Chuck Jones' 9 rules for writing Road Runner stories

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No comments yet, presumably because none of us can figure out how to say “I DISAGREE!!” with proper vehemence…


I have mixed feelings about this show. Didn’t like it as a kid, but as an adult I appreciate it. Also, it works around the world because of the lack of speech, which was a good idea. .


“the same story told again and again”

The whole deal about Road Runner isn’t the punch line, it’s the set up.

To that effect, Scooby Do and Dora couldn’t hold Road Runner’s jockstrap.


Gravity is a friend to nobody.


I liked the episode where the kids are watching, and one is all “I really wish that coyote would catch that road runner.” Situates Mark Frauenfelder’s apt critiques within a self-awareness on the part of the artists.



Each episode features a new, absolutely perfect plan.
A plan that is genius.
A plan that is meticulous.
A plan that is sure-fire.

A plan that is doomed to failure.


All we can do is sit in appreciation of the sheer awesomeness of Chuck Jones.



NEVER let the truth get in the way of a good cartoon!


The more I use power tools or gardening equipment, the more I appreciate Roadrunner cartoons.


Interesting fact pertinent to Chuck’s Rule #5: Roadrunners only evolved after the colonialization of N America. No roads, no road runners.


Some of the earlier backgrounds are stunningly beautiful. Also, the use of music was some of WBs best.


The Road Runner is not smug, he is a force of nature, unconcerned with the antics of mortals like the Coyote. Coyote could stop at any time, but he chooses to dash himself an immutable force with progressively more absurd results–that’s what makes the cartoons perfect. Road Runner isn’t tormenting the Coyote, the Coyote is tormenting himself.

Bugs Bunny is a trickster god, Road Runner is just the the rocks upon which fools can choose to dash themselves.


“…Constraints are often a good thing for creative projects, but in this case, they resulted in a repetitive, unfunny cartoon series.”

I think that you are making a mistake in presuming the entertainment was intended to be funny, or that the repetition is not entirely intentional and critical to the effectiveness of the artwork.

The market for Road Runner is universal, as is the appeal of it.


Even today, after having seen them all dozens of times, I’m still often surprised by these cartoons. It’s not a question of if the coyote will fail, but how that is so great. Sometimes you think you know what’s going to go wrong, and they’ll send you in a totally different direction.

Also, the roadrunner is death, the coyote is us.


It gets worse the older you get…


I used to feel this way. But then a friend told me about a Chuck Jones interview on a TV documentary where the interviewer asked “So you identify with Bugs Bunny?” And Jones set them straight saying no he identifies with Daffy Duck (this is in relation to the “Duck Season, Rabbit Season”-type trilogy culminating in Duck Amuck, where Bugs is the ultimate dominating force.) and that Bugs was always the ideal, the persona he wanted to be. This carries over into the Road Runner cartoons.

Once I understood this, and started identifying with the Coyote, I found these cartoons satisfying. So much so that I gave the speech to my graduating college class that these cartoons are a metaphor for US hubris. (Here we are trying to liberate yet another country because that always works out so well.)

A few years later from learning this I had a job at a special-effects house in Hollywood. They used to get this old guy named Lloyd Vaughan to come in and rotoscope animate various effects. Turned out he was one of the animators that worked with Jones during the major WB animation years. Each lead director worked with the same team of animators who all could draw exactly like him.

Lloyd was my hero and I used to work late nights with him, I’d be shooting the B&W mattes of his work and I knew where the bourbon was kept, so I’d make drinks for Lloyd and ask him questions and stories.

One story is how the cartoons were made. Each year or quarter or whatever, they were given a budget to make 5 cartoons, say. But Jones had greater ambition and wanted to produce cartoons that required a lot more work than the budget would have allowed. To overcome this, they would produce several Road Runner and Coyote cartoons which were “just a bunch of speed effects and the same background” and thus were a lot less to produce. So there would then be extra money left over so that they could do “What’s Opera, Doc?” which has a different background in almost every shot and detailed animation through out.

On a side note, Grant Morrison’s Animal Man #5 (DC comics from the 90s) is a wonderful take on the Coyote as myth.


I believe Vonnegut said something to the effect that the (or a) root of comedy was the comic figure’s futile attempt to bargain in good faith with an impersonally cruel and capricious universe. I think he was talking about Laurel and Hardy at the time, but I think that Wile E Coyote is possibly the purest, most perfect form ever developed of this.

And why he engages our sympathy so much.


Wile E. Coyote is the only Warner Bros character I relate to at all. He’s highly intelligent, and his intelligence invariably comes back to bite him in the butt. This is my life in a nutshell.