Fav Cartoon: High Note by Chuck Jones

It is rare to get an opportunity to get to talk about one’s favourite cartoon without sounding unusually nostalgic. So I couldn’t let go this opportunity to blog about it for the blogathon at moviemovieblogblog. Thanks for the opportunity!

Our love for emoticons, regardless of our age, is a sign that we find animated images very adorable. Okay I can’t say that about others but at least I know I do and include the gif trend as well. Of course this love has its roots in the Sunday morning cartoon of our childhood. Not that children don’t understand the laws of physics but what they don’t know is that they can’t be broken, so a world where animals speak, where one did not realise that they had walked off a cliff until they looked down, seems entirely possible! For one reason or the other I find these works of  imagination (and tenacity) always endearing.

1960 - High Note chuck jones

If I were to name my favourite cartoons the list would be long, and it includes a couple of mice, a couple of ducks and a dog — well two! But I know which ones were the most impressive. The one that tops the list is the animated short by Chuck Jones called High Note.

chuck jones animator high note

Jones is mostly known for the duels between two anthropomorphic beings that fight incompetently and without conclusion — say in Tom and Jerry or the Road Runner Show. Then there are those that won Jones’ his three Oscars. But a better representation of Chuck’s genius is High Note. It is cartoons like High Note that turned the entertainment of cartoons into an art form. Jones followed his act after another genius, Walt Disney. He was as industrious as Disney too. Did he feel the pressure to contribute to the legacy? If so it only triggered his genius. 

blue danube high note chuck jones

The film features the famous waltz The Blue Danube by the Austrian composer Johann Strauss. It is hard to say why Jones’ chose this particular waltz. There are three more compositions referenced in the cartoon,

How Dry I Am and Little Brown Jug are featured in visual as an album cover.

high note chuck jones missing

As the composer starts playing the song, he finds a sole note has gone missing. He finds the note drunk in the Little Brown Jug. What ensues is a struggle to capture the drunk high note and bring it back in the waltz. The form that the notations take seem like a creative burst of how perhaps artists visualise musical notes.   

img-high-note-chuck-jones-warner-bros-1960-234

High Note seems like a freewheeling exercise to understand the concept of a creative block.  The idea itself could have started in some stick figure doodling but how it progressed and the way it was utilised is the true beauty of this short film. 

Is it possible that what us mere mortals experience as earworm is experienced by artists too but instead of a song what their mind plays on loops is a note? The one I have heard is Robert Schumann hallucinating on an A in his final years.  Although I have no capacity for understanding how to even understand his trauma I can imagine this is how it could be visually represented. (Years after watching this short film in an episode of Seinfeld, George (Jason Alexander) gets a song from Les Miserables stuck in his head. And Jerry tells him that the composer Robert Schumann gets a note stuck in his head,) the reference reminded me of High Note.

The game of animation has changed since the arrival of CGIs. But it rarely reaches the height that the animation form in its early days achieved. Animation definitely is easier to create now and not there is lack of imagination as such either but I feel that these classics are definitely the golden days of the art form.

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