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.”
Wasn’t Volus responsible for the only halfway decent animation in the Seven Arts shorts?
He also did the semi-decent animation to the last Lantz shorts. At least his animation didn’t get as bad as his old Disney colleague, Al Coe. It seems Les Kline’s animation “skills” rubbed of on Coe.
Though, I do wish Volus was back at Disney doing “The Aristocats” instead. Say what you will about the film, but it was pretty much gold compare to stuff at the other Walt’s studio by that point.
Volus Jones’ name doesn’t appear anywhere on the Cinderella draft. I wonder what he animated on it?
I strongly suspect that Volus was “selected” for the Cinderella publicity tour simply because no one else wanted the gig. The prospect of going on the road and dealing with the general public must have been terribly daunting to many of Disney’s artists. In my own experience, symphony orchestras can receive grant money if they take part in outreach programs that send individual musicians out into the community to speak and perform at schools, etc., but it’s like pulling teeth to get people to volunteer.
The press release makes much of Volus’s sporting background and gregarious nature, so he seems to have been a real “team player” and an asset to any studio where he worked.
What scenes did Volus do on the 1993 pink panther show
I wonder whether he did any at all. According to Jim Korkis’s article above, Volus’s last screen credit was in 1985, when he would have been 71 or 72. However, imdb.com lists him as part of the animation staff of the 1993 Pink Panther show, along with such luminaries as Preston Blair, Virgil Ross, Bill Justice, George Nicholas, Don Lusk, Don and Ray Patterson, Norman McCabe, and other animators from the glory days of Disney, Warner Bros. and MGM. All of these men were in their late seventies or eighties when the Pink Panther show was in production, and despite their stature in the field, none of them received a screen credit. This just doesn’t add up.
He didn’t. Those credits are fake.
I also bet that the IMDB listing for him on The Thief and the Cobbler is also fake. There are a lot of bogus animator credits on IMDB, and they cause me no end of frustration. I have deleted some, but it feels like there’s so many.
I can’t imagine what kind of shock it must have been to go from animating for Disney to working on those awful “Bozo the Clown” cartoons. The hardest part of watching our local “Bozo” show when I was a kid was that the show always opened with one of those damn things.
Has anyone ever figured out the origin of the name “Volus?” I’ve never heard of anybody else with this name and a dictionary search comes up empty.
It’s often confusing to understand Volus Jones’ work a couple of times during the 1950s, although his work at WB and Lantz are significantly easier to spot considering the hallmarks of his work pressed upon Limited Animation is front and center. Ironically, his skills were better than most of the animators he worked with during that time. It’s just harder to find his 50s work.