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Road Runner cartoon

The Road Runner cartoons were a series of Looney Tunes cartoons created by Chuck Jones for Warner Brothers.

They are very simple in their premise: the Road Runner, a flightless cartoon bird (loosely based on a real bird, the roadrunner), is chased down the highways of the Southwestern United States by a hungry coyote, named Wile E. Coyote (a pun on "wily coyote"). The coyote never catches the Road Runner, and there is never any dialogue save the Road Runner's "beep beep" (though both these rules were broken later). The two characters do sometimes communicate by holding up signs, to each other or to the audience. Another key element is that while Wile E. is the aggressor in this series, he and his hopelessly futile efforts are the focus of the audience's sympathy.

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 never explained, nor is any distinction made between equipment defects or operator error.

Among the products produced by the Acme Corporation are:

Like in other cartoons, characters violate laws of physics. The Road Runner has the ability to enter painted caves, 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 fell before him, and end up being squashed by them.

The rules

In his book Chuck Amuck, Chuck Jones explains some of the rules the 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 could 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. No dialogue ever, except "Beep - beep!"
  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, make gravity the Coyote's greatest enemy.
  9. The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.

Later cartoons

Post-Chuck Jones cartoons allowed the coyote to speak, and he once had the Road Runner in his grasp but thanks to a gag involving a tunnel that got smaller and narrower as he went through it 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 does speak with a generic East Coast upper class accent:

Quote: (to himself:) "Wile E. Coyote. Su-u-uuper Ge-e-enius."

In a third series of cartoons, the character design of Wile E. Coyote was taken and renamed "Ralph Wolf." In this series, Ralph continually attempted to steal sheep from a flock being guarded by the eternally vigilant Sam Sheepdog. As with the Road Runner series, Ralph Wolf used all sorts of wild inventions and schemes to steal the sheep, but he was continually foiled by the sheepdog. In a move seen by many as a satirical gag, Ralph Wolf continually tried to steal the sheep not because he was a fanatic (as Wile E. Coyote was), but because it was his job. At the end of every cartoon, he and the sheepdog would stop what they were doing, punch a timeclock, and go home for the day.



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