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looney tunes road runner

looney tunes road runner

Road Runner

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Wile E. Coyote (also known simply as “The Coyote”) and the Road Runner are cartoon characters from a series of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. The characters were created by animation director Chuck Jones in 1948 for Warner Brothers, while the template for their adventures was the work of writer Michael Maltese. The characters went on to star in a long-running series of theatrical cartoon shorts (the first 16 of which were written by Maltese) and the occasional made-for-television cartoon.

What the E stands for is never indicated in the cartoons, but a 1975 comic book story has it standing for ‘Ethelbert’. Although the coyote’s last name is routinely pronounced with a long “e” as in the real-life animal (e.g. “ky-O’-tee”), in at least one case (To Hare is Human), the character himself is heard pronouncing it with a long “a” (e.g. “ky-O’-tay”) in an attempt to sound refined or intellectual.

The Coyote has separately appeared as an occasional antagonist in Bugs Bunny shorts. While he is generally silent in the Coyote-Road Runner shorts, he speaks with a refined accent in these solo outings (he introduces himself as “Wile E. Coyote – super genius”), initially voiced by Mel Blanc.[1] The Road Runner vocalizes only with a signature sound, “beep, beep”, and an occasional tongue noise. The “beep, beep” was recorded.

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 most later cartoons the scenery was designed by Maurice Noble and was far more abstract. Several different styles were used. In The Wild Chase (1965), featuring a race between the Road Runner and Speedy Gonzales, it is stated that the Road Runner is from Texas, insofar as the race announcer calls him the “Texas Road Burner.” This suggests that most of the Wile E. and Road Runner cartoons could take place in Texas. However, in episode 23, “To Beep or Not to Beep”, the catapult is constructed by the Road-Runner Manufacturing Company, which has locations in Taos, Phoenix, and Flagstaff, suggesting that it takes place in Arizona and New Mexico.

In Going! Going! Gosh! (late 1952) through Guided Muscle (late 1955) the scenery was ‘semi-realistic’ with an offwhite sky (possibly suggesting overcast/cloudy weather condition). Gravity-defying rock formations appeared in Ready, Set, Zoom! (early 1955). A bright yellow sky made its debut in Gee Whiz-z-z-z! (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 background style. Sharp, top-heavy rock formations became more prominent, and warm colours (yellow, orange and red) were favoured. Bushes were crescent-shaped. Except for Whoa Be-Gone (early 1958), whose scenery design harked back to Guided Muscle in certain aspects (such as off-white sky), 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 the ‘sharp’ style of rock formations pioneered by Zoom and Bored. The crescent shapes used for bushes starting with Zoom and Bored were retained, and also applied to clouds. In the last scene of War and Pieces (1964), Wile E. Coyote’s rocket blasts him through the center of the Earth to China, which is portrayed with abstract Oriental backgrounds. This scene features a Chinese Road Runner.

The Format Films cartoons used a style of scenery similar to Hopalong Casualty and its successors, albeit less detailed and with small puffy clouds rather than crescent-shaped ones.

Freeze Frame, a made-for-television short originally shown as part of the 1979 CBS special Bugs Bunny’s Looney Christmas Tales, depicts the Road Runner taking a turn that leads the chase into mountains and across a wintry landscape of ice and snow.

Wile E. Coyote often obtains complex and ludicrous devices from a mail-order company, the fictitious Acme Corporation, which he hopes will help him catch the Road Runner. The devices invariably fail in improbable and spectacular ways. Whether this is result of operator error or faulty merchandise is debatable. The coyote usually ends up burnt to a crisp, squashed flat, or at the bottom of a canyon (some cartoons show him suffering a combination of these fates). Occasionally Acme products do work quite well (e.g. the Dehydrated Boulders, Bat-Man Outfit, Rocket Sled, Jet Powered Roller Skates or Earthquake Pills). In this case their success often works against the coyote – for example, the Dehydrated Boulder, upon hydration, becomes so large that it crushes him, or the Earthquake Pills bottle label fine-print states that the pills aren’t effective on Road-Runners. Other times he uses devices that are implausible as he once bought a super outfit thinking he could fly with it (obviously he doesn’t).

How the coyote acquires these Acme 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. In a Tiny Toon Adventures episode, Wile E. makes mention of his protege Calamity Coyote possessing an unlimited Acme credit card account, which might serve as another possible explanation. Wile E. being a “beta tester” for Acme has been another suggested explanation. Wile E. also uses war equipment such as cannon, rocket launchers, grenades, and bayonets which are “generic”, not Acme products. In a Cartoon Network commercial promoting Looney Tunes, they ask the Coyote why does he insist on purchasing products from the Acme Corporation when all previous contraptions have backfired on him, to which the Coyote responds with a wooden sign (right after another item blows up in his face): “Good line of Credit”.

The company name was likely chosen for its irony (acme means the highest point, as of achievement or development). The common expansion A (or American) Company that Makes (or Making) Everything is a backronym. The origin of the name might also be related to the Acme company that built a fine line of animation stands and optical printers; however, the most likely explanation is the Sears house brand called Acme that appeared in their ubiquitous early 1900s mail-order catalogues.

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