If you've ever enjoyed the animated antics of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Road Runner or Porky Pig, then you owe Chuck Jones a measure of gratitude.
Over a legendary five decade career, Jones became a giant in the field of animation as an artist, a writer and a director. Alongside his team at Warner Bros. Animation, Jones helped craft the personalities of several of the iconic Looney Tunes characters before eventually branching out into animated adaptations of Dr. Seuss' stories and even running his own animation studio.
While Jones also had a memorable stint creating Tom and Jerry cartoons for MGM, some of his earliest animated work centered on cartoon mice… who have been largely forgotten except by passionate animation fans. On August 28, Warner Bros. Home video will release Looney Tunes The Chuck Jones Collection: Mouse Chronicles, a two disk set on DVD and Blu-Ray.
This new release will feature 19 restored animated shorts directed by Jones that star the mouse known as Sniffles and the comedy duo, Hubie and Bertie. The set will also include a few bonus Warner Bros. cartoons that also revolve around mice.
Some of these animated shorts have rarely been seen, but Jones' trademark sense of humor makes them more than just a footnote in animation history. To celebrate the new DVD and Blu-ray release, we've assembled a list of The Top 5 Chuck Jones Mouse Cartoons.
Sniffles and the Bookworm
In the early days of animation, the Mickey Mouse animated shorts redefined the medium and other studios rushed to copy Disney's success. Before Warner Bros. Animation developed its own identity, it also jumped on the bandwagon with Sniffles, an innocent and naive little mouse who didn't always perceive the dangers around him. The Sniffles series has been derided as being too cute for Warner Bros., and Sniffles admittedly seems out of place compared to the rest of their characters.
However, the third Sniffles short, "Sniffles and the Bookworm" offers a tantalizing glimpse at some of Jones' earliest work. The animation is on par with the Disney shorts of that era and it definitely evokes a Disney-like atmosphere as Sniffles meets and befriends a Bookworm as well as an assortment of nursery rhyme characters before an impromptu musical number breaks out and Frankenstein's monster attacks. In this short, Jones and company also demonstrated their ability to tell a story with minimal dialogue; which served them well in later years.
The best part of this DVD/Blu-ray set is that it includes all of the Hubie and Bertie shorts; which marked a turning point for Jones and Warner Bros. animation. Hubie and Bertie may be cartoon mice like their predecessors, but they're also hilarious. This is where Jones honed his sense of humor and his storytelling skills as Hubie and Bertie came up with ways to psych out any adversaries in their path… almost as forerunners to Jones' more famous creations.
In "Roughly Squeaking," Hubie and Bertie convince a cat that he is actually a lion, despite ample evidence to the contrary. And to keep up the ruse, they also brainwash the dog into believing that it is prey for the lion before they make a clean getaway. Bugs Bunny may be a better trickster character, but Hubie and Bertie definitely pull off their cons with style.
"Mouse Wreckers" gave Hubie and Bertie a new foil in the form of Claude Cat. And the mice welcomed themselves into Claude's home before launching a campaign of psychological warfare against the cat as they constantly came up with ways to make Claude doubt his own sanity. Apparently, the mice were partially offended by Claude's reputation as an expert mouse catcher and they wanted to take him down before claiming his home as their own.
The highlight comes near the end of the short, as Hubie and Bertie fool Claude into thinking that gravity has somehow been reversed in the living room… and that reality itself has gone crazy.
Claude the cat returns in "Mouse-Warming" as he goes up against an unnamed teenage mouse hopelessly in love with the female mouse that lives across the living room. Harkening back to some of his earliest shorts, Jones uses no dialog at all during "Mouse-Warming" and yet the storytelling is perfectly clear through the characters' actions and expressions.
While the protagonist of this short doesn't have the personality of either Hubie or Bertie, he still manages to turn the tables on Claude by tricking him into pursuing the one thing that he wants most. And let's just say that there is someone in the household who doesn't reciprocate Claude's affection.
Oddly enough, the final Hubie and Bertie short finds the duo attempting to commit suicide via cat. "Cheese Chasers" opens with Hubie and Bertie having eaten enough cheese for many lifetimes… up to the point where they develop a serious aversion to the thing that they love most. Without any reason to live, they leave a farewell note and attempt to shove themselves down Claude's throat.
By now, Claude knows the mice well enough to suspect that this is some kind of trick. And Claude goes a little crazy himself trying to figure out exactly what their real agenda is, shortly before dragging the dog into their madness as well. It's not a grand send off for Hubie and Bertie, but it is easily one of the funniest cartoons from Jones' early years.