Tag Archives: gags

Notes on Wile E. Coyote & Road Runner

“I see nothing in the Coyote that I can’t find in almost any human being.  Most of us share his desire for something small and special, be it diamonds, doughnuts, or Road Runner.  Wile E. Coyote devotes enormous ingenuity and energy to chasing the Road Runner.  People wonder what good it would do him to catch the Road Runner, as there’s obviously very little food on that scrawny frame.  A rabbit would seem to be more nutritious prey, but Wile E. considers roadrunner to be a luxury item on the coyote’s food chain.  There are delicacies as yet unknown to the human palate, and one of them is this apparently succulent avian.   

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“A Road Runner cartoon is basically a series of separate blackout gags with an underlying structure, as the Coyote returns obsessively to the fray.  Mike Maltese and I found that we needed about eleven gags to make a film, and the trick was to proceed in a more or less orderly fashion up to a strong climax.  Gags varied considerably in length and could be as short as four seconds, as long as four minutes, or almost as long as the film itself. 

“Humor is often a series of sensible statements ending in an unexpected oddity that completely changes the meaning of the scene.

“The Road Runner did not change a lot visually over the years; he has very little personality, as he is a force.  I tell students that the secret of drawing the Road Runner is learning how to draw dust:  just draw a cloud of dust and hook a Road Runner onto it…My Road Runner is a rare case in which the animated animal is almost exactly like its living model. 

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“The Road Runner’s immortal “beep-beep” was an accidental find, inspired by the sound Paul Julian made as he blindly tried to clear a route for himself along a Termite Terrace corridor.  It seemed unimaginable to ask anybody but Paul to record this sound, so we invited him into the studio and it is his voice that is heard in every Road Runner cartoon, although Mel Blanc is given credit for it.

“Eddie Selzer [producer after Leon Schlesinger] hated the first Road Runner cartoon, Fast and Furry-ous, because it had no dialogue.  “Goddamit,” he fumed, “we pay Mel Blanc and you should use his voice.”  He sulked about it.  I told him that the film wouldn’t work with dialogue, but he persisted: I don’t give a damn if it would work or not—WE PAY MEL BLANC!”