Road Runner cartoon

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Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner
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Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner

The Road Runner cartoons are a series of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons created by Chuck Jones for Warner Brothers. Chuck Jones based the films on a Mark Twain book called Roughing It, in which Twain noted that coyotes are starving and hungry and would chase a roadrunner.

Chuck Jones once said of his most famous protagonist and antagonist that "Wile E. is my reality, Bugs Bunny is my goal." He originally created the Road Runner cartoons as a parody of traditional "cat and mouse" cartoons (such as Tom and Jerry) which were increasingly popular at the time.

The Road Runner was voiced by Paul Julian, who worked as a background painter for Friz Freleng's unit.

Contents

Premise

The Road Runner shorts are very simple in their premise: the Road Runner, a flightless cartoon bird (loosely based on a real bird, the Greater Roadrunner), is chased down the highways of the Southwestern United States by a hungry toon coyote, named Wile E. Coyote (a pun on "wily coyote"). Despite numerous clever attempts, the coyote never catches or kills the Road Runner, and all of his elaborate schemes end up injuring himself in humorous instances of highly exaggerated cartoon slapstick violence.

There is almost never any "spoken" communication, save the Road Runner's "beep-beep" (which actually sounds more like "mheep-mheep") and the Road Runner sticking out his tongue (which sounds vaguely like a bottle being uncorked), but the two characters do sometimes communicate by holding up signs to each other, the audience, or the cartoonist (though both these rules were broken later). Another key element is that while Wile E. is the aggressor in the series, he and his hopelessly futile efforts are the focus of the audience's sympathy as well as virtually all of the humor. Wile E. seems doomed, like Sisyphus, forever to try but never to succeed. The Road Runner lacks a developed personality and is largely just an object, not a character.

Wile E. Coyote later appeared in some Bugs Bunny shorts as well as the Little Beeper cartoons featured on Tiny Toon Adventures.

Latin names

Typically at the start of each episode, during a chase sequence, the action pauses to show the audience the apparent Latin names of Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, usually emphasising the former's speed and the latter's hunger. These names change from episode to episode, as detailed below.

Episode Title Road RunnerWile E. Coyote
Fast And Furry-ous Accelleratti Incredibus Carnivorous Vulgaris
Beep, Beep Accelerati Incredibilus Carnivorous Vulgaris
Going! Going! Gosh! Acceleratti Incredibilus Carnivorous Vulgaris
Zipping Along Velocitus Tremenjus Road-Runnerus Digestus
Stop! Look! And Hasten! Hot-Roddicus Supersonicus Eatibus Anythingus
Ready, Set, Zoom! Speedipus Rex Famishus-Famishus
Guided Muscle Velocitus Delectiblus Eatibus Almost Anythingus
Gee Whiz-z-z-z-z-z-z Delicius-Delicius Eatius Birdius
There They Go-Go-Go! Dig-Outius Tid-Bittius Famishius Fantasticus
Scrambled Aches Tastyus Supersonicus Eternalii Famishiis
Zoom And Bored Birdibus Zippibus Famishus Vulgarus
Whoa, Be Gone Birdius High-Ballius Famishius Vulgaris Ingeniusi
Hook, Line, And Stinker Burnius-Roadibus Famishius-Famishius
Hip Hip-Hurry! Digoutius-Unbelieveus Eatius-Slobbius
Hot Rod And Reel Super-Sonicus-Tonicus Famishius-Famishius
Wild About Hurry Batoutahelius Hardheadipus Oedipus
Fastest With The Mostest Velocitus Incalculus Carnivorous Slobbius
Hopalong Casualty Speedipus-Rex Hard-Headipus Ravenus
Zip 'n' Snort Digoutius-Hot-Rodis Evereadii Eatibus
Lickety Splat Fastius Tasty-us Apetitius Giganticus
Beep Prepared Tid-Bittius Velocitus Hungrii Flea-Bagius
Zoom At The Top Disappearialis Quickius Overconfidentii Vulgaris
War And Pieces Burn-em Upus Asphaltus Caninus Nervous Rex
Freeze Frame Semper Food-Ellus Grotesques Appetitus
Soup Or Sonic Ultra-Sonicus Ad Infinitum Nemesis Riduclii

Scenery

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Beepbeep.jpg
'Beep Beep' screenshot

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Zippingalong.jpg
'Zipping Along' screenshot

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Scrambledaches.jpg
'Scrambled Aches' screenshot
The desert scenery in the first two Road Runner cartoons, 'Fast and Furry-ous' (1949) and 'Beep Beep' (mid 1952), was designed by Robert Gribbroek and was quite realistic. In subsequent cartoons the scenery was designed by Maurice Noble and was far more abstract. Several different styles were used.

In 'Going Going Gosh!' (late 1952) thru 'Guided Muscle' (late 1955) the scenery was 'semi-realistic' with an offwhite sky. A bright yellow sky made its debut in 'Gee Whizzzzz!' (early 1956) but was not used consistently until 'There They Go-Go-Go!', later in the same year.

'Zoom and Bored' (late 1957) introduced a major change in the style of the rock formations, which became much 'harder' in appearance, and often gravity-defying in appearance. Except for 'Whoa Be-Gone' (early 1958), whose scenery design harked back to 'Guided Muscle' in certain aspects, this style of scenery was retained as far as 'Fastest with the Mostest' (early 1960). 'Hopalong Casualty' (mid 1960) changed the colour scheme, with the sky reverting to blue, and some rocks becoming off-white, while the bright yellow desert sand colour is retained, along with 'sharp' style of rock formation pioneered by 'Zoom and Bored'. The Format Films cartoons used a style of scenery which was essentially a paler version of Hopalong Casualty's.
Missing image
Zoomandbored.jpg
'Zoom and Bored' screenshot

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Hopalongcasualty.jpg
'Hopalong Casualty' screenshot

The Acme Corporation

Wile E. Coyote often obtains complex and ludicrous devices (Rube Goldberg machines) from a mail-order company, the fictitious Acme Corporation, which he hopes will help him catch the Road Runner. The devices invariably backfire in improbable and spectacular ways. The coyote usually ends up burnt to a crisp, squashed flat, or at the bottom of a ravine. How the coyote acquires these products without any money is not explained until the 2003 movie Looney Tunes: Back In Action, in which he is shown to be an employee of Acme. Perhaps Wile E. is a "beta site tester".

The company name was likely chosen for its irony (acme means the highest point, as of achievement or development). The common expansion A Company that Makes Everything is a backronym.

Among the products by the Acme Corporation are:

As in other cartoons, the Road Runner and the coyote follow the laws of cartoon physics. For example, the Road Runner has the ability to enter the painted image of a cave, which the coyote cannot. Sometimes the coyote is allowed to hang in midair until he realizes that he is about to plummet into a chasm. The coyote can overtake rocks which fall before he does, and end up being squashed by them.

The rules

In his book, Chuck Amuck, Chuck Jones explains some of the rules the writers and artists followed in making the Coyote-Road Runner series:

  1. The Road Runner cannot harm the coyote except by going "Beep-beep!"
  2. No outside force can harm the coyote—only his own ineptitude or the failure of the Acme products.
  3. The coyote can stop any time—if he were not a fanatic. (Repeat: "A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim."–George Santayana)
  4. There may be no dialogue ever, except "beep-beep!" The coyote may, however, speak to the audience through wooden signs that he holds up.
  5. The Road Runner must stay on the road —otherwise, logically, he would not be called "Road Runner".
  6. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters—the southwest American desert.
  7. All materials, tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation.
  8. Whenever possible, gravity should be made the coyote's greatest enemy.
  9. The coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.

There was also a tenth and more unofficial rule:

  • The sympathy of the audience must lie with the coyote.

The rules were followed with rare exceptions. In the 1961 two-reel theatrical short The Adventures of the Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote actually speaks dialogue as he lectures on how best to catch the Road Runner. In the 1979 made-for television short Freeze Frame, Wile E. Coyote chases the Road Runner up into a snowy mountainous region, where most of the short is spent. In the rare 2000 short Little Go Beep, they explain the fourth rule by showing a baby Wile E.'s father (voiced by Stan Freberg) telling him not to speak until he has caught the Road Runner. Chuck Jones directed Freeze Frame, and advised on Little Go Beep.

Later cartoons

The original Chuck Jones productions ended in 1963 with the closing of the Warner Bros. animation studio. Shortly thereafter, Pink Panther co-creator David DePatie and Road Runner co-director Friz Freleng formed DePatie-Freleng Enterprises and were commissioned to continue production of Road Runner.

The first cartoon of the DePatie-Freleng Road Runner series, "The Wild Chase", was directed by Freleng in 1965 and notably starred Speedy Gonzales and Sylvester the Cat alongside Wile E. and Road Runner. In total, DePatie-Freleng produced 14 Road Runner cartoons, two of which were directed by Robert McKimson ("Rushing Roulette," 1965, and "Sugar and Spies," 1966).

The remaining eleven were subcontracted to Format Films and directed under ex-Warner Bros. animator Rudy Larriva. The "Larriva Eleven", as the series was later called, lacked the fast-paced action of the Chuck Jones originals and was poorly received by critics. In Of Mice and Magic, Leonard Maltin calls the series "witless in every sense of the word."

Post-Chuck Jones cartoons allow the coyote to speak, and once (in "Soup or Sonic", 1980) he has the Road Runner in his grasp but thanks to a gag involving a tunnel that gets smaller and narrower as he goes through it, the coyote is only a few inches tall and can only grab the Road Runner's leg—at which point he holds up a sign that reads "Okay, wise guys, you always wanted me to catch him. Now what do I do?"

Wile E. Coyote has also unsuccessfully attempted to catch and eat Bugs Bunny in another series of cartoons. In these cartoons, the coyote takes on the guise of a self-described "super genius" and speaks with a smooth, generic upper-class accent provided by Mel Blanc.

In one short, Bugs Bunny—with the help of amphetamines—even sits in for Road Runner, who has "sprained a giblet", and carries out the duties of outsmarting the hungry scavenger.

In the 1961 pilot for a potential television anthology series (but later released as a theatrical short entitled The Adventures of the Road-Runner—later edited and split into two short subjects called Zip Zip Hooray! and Road Runner A-Go-Go), Wile E. lectures two young TV-watching children about the edible parts of a Road Runner, attempting to explain his somewhat irrational obsession with catching it. He does so with help from an illustrated chart showing each section of the bird and its flavor. Having never caught the bird, how he would know what it tastes like is open to conjecture.

Wile E. and the Road Runner later appeared in several episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures. In one episode, Wile E. narrates the life story of his Tiny Toon counterpart, Calamity Coyote, while the latter is falling from the top of a tall skyscraper.

Wile E. and the Road Runner have also been featured in episodes of Baby Looney Tunes.

Spin-offs

In another series of Warner Bros. cartoons, the character design of Wile E. Coyote was copied and renamed "Ralph Wolf". In this series, Ralph continually attempts to steal sheep from a flock being guarded by the eternally vigilant Sam Sheepdog. As with the Road Runner series, Ralph Wolf uses all sorts of wild inventions and schemes to steal the sheep, but he is continually foiled by the sheepdog. In a move seen by many as a satirical gag, Ralph Wolf continually tries to steal the sheep not because he is a fanatic (as Wile E. Coyote was), but because it is his job. At the end of every cartoon, he and the sheepdog stop what they were doing, punch a timeclock, exchange pleasantries, and go home for the day. The most prominent difference between the coyote and the wolf, aside from their locales, is that Wile E. has a black nose and Ralph has a red nose.

In the old Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies comics published by Dell Comics, the Road Runner was given the name Beep-Beep the Road Runner and had 4 sons and a wife. The Road Runner family talked in rhyme in the comics. Wile E. was called Kelsey Coyote in his comic book debut.

In the TV series Tiny Toon Adventures, Wile E. Coyote (voiced in Jim Reardon's cartoon "Piece of Mind" by Joe Alaskey) was the dean of Acme Looniversity and the mentor of Calamity Coyote. The Road Runner's protege was Little Beeper.

There was a Soviet equivalent of the Road Runner, titled "Ну погоди! Зайчик-побегайчик" (Nu pogodi! Zaytchik pobegaychik!), which in English means "Stop! You running rabbit!". In the series, a big bad wolf tries unsuccessfully to capture a little hare. The hare is, however, incredibly annoying. The action is in more of a silent gag movie style and lacks techno gadgets. Some of the episodes were animated in black and white.

Commercial appearances

The Plymouth Road Runner was a performance car produced by the Plymouth division of Chrysler between 1968 and 1980. An official licensee of Warner Bros. (paying $50,000 for the privilege), the Road Runner used the image of the cartoon bird on the sides.

General Motors used the Road Runner on its marketing campaign in 1985 for its Holden Barina in Australia. Even in 2004, "Beep-beep Barina" is still known as a catch phrase by many Australians.

In the late 1990s the largely mute Road Runner became the mascot of Time Warner Cable's cable Internet service, also named Road Runner. Balloon sculptor John Cassidy and his Road Runner balloon animal creation were featured on a commercial for this service.

In the early 2000s, Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote appeared in a General Motors car commercial. Wile E. chases the Roadrunner while driving the car but the commercial ends before he is caught.

In 2004, Wile E. appeared (along with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck) in an Aflac commercial, in which he is shown as being a prime candidate for the company's services. Before he plummets, taking an animated version of the Aflac duck with him, he holds up a sign reading the company's tagline, "Ask About It At Work."

References

  • Latin Names (http://www.jamesbrief.com/archives/000373.html). Retrieved March 21, 2005.

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