Saturday, July 7, 2007

Saturday Morning Cartoons!

Road (Runner) Rules!

Road Runner/Coyote cartoons were among my favorites growing up. I loved how they played with physics and I loved the lack of dialogue. This was my first introduction to silent comedy. What I find fascinating about these cartoons is that the plot never changes and, yet, they're all wildly creative. Developing these was a highly collaborative process that required the animators to come up with rules. This helped focus the brainstorming and saved time. And while not using the words "yes, and..." the environment was very much that. All ideas were accepted and explored. No such thing as a dumb idea with this creative team. On the end result side of things, it helped create a very specific world for these two characters to inhabit.

I reread these every few years if only to remind me that rules aren't always a bad thing in creativity and can be very helpful in developing characters and scenes.

Chuck Jones on Wile E. Coyote & Road Runner, from Chuck Amuck:
Here were some of the rules we obeyed in the Coyote-Road Runner series:

  • Rule 1. The Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going "Beep-Beep!"
  • Rule 2. No outside force can harm the Coyote - only his own ineptitude or the failure of the Acme products.
  • Rule 3. The Coyote could stop anytime - if he were not a fanatic. (Repeat: "A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim." - George Santayana)
  • Rule 4. No dialogue ever, except "Beep-Beep!"
  • Rule 5. The Road Runner must stay on the road - otherwise, logically, he would not be called Road Runner.
  • Rule 6. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters - the Southwest American desert.
  • Rule 7. All materials, tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation.
  • Rule 8. Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote's greatest enemy.
  • Rule 9. The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.
  • (Rule 10.) The audience's sympathy must remain with the Coyote.(Joe - Apparently, this was a more unofficial one and probably more accurately reflects the feelings of the animators.)
Whoa, Be Gone! was made by Warner Brothers in 1958 and contains all my favorite Road Runner elements; rockets, dynamite, ACME products and multiple falls off cliffs.


Beach Bum said...

I may be insane, and I have more than enough people around me to say I am on several counts, but wasn't there a few cartoons were old Wile E. chased Bugs Bunny around? Several months ago a conversation at work revolved around which was better Sponge Bob or Bugs and his crew. I brought up how Bugs mixed it up with Wile E. and everyone thought I was nuts.

Joe Janes said...

You may be insane, Beach Bum, but not for the reason stated. There are a few cartoons where Wile E. Coyote, Genius, goes after Bugs. I don't recall what his motivation was, but I don't think his desire was to eat Bugs. More revenge oriented. He speaks in those in a very snobby, uppercrust tone. There's even a cartoon where Bugs fills in for the Road Runner. I doubt you'll ever see that one on a Saturday morning ever, again. Bugs emulates the Road Runner's speed by taking aphetamines.

I'm insane for knowing so much about all this!

Paul said...

Corellary to Rule 4: Coyote could communicate to audience, with signs.

Also, to show that rules are meant to be broken, there's that ep where the Coyote speaks directly to the children who ask why a coyote would want to catch a roadrunner in the first place.

Finally, not a rule but an observation: The musical direction (provided by Carl Stallings) in early cartoons added to the overall piece with musical cues and gags, while Bill Lava simply provided background music. The difference is night and day.


Finally, finally, yeah, Wile E. Coyote, Super-Genius, did try on occasion to eat Bugs. Throws a ton of vegetables into the rabbit hole, plops a futuristic pressure cooker on top of it. Bugs surprises him, Coyote gets half-locked into the device, Bugs goes to town with a baseball bat singing "I'm Looking Over a Three-Leaf Clover" that he overlooked be-fthree.

Egad, did I just type all that? Yes. Yes, I did.

Joe Janes said...

You're right, Paul! I forgot about the veggies and pressure cooker scene. Thanks for reminding me of that.

I don't recall the coyote talking to the audience, though. I wonder if that was one of the latter ones without Chuck Jones. In one of those, the coyote does catch the the Road Runner, except he's been shrunk and can barely get his arms around the RR's ankles. He holds up signs along the lines of "You've always wanted to see this? Now what do I do?" Fade to black.

And you're right about the music. These guys were geniuses at using music in their cartoons. Any appreciation I have for classical music came from these guys, although it's totally ruined "Ride of the Valkyries" as something to be taken seriously.

Paul said...

The kids were talking amongst themselves. One mentioned how he wanted to be a psychiatrist, but kept mispronouncing it as "puh-psychiatrist". Then he made the crack about why anyone would chase the roadrunner, and Wile E. stops dead, addresses the screen directly, pulls a chart out of his backpocket (?) and shows the prime cuts of meat from a roadrunner (about 28 different flavors, including "lico-rissssss").

I'm pretty sure this episode wasn't Chuck Jones. And yet the kids looked Chuck Jones-style. It was certainly still a Stallings cartoon.