Hawkins.


  1. Charlie's an interesting case, since while Jones and Maltese made him their own, his v 0.9 prototype was created by Bob Clampett and Warren Foster for 1941's "Porky's Pooch".

    The main difference initially (and, given how the two directors are portrayed, surprisingly) is that while the original B&W cartoon has a 'happy' ending, Chuck and Mike (and/or Tedd Pierce) opted for a far more cynical (and funnier) ending for "Little Orphan Airedale" that cemented the idea that Charlie was going to be an annoying pest to his master forever.

    The long-term problem was in coming up with varying scenarios for a character who had limited, albeit enjoyable, schtick. "Dog Gone South" was a way to try and vary the Charlie-Porky formula that had run its course (and on the positive side, Chuck didn't push the premise beyond the breaking point, as he would with the Pepe LePew series that started at roughly the same time).

  2. Charlie wasn't Chuck's idead, it was Bob Clampett's creation.

  3. "Animation sites and blogs aplenty are marking the 100th birthday of Charles Martin Jones today." And today (a very short day later), I'll be doing on with a article on one of his last good shorts, "Chow Hound", given his stature. Anony., J.Lee wasn't trying to deny that it was Bob's, but that the dog uised wasn't the same character used five years later by Jones..Steve


  4. And here is my article on "Chow Hound", released a year after "Doggone South"