Wile Ethelbert Coyote "Genius" and the Road Runner are one of the main duos from the Looney Tunes cartoons created by Charles M. Jones (better known as Chuck Jones), Road Runner is the protagonist and Wile E. Coyote is the antagonist/anti-hero.
Chuck Jones based the coyote on Mark Twain's book Roughing It, in which Twain described the coyote as "a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton" that is "a living, breathing allegory of Want. He is always hungry." Jones said he created the Wile E. Coyote-Road Runner cartoons as a parody of traditional "cat and mouse" cartoons such as MGM's Tom and Jerry. Jones modelled the coyote's appearance on fellow animator Ken Harris.
The coyote's name of Wile E. is a pun of the word "wily." The "E" stands for "Ethelbert" in one issue of a Looney Tunes comic book. The coyote's surname is routinely pronounced with a long "e" (/kaɪˈoʊtiː/ ky-OH-tee), but in one cartoon short, To Hare Is Human, Wile E. is heard pronouncing it with a diphthong (/kaɪˈoʊteɪ/ ky-OH-tay). Early model sheets for the character prior to his initial appearance (in Fast and Furry-ous) identified him as "Don Coyote", a pun on Don Quixote.
The Road Runner's "beep, beep sound" was inspired by background artist Paul Julian's imitation of a car horn. Julian voiced the various recordings of the phrase used throughout the Road Runner cartoons, although on-screen he was uncredited for his work. According to animation historian Michael Barrier, Julian's preferred spelling of the sound effect was either "hmeep hmeep" or "mweep, mweep".
Why The Roadrunner Will Make You Go "Beep Beep!" (In a Good way)
- The Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote have a great rivalry/chemistry with each other that it makes their rivalry one of the most memorable in cartoon history.
- This is especially shown when they are essentially a parody of cat-vs.-mouse duos such as Tom and Jerry.
- Their designs are great.
- They both use signs to communicate with each other, which makes it funnier.
- The Road Runner is very optimistic and carefree while Wile E. Coyote is prideful and envious.
- They always follow Chuck Jones' rules for their cartoons correctly and don't screw up.
- A lot of the many Latin names on each cartoon are very funny.
- For nostalgic fans of them, Wile E. Coyote is better than Road Runner in hindsight when serving as this ultimately amusing, comically incompetent if pitiful bungler between the two.
Wile E. Coyote
- His comical defeats such as his falling off a cliff are very iconic.
- All of his expressions are very expressive and funny.
- The ways his traps for catching the Road Runner keep backfiring on him are very funny.
- Not only is he targeting the Road Runner, but he also wanted to capture Bugs Bunny.
- Speaking of which, his new character depiction in New Looney Tunes had him form excellent chemistry as the comic foil to the more sly, self-aware Bugs, much to the point that it literally gave Daffy Duck a run for his money.
- On the topic of chemistry, even during the dark age of Looney Tunes, the relationship he had with Sylvester in the film "The Wild Chase" was somewhat interesting to see. Considering that Wile E. Coyote is always seen by himself when he chases after the avian Houdini that is the Road Runner; where Sylvester was doing the same with Speedy Gonzales for the time, Sylvester was Wile's first-ever, loyal sidekick to Wile E. and they have a fairly passable relationship as a duo of ineffectual comedic villains.
- His actual voice seen in the classic Bugs Bunny shorts is very charismatic and euphonious to listen to.
- While all of his constant failures, setbacks, and misadventures are played for comedy; it also raises a ton of sympathy since one of Chuck Jones's rules was for us to sympathize with Wile for how incredibly luckless he generally is.
- As stated above, for fans, Wile E. Coyote is better than Road Runner when it comes to having a sympathetic personality.
The Road Runner
- The "Beep Beep" sounds that the Road Runner makes are very cute and iconic, as well as the cork-popping noise heard when he blows a raspberry.
- The Road Runner outsmarts Wile E. Coyote by beeping behind him where Wile would comically fail.
- The Road Runner is so fast that he can even give other speedy characters a run for their money.
- Their rivalry with each other started to become tiresome around the Larriva Eleven era, even the Road Runner was Flanderized around that time.
- They can break the rules of their cartoons from time to time.
Wile E. Coyote
- Much like Tom and Sylvester, Wile E Coyote has always been seen as a punching bag in a predictable fashion when he typically fails at catching the Road Runner (this is especially evident when he became the epitome of the butt-monkey in Western Animation, as well as being the most iconic "ineffectual sympathetic villain" in animation history).
- With that in mind; the constant running gag of Wile's sheer ineptitude to catch the Road Runner, can get stale to the point of being predictable and boring, to the point where you want him to win.
- His Butt-Monkey traits have been somewhat flanderized.
- In the DePatie–Freleng and Seven Arts Eras (i.e "The Larriva Eleven"), while he still retains his old personality from the Chuck Jones originals, he went from a hungry genius coyote with a fanatical desire to eat the Road Runner despite his failures & setbacks, and he has changed into being a dumb and short-sighted coyote who always ends up constantly making a fool of himself due to sheer incompetence, even worse than before.
- Where Wile was always arrogant, passionate, and self-deluded about being a "genius" when it comes to his rivalry with Bugs Bunny; he was always portrayed as inventive and smart yet extremely clumsy, clownish & gullible in the original shorts. However, his radical character depiction in New Looney Tunes with his higher levels of arrogance done in an intentionally unlikable way has made him become more snobbish, delusional, somewhat irrational and immature, selfish, and more of an imbecile than ever before.
- Especially for how much he can be a hypocrite most of the time; while he treats Bugs like an absolute moron he looks down upon on because of Wile's self-reliance and narcissism based on "higher intelligence", whereas Wile continues to make a fool of himself because of Wile's shortcomings and Bug's stronger sense of rationality/common sense.
- While his actual voice in the classic shorts with him and Bugs Bunny is very charismatic and hammy, some viewers find it to be unfitting or jarring.
The Road Runner
- He has little personality outside of being a blissfully innocent and supersonically fast creature who frequently wins without even trying unlike his adversary Wile E. Coyote, hence making him more of a plot device for the Coyote to go after rather than a character in his own right.
- On that topic, his blissful ignorance of the situation he's in and winning all the time, for either good or wrong reasons, can get stale sometimes, which can make it pretty hard to root for him compared to the Coyote.
- He was horribly flanderized during the Rudy Larriva era, where he is actively cruel and antagonistic towards Wile E. Coyote, making him a sadistic jerk who wants to hurt the coyote, making him very unlikable. Thankfully, he reverted back to his blissfully innocent self after the dark age of the Looney Tunes.
- And even then, there are some people who dislike the Road Runner, flanderized or not, simply because he is an invincible hero who always wins over the Coyote, whom they are rooting for.
- Even though the Road Runner has a great design, he has a bad Sonic the Hedgehog, Sid the Sloth and Crash Bandicoot case of looking absolutely nothing like his real-life counterpart.
Laws and Rules
In his book Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist, Chuck Jones claimed that he and the artists behind the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons adhered to some simple but strict rules:
- "The Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going ‘Beep-Beep!’" This only applies to direct harm; however, the Road Runner is able to indirectly harm Wile E. One of the most common instances of indirect harm was done with a startling "Beep-Beep" that ends up either sending Wile E. off a cliff or up in the air and through a rock above him. Rule 1 was broken twice, once in Clippety Clobbered when the Road Runner drops a boulder on the coyote after painting it with "invisible paint", and again in the episode 'Out and Out Rout' when the Road Runner runs over the Coyote with a steam roller. This rule has also been broken in several CGI shorts from The Looney Tunes Show.
- "No outside force can harm the Coyote — only his own ineptitude or the failure of the Acme products." Trains and trucks were the exceptions from time to time, as well as the desert environment (boulders, cacti, etc.)
- "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)."
- "No dialogue ever, except 'Beep-Beep!'" Various onomatopoeic exclamations (such as yelping in pain) are seemingly not considered dialogue. This rule was violated in some cartoons, such as in Zoom at the Top where the Coyote says the word "Ouch." after he gets hurt in a bear trap, as well as in shorts such as Adventures of the Road Runner, which do not follow the standard formula. Typically, Wile E. Coyote communicates by holding up one or more signs that read such phrases as "In Heaven's name… what am I doing?", "How about ending this cartoon before I hit?" and "Okay, wise guys, you always wanted me to catch him / Now what do I do?", among others. The Road Runner sometimes does this too, having used signs with such phrases as "Road Runners can't read", "Road Runners can't read and don't drink", "I've already got a date", "Road Runners already have feathers", and "I just don't have the heart"/"Bye!", among others.
- "The Road Runner must stay on the road — otherwise, logically, he would not be called a Road Runner." This rule was broken in several shorts, including cactus patches, mines, cliff edges, mountain tops and railways.
- "All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters — the southwest American desert." This rule was broken in Freeze Frame, when Wile E. discovers that Road Runners hate snow and ice and chases the Road Runner onto a snowy summit. In another episode War and Pieces the Coyote tries to catch the Road Runner by riding a rocket; instead he ends up going through the ground and ends up in China.
- "All materials tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation." However, there have been instances in which Wile E. utilizes products not obtained from Acme. Amongst other examples, in Rushing Roulette, the Coyote uses AJAX Stix-All glue. In Zip 'N Snort, aside from the Acme Iron Pellets, Wile E. also had a box of AJAX Bird Seed.
- "Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote's greatest enemy." For example, falling off a cliff.
- "The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures."
These rules were not always followed, and in an interview years after the series was made, principal writer of the original 16 episodes Michael Maltese stated he had never heard of these or any "rules" and dismissed them as "post production observation".
As in other cartoons, the Road Runner and the coyote follow certain laws of cartoon physics, peculiar to an animation universe. Some examples:
- Animation vs. Reality Mixing: the Road Runner has the ability to enter the painted image of a cave, while the coyote cannot (unless there is an opening through which he can fall). Sometimes, however, this is reversed, and the Road Runner can burst through a painting of a broken bridge and continue on his way, while the coyote will instead enter the painting and fall down the precipice of the cliff where the bridge is out.
- Gravity: sometimes the coyote is allowed to hang in mid-air until he realizes that he is about to plummet into a chasm (a process occasionally referred to elsewhere as Road-Runnering or a Wile E. Coyote moment). The coyote can overtake rocks (or cannons) which fall earlier than he does, and end up being squashed by them. If a chase sequence runs over the edge of a cliff, the Road Runner is not affected by gravity, whereas the coyote will be subject to normal Earth gravity and eventually fall to the ground below. The Road Runner can also stand upon a platform suspended in midair (such as a hole cut out from a bridge by the coyote) where gravity instead causes everything but that one cut-out area to plummet to the ground.
- The Road Runner is able to run fast enough to go through time.
- If the coyote uses an explosive (commonly dynamite) that is triggered by a mechanism that is supposed to force the explosive in a forward motion toward its target, the actual mechanism itself will shoot forward, leaving the explosive behind to detonate in the coyote's face. On occasion, the explosive sometimes explodes either too early or too late with the Coyote being caught in the explosion (this gag also appeared in other Looney Tunes series).
- Delayed Reaction: (a) a complex apparatus that is supposed to propel an object like a boulder or steel ball forward, or trigger a trap, will not work on the Road Runner, but always does so perfectly on the coyote - when he inspects it after its failure to ensnare the Road Runner. (b) the Road Runner can jump up and down on the trigger of a large animal trap and eat the intended trap trigger bird seed off it and leave unharmed without setting off the trap; but when the coyote places the tiniest droplet of oil on the trigger, the trap snaps shut on him without fail.
- On other occasions, the coyote dons an exquisite Acme costume or propulsion device that briefly allows him to catch up to the Road Runner, but ultimately always results in him losing track of his proximity to large cliffs or walls, and while the Road Runner darts around an extremely sharp turn near a cliff, defying physics, the coyote succumbs to physics and will rocket right over the edge and plummet spectacularly to the ground.
- In what might be called cartoon biology, the Road Runner always runs faster than the coyote, whilst in reality, a coyote can outrun a greater roadrunner.
Both animals were typically introduced in a similar fashion; the action would slow to a halt, and a caption would appear with both their common name and a mock genus/species name in pseudo-Latin (for example, in Zoom at the Top, the Road Runner was classified as "Disappearialis Quickius", while the coyote was identified as "Overconfidentii Vulgaris").
- Longtime background artist Paul Julian provided the Road Runner's signature "beep beep" (sometimes misheard as "meep-meep") noise and an occasional "popping-cork" tongue noise, which is continued to be re-used as a stock sound effect to this day even after his death in 1995. The Coyote, in contrast, is mostly silent, although his occasional vocal effects were provided by Mel Blanc, who also provided the character's refined, ego-maniacal, almost English-sounding accent in the Bugs Bunny cartoons.
- Silent characters
- Cartoon characters
- TV characters
- Warner Bros. characters
- American characters
- Intelligent characters
- Immature characters
- Gullible characters
- Former villains
- Comic relief
- Unintentionally sympathetic
- Characters that are incompetent
- Strong characters
- Large Hams
- Hard workers
- Logic breakers/defiers
- Funny characters
- 1940s characters
- 1950s characters
- 1960s characters
- 1970s characters
- 1980s characters
- 1990s characters
- 2000s characters
- 2010s characters
- 2020s characters
- Fan favorites
- Looney Tunes characters
- Important characters
- Likable characters
- Cute characters
- Accident-prone characters
- Unlucky characters
- Lucky characters