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Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Roadrunner and the Coyote

It's the third Saturday of August which means that we are going to be featuring a cartoon of some sort for the Saturday Smorgasbord.

And this week, I decided to go classic.

I don't know what it was about “The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show” that I loved so much, but I tuned in every Saturday afternoon to watch it when I was a kid.

(Keeping in mind that there was a Canadian channel that used to air “The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show” every Saturday at five o'clock, just before the evening news.)

I didn't even care if I saw all of the Looney Tunes cartoons a million times already. They were classic cartoons that all of us grew up with, and they are still very much a part of everyone's childhood memories.

Believe it or not, I'm almost tempted to pick up the Warner Brothers DVD box set which contains no less than fifty of these classic cartoons. After all, there is no feeling in the world quite like rediscovering the kid inside of you by owning a small part of your childhood in your media collection.

Certainly within “A Pop Culture Addict's Guide to Life”, I've done several features on Looney Tunes characters over the last two years. In fact, one of my very first entries was on Elmer Fudd. Of course, there have been others along the way. I did an entire spotlight on “Bugs Bunny” along with links to several of his best cartoons. Sylvester and Tweety also got their own blog topic. And I even did a feature on the juniorized version known as “Tiny Toon Adventures”, which given my general dislike of juniorizing classic cartoon characters was surprisingly wonderful.

So, which classic Looney Toon characters will I be featuring this week?

I'm going to feature a pair of characters who could be considered the ultimate enemies. I mean, if you had someone who tried to catch you and make you the main course of their dinner, you wouldn't really like them very much, would you?

But don't feel too sorry for the prey. In fact, you should probably cheer him on. For one, they have the fastest feet in the entire world. Their natural agility makes them run faster than a cheetah, and he can literally run at speeds topping 300 miles an hour or greater. It kind of makes it impossible to get a hold of him if you take that into consideration.

Not even the entire product listings in the ACME store order form, The Sears Wish Book, or the Bradford Exchange artisan catalogue could help our antagonist catch and eat his prey. If anything, the prey is so intelligent that he often ends up using his enemy's bag of tricks against him.

You'd think that after trying so hard to catch his dinner and failing miserably that he would give up meat altogether and just subside on a diet of Caesar salads and V8 vegetable cocktail.

Then again, nobody ever claimed that Wile E. Coyote was a super genius either.

Yes, today we're going to take a look at the relationship between Wile E. Coyote and his ultimate nemesis – a little bird with a lot of turbo power known as the Acceleratii incredibus.

Or, by his nickname, the Road Runner. Meep Meep!

Created by Chuck Jones at the height of Warner Brothers and Looney Tunes popularity in 1948, Wile E. Coyote continues to be the thorn in the side of the Road Runner, with their most recent cartoon together airing on December 17, 2010!  It's a wonder the coyote hasn't dropped dead from starvation!  Spending over sixty years trying to catch the perfect meal?  He should've just gone to the nearest KFC and be done with it!

But then again, if there are any Looney Tune characters that could feasibly continue making cartoons, it's the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote.  After all, both of them are almost considered to be silent characters with the exception of the Road Runner's distinctive call (recorded by Paul Julian).

Anyway, I bet you're wondering how Chuck Jones came up with the inspiration behind the creation of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner.  Well, as it turns out, author Mark Twain could be credited towards the creation of Wile E. Coyote.  In Twain's book "Roughing It", Twain describes the coyote as a "long, slim, sick, and sorry looking skeleton" that is a "living, breathing allegory of Want".

Yep, I can definitely see that about Wile E. Coyote.  He's desperate, starving, and is so consumed with trying to get what he wants that he loses his grip with reality.  

TRIVIA:  As far as the appearance of the coyote went, Chuck Jones designed him with fellow animator Ken Harris in mind.  I kind of wonder how well their professional relationship was, given that Chuck Jones' character would end up doing a lot of this during the entire run of the Looney Tunes cartoons.

Yeah, that had to hurt.

Anyway, the first cartoon that aired which featured Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner together aired on September 17, 1949.  The name of the cartoon was "Fast and Furry-ous". 

(Not to be confused with the long-running film series "The Fast and the Furious" starring Paul Walker and Vin Diesel that in my opinion had run its course three movies ago...but hey, that's just my opinion.)

The cartoon was directed by Chuck Jones (as were most of the earliest Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner cartoons), and this episode set the stage for a lot of the running gags that took place in each subsequent episode.  Have a look and see what I mean.

GAG #1 - The ever-changing Latin origin.

As you well know, every species in the world has an official Latin name - even us (homo sapien).  And, naturally, the Road Runner has his own original Latin name.  In fact, it's so original that during each episode, it changes to something else!  In every case though, the name usually has something to do with speed.  In the very first cartoon, his name was Acceleratii incredibus, but here were some other names that were mentioned.

Velocitus tremenjus (Zipping Along, September 1953)
Hot-roddicus supersonicus (Stop, Look, and Hasten!, August 1954)
Speedipus Rex (Ready, Set, Zoom!, April 1955)
Delicius-delicius (Gee Whiz-z-z-z-z-z-z, May 1956)
Tastyus supersonicus (Scrambled Aches, January 1957)
Batoutahelius (Wild About Hurry, October 1959)
Velocitus incalcublii (Fastest With The Mostest, January 1960)
Fastius tastyus (Lickety-Splat, June 1961)
Burn-em-upus asphaltus (War and Pieces, June 1964)
Semper foodellus (Freeze Frame, November 1979)
Ultra-sonicus ad infinitum (Soup or Sonic, May 1980)
Boulevardius burnupius (Chariots of Fur, December 1994)
Geococcyx californiaus (The Whizzard of Ow, November 2003)

I should also note that Wile E. Coyote also had ever-changing Latin names too such as Everreadii eatibus or Carnivorous slobbius, but I always found the Road Runner names to be much cooler.

GAG #2 - The coyote has the ACME supply store on speed-dial.

If you're ever buying stock in the fictional cartoon world, don't waste your time on Slate Industries, Spacely Sprockets, or the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.  The money can really be found at ACME Industries, of which Wile E. Coyote has seemingly spent his whole life savings on goods from the company.

And when I say that Wile E. Coyote has basically purchased every single thing from ACME, I really mean it.  Just have a look at all of the list of things that Wile E. Coyote has used to entrap the Road Runner.

He's used an ACME Super Outfit, rocket powered roller skates, a weather balloon, a giant kite kit, glue, ACME grease, ACME Triple Strength Battleship Steel Armor Plate, a jet bike, ACME Dehydrated Boulders, a giant elastic rubber band, an Indestructo Steel Ball, Earthquake Pills, invisible paint, suction cups, a bungee cord, and countless other devices and gadgets.  With an arsenal like that, you'd think that he'd have a handle on things.

But then again, Wile E. Coyote was cursed with the "Inspector Gadget" gene.  He has all the tools needed to be a success, but can't figure out how to use them.  In some cases, like the example below, they have a tendency to turn against him!

And, this leads to the third and final recurring gag, which you've seen already, but I can't seem to get enough of it.

GAG #3 - 

Sigh...yeah...that never gets old.  

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