Suspended Animation #279
Most of us are very unfamiliar with the personal lives of a generation of animators who were itinerant craftsmen who moved from studio to studio in order to find work.
Volus Jones was one of those men and he worked in animation from 1934 (starting as an in-betweener at Disney) through 1985 at studios including Harman-Ising, Disney, Columbia, Format, TV Spots, Warner Bros., Fred Calvert Productions, Bakshi, UPA and Hanna-Barbera among others.Floyd Norman who was an in-betweener on some of Jones’ animation work on Donald Duck cartoons in the 1950s recalled, “The guys who animated the Disney shorts never had the fame of The Nine Old Men, but you better believe me, they were darn good animators. Volus Jones was always a charming gentleman. Casual, relaxed, yet classy all the way. I’ll sure miss him.”
While working at Disney, Volus Jones tended to be somewhat over-shadowed by the other truly talented folks working in the shorts unit like Jack Hannah and Bill Justice among others.
Even so, Jones made many valuable contributions to countless classic Disney cartoons from Tugboat Mickey in 1940 to How To Have An Accident at Home (1956). Unlike some others in the shorts department, he also worked on some of the animated features. Usually if you were tagged as a “shorts guy” there was no movement over to the feature films.
His wife, Susan, worked at the Disney Studios in the Xerox processes department from 1966-1977. She had started at the studio as a life drawing nude model for the art classes.
“We used to fraternize out on the little lawn in front of the studio, and look at the pretty girls,” said Volus Jones, “It was like high school.”With Disney closing out producing theatrical short cartoons, Jones left in 1956 to work as an animator on the Bozo, The World’s Most Famous Clown television series and Q.T. Hush as well as Jack Kinney’s Popeye cartoons.
In 1967 he arrived at the newly re-opened Warner Bros. studio, working on Cool Cat and Merlin the Magic Mouse but left the following year to work at Hanna-Barbera .
After three years at Hanna-Barbera working on The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, The Harlem Globetrotters, The New Tom and Jerry Show and Scooby and Scrappy-Doo, he went to Walter Lantz studio but left when the studio shut down production in 1972.
He spent the rest of his career as a freelancer on everything from The Thief and the Cobbler to Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat to The Pink Panther. His last screen credit was as a director on Challenge of the GoBots in 1985.
Jones was born November 17, 1913 and passed away on May 3, 2004 at the age of ninety. But there was much more to Volus Jones than just his extensive animation credits.
In my disorganized collection, I recently ran across while I was looking for something else a press release that Walt Disney Productions issued to help promote Volus when he travelled to several U.S. cities to publicize the first theatrical re-release of Cinderella in 1957.
Here is that release that was given to newspapers in each city and it offers a rich portrait of this talented and prolific animator that I have never seen discussed elsewhere. With such an extensive career, I am sure that some of the people reading this column may have worked with Jones and can add even more:“Few artists in Hollywood know more about the fine art of cartoon and caricature than slender, athletic Volus Jones, one of Walt Disney’s top cartoonists since 1934.
“Jones worked on many of the characters in Walt Disney’s cartoon feature, Cinderella – among other films – which is one reason he was selected for a personal appearance tour of U.S. cities to delight audiences with his lightening-quick drawings and caricatures of the Cinderella characters.
“Another reason is that Jones is one of the most personable young men on Disney’s staff, and can spin a good story while he’s deftly applying the finishing touches to a caricature of, say, Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck.
“Volus was born in Fort Worth, Texas, the son of Mr. and Mrs. William and Mayme Jones. The young cartoonist-to-be left with his parents for sunny Southern California when he was seven years old, and the family has remained in the Los Angeles area since.
“He attended Compton Junior College in Los Angeles, and at one time contemplated a football career. He played baseball and football at Compton JC, and probably could have gone on to gridiron success in a major college.“Instead, Volus met an attractive young woman named Susan Daniel, and married her. Jones gave up football, but took up archery as a recreation. His wife shared this interest, and now Jones is among Hollywood’s finest archers.
“In 1934, Volus went to work at the Disney studio as an animator, and quickly displayed his prowess with crayon and pencil. His pet project for Walt for many years now has been Donald Duck. Volus can draw a cartoon of Donald almost as quickly as one can announce the famous duck’s name.
“Following his work on Song of the South, Volus reverted to further Donald Duck cartoon assignments before tackling his tasks for Cinderella. More recently he has been busy on Disney’s nature films for the Disneyland television show.
“Volus and Susan own a two-bedroom frame home in Burbank, not far from the studio, and are the proud parents of a daughter, Susan Anne, who was born in 1942. Volus jokingly relates that the Jones’ don’t have a swimming pool, preferring to use the pools in their neighbors’ yards.
“The artist got a big thrill when his old alma mater, Compton JC, won the 1955 Junior Rose Bowl, outscoring Jones of Mississippi 22-13. Volus is a friend of the Compton Tartars’ coach, Tay Brown, and often wonders wistfully if he could still make the team.
“Jones still plays baseball, however, functioning as an outfielder for the Disney studio ball team in an “A” major non-professional league. He also is an avid flier, and owns a Cessna 170 which is maintained between flights at Lockheed air terminal.”