History for the Rest of Us

Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner

Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner

Sep 17, 2013

On September 17, 1949 Wile E. Coyote (Carnivorous Vulgaris) tried to catch Road Runner (Accelleratii Incredibus) for the first time in their initial cartoon ‘Fast and Furry-ous’. In this first, of nearly 50 animated shorts, Wile E. hasn’t learned the value of Geniune ‘ACME’ products and purchases items from ‘Ace’, and ‘Fleet-Foot’. However, his luck never improved by working almost exclusively with ‘ACME’ as his supplier of gadgets. Wile E. was very loyal to ‘ACME’, notwithstanding the fact that he was constantly defeated by gadgets made with their products. When asked, in a Cartoon Network commercial promoting Looney Tunes, why he continued to purchase products from ACME Corporation when previous purchases had all backfired, Wile E. responded by holding up a wooden sign which said ‘Good line of Credit’.

The characters were created by Chuck Jones in 1948 for Warner Bros.

Wile E. also appeared as an antagonist of Bugs Bunny in five shorts. Wile E. was mostly silent in the Coyote-Road Runner shorts but spoke with an upper-class English accent (voiced by Mel Blanc) in the Bugs Bunny shorts. Road Runner only made his signature ‘Meep, Meep’ sound with an occasional noise from his tongue.

In Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times Of An Animated Cartoonist, it is claimed that the Road Runner and Wile E. cartoons adhered to some simple but strict rules:

  1. The Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going “meep, meep.”
  2. No outside force can harm the Coyote — only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products. Trains and trucks were the exception from time to time.
  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).
  4. No dialogue ever, except “meep, meep” and yowling in pain.
  5. The Road Runner must stay on the road — for no other reason than that he’s a roadrunner. This rule was broken in Beep, Beep, in a sequence where Wile E. chased the Road Runner into a cactus mine.
  6. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters — the southwest American desert.
  7. All tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation. There were sometimes exceptions when the Coyote obtained items from the desert and occasionally from other vendors.
  8. Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote’s greatest enemy (e.g., falling off a cliff).
  9. The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.
  10. The audience’s sympathy must remain with the Coyote.
  11. The Coyote is not allowed to catch or eat the Road Runner. (The robot that the Coyote created in The Solid Tin Coyote caught the Road Runner so this does not break this rule. The Coyote does catch the Road Runner in Soup or Sonic but is too small to eat him.)
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