Again, sorry for the late update. It's finally winter vacation for me, so I should be able to update more often : )
Disclaimer: I do not own Looney tunes
It took every ounce of self-control in me not to grab my flash drive and walk right out the studio doors. At this point, anything would be better than staying here and still be stuck in this prolonged silence, the entire animation board staring at me.
Mel had given me a text about an hour before, saying how instead of the standard single member viewing my work for the week, the entire team wanted to check on my progress.
Now, I wouldn't call myself shy, I could talk and meet new people just fine. But that was still a bit different taking something you put your heart and soul into, knowing it wasn't perfect and that you were still learning, and presenting it in front of professionals who had been doing bigger and better projects for as long as you had been alive.
The piece of animation Bugs had convinced me to finish the week before was supposed to be short, and funny. However, even before I finished it I had my doubts. What I considered funny could be entirely different than what the board found funny.
Heck it was hard to say if they found anything funny, cuz with the exception of Mel, who chuckled a little bit (for my sake or legitimate I'm not sure), these people were watching completely stony faced.
I wonder if the presence of bugs had anything to do with it. When he had walked in the room, they had turned to him and a few waved, the younger ones that were probably a little star struck because they had never worked with him up close, and the older members turned tight lipped and barely acknowledged he was there. He simply pulled up one of the giant cushioned seats and propped his large toonish feet on the glossy table surface. Part of me wanted to laugh at how casual he was, when I was close to throwing up out of nerves.
I was surprised that he had followed me to the meeting. He seemed like the type of guy who was busy and would take the welcome break from tutoring me when he could. Instead he chose to stick around.
When I voiced my confusion he simply offered me a snarky grin and ruffled my hair again, saying he wanted to show some moral support for me as I faced the 'doom squad' as he called it. Looking at their Easter Island head impressionistic faces now, I understood completely and appreciated it.
God, what did they want me to do? Throw myself on the floor and chant 'I am not worthy?'. I had already introduced the project modestly, saying it wasn't the best and needed more work and expertise but was alright by me.
Jeez give me a sign, did you like it? Did you not like it? What could I do to make it better, SAY SOMETHING PEOPLE!
Finally, Mel stopped playing the animation over and over again so everyone could drink in every little unprofessional drop of it.
One of the older members, Annie from the looks of her nametag, steepled her fingers and leaned on the desk.
"Well," she said her lips quirking in a smile that didn't quite meet her eyes, "Wasn't that quaint."
I stiffened, my grip tightening on the apolostry of the chair I was standing next to (sitting just made this whole process worse, I had learned that a while ago) and struggled to swallow my own pride.
Breathe Jessie, she's being critical, that's what you want. Its only gonna make you better in the long run. She didn't have to be a bitch about it, but hey, you run into those occasionally.
For my own sake, and knowing my sharp tongue probably hers, I kept my mouth shut and waited, knowing there was more she wanted to say.
"But I'm not really sure what the point is with the tree towards the end. The character is running, and you had a well animated cycle for someone of your age and experience, and you established that they are running from something chasing them. So why add the tree at the end and have them stop short?"
The other animators murmured their agreement, and Mel looked somewhat exasperated.
"The character runs into an overhanging tree limb. I was trying to make it look abrupt….It was supposed to be funny." Nothing killed a joke like explaining the punch line. Bugs seemed to agree with me, because I could see him give the woman a flat look and while out of sight of the other animators, pointed a sign that had a picture of a snail and the word 'slow' under it behind her back.
I pretended to brush at an itch under my nose to cover up a smile.
Annie 'hmmed' with understanding, and jotted a few things down like the others did. I tried to catch Mel's eye so I could determine if it was her and she had missed the general way comedy went in warner brothers cartoons somehow, or if it was…me.
At this point it wouldn't surprise me. As defensive as I was getting with the criticism I knew she was right. The piece was a mess, just like I had thought it was when I was avoiding working on it. The lines were jumpy, the movements were choppy, and my timing was off. But I had felt somewhat better after bugs and Mel had told me that was okay, it showed I was still learning and that it would come with time and practice. But Annie had, in just a few words and less than impressed look swept that reassuring rug out from under me and now I was staring up at her on a cold hard floor of facts.
I was an amateur, and no matter what I did she was not going to be impressed with anything I did. She had seen it all, and the sooner I realized that the better. The sooner I told her I realized that also meant she might stop talking and just let me leave for the day.
"Well...it's far from perfect. I know that,"
Annie nodded her agreement a little too quickly, and the other animators slowly nodded with her, looking at me curiously to see if I had anything else to say.
"Your right…the tree is a bit random and doesn't really fit in with the scene. It had seemed like a good idea at the time but maybe for a separate short…"
Oh, who was I kidding.
"Alright, it's a mess. I'll be the first to admit that." I finally said with a sigh. I knew it was true, I might as well stop beating around the bush and stop being so gosh darn defensive of it. It didn't deserve it.
"I wouldn't say that," Mel piped up immediately, leaning back in his seat and taking a sip of his coffee, "Taking chances like you did with the tree gag takes guts, even for professional animators. Your storyboard and concepts are strong, and the drawing and timing will come with practice. It always does."
Alright, now I was confused. Did they like it, or did they not like it. At this point I wasn't sure what to do, it seemed like Mel wanted me to stand by my work but Annie wanted me to show humility and admit it was rough.
I shrugged off the compliment, not sure how to handle it anyways since I wasn't used to getting them, "I appreciate your saying so. I am still learning, and I can probably spot a hundred thins wrong with the piece but…I learned when I was doing this. That's probably its one saving grace."
Bugs was staring at me with a weird look on his face, arching his eyebrow and tilting his head as if to say 'where's the spitfire Jessie I've come to know?'
She's being downsized by one of the biggest committee of animators at the moment. Please leave a message after the 'Get over it!'
The board jotted a few more things down, and as they gradually gathered their things and made their way to the door, a few cast me a few sympathetic smiles, most, like Annie, completely ignored me and sipped their coffee as they left.
Mel patted my shoulder and smiled at me before he walked out,
"Despite it being rough, I truly enjoyed watching your work. I stand by what I said a few weeks ago, You've got spark kid."
I wasn't really in the mood to hear that. I didn't really feel sparky, you know?
Before I could answer I felt bug's furry arm wrap around my shoulders,
"That's my JJ! Sparkier than a firework on independence day."
I scowled, ever since that fateful call with my brother and I had been unable to get him to stop calling me anything else. I tried to shrug out of his grasp but the guy had a grip like the jaws of life when he wanted to,
"Jessie. Je-ssie! Not JJ!"
"Whateva you say," he smirked knowingly, " JJ."
I wasn't even trying to be discreet about it anymore in front of Mel, who looked like he was trying very hard not to laugh anyway, and was outright pushing at bug's face and face to get him to let go. Damn rabbit wasn't even phased, just looked vaguely amused at my efforts.
"Well then. As fun as this get together has been, as the kids mentor I'd like to take a turn at telling her what I think." Bugs made a shooing motion with his hand and Mel chuckled.
"Fair enough, good to see you again Jess. I look forward to seeing more work in the future."
The man picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder, exiting the room. And that left two.
Bugs hopped so he was sitting cross legged on the table surface, munching on a carrot casually.
"So," He started, arching an eyebrow, "Ya mind telling me what that was all about?"
I had a vague idea of what he was referring to, but I wasn't going to give him the satisfaction. I pretended to be oblivious.
"What was what all about?" I said, turning to unplug my flash drive from the projector and putting it in a pocket of my bag.
"C'mon JJ, your rolled over and gave up faster than any dog I've ever seen," He folded his arms and tapped his arm as if irritated, "That's not the JJ I know."
Funny how he already assumed he knew me after just a few weeks. He had a lot to learn.
I gave him another scowl, "They made good points and I was acknowledging that. I'm a beginner, I'm not gonna be perfect and I might as well get used to criticism. There's a difference between being stubborn and being stupidly defensive."
Bugs shrugged, "True, and it's a good habit to practice. But your goin about it wrong." He took another bite of his carrot and waved it at me, "Ya gotta get over that stage fright and learn ta take pride in your work too."
Yet another instance where I wasn't sure if I was just being stubborn or stupidly defensive,
"I wasn't scared!" I said incredulously. All it got me was another knowing look.
"yknow, if ya keep on brushin off compliments like you are, I'd love to see how you react if and when you earn an Oscar."
I froze at the thought….as unlikely as it was, getting up on that stage, on national television. Someone like me….
"I wouldn't be there anyways," I said resolutely, "I'm an animator, not an actor. I'm a behind the scenes person. I'd be watching from my television set at home."
Bugs smirked, "not if you were the director or chief advisor. Which you told me once you'd like to be someday. Then you'll have no choice."
I'll admit it, I hadn't thought of that.
I shrugged, "Can't I just get a stunt double for that or something?"
Bugs snickered, "Fraid it doesn't work like that JJ. And you know it's okay to be nervous,"
He leaned in and whispered behind his hand like he was sharing a big secret, "To tell the truth? My first show I was nervous showing the results too. But you learn ways to deal with it and use it to your advantage."
I rolled my eyes and pushed him away good naturedly, "Look, I just don't wanna get a swelled head on things like this. I'm a beginner, and I'm not gonna pretend to be anything but."
"Yeah, but that doesn't mean you can't have confidence that you put a good effort into your work."
I was starting to get frustrated with this obtuse rabbit, "Your just said a few days ago that my work isn't gonna be perfect or overlie good, a few days ago that was a good thing!"
It was Bug's turn to roll his eyes, seeing at the same time as I did that we weren't getting anywhere.
"Alright, you know what? I think it's time for another trip to Toon Town."
He jumped off the table and started walking out of the door, "C'mon, I got someone I want you to meet. He might be able to help you out."
I sighed, normally I couldn't wait for Bugs to say something like that. I loved visiting Toon Town, seeing all that seemed impossible happen. But today…
Bugs didn't give me much time to decide for myself, because he grabbed the back of my hood and dragged me into a plot hole.
"Alright Bugs, ill bite" I finally asked after crossing yet another busy street in Toon town, "Where the heck are we going?"
As much as I loved this place, it could get tiring nearly being flattened or run over by precariously placed anvils and runaway talking vehicles.
We were heading deeper into the toon side of the lot than we ever had, but I didn't really have the chance to explore. Bugs always had me in his sight and constantly had to yank me with the gag hook out of the way of obstacles, as well as keep my attention on the task at hand.
I winced when he once again hooked me and the curve dug into my ribs, and two seconds later, where I had been watching a dispute between a toon dog and an unhappy fire hydrant.
"Do you think next time we come to Toon Town, I can go off on my own? Cuz your kinda cramping my style. And a few muscles" I said sourly as I rubbed at my side.
Bugs gave me a snide look, "Kid, if you wander around toon town without a seasoned veteran around ya, you'll end up with a lot worse than a few sore spots."
"What, Did we pass a ghetto when I wasn't looking?" I asked flatly, raising an eyebrow at the rabbit and he chuckled. For all I know we could have, bugs wasn't exactly letting me absorb my surroundings.
"No, but as the only human within cannon distance, you're a natural target. And a colorful one at that." He flicked my bangs to prove his point. "I know ya got a whole 'tough guy' image your trying to put off, but it won't get you far in a place like dis."
I shook my head and frowned at him, grumbling under my breath, "Well that's not the least bit condescending…"
Bugs chuckled, "Nah, that wasn't condescending. This is condescending."
Next thing I knew the rabbit had done a spin change and was suddenly in a 50's wife garb, hairdo and everything and pinching my cheek,
"What sort of mentor would I be to let little JJ play around in a strange town all by herself! Oh the very thought!" Bug's said in a mock feminine voice, touching a hand to his forehead dramatically by the end. I shoved him away from me, speed walking in the direction we had been. I did my best to avoid the onlookers who had stopped to watch the dispute curiously. (I guess even for toons, a bunny in drag was an interesting sight to see…)
"Cripes, I get it, you made your point! Let's go!"
Bugs simply snickered again and we continued to trek to wherever Bugs was taking us, and I noticed how he had pointedly avoided telling me where we were going, and who we were going to see.
Finally, after another ten minutes, the somewhat crowded area of toon town began to morph in look to more of a suburbs area, and finally I could spot a flat, but still definitely liquid, lake. Next we were walking to the docks towards what was probably once a modest looking water home. Only whoever lived there had done their very best to put as many gaudy looking fountains and pillars around it to make him look more well off than anyone else in the neighborhood.
I knew whose house this was after looking at it for maybe ten seconds. And no, it wasn't just the Daffy duck shaped cherub statue in the fountain either.
"This outta be interesting…" I muttered when Bugs wiggled his eyebrows. I think contrary to popular believe he really does get a kick out of messing with the duck. Even if he lays it off as self defense.
"Yeah, I'm coming, I'm coming! I Sthwear if thisth is about thosth girl scout cookiesth again – I told them before they'd sthell more if they gave out a free trial offer before I decide to buy them!"
The door swung open to reveal the infamous mallard himself, and Bugs took a bemused step back as he leaned out the doorway.
Daffy blinked at the sight of his longtime rival and narrowed his eyes, "Oh great. What do you want, oh smug one."
"I see your as economical as ever Daff, I'd love to see what ya do with the salvation army every Christmas." Bugs said, knowing he was goading the duck and loving every minute of it.
I rolled my eyes and couldn't help but smirk. Annoying people was Bug's prime element. Naturally bug's smug and unimpressed attitude to the duck's quips only got him more worked up, and pretty soon it was like I was watching a live version of the old cartoons they used to do together. For a long time fan of the Looney Tunes, it was intensely cool.
However, after a while, I was starting to feel ignored. I'm not vying for attention or anything (to be honest I was kinda glad someone else got to bicker with the rabbit instead of me)but still, the least he could do was introduce himself, or let me.
I kept waiting for an opportunity to cut in and at least tell him who I am, but every time it seemed like the conversation was going to pause, Daffy would erupt once again. Each time would raise an eyebrow knowingly at me, eyes half lidded in that 'I knew this was going to happen' way he did.
Annoyed and getting bored just standing there, I knew there was one more thing I hadn't tried.
I waited for Daffy to get at his most riled while bugs simply inspected his gloves, until the duck was practically twitching in his own fury. He was screeching at the rabbit for some sort of comment and finally hit his peak when he ross on his webbed toes and flailed his arms about in an effort to get his point across and intimidate the rabbit. When he paused for a breath, I cupped a hand around my mouth and called as loud as I could,
"Duck season, FIRE!" Daffy had responded purely by instinct, just as his beak spun to the other side of his head at the words on instinct.
I couldn't help it, I lost it, almost doubled over laughing when the mallard turned to glare his beady eyes at me, sending another nasty look at Bugs when the rabbit tried and failed to cover up his own laughter behind his glove.
"And who, pray tell, are you?" He asked haughtily, crossing his arms and tapping his foot at me.
That had my defenses going almost immediately, and I copied his stance, narrowing my eyes but keeping a strained smirk on my face.
"Finally noticed the extra huh? You know if you took the time to observe your surroundings a bit more, that wouldn't happen." I pointed offhandedly at his beak, which still looked a bit crumpled despite nothing hitting it in the first place.
Daffy's eyes went half lidded in quiet annoyance, "Alright, smart aleck junior. Where'd you come from? Last I checked this wasn't 3D land."
"Easy there Daff," Bugs replied, cutting me off once again, "The kid's with me. Studio's decided to get back to its roots when trainin animators. They asked me to be her mentor."
Not to sound infantile, but I was getting really tired of them referring to me as 'kid' and 'junior'. I'm 20 years old dammit.
Daffy's eyes widened with interest, and predictably, his ego started in. again.
"You don't say? Well why wasn't I called in? im twice as capable of teaching kids as you are! What am I chopped liver?! I will not stand here and be belittled like this!" Daffy's habit of expressing himself with his arms and words got the best of him once again, when his hand came up clap his other for emphasis and sent his beak spinning again.
"You don't need us for that." Bugs said smugly.
Aaaand off they went again. I sent Bugs an exasperated look, I hadn't even had the chance to answer his question!
Bugs ignored the duck's ranting and instead was looking at me, like he was waiting for something. To be honest, I think I expected more from myself at this point too.
Normally I didn't go out of my way to annoy or be overly rude to someone, usually I waited until they made the first move, then ripped into them like a monkey on a cupcake,
Unless of course they could effect my job. Like Annie, then I was sort of forced to extend my patience to almost unbearable lengths.
But then again…maybe that was wrong. I mean, one negative report and Bugs could have cost me my internship tons of times. But never in the past few weeks, even when I tied his ears in a knot that one time (which he totally deserved, don't you worry) had he done anything of the sort. In fact, he seemed to respect me more that I stood up for myself against his antics. But would Daffy be the same way?
I pondered for a moment longer before I gave a wry smile, and laughed at myself.
I'd been had.
This wasn't just a pleasantry visit, this was another of his lessons.
Bugs grinned when he saw me come forward, interrupting their one-sided conversation and forced the ducks hand in mine and shook it firmly and briefly.
"Jessica Verillo," Before he could interrupt I reached out and clamped his beak shut, to which his eyes bugged out, "Soon to be the next great Warner Brothers' animator."
I didn't like Daffy much, that much was certain. But he his constant inability to focus on something other than himself (unless made to) helped me realize something.
It wasn't that I need to learn how to accept criticism, I did that every day when I walked in the studio. What I needed to do was learn how to stand by my decisions and know that at the end of the day, people like Daffy and Annie were just that, other people. No less or more important than I was. And while their opinions mattered and I should listen to them, I needed to hear my own as well. If I based everything I did based on what they wanted to see I would never see anything new, or a change for the better.
There was a difference between too much modesty and too much pride. Sure Daffy had more pride than he probably needed, but my constant fear of getting a swelled head made my own modesty somehow morph into something else. And suddenly all of my fight I was known for had gone.
But now it was back, because the good thing with people like Daffy? They have this great thing about their obnoxious personality that makes you want to shake them and make them see you and acknowledge your abilities even though they don't want to, they'd rather be focused on themselves.
And now, with a little silent coaching form my mentor. I was well on my way to doing that.
Daffy languidly shook my hand back and I let go of his beak.
"Charmed," He said, shaking his hand like I had squeezed it too hard, "Awfully full of herself, isn't she?"
Bugs had his infamous troll face on, but he seemed to sense that I had gotten the point of this little adventure.
"Nothin wrong with takin pride in yourself Daff,"
"So what have we learned?" Bugs drilled good naturedly on our way back to the studio.
I rolled my eyes, "even though I'm still learning, I should still take pride in the skills I do have, and accept judgment and compliments where they are due."
"Aaaand?" Bugs trilled
"And if someone tries to make me back down, it can be seen as a test of character. I need to stand up for my decisions because each one was deliberate."
I rose an eyebrow at him, "Aannnd…don't let Bugs near you with a gag hook because you wont be able to feel your ribs the next day?"
Bugs chest had puffed out to let out another 'aand' and he deflated slightly, and gave me a mock glare, to which I snickered. He hooked an arm around my neck and gave me a playful noogie,
"C'mon JJ, you know where im going with this."
I sighed, I hated being proven wrong, and I hated admitting to it even more. But on this one occasion, the sting of defeat didn't come so hard as normal.
"My project wasn't a mess, it was good and I'm glad I presented it and pushed myself. I learned a lot, even if they didn't like it as much as I did."
Bugs let me go and ruffled my hair once more, "Good girl."
While I was fixing my hair, bugs rocked back and forth on his heels innocently,
"Oh and, just so's you know.."
I looked up at him curiously, and he gave me a sly look back.
"I took a peek at the rest of the boards notes, Miss Annie was the only one who had anything negative to say. They noted areas that need work, but overall they thought it was 'clever' 'funny' and 'unexpected'," He slapped me on the back, "And you managed to make Daffy's beak spin without any help! You've made me one proud rabbit, in just one day!"
I stared at him, not really sure what to say. There was a retort on my lips, but I wasn't sure to what.
Take the compliment Jessie, just take it.
I swallowed whatever stupid complaint I had for now and smiled, shaking my head,
"You big Sap..thanks." I said fondly, and he chuckled.
Urgh, you would not believe how difficult this chapter was to write. I just couldn't get into Daffy's character at. All. I hope I managed to keep him in character and still make the story interesting. See you next time!