BEEP BEEP! It’s Road Runner speeding in on foot(???) to Sun City Peachtree! We’ve had all sorts of birds visit us by air and land: We’ve had a hummingbird, a toucan, a penguin (which is classified in zoological terms as a bird), yellow bird of unknown species (Woodstock), a yellow canary (Tweety), a duck (Daffy) who waddled in, and even an owl sneaked in under the cover of night. This time, it’s the Greater Roadrunner species making his way here from the southwest desert.
Debuting in 1949 in Fast and Furry-ous, Road Runner has been portrayed by three different people—Mel Blanc being the most famous.
Of all the characters Mel Blanc has voiced, Road Runner was the easiest. The only thing Road Runner ever says is “Beep Beep,” which really sounds more like “Meep Meep” to me.
Like the other Looney Tunes Cartoons, there is a protagonist and an adversary. In this case., Road Runner’s adversary is Wile E. Coyote, and Road Runner always gets the best of him. In the end, Coyote always ends up looking like a fool and making us all laugh.
Chuck Jones based 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 Coyote-Road Runner cartoons as a parody of traditional “cat and mouse” cartoons such as MGM’s Tom and Jerry. In this case the always-hungry Wile E. Coyote is always trying to make a meal out of Road Runner.
Wile E. Coyote’s name is a pun on the word “wily.” The “E” stands for “Ethelbert” in one issue of a Looney Tunes comic book.
In his book Chuck Amuck: The Life & Times of an Animated Cartoonist, Chuck Jones claimed that he and the animators behind the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons adhered to some strict rules. As it turned out, though, some of those “strict rules” were broken from time to time. The following are a few of the eleven rules that were never broken:
3. The Coyote could stop at any time—if he wasn’t a fanatic.
6. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters—the southwest American desert.
8. Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote’s greatest enemy (e.g., falling off a cliff.)
9. The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.
10. The audience’s sympathy must always remain with the Coyote.
In a 1971 interview with Michael Barrier years after the series was made, Michael Maltese said he had never heard of the “Rules,” and he was the writer for the series!
Road Runner will now be making his way back to the desert, so if you are out on the road, watch out for him! MEEP MEEP!