Jones was born in Spokane, Washington on September 21, 1912. He later moved with his parents and three siblings to the Los Angeles, California area.
In his autobiography, Chuck Amuck, Jones credits his artistic bent to circumstances surrounding his father, who was an unsuccessful businessman in California in the 1920s. His father, Jones recounts, would start every new business venture by purchasing new stationery and new pencils with the company name on them. When the business failed, his father would quietly turn the huge stacks of useless stationery and pencils over to his children, requiring them to use up all the material as fast as possible. Armed with an endless supply of high-quality paper and pencils, the children drew constantly. Later, in one art school class, the professor gravely informed the students that they each had 100,000 bad drawings in them that they must first get past before they could possibly draw anything worthwhile. Jones recounted years later that this pronouncement came as a great relief to him, as he was well past the 200,000 mark, having used up all that stationery. Jones and several of his siblings went on to artistic careers.
After graduating from Chouinard Art Institute, Jones held a number of low-ranking jobs in the animation industry, including washing cels at the Ub Iwerks studio and assistant animator at the Walter Lantz studio. While at Iwerks, he met a cel painter named Dorothy Webster, who would later become his first wife.
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