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Thread by @connorratliff: "Almost all of the Road Runner cartoons are available via the @BoomerangToons app. I subscribed for $5 & decided I'm gonna watch & tw […]" #BeepBeep #MeepMeep #ThoughtsAndPrayers #MerryXmas

, 1189 tweets, 635 min read
Almost all of the Road Runner cartoons are available via the @BoomerangToons app.

I subscribed for $5 & decided I'm gonna watch & tweet about 'em all in chronological order, even the later, terrible ones, for which I have an irrational affection.

Here we go.
#BeepBeep
#MeepMeep
Boomerang lists them alphabetically not chronologically so Chuck Jones masterpieces sit side-by-side with 1960s atrocities (& later 'revival' attempts.)

I am going to start at the beginning. I will also be including Wile E. Coyote/Bugs Bunny & Ralph Wolf/Sam Sheepdog shorts, FYI
September 17, 1949: "Fast And Furry-ous"

Chuck Jones intended this short to be a parody of cat & mouse "chase" cartoons. Instead, he accidentally created the definitive chase cartoon series of all time.
Road Runner (Accelleratii Incredibus)
Coyoye (Carnivorous Vulgaris)

This is basically the proto-Simpsons Couch Gag, and they had it right out of the gate. This series took no time to find its footing, it emerged fully-formed.
Immediately, we learn that the Road Runner is so fast he causes the roads' pavement to fly up in the air like ribbons.

ALSO: the RR is fast, but he can also go even faster if he needs/wants to.
It took less than 60 seconds to establish the entire premise of this series: that the coyote will need to think of an extra-clever way to catch this fast bird.
Coyote's first attempt is so BASIC!

He literally holds out the lid of a metal pot in the hopes that the RR will run straight into it. He is FURIOUS when this doesn't work.
2nd attempt is an actual boomerang. (Hello, @BoomerangToons!)

He is thwarted by a 2nd genuine boomerang, used by the Road Runner.
This is great heightening.

After two very crude efforts, the Coyote's 3rd scheme involves a fake school crossing & dressing up like a little girl. The Road Runner's response is insane and also involves a wig.
It did not take long for the coyote to involve a rocket. This is the first time he basically should have died as the result of his efforts.
It is amazing that he bought a rocket BEFORE he tried a using a boulder.

This is also the first time when it truly felt like the laws of the universe were working against him. This SHOULD have worked.
Look at these blueprints! This should work, right?
It is amazing that "painting a tunnel using perspective" on the side of a mountain is a gag in the very first RR short.

Also, this confirms that REALITY is on the side of the Road Runner & actively against the Coyote.

SMALL MERCY: no truck drives out of the painting, this time
1st ACME product!

(The coyote has ordered several non-ACME products in this short, I wonder when he becomes "brand loyal"?)
1st malfunctioning explosive. The first of many. And another time cheating death!

It is clear, watching these now, that the coyote's curse is that he cannot win but he also cannot die. He is in HELL.
He has already plummeted from a great height once before in this short, but here is the first use of this classic perspective as he falls to his non-death.
A "Merry XMAS" gag in the first Road Runner cartoon? A September release, no less? As if this series didn't already own my heart.
Final gag doesn't make sense and doesn't need to. The deck is stacked against the Coyote should give up, although he never will, and that is why this series is basically perfect.
I will usually only do one of these shorts per day, but today I wanna start with two, because this is amazing.

The 1st Road Runner short was in 1949. The 2nd one wasn't until 1952! And guess what they did BEFORE that...?
I grew up watching all these shorts in "shuffle mode" and had no idea that the idea to give Wile E. Coyote a voice and pair him with Bugs Bunny happened after only ONE Road Runner short!

This is astonishing to me.
Also, @BoomerangToons:

"Operation: Rabbit" & the Ralph Wolf/Sam Sheepdog shorts need to be added to the Boomerang app ASAP!

dailymotion.com/video/x3dsl7i
January 19, 1952: "Operation: Rabbit"

Although a 2nd Road Runner cartoon wasn't far behind, Chuck Jones decided to give the Coyote a name + a voice + a fully articulated worldview. This could have been a disaster but instead it is a triumph.
Cartoon opens with Wile E. Coyote presenting his business card to Bugs and basically negging him.

Insults his intelligence & offers him a chance to surrender.

"WHY do they always want to do it the HARD way?" is a great line.
I would've assumed that the Road Runner/Coyote cartoons were a well-established thing by the time they attempted this variant & it is really blowing my mind to think about this short in this context.

But it is also clear that it 100% works on its own, as a stand-alone cartoon
Hey, the coyote's 1st attempt on Bugs Bunny is basically a high-tech variation on his 1st attempt at catching The Road Runner!
The fact that Wile E. Coyote is waiting to hear from the U.S. Patent Office (presumably for MANY different inventions beyond this one) adds an additional layer of pathos
Coyote's first sex robot attempt foiled by preemptive retaliatory sex robot
This is a very fine example of how funny Mel Blanc's voice acting is. That "OH NO" is so perfectly measured.
Everything about this sequence is perfect, but especially the fake-out where you think he hears the train whistle but instead you realize he is just processing the sound of his own voice:
This closing joke always confused me as a kid. I always assumed it was too sophisticated for me, and that I was missing some additional layer of context or something. I still can't shake that feeling.
Okay, that is all for today. This thread probably won't be as long as the Porky Pig one, since there are fewer than 101 cartoons ahead.

But it will be interesting to process the way these shorts progress, in order. I've never experienced them that way.
May 24, 1952: "Beep, Beep"

Almost 3 years after the first Road Runner cartoon comes this 2nd short, making the original more than just a one-shot.

ALSO: despite this title, everyone hears the noise the Road Runner makes as "Meep, Meep", right?
Road Runner (Acceleratii Incredibus)
Coyote (Carnivorous Vulgaris)

Interesting. They used the same Latin names as the previous short. They haven't yet realized that part of the gag will be to change them every time.
The gradual speeding back up after the freeze frame is so iconic but I think it only really happens in the early shorts, IIRC. (After they did it a few times, they probably chose to drop it because it eats up precious seconds.)

I love the way this part looks and sounds.
I do love when these shorts take the time to include a sequence where the Coyote goes through a range of emotions as he realizes the Road Runner is too fast for him and then comes up with an new idea.
1st attempt involves a contraption which fails inexplicably AND immediately:
Blueprints! Once again, the coyote includes a small joke at the end to amuse himself.
This clip was used in the opening of my dad's TV show for kids, "Showtime", which aired on @KRCG13 at 3:30pm Monday through Friday until 1985, when a big media company bought the station & decided to replace local programming. (He got bumped for syndicated reruns of "Dallas.")
SIDE NOTE: "Dallas" was a huge hit show, so I'm sure they thought they were making a great decision, airing reruns in the afternoon instead of some local kids' show.

Then "Dallas" brought back Bobby Ewing from the dead & the show's popularity fizzled:

This is my first memory of being mad about a TV show being canceled by non-creative executives making what I regarded as a stupid, short-sighted decision. Just realizing now why it hits me on such a deeply personal level.

Apparently, this sequence has often been censored on TV. They include the parachute fail but cut the part where he takes a handful of ACME Aspirin while plummeting to the ground below
Carl Stalling's music is one of the main things that makes classic Warner Bros cartoons so great. I am really fond of this cue, which makes a static shot feel dynamic.

ALSO: another blueprint! Once again, he includes a little joke for his own benefit. It is lonely in the desert.
Callback to previous cartoon! They don't simply repeat the gag, they add to it.
They reprise an overhead highway sequence from the 1st short where they are represented as dots, but this time they set it in an old cactus mine, wearing mining helmets with red & green lights! They are making a real effort not to simply repeat themselves, and it's fun:
It is amazing to think about how they had to nail the comedic timing on these as they were animating them -- they really couldn't tweak it after the fact. This 30 seconds alone shifts gears multiple times and it is all basically perfect:
This short ends the same way as the previous short, but better. Instead of just getting hit by a random bus, this gag is meticulously set up so there is no mistaking the absurdity of it. He CANNOT win. Life is not fair, and he is owed zero explanations.
I am not going to have a lot of criticisms of the shorts from 1949-1964, though it will be interesting to note the many ways the series changes over the course of 15 years.

But wait until 1965/66, when Chuck Jones is no longer making them! I will have *many* criticisms then.
Going! Going! Gosh! - August 23, 1952

This 3rd Road Runner cartoon arrived only a few months after the 2nd one, establishing that this is definitely a series now. For the remainder of the 1950s, there would be at least one new RR short per year (sometimes as many as 2 or 3!)
Road Runner (Acceleratti Incredibilis)
Coyote (Carnivorous Vulgaris)

This is the 3rd & final time they use these specific Latin names. On short #4, they start changing them each time.

This is a good example of a joke I didn't "get" at first as a kid but then it made me learn.
The "speeding back up from a freeze-frame" device is so great, especially the way it sounds. Really helps set the mood for the whole cartoon.
The best Chuck Jones animation is really funny drawing/acting choices.

The stages the Coyote goes through while "realizing the Road Runner is too fast to catch/he will need to think of a new plan" are always a highlight
LOOK how happy the Coyote is, if only for a moment.

(He just fired the bow but the dynamite arrow remains; this is milliseconds before he realizes the error.)
This is milliseconds later.
One thing that keeps these shorts from being repetitive is that the cause of the Coyote's misfortune varies. This is an example where it is entirely his fault:
Not 100% certain, but I think they reuse this exact image in at least one later short:
Carl Stalling's music is always great but this clip is especially nice. The opening set-up and then all the little ways he scores the action and makes it funnier.
It's always fascinating when the Coyote attempts to use sex to catch the Road Runner. He looks thoroughly humiliated when this ruse fails almost immediately.
2nd time the Coyote has painted a fake perspective to fool the Road Runner.

2nd time the Road Runner has entered the painting as if it was reality.

1st time a real truck has driven OUT of the painting.

This is not the Coyote's fault. Reality is actively working against him.
One ACME product, but the Coyote is still buying from multiple vendors, including Excelsior.
OOF this sequence is a tour de force:
Wow, the first 2 RR cartoons ended with the Road Runner passively lounging in the back of a bus & a train, but this time he is actually DRIVING THE TRUCK.

A perfect opening trilogy.

ALSO: look at that wowsa shot of the Coyote flying straight into the camera lens. Great stuff.
Tomorrow: the 1st of 7 spin-off shorts starring Ralph Wolf & Sam Sheepdog!
January 3, 1953: "Don't Give Up The Sheep"

I consider this series to be a spin-off of the Road Runner series, mainly because "Ralph Wolf" (yet to be named in this short) is identical to Wile E. Coyote, but with a red nose. I want to track its development along w/the RR shorts.
Sam Sheepdog opens the short by clocking in while Fred Sheepdog's shift is ending. ALSO: in this 1st short, Sam's name is Ralph.

(Considering how few of these shorts were made, that's a significant continuity error. But the main concepts of this series are all there.)
They haven't yet established that what the wolf is doing is also just a job. The workplace aspect of this series is the main thing that makes it different from the Road Runner cartoons, where the pursuit is more primal.
Although there is no denying the crazed look of hunger in Ralph Wolf's eyes in this debut short. Maybe in this first one, it was not just a job for him. (They clearly hadn't thought of that element of the series yet.)
One big difference that will vanish in later shorts: here, in his first appearance, the wolf is more muscular and way less wiry than Wile E. Coyote ever looks.
1st attempt: Ralph Wolf tries tricking Sam Sheepdog by manipulating the timeclock. And it almost works, too! Another key difference in the series. Sam Sheepdog always triumphs, but not as effortlessly as the Road Runner. He CAN be tricked, however briefly.
ALSO: the all-or-nothing aspect of this near-victory seems like a different dynamic than trying to catch one fast bird. Makes me think Ralph Wolf could find success if he stopped trying to get the entire flock at once.
Wolf disguised as bush is thwarted by Sheepdog disguised as tree. After a shaky start, we see that Sam Sheepdog is a professional.
So far each of Ralph Wolf's attempts has been varied and sophisticated, but this one was pretentious and the least likely to succeed.
Of the 4 attempts so far, Sam Sheepdog has been caught offguard 50% of the time. He recovers quickly, but he is not the totally calm, unflappable badass I remember, at least not in this first appearance.
ACME! Another link beween Coyote & Wolf!

(Also, this is weirder than any of the ACME products Wile E. has ordered up to this point, most of which have been pretty basic mail order things, not a live, ferocious "wild cat" in a box.)
Also, I feel like this is the first instance in which ACME could have/should have been sued. They have no business selling live, dangerous animals via mail order.

Look at what happened to this paying customer upon receiving his package:
This sequence consists of a long stream of reversals. First, Wolf grabs Sheep but it turns out to be Dog. Wolf then climbs rope and saws branch to make Dog fall. Then wolf hears sawing behind him...
...MORE reversals! Dog is delighted to turn tables on Wolf, but then HE hears sawing behind him. Then it happens again, only this time Wolf hears chopping, from below...
...Dog chopping tree leads to Wolf with a pickax trying to chop off the end of the ledge, which leads to our first break with Basic Reality. The ledge floats while somehow everything else falls away.

I am not sure why this gag is less satisfying in this short than in the RR ones
I like this cartoon a lot, but I must admit that I think the moments of vulnerability they give Sam Sheepdog somehow weaken the overall punch of the cartoon.

I think they have yet to figure out that Sam Sheepdog is better when he is damn good at his job.
The final, satisfying twist at the end is when "Fred Sheepdog" clocks in and Sam immediately starts beating the hell out of him, instantly sussing out that it's just Ralph Wolf in a costume. Then the real Fred arrives and takes over the beating.
It is interesting that the Wolf/Sheepdog series starts out slightly less fully formed compared to the near perfection of the 1st RR short.

It does scratch a slightly different itch than that series, which is what makes it impressive. Jones & Maltese had a specific new vision.
I am very curious to see how the series most likely changes in its 2nd short. My guess is that Sam Sheepdog becomes more surefooted, and that the dynamic is more clearly about two professionals, one of whom (Ralph Wolf) is solid but hopelessly outmatched.
The next short I'm gonna watch is the 4th Road Runner cartoon & one which I feel a special connection to bc I also had an abridged version that I watched all the time using this Fisher Price handheld film viewer toy.

I would watch it fast, slow, backwards & frame-by-frame!
For those of you who have no idea what this toy is/was, it was a magical handheld movie viewer that required no batteries to operate. I think it was absolutely my favorite toy as a kid.

retroland.com/fisher-price-m…
In fact, I still have my entire collection of film cartridges for this (along with my other View-Master and reels), I could never bear to get rid of them.
SIDE NOTE: many of the 3D View-Master reels featured VERY cool adaptations of 2D cartoons done in a more 3D/stop-motion style. I had this Road Runner one & always wished it was a real cartoon instead of just a series of still images:
It turns out there is a YouTube channel devoted to old View-Master reels that you can watch in 3-D using one of those little cardboard VR viewers they make to put your phone in!

Here are a few of the images from it. These were so nice, I wish someone would make a coffee table book of old View-Master things like this. They did them for Peanuts, Woody Woodpecker, Disney, Tom & Jerry, etc all in this style:
September 19, 1953: "Zipping Along"

After two in 1952, it has been over a year since the last RR cartoon.
Road Runner (Velocitus Tremenjus)
Coyote (Road-Runnerus Digestus)

This is the first time they decided to change the Latin names! It's a great running gag, both sophisticated and silly.

Also: one of the best-ever Coyote freeze-frames.
The "speeding up" post-freeze frame is shorter this time. Maybe that's the end of this part of the opening ritual. If so, I will miss it. I think it was a cool way to start these. However, I'm sure the precious seconds they save will be put to good use elsewhere in the shorts.
Just want to point out how great this drawing is.
The opening still includes a "pure" 1st attempt to catch the Road Runner without any tricks or technology:
HA! I *knew* they re-used this establishing shot in another cartoon!

I didn't think it was gonna be in back-to-back shorts, though. And they did a good job of changing the coloring so it isn't exactly the same.
A lot of the Coyote's misfortune can be chalked up to bad luck, and some of it can even be blamed on some kind of Higher Power actively working against him.

But so far, his mistakes involving grenades are his own fault. This is bad luck, sure, but also a very sloppy mistake.
I like how this sequence is just a brief personal interaction. No traps or schemes. And a little glimpse to the camera at the end.

I always think that, on some level, the Road Runner is fond of the Coyote, even though he is 100% aware of what his intentions are.
I love the use of music and silence and sound effects here. The timing is all very delicate.
One (1) ACME Giant Kite Kit
One (1) non-ACME Bomb

Maybe he needs to start ordering everything from one company
I thought this was going to be another gag where Gravity itself betrayed the Coyote, but no: this was entirely his fault. He should have seen this coming.
ACME Bird Seed
ACE Steel Shot
Ok, this one is NOT the Coyote's fault, at all. I'm not even sure we can ever know who or what caused a large metal explosive to be drawn to a magnet in the middle of the desert.
Another great image:
I have no idea who Hershenberger is, but this book is wildly irresponsible
It is impressive that the Road Runner can suddenly whip out a large hand mirror the moment he needs it but it has already been established that he can instantly produce custom-made signs that say whatever the situation requires, so this is probably easy:
It is almost shocking to see a character in a Warner Bros cartoon walk off a cliff and instantly fall, without the customary 10 paces + moment of realization
100% Coyote's fault
Now that I'm looking out for it, this short is re-using all sorts of backgrounds from the previous year's RR short!

Makes sense! Chuck Jones would often use these RR cartoons to funnel money into the budgets of his more ambitious shorts like "What's Opera, Doc?"
This gag was sometimes censored on TV because it was too violent but don't worry now u can buy a single gun that can shoot this much all at once and even terrorists & insane people are allowed to buy them because of a delberate misreading of the 2nd Amendment. #ThoughtsAndPrayers
This joke is basically repeated from the earlier Wolf/Sheepdog short, where it was the end of a log escalating sequence of gags. It works better here, as a standalone joke, than it did as a payoff in Don't Give Up The Sheep.
Whose fault, this time? I am uncertain. Did the Coyote order a cannon specifically designed for a "human cannonball"? Or did he rig this up himself? It's hard to know which is more likely, although so far I haven't noticed any ACME products being defective, just misused.
This one, I don't blame the Coyote for. It's pretty impressive how close he comes here, given how difficult this looks like it would've been to set up. Really think about it, this one looks exhausting:
So far, every RR cartoon has ended w/the Coyote getting run over by a vehicle, although this is the 1st one w/no sign of the RR.

I love how the panic leads him to trigger the explosives & then he still gets run over

Also, the Coyote deliriously imitating the RR is a nice button
One alarming realization: the Fisher Price film cartridge of "Zipping Along" is only partly excerpted from this short! It also contains footage that is clearly from a later 1950s RR short, and I somehow never noticed this when I was a kid.
August 14, 1954: "Stop! Look! And Hasten!"

Almost 5 years since their debut short, the fifth Road Runner cartoon arrives:
Road Runner (Hot-roddicus Supersonicus)
Coyote (Eatibus Anythingus)
A sadder opening than any previous RR shows the Coyote eating bugs.

(Not Bugs Bunny-- actual insects)
The sudden prospect of a delicious Road Runner dinner makes the Coyote reconsider eating a tin can:
So far, each of these shorts has sort of started from scratch in terms of re-establishing the premise of the series. In this instance, they are really emphasizing the Coyote's hunger.

Really vivid animation of the Coyote hungrily licking his chops:
Coyote's eyeballs literally fall out of his head upon seeing how fast the Road Runner is. This is a gag but also makes me consider whether aspects of this series almost cross over into Cronenbergian body horror
Another Coyote think sequence.

I like how they clearly felt this was a crucial beat, deserving of a small pause in the action. It buys them a lot, showing this; we assume that each of the schemes we see later was the result of a great deal of cateful consideration.
I have to say, I have a preference for the gags where the Coyote has clearly done a good & thorough job and the inevitable bad result is out of his hands. This plan looks like it should work:
It did not work.
This scheme is pretty basic.

It fails when, instead of catching the Road Runner, it "catches" a large truck with a similar sounding beep.

(By now, this is a clear hazard that the Coyote should factor in: every large truck seems to also make a "meep meep" noise.)
This scheme fails by catching an actual Burmese Tiger. Is this the only time they did a Latin species name gag mid-short, for a non-Coyote/Road Runner? I really like this.

Burmese Tiger (Surprisibus! Surprisibus!)
They spend 30+ seconds setting up a gag that won't pay off until the end of the short.

It's effective, and makes this film particularly memorable in a series where it is easy for them to all become a blur.
I feel like the Road Runner's life is like 90% whimsy.
The early RR shorts love these sequences where they pull back to show how these chases play out in the big picture.

This one is great because it is deceptively simple: a single background painting, and the camera pans up and down, yet it feels much more complicated than that!
The combination of lighting, music & sound effects (plus the expression on his face) makes this feel more terrifying and painful than the other times the Coyote has been injured in this short. Something about this one makes me really feel it.
Coyote's fault! He is too careless with explosives. But this is also bad luck.

(ALSO: non-ACME TNT.)
On its own, "Coyote is on a motorcycle and immediately crashes into a pole" isn't even much of a gag, is it?

I guess it works because it happens so fast in the middle of all the more complicated failures.
ACME Bird Seed. So far, I think I have only found fault with one ACME product (the live "Wild Cat" in the first Ralph Wolf short). Most of their stuff seem to be "as advertised."

It does seem like, in 2017, the Coyote would be an Amazon Prime member.
This is at least the 3rd time Jones & Maltese have used this gag, although visually this instance feels different.

Having it play out in an extreme wide shot feels funnier. It's more brazen: "Yeah, so what if it makes no sense? This is what happened! Deal with it!"
ACME Triple-Strength Fortified Leg Muscle Vitamins (Family Size)

Okay, this is a crazy product, especially since it actually works & makes the coyote's leg muscles expand instantly.
More Cronenbergian body horror:
A fantastic conclusion, as the leg muscle vitamins make it look like he is FINALLY fast enough to catch the Road Runner.

The cut to the trap from earlier allows JUST enough time for your brain to catch up & enjoy a half-moment of anticipation of the final gag. PERFECT timing.
A striking final image, as the Road Runner writes out the farewell in the dust, and you can see the Coyote very small off to the side, either stunned or trapped or both.
December 11, 1954: "Sheep Ahoy"

The 2nd Ralph Wolf/Sam Sheepdog cartoon is even better than the first. They figured out at least two big things since the first one...
The short opens with this well-paced & visually striking sequence where the wolf sneakily tries to take advantage during a sheepdog shift change:
Even though he is almost identical to the Coyote, the opening shots of the wolf so far are much more disturbing.
1st scheme is so simple. Show up early, grab a sheep.
The 1st big change since the first short is that the Sheepdog is still slow but he never appears to be rattled by anything the Wolf does. He is quiet, calm & confident.
Wolf attempts to drop boulder on sheepdog, who is saved by a tree above him. I choose to think this is not bad luck on the wolf's part, but skill on the dog's end of things in choosing where to sit. He knows what he's doing.
Likewise, a pole-vaulting trick is easily thwarted. The wolf consistently underestimates what he is up against.
ACME Smoke Screen Bomb creates a cloud of smoke that disguises you when you walk around. (Unlike the Coyote at this point, so far the wolf ONLY orders ACME products.)
It really makes such a huge difference that the Sheepdog never seems panicked. Also, he has always reminded me of Wilford Brimley, although I think DeNiro would also be good casting in a live action version of this. He's stoic.
This is the first ACME product that seems like it's trying too hard.
This Sheepdog is a PROFESSIONAL
The angle hides the violent act that happens below the frame, but that actually makes it feel MORE violent.
In the previous short, it felt like the Wolf occasionally had the upper hand. It lent the debut a slightly weird energy that this 2nd one doesn't have. It's funnier when the Wolf THINKS he has the upper hand while we wait for the reveal that he does not.
These two are not equals. The Wolf is outmatched every step of the way.
Even when the Sheepdog makes an effort now (signage), he makes it seem so simple by comparison
Blueprints! Done in the identical style to the Coyote's, although -- slight but telling difference -- the Wolf's blueprints don't end with little jokes for his own amusement.
Final sequence reveals this short's other big innovation: the Wolf ALSO punches a clock and works a shift! This move is a masterstroke.

ALSO: the names are still all screwy.

Sam Sheepdog is "Ralph"
Ralph Wolf is "George"
The other wolf is named "Sam"
And then there's Fred.
I think this is one of the first WB shorts where Milt Franklyn was musical director instead of Carl Stalling. He was Stalling's arranger since 1936 & eventually takes over completely when Stalling retires in '58 but then Franklyn dies of a heart attack in 1962. This got sad quick
April 30, 1955: "Ready.. Set.. Zoom!"

The 6th Road Runner cartoon shows the subtle ways that the series avoids merely repeating itself...
We open on the Road Runner, standing still...
Since the films are no longer using the freeze-frame, the Road Runner zips out of the foreground before the Latin species text can appear on screen:
Road Runner (Speedipus Rex)
Coyote (Famishus-Famishus)
Take note of the BONES scattered on the ground outside of the Coyote's cave. Did he successfully kill something in between films? Are we only being shown his failures?
Are we ever meant to specifically think these films exist in any kind of continuity? Or is each one a new reality, or a different Coyote/Road Runner pairing? So far, he has only been named "Wile E. Coyote" in the single short with Bugs Bunny.
Terrific deliberately off-model reaction shot:
A cloud of dust obscures some more Cronenbergian body horror
Coyote thinking sequence, with final glance-to-camera overtly breaking the 4th wall
The first few shorts all concluded with the Coyote being run over by a vehicle; here, they get that out of the way with his 1st attempt.

The gag is basically a repeat, but structurally they are mixing it up.
The next gag starts as kind of a repeat: Coyote covers street with glue; RR speeds through & splashes it off the road, splashing all over Coyote.

Previously, it was quick drying cement; this time, it's glue & there's a stick of dynamite in the mix...
...and it leads to a series of reactions as it gets worse and worse. Every frame of this is funny.
All of this leading up to the best part, when the Coyote painfully uses his ass bones to walk over a small cliff to land in the water, cringing in pain the whole way, and all for nothing.

This is SO well-animated:
The Coyote is, I think, at his most relatable when it seems like the Universe itself is out to get him:
And yet, it does feel like most of the time his misfortunes are his own fault. (Also very relatable.)
It is easy to like the Road Runner, but harder to relate to him.

It is my aspiration to be able to live like the Road Runner, I think. Stress-free despite ample reasons to be concerned at any given moment.
5 items, but only the Out-Board Motor is an ACME
This is one of my favorite parts, the moment where he triumphantly frees himself from the contraption only to watch the thing make it all the way across:
ACME's Female Road-Runner costume is way better than the officially licensed Road Runner costumes that were available when I was a kid.
The ending to this film is a mind-blower, and leads back to the unanswerable question I posed at the top of this short: is it always the same Coyote & Road Runner?
Did those Coyotes catch and eat the original Coyote? Wait, were those COYOTE BONES at the top of this short? Is this a Mobius strip??
ALSO: dear readers, it has been brought to my attention by @theadamhayden that the "Jim-Dandy Wagon" identified several tweets ago as a non-ACME item is, in fact, visibly labeled as a product of the ACME Toy Co.

WE REGRET THE ERROR
July 23, 1955: "Double Or Mutton"

The 3rd Wolf/Sheepdog short, and another one of the very few shorts in this series that for some reason isn't currently showing up on @BoomerangToons. (I'm sure this could be easily remedied!)
This is the 1st time we see Ralph & Sam arriving at work at the same time & clocking in using the same punch clock.

(The previous short established that they were both on the job, but this one establishes that they are colleagues & polite to one another outside of work.)
Finally, this series settles on the "correct" character names!

Although their "last names" are actually their job titles, and Sam's has a hyphen in it! "Sheep-dog"

ALSO: this short takes place on Hump Day.
This is the first time that Ralph Wolf hasn't started out by trying to manipulate the timeclock or take advantage of the shift change. He starts work at exactly the same moment as Sam Sheep-dog.
1st attempt: tunneling.

Ralph does this well but Sam is ready for him. The sad truth is that both of them are really good at their jobs, but Sam is better, and indisputably so.
Wolf thinking sequence
No amount of preparation, equipment or technology seems to be enough to thwart Sam Sheep-dog's ability to be wherever he needs to be at any given moment, even if it seems impossible.
A rare moment of victory for Ralph Wolf.

One key difference compared to their 1st short is that, while Ralph momentarily seems to have the upper hand, Sam Sheep-dog doesn't look even slightly panicked, even as a rocket carries him away...
Another advance: in the first short, Ralph attempted to take the whole flock at once. Here, he wisely settles for one. (Not that it matters.)

They are BOTH getting better at their jobs, but Ralph will never, it seems, be better than Sam.
Ralph Wolf's more theatrical/literary attempts seem like real long shots.

At least when he uses a rocket or a helicopter it feels like he has a fighting chance.
Sam's counter-move is especially humiliating, as it reveals a level of skill & theatrical flair that puts Ralph to shame. Plus, he follows it with a beating.
Helicopter pulled down within seconds.
Canon turned to face other direction. That's two big & expensive pieces of equipment in a row, both immediately rendered useless.
A SECOND Wolf thinking sequence? Also, what is that cave, his office? And what are those bones? Did he get to eat something recently? SO many questions!
ACME Patented Hair Grower (GUARANTEED).

Also: this rain is nicely dramatic, and emphasizes Sam Sheep-dog's quiet commitment to his job.
These are just 4 moments from a nicely drawn-out sequence.

Every gag in these shorts is somewhat predictable/inevitable, the pleasure is in the surprise of how they play out.

The patient confidence of a scene like this is impressive & fun.
There is something so sad and beautiful about the ending of this short. It's just a job. They go home to their lives. It's Wednesday evening.
December 10, 1955: "Guided Muscle"

The 7th Road Runner cartoon was the 2nd one released in 1955.
We open with a seemingly content Coyote, happily preparing a tin can for his dinner.

Compare this to the earlier "hungry coyote" opening, which showed him miserably choking down insects.

Could it be that the Coyote has found a non-Road Runner meal option that satisfies him?
The answer is NO.
Incidentally, this short was featured the very fun "100 Greatest Looney Tunes" book, in which the great animation historian @jerrybeck, wrote: "if I had to pick a 'pure' Road Runner-Coyote film, this would be it."
Road Runner (Velocitus Delectiblus)
Coyote (Eatibus almost anythingus)
Coyote thinking sequence. I tend to think the glance-to-camera makes us complicit on some level. We, the audience, ARE the Coyote.
1st attempt: Coyote transforms himself into an arrow.

(No indication as to whether the large bow or arrowhead nose attachment were ACME products.)
1) It's going well
2) confident glance-to-audience
3) sudden failure
4) additional surprise bonus failure
The 1st fail was entirely the Coyote's fault. This, however, is not.
One can hardly blame the Coyote for being baffled by this. Even so, by the end, he was sort of asking for it.
It can be reasonably argued that even if everything with that slingshot had gone exactly according to plan, it still would have ended like this.

Perhaps the Universe is simply trying to send the Coyote a message, emphatically.
How many different ways can a cannon malfunction? Hard to know if this was user error, Act Of God or ACME product defect (perhaps a combination of all three?)
I think my favorites are when the Coyote's plans come impressively close to working and then fail simply & spectacularly
And I like how this is basically the exact same gag but staged in the opposite direction:
ACME grease
Normally, a vehicle running him over is the climax of a sequence; here, it is the first thing that happens, as a prelude to a series of smaller, quieter failures
Non-ACME Bird Seed
Non-ACME TNT
Many of the Coyote's mishaps with explosives have been the result of carelessness on his part.

NOT THIS TIME: this non-ACME TNT is dangerously defective!!

It is a shame we never got to see the Coyote take a manufacturer to court.
No author listed. (Seems like a missed opportunity either for a gag or to sneak a friend or fellow animator's name in)

Also, 10th printing? This fuels my speculation that it is a different Coyote every time - they all ordered this book.
One part of this book is instructions for building this absolutely terrifying machine which seems like it makes more sense for committing hate crimes.

Presumably, the rest of this book is other ways? That don't involve this crazy machine? This book is a real puzzler.
The Road Runner also calls bullshit on that book.
A nicely-timed fail, rooted in the Coyote's psychological weakness, his anger and frustration causing him to forget the trap he JUST set.
"Manager of this theater? I watched this on my phone via the @BoomerangToons app."
These cartoons are keenly aware of how important it is to stick the landing.

Having the Coyote quit & literally drag the end titles card across the screen would've been a fine finale of this had been where the series ended.

Thankfully, there is much more still to come.
May 5, 1956: "Gee Whiz-z-z-z-z-z-z"

Road Runner cartoon #8 opens with the Coyote interacting with the title cards:
Road Runner (Delicius-Delicius)
Coyote (Eatius Birdius)
Road Runner runs makes an unusual turn. Keep an eye out for it later...
Coyote thinking sequence, this time involving signage for the audience's benefit
1st attempt: a shotgun

In 2017, this would no doubt be a semi-automatic weapon but it still wouldn't work. Coyote would most likely just shoot himself with more bullets, faster.

#ThoughtsAndPrayers
Bullet cannot catch the Road Runner, is confused, explodes (uncharacteristically.)

This is one crazy bullet.
A 2nd Coyote thinking sequence? And so soon? The insane, inexplicable way that bullet malfunctioned must have really shaken his confidence.
ACME triple-strength Battleship Steel Armor Plate (1 sheet)
More Cronenbergian body horror
Is this the Coyote's fault? More often than not, explosives mishaps are his fault. I think this one falls more under the heading of Bad Luck...
...but I will bet that the Coyote spends these few seconds wondering if there is anything he could've done differently.
ACME Bat-Man's Outfit (Reg. Size)
Wait, this is just a costume, why is the Coyote acting like this actually makes him Bat-Man? He is about to jump off a clip simply because he ordered an outfit!
Having said all that, it worked!

I guess there must've been special instructions indicating that the outfit was capable of actual flight?

In any case, this is a regrettably careless mistake he makes at the end. He doesn't even come close to using this to catch the Road Runner!
ACME Anvil (375 lbs.)
ACME Giant Rubber Band

It is worth noting that I think this is the first RR short where ALL the products have been ACME brand!

(I think Ralph Wolf has been ACME loyal from the start, although he orders fewer items, generally)
I mean, this was NEVER going to work.
Really cool camera angles here, and a device that honestly should have worked.
It did not work.
It must be said, the Coyote is really fucking good at painting. And fast! Although this isn't perfect. Look at how poorly it lines up at the sides! Then again, he is just a Coyote. But also, he's a GENIUS. Anyway, all in all, this is impressive.
ROAD RUNNER: ignores "Bridge Out" sign! Smashes through painting. Rules, warnings mean nothing to him!

COYOTE: runs into the reality of his own painting. How does he get out? Do the rest of the scenes take place inside the world of the painting? We never see him escape from it.
Coyote rigs a bomb to blow up a bridge!

This is basically an act of failed terrorism, dedicated to this week's Port Authority bomber who injured only himself and, unlike the Coyote, gets zero additional chances + has fucked his own life up forever.
Yep! All ACME now. Brand loyalty has arrived for the Coyote.

ACME Handle Bars
ACME Jet Motor
It is fun watching the Coyote fall behind and then catch up, as these are minor moments of success for him
There it is again! It's a callback!
Late-in-the-game Coyote thinking sequence leads to actual final failure
Backing up a moment to appreciate a couple of things: Carl Stalling's use of Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse"!
AND: this freeze-frame I accidentally captured, of the Coyote going super fast. Frameable.
Now back to the Coyote, just now realizing that he is floating in mid-air:
Last time, the Coyote handed in his notice to management & dragged the end titles onto the screen.

This time, he is less defiant and more defeated, begging for the cartoon to end early as an act of mercy.
November 10, 1956: "There They Go-Go-Go!"

The 9th Road Runner cartoon, and by now I can only assume that keeping this series fresh was a challenge. Its look had subtly evolved, steadily becoming more abstract in its depiction of desert vistas, but the central joke was unchanged
We open with a lengthy, patient "starving coyote" prologue. He is making a bird carcas out of clay or mud. He does not seem unhappy.
They are in no hurry to get to the regular gags, taking their time with every beat of this sequence. We know where this is going, but they are having fun in delaying.
The payoff to this is equally deliberate, a slow burn as he loses a tooth biting into hardened fake bird. One would assume that the next & final beat would be an unhappy sulk to-camera...
But WAIT: it's not over! Is he making another fake bird? Did they accidentally go back to the beginning? What is happening? Is this a Road Runner cartoon or the first Coyote solo short?
The fastidiousness of the Coyote making a wastebasket for his fake bird carcus is only matched by that of Jones & Maltese making a full meal out of this prologue.

(Not one word of this is intended as criticism; I love it & genuinely could have watched a whole short of only this)
And now, down to business:

Coyote (Famishius Fantasticus)
Road-Runner (Dig-Outius Tid-Bittius)
Excellent final flourish for the prologue items as he stops fooling himself and gives in to his true hunger
Is the Road Runner getting faster? Because this is new, right?

Did the RR *learn* this by observing how the Coyote set the road on fire after taking those leg muscle vitamins & nearly catching him several shorts ago?
Even the quickest moments in the RR shorts make the most of every beat.
Again, they are in no hurry to get to the trap gags...
It almost feels like they were close to making a short where the Coyote never even made it to the point of trying to really trap the Road Runner; he just happens to see one and that moment alone triggers a chain reaction of bad luck events
This sequence confused the hell out of me as a kid. Were divining rods a more commonly known thing in the 1950s?

I remember trying to do this (after seeing it in multiple cartoons) with of course zero luck.
Coyote thinking sequence, starting with pure rage at having been set on fire but it doesn't take long for him to get an idea
Attempt #1: the rope was too long.

Given the impressive complexity of previous endeavors, a mistake like this is unacceptable.
This is another example where I'm not sure it would have worked even in the best case scenario. The coyote is off his game so far
Coyote, in what world do you think the Road Runner is going to be foiled by this? It's vicious, yes, but it will neither lure him nor move as fast as him, and those are really your only 2 pathways to possible success.
Having said that, this was just bad luck.

(Only the Coyote's fault in the sense that he should by now be braced for the worst.)
I think it is no coincidence that this short hasn't featured any ACME products whatsoever and it is also a possible low point for the Coyote.
In the previous short, the Coyote blew up an actual bridge. Now he is making his own fake bridge in order to sabotage it. (SO fake it requires a sign identifying it as a bridge)

Are we to assume that he has already blown up all the existing bridges in the area?
Always a dangerous moment when the Coyote's well thought-out plans are ruined and he is tempted to think on his feet.
Even as a backup plan, climbing a ladder up a cliff is a contender for the single most pointless idea the Coyote has ever come up with: significant risk and 0% chance of success.

Is he hoping that the Road Runner will just wait at the top to be caught by him?
Impressive Tom Cruise/Mission: Impossible-level mid-air ladder moves, it must be said.
Deserved, if only to learn the lesson that he needs to start thinking more clearly and never try to improvise a new plan on the spot. He's terrible at it.
We see him salvage this wagon wheel from some wreckage. Why isn't he ordering from ACME? Maybe he is trying a new approach. Admittedly, it's hard to know what to do when you literally NEVER succeed.
Not Coyote's fault.

Although maybe this is a non-ACME product, in which case: you get what you pay for.

And it *could* be user error. He is not at his best, admittedly.

Regardless, I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.
In any other previous short, I'd say this is bad luck or the Universe working against him.

But I think he just packed those rocks too tight. Coyote's fault!
Nine shorts in, the Coyote finally loses his mind. None of this is rational behavior.
Coyote realizes that he is the problem.

This is a real breakthrough moment, although he is also about to get crushed by falling rocks.
1st appearance of a tiny, useless umbrella!

Empty symbolic gesture, or a healthy admission that he needs help?
This was a tough one, in the sense that it is more painful to watch the Coyote when the mistakes are mostly his own fault.

It is actually easier when they are mixed in with some unavoidable bad luck and some Job-like cosmic persecution.
Carl Stalling's excellent orchestral score for this specific short can be heard in its entirety on Spotify, from the first volume that came out on CD of selections of his work:
open.spotify.com/track/5OHYOJKR…
December 15, 1956: "To Hare Is Human"

Almost 5 years since their previous encounter, Wile E. Coyote (here pronounced "kiy-oh-TAY") once again attempts to kill & eat Bugs Bunny.
I should have noted this in the previous RR short, that Charles M. Jones is now officially credited as Chuck Jones!
Last time, Wile E. Coyote installed a collapsible doorway and Bugs rose out of his rabbit hole via his own hydraulic lift.

This time, Wile E. installs his own collapsible elevator over Bugs' rabbit hole and emerges carrying a sack...
Zero tension upon the reveal that Bugs is in the sack.

By this time, the Coyote's reputation with the audience precedes him. No harm will come to the Rabbit, and he is not the least bit worried.
New business cards add a slogan ("Have Brain Will Travel") but he has seemingly re-thought the self-upgrade to "Super-Genius"
Coyote begins by condescending to Bugs, referring to him as his "breakfast" & explaining what he thinks Bugs' first move will be.
Debate over whether or not there is something in the sack once Bugs has stepped out of it.

Bugs insists there is something else in the bag, but the Coyote is convinced it is empty.
So, to re-trace our steps a little: when the Coyote initially went down into Bugs' home and put him in the sack, Bugs surrendered easily but also snuck along some explosives.

COLD AS ICE, THIS RABBIT.
1st instance of scat singing in a Coyote cartoon:
How many explosives does Bugs Bunny keep at the ready in his underground apartment?? That cannot be safe.

And it seems unnecessary, for a guy who mostly gets by on his wits.
In addition to the power of speech, Wile E. Coyote also has a place to live in these first two cartoons with Bugs. (Or at least some kind of office/workshop space.)

He seems to be doing better overall in these shorts.

At the very least, he doesn't start out depressed in them.
WHAT? "UNIVAC"??? Why not ACME??

The previous RR short was the first to feature ZERO ACME products. Now this? What is going on here? Something is happening.
Holy shit. Pretty impressive machine for 1956. Military grade.

Maybe something like this was simply beyond ACME's capabilities.
Unlike the Road Runner or the flock of sheep, Bugs Bunny is active in terms of both offense and defense, here adding a higher level of security to prevent, say, a makeshift elevator from being installed.
We see how the UNIVAC Electronic Brain works.

Based on what's visible here, it has about 130 options for type of animal, 12 possible locations & I can't see how big the panel is for type of lock.

I would like to see Wile E. Coyote match wits with a Potato Bug or Hoop Snake.
The UNIVAC Electronic Brain provides a detailed solution.

As far as I can tell, the Coyote interpreted "Burglary Methods" to involve the highly theatrical use of a fake bedroom window (with curtains drawn) and a burglar-style cap.

Unable to simply follow instructions.
By contrast, Bugs Bunny does what is required without a bunch of unnecessary flourishes.
It is easy to imagine this not working, but I cannot argue with the results here.
The ugly, unseen side of the "Coyote Disposal" mechanism.

Also, the banana peel went through but where did the Coyote's green burglar cap go? (I don't think this is a continuity error, I think Bugs owns that cap now.)
2nd song of this short. Bugs basically turns these into mini-musicals.
Here's a 1939 Guy Lombardo version of that song. Warner Bros. music division owned it, so it was among the songs Carl Stalling returned to more than once...

The Rabbit-Scope is pretty amazing for 1956.

ALSO: the fact that 3 of the buttons on the UNIVAC Electronic Brain are for "breakfast" "toaster" & "carrots" is especially impressive and makes me think this machine is highly customizable.
This time, he follows the instructions with no embellishments, and I have to say that, at first, this is among his most successful efforts, for what it's worth.
TFW u drop 2 grenades into a carrot toaster & they both spring back up & then one of them explodes but the other one hasn't exploded YET but u know it will like 2 seconds from now
Pushing the buttons for "WHAT" and "NOW" and "[question mark]" gets an immediate and specific response.

This is better than Siri.
"Use a plunger" was apparently the answer to "What Now?"
We can only assume that Bugs Bunny has a tremendous amount of storage space down below for things like this that take up a lot of room but which he probably only uses on rare occasions.
Bugs keeps a clean apartment (and pretty modern in terms of decor)

ALSO: Bugs is dressed like this for himself. Usually he we see him dress like this to trick predators but here he is, clearly just more comfortable like this, in the privacy of his own home
This is another solid plan that should have worked...
The Coyote's decision to hide in a nearby trash can instead of getting as far away as possible makes this result 100% his fault. Although Bugs' decision to immediately stop vacuuming was incredibly bad luck (suspiciously so)
The less-than-confident tone now taken by the UNIVAC Electronic Brain is disconcerting.

ALSO: it must be a lot of work to maintain a carrot patch in the desert, and if the Coyote is truly hungry, he should maybe eat some of those carrots.
Song #3! "Time Waits For No One" but with totally new lyrics about carrots
I believe this was yet another song in the huge Warner Bros music catalog at their disposal:
The desperation in Wile E. Coyote's voice here is yet another example of what a great comic actor Mel Blanc was.

ALSO: the Coyote's faith in technology is unshakable. He does not hesitate to obey the UNIVAC Electronic Brain.
Pretty significant twist ending answers a lot of questions but also raises a few.

Most importantly, it explains why this machine wasn't an ACME product.
January 26, 1957: "Scrambled Aches"

This is the first Road Runner cartoon to feature a title with an emphasis on pain rather than speed.
Road-Runner (Tastyus Supersonicus)
Coyote (Eternalii Famishiis)
No need for a Sad Coyote Prologue this time, just quick intros and cut right to the PAIN
Coyote Thinking Sequence fades out this time as we see him sorting through the specifics of his new idea:
Attempt #1: Fake Coyote Leg for tripping Road Runner

I cannot think of a single reason why this would be more effective than a simple tripwire.
I'll be honest, this seems like a weak first idea on every level.
I guess the upside of such a weak plan is that the consequences of failure are relatively mild
More Cronenbergian Body Horror
A 2nd Coyote Thinking Sequence after such a meager 1st plan makes me nervous.
100% Coyote's fault.
In its own strange way, this series is highly inspirational.
This makes me wonder how much time passes between scenes. Weeks, maybe months?
Likewise, some of these plans must take a very long time to set up. Even the simpler ones seem like they would take a full afternoon.
Nothing good ever starts like this
TFW it's going to be alright but then really it's NOT
More Cronenbergian body horror
ACME is BACK!!!

After shorts in a row filled with non-ACME products, they are back in a big way.
A) A box of Dehydrated Boulders is the craziest ACME product yet
B) I'm certain their intended purpose isn't to kill Road Runners but don't know what it's legitimate use would be
C) guarantee the back of the box warns not to do this
ACME is back in such a big way that there are ZERO non-ACME products in this short AND in this instance, they only need their first initial to identify themselves
The final 97 seconds of this cartoon contain pretty much everything that is great about these shorts.

I particularly like the confident patience of the section where he is happy & out of breath. They resisted the temptation to skip or shorten that part.
June 8, 1957: "Steal Wool"

The title card confirms what his work punchcard told us previously: Sam Sheep-dog's last name has a hyphen in it!
Pretty explicit view of Sam Sheep-dog's morning ritual
BIG REVEAL: not only are Sam Sheep-dog & Ralph Wolf co-workers, they are NEIGHBORS.

And friendly ones! Here's Sam, throwing Ralph's morning paper onto his porch.
Subtle indications that Ralph is a little less "together" than Sam. Rushing, eating a donut, ignores the paper.
They walk to work together! This is, I think, the final piece of infrastructure for this series, that they are true friends whose work pits them against one another.
Ralph Wolf's physical transformation for his job is deliberate & precise. Unemotional. He puts a lot of thought & effort into it.
By comparison, Sam Sheep-dog's professional transformation is instantaneous:
Great fast creeping music by Carl Stalling:
The sheep are just normal animals in these cartoons and it is actually funny how little they really ever do.
Chuck Jones at the height of his powers. Even though he was most likely diverting resources from this specific cartoon to make his masterpiece, "What's Opera, Doc?" (released one month later), you would not guess it from the quality of this short.
I mean, so many of the main jokes in these are just behavioral. It's great. Thinking, "maybe I can still get away with this," until the sudden, panicked realization that YOU CAN'T.
When I was a kid, I imagined making one of these cartoons in which the injuries would remain & get worse throughout the cartoon.

I understood the reasons why it was generally funnier to have him recover for each new scene but I still think it would be fun to try it that way once
Sam Sheep-dog's punches are among the most violent things in all of cartoons. The fact that they are friends outside of work makes it somehow both tolerable AND worse.

None of the violence in the desert feels as terrifying. It's all accidental. There is INTENTION behind this.
The side-eye to camera is always fun in moments like these.
Bridge made of dynamite. Immediately, I am skeptical.
Lure Sam Sheep-dog across bridge. So far, so good. I am still skeptical of whatever this plan is.
Destroy the bridge behind you? While you are ON it? Jesus CHRIST, man, this seems like a risk. Given everything you've seen, the things you've been through. What makes you think this will work?
I tend to think there is some kind of trick like in The Prestige going on. More than one dog. And that explains everything. Or is he just THAT good at his job? So good that you can never beat him?
ALSO: it's seemingly not enough that you give back the sheep. He makes you feel the full brunt of defeat. Because THAT'S the job.
Frameable.

Also, another reminder that Jones is never phoning it in.
36 seconds of perfection.

There are so many odd little moments of quirky comic timing that are still surprising 60 years later, which is pretty amazing if you think about how quickly a lot of Comedy goes stale.
Followed by 32 seconds of additional perfection.

Every little beat of this is impressive to me.
60 seconds of continued perfection. I mean, this is a great cartoon.

I want to point out the inspired use of a train whistle halfway through this.

There is no train in this sequence, but that noise is as perfect as Scorsese's use of animal noises in Raging Bull:
I almost wish they had shown us Sam Sheep-dog doing both jobs.

This is without a doubt one of my favorite Chuck Jones shorts now, and one of the finest in this viewing marathon.
One of the fun things about watching these shorts in chronological order is that I have seen them all many, MANY times before but always in random order.

Seeing them in order makes it easier to spot when the series reaches its high points.
ALSO: @IMDb should not primarily identify one of the most acclaimed filmmakers of the 20th century as an actor from Gremlins
September 14, 1957: "Zoom and Bored"

Not only is there no time for a Sad Coyote prologue, the chase has already begun during the opening titles!
They both look so HAPPY here.
Road-Runner (Birdibus Zippibus)
Coyote (Famishus Vulgarus)
Big fan of any time the Coyote is running so fast that it appears he has 13 legs
No Coyote Thinking Sequence in this one, which instead begins with an elegantly conceived opening in 3 parts.

Part One is so iconic it feels like it happened in multiple RR shorts, and I'm now not sure that it actually did.
After the Gravity Reveal of Part One, the 2nd part begins with the Coyote crawling up the side of the cliff and struggling to catch his breath.

Part Two also involves Gravity but in a completely different way.
Part Two followed up a slow reveal with a sudden surprise.

Part Three is even quicker and also mixes it up by having him injure himself on the way up rather than by another long fall downward.

Easily one of the most memorable openings to any of these cartoons.
1st attempt: Camouflaged Hole In Road

It must be said, this book is crazy. If the title of the book is "The Art Of Road Runner Trapping" then is it that big at the top of EVERY page?

If it's a chapter title, it's weird to just list a 4-pt plan.

Also, the facing page is blank!
The book's instructions did not specify the use of a jackhammer. It seems like his blame here is misdirected.

(That being said, based on what little we saw of it, it did not seem like a great book.)
Nice little moment of callback continuity here in the very next scene.
This plan is pretty basic and seems like a low-risk proposition. And not substantially more effort than many of his schemes.
It would have been impossible to predict that building a brick wall would fail because the understood rules of the Universe would suddenly, inexplicably shatter
"Where'd he get the dynamite?" feels like an unimportant thing to ask in the face of the bigger questions in play.
This is the Coyote at his least sympathetic. A real dick move, which backfires.

Also, he jumps off a cliff! Seems avoidable but the previous 30 seconds were presumably a bit of a mindfuck & then he set himself on fire so I can't say I would've handled it any better.
Non-ACME Bird Seed
ACME Bumble Bees (1/5th)

It has been established that ACME makes Bird Seed, so what gives? The brand loyalty established in the previous RR film seems to have been temporary.
Ok, the ACME Bumble Bees behaved EXACTLY the same way that the ACME Wild Cat did in "Don't Give Up The Sheep"!

Do not order live animals from ACME unless you want to be attacked by them the second they are released, even if you are very far away. They will find you!
Ok, after a few "not his fault" failures, the Coyote is 100% to blame for this one.
This would be a dumb idea even if he was using a plank of wood that didn't clearly have a huge flaw in it.
There are a lot of ways to interpret the Road Runner's smile but I choose to think he is just happy all the time because he has a great life.
I don't think this is technically the first catapult he has used but it is easily the most impressive-looking one so far. His confident expression is justified.

Impossible to know whose fault this is without more information.
A) this looks like it was way more work than building that brick wall
B) it looks a little shoddy
C) I'm going to say this was NOT his fault, even though mishaps involving explosives usually are
Ahab HARPOON GUN (explicitly non-ACME)
The innovative use of unexpected, incongruous sound effects that I pointed out in the previous short ("Steal Wool") continues here:
One of the greatest endings to a Road Runner cartoon gives real emotional weight to the Coyote's suffering and reveals that the Road Runner is not oblivious to it.
SIDE NOTE: some of the Looney Tunes-related stuff I own still lives at my parents' house in the midwest.

I may have to bring the books back with me to NYC after XMAS but am afraid to move the Chuck Jones signed limited edition.
April 12, 1958: "Whoa, Be-Gone!"

I think this short marks roughly the halfway point of the classic Chuck Jones era of Road Runner shorts.
This image occurs before we even see the title!

No more prologues needed-- the Coyote doesn't need to re-learn how fast the Road Runner is, he already bought a rocket.
Road-Runner (birdius high-ballius)
Coyote (famishius vulgaris ingeniusi)
Attempt #1: rocket
This is new: run over by an ACME truck! (Presumably delivering things the Coyote has ordered.)
A nice reprise of the beautiful 3-part sequence from the previous short.

It is obviously this "middle" era of RR cartoons that really establishes the Coyote falling from a great height while we watch from the POV above him as a main recurring image. It's happening more often now
And I love this new thing of the Coyote crawling back up the side of the cliff he just fell off. It looks SO exhausting.
For all the repetition built into the simple structure of these cartoons, they really did work hard to keep things fresh.

These 3 jokes in a row are all specifically different from the similar sequence in the previous short.
ACME Brand Giant Rubber Band (for tripping Road-Runners)

A HUGE development: this is the 1st time we have seen an ACME product that was specifically designed to be used in catching Road-Runners.
Kind of a callback to Ralph Wolf's use of a similar rubber band in "Steal Wool."

(This makes me wonder if RW was using a rubber band that was designed for tripping Road-Runners?)

ALSO: Milt Franklin has fully replaced Carl Stalling now & his music is super dramatic here
This is the face of American Optimism
This animation of fast hammering is really good, especially when he doubles back a little at the end:
Great crumbling
The fast, panicked-but-efficient nail removal in the middle of this clip is so funny to me precisely because there is no joke to it, it's deadly serious.
WAY TOO AMBITIOUS.
Perhaps the single most provocative shot in any Road Runner cartoon.
If @OriginalFunko ever makes a Coyote figurine, this electrocuted orange version would make a nice "Chase" variant (flocked).
The Coyote once again exposes the extreme vulnerability of America's infrastructure, and how it is almost impossible to prevent Lone Wolf attacks.
ACME Do-It Yourself Tornado Kit

By far, the most bafflingly irresponsible ACME product yet. Worse than the live bees and the wild cat. This company has really taken an extreme turn.
I mean, honestly, I don't know what else is in that kit but the fact that this gives an individual the ability to create ONE THOUSAND TORNADOES is astonishing. There is no responsible use for these seeds.

Also, this is easily the dumbest way to catch a Road-Runner.
ACME Water Pistol

I assume this was part of the kit (what else was in that big box??) and admittedly the Coyote was foolish to hold it directly over the can of seeds but still: NOT A WELL-MADE WATER PISTOL
ALSO: it's hard to be sure, but it looks like the Coyote sets out maybe between 30 & 100 tornado seeds (w/o any bird seed.) He used to try to disguise things with bird seed. Is this a sign that he's getting lazy?
Was the plan that he would use the tornadoes to CATCH the Road-Runner?

Or that the Road-Runner would eat the tornado seeds & be ripped apart from the inside by a hundred tornadoes?

Because that would be particularly brutal.
So this cartoon ends with the Coyote being dragged through an abandoned U.S. Army mine field by the force of about 900+ water-activated mini-tornadoes.

They should have put a fence around that mine field instead of simply abandoning it.

Shame on the Eisenhower administration!
Weird pause between the end of the musical score and the final outro music. Perhaps Milt Franklin is still getting the hang of things? It's hard to imagine Carl Stalling ending on such an awkward note.
October 11, 1958: "Hook, Line and Stinker"

This is a cartoon I mostly remember because of its distinctive & uncharacteristic musical score. It doesn't sound like other RR shorts.

I just learned that it was the result of a musicians' strike which forced them to use stock music!
Road-Runner (Burnius-Roadibus)
Coyote (Famishus-Famishus)

This is the first time they have been introduced as "THE" Road-Runner and "THE" Coyote. Perhaps putting an end to my speculation that we are seeing different animals from one short to the next.
The main recurring theme music in this is apparently an alternate version of the Dennis The Menace 1950s/60s sitcom theme song that was available in Capitol Records' Hi-Q music library during the musicians' strike.

It is very upbeat and bouncy.
It is interesting to hear how they edit the stock music to score the cartoons, trying to essentially mimic the precise work that Stalling and Franklyn have done previously. Sometimes it works, and sometimes they are less successful.

That main theme is so jarring.
Visually, this one has some striking images right out of the gate.
More Cronenbergian body horror
OK, here's where the music really starts to be a problem, because it affects the Comedy.

All the precise timing of the actions gets kind of overruled by the music, which is sort of generically "funny."
This would work better without the stock music, which is kind of just doing its own thing.

This is how music would be used in the low budget 1960s RR cartoons, where it would wash over everything and set the comedic tone rather than specifically serving the actions.
ACME Bird Seed returns, after many instances of the Coyote using non-ACME Bird Seed!

Nothing has ever gone wrong with the ACME Bird Seed, any mishaps have been unrelated to its quality. I hope he will remain brand loyal from now on.
The Coyote turns to the camera to indicate to the viewer that this plan is going to kill the Road Runner. While doing so, he is run over by a train.

This is the 1st time the Coyote has communicated w/the audience like this, though he has done it with signs & glances before.
Pretty great dramatic visuals here
But all this choppy stock music really drags it down. Every time that goofy alt-Dennis The Menace theme pops up, it kind of kills everything.

It's because it makes everything seem silly or whimsical, which undercuts how deadly serious this is for the Coyote.
This music sometimes lines up and sometimes doesn't, almost like how literally ANY piece of music might work sporadically if you played it under a random scene.
A modern RR cartoon should end with the Dept of Homeland Security arresting the Coyote for domestic terrorism after one of his attacks on our infrastructure.

He fails here, but he has successfully destroyed many American roads and bridges.
This one is kind of heartbreaking. So much well-timed animation, but the musical score kind of functions like an improv scene partner who isn't listening, just doing its own thing.

I wish this short could be re-scored using old Stalling cues, just to see if it could be salvaged
The Rube Goldberg finale is fun and crazy and makes zero sense in the best way
Unfortunately, the entire finale is saddled with yet another reprise of the alt-Dennis The Menace theme as well as some super awkward choppy editing (both audio AND visual) and an ending that feels too cutesy.
ALSO: the fake-out at the very end is sort of rough because everything about the Coyote's plan is SO precise & we never learn how exactly it went wrong.

It makes no sense that he would be standing there thinking the cannon ball is going to fall directly on the RR. What happened?
Part of it is the awkward timing (see clip, above). It accentuates the question mark of what is going on rather than allowing us to enjoy the absurdity of an inexplicable fail.
Boy, this one has a few nice moments but it really is a tribute to the role that Stalling & Franklyn made to the series.

Without them, this short really struggles in a way no previous RR short has.

I wonder if I'm alone in this & others find the change in style charming?
While I'm being super critical (this is the 1st RR short I've had any major gripes about), I don't like the title, either.

Although it is perfectly designed for a negative review headline.

ALSO: interesting to note that Looney Tunes can be referred to as "a Looney Tune"
I want to back up a little to make one additional observation about this short: there was NO reason this plan needed a piano instead of a boulder.
The coyote ordered a piano just to drop it from a great height?

I have to assume he intended it for something more interesting & then couldn't make it work.

Maybe he found a piano in the desert? Or got a free one, somehow?

I also judge Jones/Maltese for Boring Use Of A Piano!
December 6, 1958: "Hip Hip-Hurry!"

Less than 2 months since the last one, this is the 3rd Road Runner cartoon of 1958, and the 2nd one to be scored with stock music. Let's hope it's better than the previous one!
Road-Runner (digoutius-unbelieveablii)
Coyote (eatius-slobbius)
Opening titles have better choice of stock music than the previous short
The music is still SLIGHTLY busier and less precise than a normal RR short. But overall, they seem to be making more appropriate selections.
Coyote Thinking Sequence, brief
I NEVER understood this joke, and I don't understand it now.

Sometimes absurd things happen in RR cartoons and it's great, but this one has a broken weird illogic to it that I do not like. It feels like this joke means that nothing matters.
Coyote Thinking Sequence #2.

(After what just happened, I think he should spend the rest of the cartoon thinking and never figure out another idea.)
The use of stock music here is solid. I wouldn't have noticed this wasn't Stalling or Franklyn if I didn't already know. Also, the use of sound effects balances out a pretty good music selection here.
2nd time the Coyote has been run over by an ACME truck!

The previous one was blue, with a different font on the side.

Are we to assume that the red truck that was always running him over in the early shorts was also an ACME truck? (We often only saw a front view.)
The 2nd image here is pretty iconic, in my mind anyway.

As usual, the fault in most explosive mishaps is 100% Coyote.

ALSO: relieved that so far the RR series has been devoid of any ethnic/racial gags. If this series had begun 10 years earlier, there surely would have been some
A speedboat??? Genuinely shocking development.
I am baffled by the sudden introduction of a raging river with a huge waterfall at each end in the middle of the desert. WHERE IS THIS?? WHAT IS HAPPENING??
ACME Mouse Snare

And it worked! A rare example of an ACME product shown to be 100% effective at catching an animal!
ACME Hi-Speed Tonic (contains vitamins R-P+M)

This seems dangerous.
2nd cartoon in a row where the Coyote uses a mouse.

(Different mouse AND different cage/snare. Also, previous mouse was used as one part of an elaborate Rube Goldberg trap, whereas this mouse was used for tonic testing)
The Coyote abuses this mouse
Overall, a much more effective use of stock music in this one. Some good choices.

BUT MORE IMPORTANT: this one ends with a significant break from Chuck Jones' "rules" for this series-- the Road Runner does something to actively hurt the Coyote!
This goes beyond the occasional "Meep Meep" startling the Coyote -- the RR makes an active choice to stop, turn around & trip the Coyote at a high speed, right in front of a construction zone & dynamite shed.

I'm not saying the RR was out of line, just that this is an escalation
I haven't commented on this before, but so far 12 of these shorts have been "Looney Tunes" and 8 of them "Merrie Melodies." There seems to be no discernable difference between the two, right?
May 9, 1959: "Hot-Rod and Reel!"

Milt Franklyn is BACK! The musician's strike is over, and after one wobbly short and one pretty solid one, they are firmly back on track, music-wise.
The Coyote (famishius-famishius)
The Road-Runner (super-sonicus-tastius)

They are back to using "the" again, but also this time there is a peculiar development involving the Coyote getting Name Above The Title credit!
Did the Coyote's reps step in & renegotiate his deal to get him Top Billing?

There is no question it's well-deserved. The Coyote has way more screen time & carries all of the emotional heft of these films. The Road Runner is a supporting role, deserving of the "with" credit.
A-ha! Some of these clips are the ones that Fisher-Price swapped into my cartridge of "Zipping Along"! (see about a hundred tweets ago)

This is a familiar gag, yet the specific use of these "camera angles" is really good here & make it feel fresh.
Coyote Thinking Sequence -- UNDERWATER!

Featuring: a startled fish!

This is a nice example of how they are really making an effort to keep things fresh after over a dozen films.
Right out of the gate, it is a relief to have Milt Franklyn back providing a specific score for the film. Nice, subtle, tailor-made music for each moment.
2nd cartoon in a row where Chuck Jones broke his #1 rule for Road Runner cartoons:

"The Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going "Meep, Meep."

This is a CLEAR violation of that rule. In fact, while we're at it, let's talk about those rules...
These 9 rules were first revealed in Chuck Jones' excellent book, Chuck Amuck.

It is worth noting that RR writer Michael Maltese claimed to have never heard of any of these rules.
The 1st rule has been broken only recently, in these past 2 shorts.

Rule #2, however, is broken in almost EVERY short. I think outside forces are constantly intervening to harm the Coyote. Anytime that his failure defies the basic laws of physics, for example.
Rule #3: I think this is always obeyed, and is the true heart of the series.

Rule #4: has yet to be broken in a Road Runner short, but it WILL be, big time.

(Weird that Jones would include the word "ever" here, in these rules written after the fact. He knows what he did!)
Rule #5: I can't recall the Road-Runner ever going off-road. If he did, it was for a good reason.

Rule #6: Yes, always the desert, w/one major exception I can think of, much later & for a special occasion.

Although the use of that double waterfall in the last short is a stretch
Rule #7: I have documented the MANY alarming examples of non-ACME products in these films. I think this is Jones expressing a retroactive wish that he had done this

Rule #8: this holds up, but is more of a preference than a rule

Rule #9: I dunno, sometimes the injuries are BAD
Anyway, I haven't been tracking these rules from the beginning, because they're really more like guidelines.

I just find it weird that he seems to have made them up after the fact and presented them as if they were sacred & unbreakable when he broke some of them constantly!
Back to the film at hand:

This is THE most baffling product yet:
a "Do-It-Yourself Explosive Camera Kit" which is basically a shotgun barely disguised as a camera on a tripod.

"Fool Your Friends - Be Popular!"

This is designed to shoot people IN THE FACE

NRA approved, obvsly
Is this sign a part of the "kit"?

If yes, this is the 2nd ACME product specifically designed for killing Road-Runners.

I'm not sure it is, though, since the product is designed to "fool friends" & become popular.

Sign might've been made by Coyote, independently.
A similar trampoline was used in a previous short and malfunctioned in a totally different way.
I would say that Unfortunate Unintended Proximity To Lit Dynamite is the Coyote's problem as least as often as gravity is.
ACME Jet-Propelled Pogo Stick
It's possible he's using it wrong, but I am gonna go ahead and put all the blame on ACME for this. This is a bad product.
Fake train tracks have always summoned actual trains when the Coyote has tried this in the past.

Here, Jones shows us the set-up from an extreme wide angle to make sure we can see there is NO POSSIBLE WAY a real train could appear on these tracks.
There is CLEARLY some kind of outside force working against the Coyote.

This is not his fault, except in the sense that he should know by now that the Universe is against him.
This exact shot was used in a previous cartoon, but that time it revealed the Coyote with a single bomb which went off too soon.

This time, he has MANY bombs. Heightening!
As for the "more humiliated than harmed" rule, I would mark something like this at an even 50/50.
ACME Jet-Propelled Unicycle

The 2nd jet-propelled item in a row, so this is clearly the latest trend.

"Satisfaction Guaranteed" is a new development! Does this mean the Coyote can anticipate a refund? Such a policy would theoretically save him a lot of money.
Oh, this is a dumb product. A bad, bad idea.
The Coyote is not good at unicycling and has a lousy track record with any kind of jet or rocket-powered machine. This is an awful product, but I blame the Coyote's bad judgement for even ordering this.
There is something inspiring in these brief moments of success, however fleeting. I mean, this is all we actually get in Life.
Milt Franklyn has yet to really stick the landing in these shorts. Carl Stalling would always build towards a final moment that would swell to meet the closing "That's All Folks" outro music.

This ending is rinky-dink, not much better than the stock music.
October 10, 1959: "Wild About Hurry"

The only reason I understand the pun in the title is because they use that song in "One Froggy Evening"!

(Which, by the way, is for some reason NOT on @BoomerangToons. That needs to be remedied ASAP, Boomerang!)
Backing up a second: pretty great pre-title image. So much of the scope and scale of Road Runner cartoons just comes down to simple perspective tricks in semi-abstract background paintings of the desert cliffs.
And backing up one last time: Milt Franklyn cleverly uses the song "Wild About Harry" for the title sequence but wisely/thankfully does not bring it back during the body of the film.
Road-Runner (Batoutahelius)
Coyote (Hardheadipus Oedipus)

These are my two favorite Latin species names yet!

And I believe the Road Runner one may be new to me, since it was apparently often edited out of TV broadcasts for "bad language"!
It could be my imagination, but it feels like Chuck Jones allowed him to get SLIGHTLY closer to catching him here than he usually does, and his expression is a tiny bit more excited than usual.
More Cronenbergian body horror
ACME Giant Rubber Band

The last rubber band he bought from ACME was specifically designed for tripping Road-Runners. This one is just "fantastically elastic."
I don't feel like the fault is with the product here. It looks like it IS "fantastically elastic." He just used it unwisely.

It's hard to know what to make of ACME. A lot of their products are good, but they have been delving into increasingly insane/irresponsible areas lately
I want to preserve my interaction with @johnlevenstein within this thread for future Historians to unpack:
Both of the rocket-based attempts referenced in the tweet above had basically the same result, regardless of the progress made. (Your gaslighting made me work even harder, @johnlevenstein, I thank you!)
Coyote Thinking Sequence, with casual back-scratching.

Also, he is actually watching the Road Runner zip around in the distance, making this a slightly more melancholy CTS than usual, I think.

He always seems at his most villainous when he glances to-camera at the end of these.
The Coyote is at his most relatable when he looks to-camera in moments like THIS:
I particularly enjoy the way these films usually allow the Coyote enough time to be perfectly reasonable and cautious before getting emotional.

The smart money in a situation like this is to Walk Away. You cannot beat this, man. This is bad news.
Reason/Emotion/Realization/Desperation/Improvisation/Consequences/Reflection
I feel like this is an image that captures the way a lot of people feel a lot of the time:
This feels like a callback to the previous short's title sequence.

(Is it possible they re-used some of the animation? I can't get that precise a screengrab.)
MAJOR DEVELOPMENT: there is an ACME SHOPPING CENTER!

Where is it? Did the Coyote GO there?

It must be HUGE. You can buy 5 MILES worth of Railroad Track there. You can buy a Rocket Sled.

I wish I could ask Chuck Jones why he created an ACME Shopping Center!
I want to know more!
Usually when the Coyote has laid down tracks like this, a train has magically appeared. Not this time. Is it because he laid down too many tracks? Does that only work with a ridiculously small amount of track?

(We will come back to this in a minute.)
Nice use of "I've Been Workin' On The Railroad" at the top of this.
ACME Bird Seed
ACME Iron Pellets

I think we may have reached the point where the Coyote has 100% brand loyalty to ACME.

I hope so, anyway. There is really no mileage at this point in showing us any non-ACME products.
Bad idea to do this without looking.

There were practical reasons for it -- the Road Runner was mere feet away, and might spot him-- but I'm guessing he observed all this anyway.
The first 3 images here seem to lay out such a careful and relatively low-risk plan. It's astonishing, really, to think that the 4th image is the end result.
ACME Indestructo Steel Ball

The name clearly IMPLIES that it is indestructable without actually saying so. (Also, the ACME "satisfaction guaranteed" promise seems to have vanished after its brief appearance in the previous short.)
However, I do think that the Indestructo Steel Ball is more-or-less indestructable! But that you can be injured rolling around inside it. Pretty fantastic loop to be caught in at the end, including...
Callbacks! Not just to earlier in the short, but to previous cartoons!

1) the location of the Underwater Coyote Thinking Sequence
2) one side of the mysterious Double Waterfall
3) the 5 miles of train tracks from earlier in the short
4) the U.S. military's Abandoned Mine Field!
ALSO: if those are the same train tracks he laid earlier -- and why wouldn't they be??-- a train magically appeared on them!
The Road-Runner closes out the film with a snarky sign critiquing the repetitive nature of the entire series.
January 9, 1960: "Fastest With The Mostest"

No story credit on this one, but there is speculation that Michael Maltese wrote it & was uncredited. If so, this may be his final RR short?

He spent the 60s working for Hanna-Barbera, tho he also did Tom & Jerry shorts for CJones
Brief but (literally) striking pre-title imagery
Coyote (Carnivorous Slobbius)
Road-Runner (Velocitus Incalcublii)

We are back to "the" but the billing situation is a little murkier. Coyote has returned to being 1st, but RR has physically higher credit. (Last short was back to classic RR/Coyote order)

"With" & "and." Hmm.
Not 100% sure, but I *think* this is the 1st time the Coyote has recovered from a major injury without cutting to an entirely new scene.

Full scorch head-to-toe burn disappears, off-camera, with a cut to a new shot.
Coyote fails by succeeding: he runs too fast, passes Road-Runner.

It's not just that the Road-Runner is fast, it's about control. Speed is just one factor. The RR is able to run so fast he literally causes paved roads to fly into the air, but he never injures himself.
This may be the best "Coyote climbing back up the side of a cliff" sequence in any of these cartoons, mainly because of how well they animate and voice the struggle of it all. Really delicate work here.

Also love how he turns his head to face the RR as he falls.
Blueprint! It's been a while.

The Coyote no longer ends with a joke to amuse himself. That's kind of sad. There is no sign of whimsy anymore, just practical information.
2nd scene in this short in which I have been made aware of the Coyote's breathing, which makes me think about his general health.
ACME KIT: One Bomb, One Balloon, One Basket

So this kit is designed BY ACME for dropping bombs from a balloon.

In the past, the Coyote has seemingly cobbled together dangerous schemes by ordering items a la carte, but ACME is becoming increasingly problematic as a company.
ALSO: the Coyote is doing this wrong, surely the balloon is not supposed to be inflated by mouth
Duck & Cover method!

Also: a great, tense bomb defusing, concluded with a joke I always felt I didn't quite "get" when I was a kid.

(I didn't realize there was nothing to "get" it just is what it is)
There is no way the Road-Runner has anxieties and/or ulcers. The Coyote is projecting.
I wonder what made the Coyote feel the need for so much signage. The Road-Runner has NEVER passed up an unmarked pile of birdseed, not once.
Like the cliff-climbing sequence before, this short is really killing it with the delicate, patient Physical Comedy. I love how simple this bucket scene is. They really make the most of it.
MAJOR MOMENT: a 2nd instance of a small act of kindness by the Road-Runner, but this time met with direct acknowledgment/gratitude from the Coyote.

This is the 1st time anything like this has happened between this predator & his prey. It changes nothing, but it's significant.
More Cronenbergian body horror
I'm pretty certain that I learned the word "detour" from these cartoons.
SO close. This is the closest he has gotten so far. Nose-to-beak.
Coyote vs. Basic Reality
50% humiliation/50% harm
I tend to think the humiliation/harm ratio is almost always dead even
90+ seconds of nothing but consequences
Huge waterfalls are a major factor in the back half of Chuck Jones' RR classic era
I always really liked the way the Coyote's body just BLURPS out of the tiny faucet:
Coyote raises a legitimate question; Road-Runner evades it with a smartass quip
ALSO: Is the Road-Runner a joke thief? This is also the punchline to the 1949 Friz Freleng/Tedd Pierce short, "High Diving Hare"!

(Who knows, maybe it occurred dozens of times, I don't have that kind of memory. Perhaps it was community property, this joke?)
I had an excerpt of this short on a View-Master Double-Vue movie viewer cartridge.

(I still have it, but the viewer no longer works. Can't bring myself to part with it. I watched it SO many times as a kid.)
Here is a TV commercial for the View-Master Double-Vue Movie Viewer.

I had one of these before our family owned a VCR, and I watched cartridges on it constantly. It was MAGICAL.

June 4, 1960: "Rabbit's Feat"

Another uncredited Michael Maltese!

Although done with the RR, we apparently have this Coyote/Bugs & one more Wolf/Sheep-dog short by The Master.

Will these shorts be as funny, post-Maltese?
We are a long way from the lush visuals of "Operation: Rabbit" but this intro monologue to-camera is pretty damn great.

I never clocked the Coyote's consistent pronunciation of his name, it is much funnier to me now than it was when I was a kid.

ALSO: throwing shade in Latin
Pretty much everything we need to know is in these 4 frames.

PLUS: Bugs Bunny has a framed picture of CARROTS and a framed picture of HIMSELF, plus he sleeps in what appears to be a baby crib. Not a great look for our hero, whom I would argue is in a VERY self-indulgent phase.
Singing to themselves.

There is never any singing in the Road-Runner cartoons (unless you count "Meep, Meep" as some kind of primitive desert music)
While "What's Up, Doc?" and "What's Cookin'?" are both Bugs Bunny catchphrases, "What's The Bit?" is still a phrase in active use among Comedy People, 2017.
Wile E. Coyote's laugh is almost identical to Barney Rubble's, which I don't think is a thing we all would have agreed on just moments ago.

(Both Mel Blanc, obvsly, but VERY different personality types, otherwise)

Here it is, listen for yourself:
In addition to a DAZZLINGLY unexplained escape from that sack, Bugs Bunny playing some seriously weird mind games with the Coyote.
Bugs is pretty self-indulgent here. NONE of this is to fool the Coyote, it seems like he is A) showing off for the camera & B) just trying to annoy the Coyote for his own amusement.

Wile E. Coyote is a snob, for sure, but I'm not sure I *like* Bugs Bunny very much in this film.
Coyote Thinking Sequence, but vocalized! And Bugs interferes!

ALSO: one of these ideas (Burmese Tiger Trap) is a callback to an early RR short, remember?

Showboating by Bugs at the end does not impress-a me much.*
*paraphrasing one Twain, although not the one who originally inspired Wile E. Coyote:
Disappointed by how quickly this genius resorted to just using a shotgun. What about all those ambitious plans he was just brainstorming??
Shotgun attempt #1 is unsuccessful!

(The Coyote has far less experience in this specific scenario than Bugs does. Look how completely unconcerned he is. Wile E. Coyote is way out of his league here.)
2nd shotgun attempt is equally unsuccessful!
It does seem like he is angrier in this film going after Bugs Bunny than he usually gets when trying to kill the Road-Runner. He takes this far more personally.
The first time Bugs just used a scream to startle the Coyote, it felt fresh and surprising but when he repeats it here, it seems lazy.
Half-hearted attempt by Bugs to tug at our heartstrings, thinking perhaps the Coyote is dead
The Coyote declares himself a vegetarian, reprises the "my name is mud" line he used at the end of "Operation: Rabbit" then turns to camera & asks if there is a doctor in the house.

I'd argue this is too many closing lines for the Coyote. Pick the best one & cut the other two!
Bugs has a good closing line but squanders what little goodwill I have left for him by laughing at his own joke.

Wile E. Coyote is an asshole, but Bugs Bunny is also kind of an asshole in this cartoon. There are no heroes here.
July 30, 1960: "Ready, Woolen And Able"

One more by Maltese! (And this one is actually credited!)
We learn a LOT of new information at the top of this short: Sam & Ralph both drive to work now (last time we checked in on them, they lived walking distance from the meadow) and their choice of vehicle + the way they drive tells us a lot about who they are.
I wonder if they are still neighbors? At the very least, we see that little else has changed. They are still friendly during off-hours, and have markedly different approaches to the job when the whistle blows.
Wolf's 1st attempt is so basic: just grabbing a sheep and running.

Sheep-dog's plan is elegant: a single rake, dropped calmly and precisely.
More Cronenbergian body horror
I know this isn't the first time he has attempted to murder Sam Sheep-dog, but it's maybe the first time it has really hit me that that's what this is.
It's amazing how they convey exactly where everything is in relation to everything else, so clearly. It is never confusing!
This could be ACME gun-powder but we have no way of knowing. Maybe it's just not labeled as such on the barrel? Could be non-ACME.
This is only the SECOND appearance of a tiny umbrella in one of these cartoons. I would have sworn there were a lot more!
ACME Bed-springs (2)

Pretty damn big box for 2 springs! Also, are bed-springs things you can tyically order a la carte?
This is a clear example where what goes wrong will not be ACME's fault.

This is not the intended use of 2 bed-springs.
I love how this starts slow and really takes its time.

Also, pretty great moves and counter-moves by both Wolf & Sheep-dog.
This feels an awful lot closer a shot from a Road-Runner short than a Wolf/Sheep-dog one.

The meadow is THAT deep down in the valley? Sam guards from up THAT high?
Ok, this is the beginning of the epic final sequence, which is over a minute-and-half (even longer if you count the epilogue.)

It begins with what should be a pretty simple "trapeze grab." As you can see from the 4th image, it goes wrong immediately, and for reasons unknown.
How is this possible? How is he everywhere? We have witnessed his ability to get places impossibly, inexplicably fast, but this is taking it to a new level...
This once again raises the additional question of how high the cliffs are...
This sequence is all the better for going way longer than you think it will...
I have a follow-up to my question about the height of the cliffs near this meadow and it has to do with what nearby body of water is big enough for a whale.

I guess I just want to know where this meadow is! We are about to see a beach. I guess it doesn't matter, forget it!
All of this leading to maybe the single best reveal in any Wolf/Sheep-dog cartoon...
WHOA.

Was this true in every previous cartoon? What does this mean?

I feel like this is on the level of Keyser Söze/Fight Club/Crying Game/Sixth Sense/Rosebud in terms of mind-blowing twist endings.

(Also, are they ALL punching a clock? That is one hell of a payroll.)
His mind is actually blown by this.
I feel like it is worth watching the full sequence to really appreciate the way that the timing and the sound effects make it both funny and ominous:
With special recognition for the final reaction shot, which I always found incredibly disturbing/upsetting.

If that shot of him going crazy isn't a GIF, it should be.
EPILOGUE: ambulance zooms past Sam as he drives home from work. Ralph is being taken away in a straight jacket.

Did Ralph have a mental break BECAUSE he saw 100 Sam Sheep-dogs? Or did he have a mental break and THEN he saw 100 Sam Sheep-dogs?

WHAT IS REAL? What can we trust?
Also, is this our first glimpse of a HUMAN in these cartoons? Or what?

Is that a silhouette of a big-nosed human? Or is that the brim of a cap? Or is that some kind of other humanoid animal? Who is that driving the ambulance???

(These questions will likely never be answered.)
October 8, 1960: "Hopalong Casualty"

The 1st short of the post-Maltese era opens with credits rather than starting with action or a title card.

Not a great start, but I suppose they're just getting some business out of the way.

Sole story credit: Chuck Jones
Robert J. McKinnon, writing about Maltese leaving [from his book "Stepping into the Picture: Cartoon Designer Maurice Noble"]:
Road-Runner (speedipus-rex)
Coyote (Hard-headipus ravenus)

The RR gets top billing! And Jones pulls out all the stops with dynamic straight-towards-the-camera freeze-frame intros
I haven't spent any time in this thread unpacking the title puns but this "Hopalong Cassidy" one always felt weird to me.

I feel like there should be a game where people challenge each other to turn any name or phrase into a Road Runner cartoon title.
When I first saw many of this shorts on CBS & ABC Saturday mornings, they got rid of the intros & outros & titles and credits and replaced them with quick cards that looked like this:
Here's a fun challenge:

Try to watch this 5 minute compilation of Saturday morning Looney Tunes title cards without going insane

SUCCESS: technically, he catches the Road-Runner at the very start of this cartoon!

If both hands tightly gripped around his neck doesn't count, I don't know what does.

(@johnlevenstein, this is further progress! I will concede that the RR does not look the least bit worried.)
Literally watching his momentary success vanish into thin air
TFW the thing u were gonna eat surprises u
No Coyote Thinking Sequence this time, just a Coyote Hanging From A Pole Feeling Sad
Both of these hits look more painful than usual. I think it's the sound effect that does it.
Ok, this is a bad development. I think they have worked hard not to purely recycle gags, always doing something to vary them. THIS feels like they are just re-using a gag they have done before, many times, but with ZERO variation/innovation. Just a retread.
Two-in-a-row! The best thing I can say is that they are quick. But this is the most basic Road Runner gag there is, presented with no attempt to make it new. They might as well give Maltese a writing credit if they are just gonna repeat old gags from past cartoons.
I mean, these are less than 10 second gags, but 3-in-a-row borrowed from the Greatest Hits is a worrying development.

Sometimes these cartoons are thought of as interchangeable & all the same, and it would only take a few shorts like this to cement that reputation.
ACME Christmas Package Machine
(makes neat small packages)

I am not sure how this works, and watching it in action only raises more questions
Finally a fresh gag! The last time they did a XMAS gag was in the debut short and it was completely different.

This is not exactly mold-breaking-- machine malfunctions, and the XMAS aspect doesn't really add that much to it-- but after 3 straight-up rerun gags, I'll take it.
This next gag is an example of what I'm talking about, in terms of keeping gags from just being pure repeats.

They have done many dynamite jokes like this one, but the cactus element is new & it's even animated with a little bit of personality. Details make a big difference.
ACME Earthquake Pills

The thinking behind these pills is that people don't want to wait for Earthquakes.
This is easily the aspect of ACME that is both on the cutting edge and not asking the right questions.
After a worryingly too-familiar 1st half, his cartoon really kicks into high gear with this ambitious sequence which takes up the whole 2nd half.
The key to it -- as with everything in these films -- is the execution. It's essentially the same joke over & over again, so the only way it works is by surprising us with how they tell it.
This image all by itself is something we haven't quite seen before in any of these shorts. (And this was edited out of most TV airings, for fear that kids would down whole bottles of pills, imitating it.)
I mean, there are reaction shots and then there are REACTION SHOTS
To give ACME credit, this is clearly labeled.

ALSO: they are keenly aware of their customer base being heavily invested in using their products to capture and/or kill Road-Runners.
The first minute of this sequence is extraordinary.

Milt Franklyn's ominous, rumbling percussion is low in the mix, but you can feel it, punctuated by the Coyote's skeptical exclamations.

The patience here exudes confidence, in a good way. They know the payoff will be worth it.
The 1st moment with the close-up of his quivering toe is thrilling. And it all escalates so quickly then.

The use of unexpected sound effects is typically great (the alarm sound from the climax of the previous Wolf/Sheep-dog short is in the mix at one point).

Such fun chaos!
I like the slow winding down aftermath & the swift anticlimactic shock of him simply walking off a cliff, but it also feels like they are at a loss for a final button.

I may be reading too much into the loss of Maltese but I do feel like he would've written a joke for the ending
So far, I have had very few criticisms of the 1st decade of Coyote shorts. And I may be looking for problems now that Maltese is gone & the end of the classic era is rapidly approaching. But this is the first short where there were signs of strain in the formula...
The only other short I had issues with can be blamed entirely on the musicians' strike & use of stock music. If you re-scored that one, the jokes were all solid.

But the 1st half of "Hopalong Casualty" was the first time I really felt like they were running out of ideas.
And yet: the back half of "Hopalong Casuality" is so strong that it more than makes up for it, even making it into the 19-minute sequence of the best Road Runner gags in 1979's Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie
#MerryXmas
January 21, 1961: "Zip 'n Snort"

I have no idea what the title for this is a play on. Should I know? Is it obvious?
Road-Runner (digoutius-hot-rodius)
Coyote (evereadii eatibus)

I feel like this is the fanciest font they have used for these so far, no?
Very few elements of this opening chase sequence are "new." They have almost all happened before.

And yet the WAY they happen -- the pacing, the "camera angles" and staging, the performance details -- are all specific to this short, and fresh.
Rare teeth-gnashing rage after impact
Coyote Thinking Sequence, but it cuts away before the triumphant moment where he gets an idea; could it be that the Long Struggle is making him weary?
More Cronenbergian body horror
Failure in 2 parts: part one is an understandable malfunction; could be a faulty product OR faulty assembly by the customer...
Failure part 2 is difficult to explain; it forces one to face the fact that there are Larger, Inexplicable Forces At Work, and that success was never even a possibility
Reprising a familiar gag is forgivable if you do it quickly enough:
ACME Iron Pellets
AJAX Bird Seed

Seriously? I don't understand why the Coyote isn't ACME-loyal with bird seed by now. It has never failed him, not once.
Power lines in the desert are a big factor in this one
More Cronenbergian body horror; the Coyote is oddly ok with his nose literally becoming a light blub which unscrews from his face. (He seems more impressed than upset by this unexpected turn of events.)
Again, a fairly familiar scenario, but so swiftly paced that it works:
An extended sequence that is enjoyable for the way it switches up its rhythms in the middle and then goes on a beat longer than expected
This is only the 3rd instance of a tiny umbrella! (And 1 of those 3 was Ralph Wolf.) I wonder how many tiny umbrellas there will be, in total? Fewer than I would have expected, based on the results so far.
ACME Axle Grease

"Guaranteed Slippery"? Is that a common guarantee for axle grease? Or are they winkingly targeting this product for non-axle usage?
I wish I had kept track of what percentage of products are used the way they are intended and which ones are used unconventionally (my sense is that it is way more of the latter)
Lots of great & distinct moments in this final 75 seconds: the way he interacts with the cactus; the power lines; the noise he makes sliding along the train tracks; the near-miss; and the final, frantic about-face as the express train to NYC comes out of the tunnel
Anytime a Road-Runner is revealed to be driving a bus, truck or train, part of my brain shuts down, and this is by design.

We are not meant to even attempt to understand this, we are only meant to FEEL things about it.
June 3, 1961: "Lickety-Splat"

The 20th Road-Runner short! There are only a small handful left in the classic Chuck Jones era. But this is the 2nd of 3 RR cartoons to be released in 1961, a big increase from the days when they would only do one a year.
Another significant development: this film was co-directed by Abe Levitow!

BUT ALSO: this is the first time we see one of these shorts credited as "written & directed by Chuck Jones"
Coyote (Apetitius Giganticus)
Road-Runner (Fastius Tasty-us)

I believe this is a one-time thing, the Coyote presenting these to us on little handheld signs. (We don't even get a freeze-frame on the Road-Runner, he just zips past.)
Another new development: "TOING!"

Not just a noise, on-screen text to indicate how fast the Road-Runner zips into high gear!
Here, listen for yourself to the sound of "TOING!":
The results of "TOING!"-level speed speak for themselves, as devastating to our deserts' infrastructure as any of the Coyote's schemes. Roads rolled up, blocking tunnels, which are themselves ripped out from mountains -- millions of dollars worth of damage, in mere seconds.
The casual destructive power of the Road-Runner is rarely discussed but it is a real concern. Even one destroyed bridge has a ripple effect that spreads to all sectors of the economy.
Coyote Thinking Sequence, with lightbulbs for eyes.
I believe those lightbulbs are intended to be a momentary visual metaphor, but in the last cartoon, the Coyote's nose was literally transformed into a lightbulb, so we have to consider the possibility that this is some kind of new superpower the Coyote has developed.
ACME Roller Skis* (1 pair)

*No Snow Necessary/Good On Plowed Ground
More Cronenbergian body horror

I hate how much pleasure the Coyote seems to take at the feeling of his entire torso being stretched to what I assume is its absolute limit.
The first 30 seconds of this are absolutely standard, but then they take it in an entirely new direction.

Even the nature of his predicament, the way he is stuck-- momentarily safe but with no good options-- is something they haven't done in any previous RR film.

I love it.
I love that it fades back up to the Road-Runner apparently still standing in the exact same spot from the previous scene. He has watched & waited as the Coyote climbed all the way up the other side for this dumb arrow plan.
The introduction of these flying sticks of dynamite, and specifically the noise they make, is the whole key to the rest of this cartoon.
He releases a squadron of flying dynamite sticks, only to immediately be targeted by them, not once but three times in a row. The slow & stealthy relentlessness of these flying sticks is a great contrast to the speed of the Road-Runner. The Coyote cannot escape them.
We have no way of knowing if this is ACME Bird Seed or AJAX or unbranded.

The Coyote buys all different brands of bird seed.
We think the cartoon has moved on after that last sequence, but we are immediately reminded that "we may be through with the past, but the past is never through with us." (Magnolia)
I get it in a general sense, but I never really understood the specific reference to "tilt" when machines break in old cartoons, or when characters break like machines.
The more things change, the more they stay the same!

It is shocking to see how much the look of these films transformed over the course of 12 years.

Also, neither of these boomerangs is an ACME. And the "guaranteed to return" has morphed into a less binding "returns to owner."
It is great that they chose a boomerang gag to really establish that the rest of this short is going to be these flying sticks of dynamite coming home to roost.
What I love most about this is that all of the fun at this point is just in the HOW of it all, and the dawning realization in the Coyote's stunned expression, that he has done this to himself.

Someone should edit a supercut of Coyote realization moments to Radiohead's "Just."
An endearing final moment as the film provides the Coyote with some meta-mercy & we hear the Coyote laugh. It's a surprising laugh, almost shocking.

WORTH NOTING: the Wile E. Coyote of the Bugs/Coyote shorts doesn't laugh like that! He laughs like Barney Rubble! (See way above)
July 29, 1961: "Compressed Hare"

The penultimate Bugs/Coyote short!

The pun of the title is just on "compressed air," right? What is the deal with the lettering choices here? Am I missing something?
With Maltese very much out of the picture now, this one is written by Dave Detiege, whose credits also include a bunch of Donald Duck/Humphrey Bear shorts, Pink Panther, Mr. Magoo, 58 episodes of The New Three Stooges & Shirt Tales!
I like the recurring device of the Coyote starting out by bringing some civilizing element to Bugs for their introductory encounter-- a doorway, an elevator, a telephone, etc.
Once again, there is always singing in a Bugs/Coyote short:
Still self-identifying as a "genius" but has yet to pull the trigger on the flirted-with label "super-genius" on any business card or other official signage.
Wile E. Coyote not wasting a lot of time on pleasantries this round, getting right down to the brutal business at hand. Smart.
Two questions: is this luck or skill, the thing with Bugs & the wine corks?

2) I know he is a Coyote who lives in a cave, but do we really believe that a guy this pretentious owns a murphy bed? Or is that ME being a snob? (FWIW, he seems to have plenty of room.)
I like how the Coyote's main reaction to seeing the rabbit made of dynamite is not fear but admiration for the craft involved. It's slightly condescending but my read of it is that he is 100% sincere.
More singing! This time instigated by Wile E.! Also, listen for a slight Barney Rubble laugh & then stick around for Bugs being too proud of his dumb pun.

I have to say that I like a lot of Bugs Bunny cartoons but sometimes he is like "what if Mickey Mouse was kind of a dick?"
ACME Iron Carrot ("fool your friends")

All the other big stuff is seemingly non-ACME! What is "ZAJAXI"?
SEE? He has room to build THIS but sleeps in a MURPHY BED? I don't buy it. That was a gag of convenience.
We never once see Bugs Bunny purchase a picture of a carrot or get one framed. Does he get them as gifts? This is one of the weirdest things about him, the framed carrot art. And what is that thing at the left side of the frame? A big vase of carrots? Or more Carrot Art?
More Cronenbergian body horror
This is the last time we see Wile E. Coyote in this short: so small, so frightened. I don't know why he expected a different result from such a big magnet, but he cannot stop what's coming.
This final sequence is haunting. Eerie.

Even Bugs cools it with the wisecracks to quietly watch the spectacle.

Is it crass to suggest there is something crudely sexual in the imagery of the giant rocket entering the cave?

We never see the Coyote, but we know he is FUCKED.
Two lobby cards for this short, both featuring gags that do not occur in the short.

(Remember that balloon one for later!)
November 11, 1961: "Beep Prepared"

This is the only Road-Runner cartoon ever to be nominated for an Academy Award!
Tom & Jerry won 7 Oscars and were nominated 13 times.

This isn't even in the top 5 best Road Runner cartoons. It is good, but not one of the greats. And it's a crime that it was a non-Maltese that got the nom.
Coyote (Hungrii Flea-Bagius)
Road Runner (Tid-Bittius Velocitus)

(This is from a prologue before the title appears. Am I imagining it, or is this a better-looking short than a few of the previous RR cartoons?)
Without context, one of the more disturbing stills from a Road Runner cartoon.
Oh by the way, genius layout artist Maurice Noble is now Chuck Jones' co-director! And John Dunn joins Jones as co-writer!
Coyote Thinking Sequence, immediately following the opening titles. (There was sufficient failure in the prologue to warrant jumping right to it.)
Okay, this is a step BACKWARDS for the Coyote! Why would he use his real leg for tripping, given what happened when he tried using a fake coyote leg? He knew better than to try this now.
More Cronenbergian body horror
It's amazing that the gag has nothing to do with how precarious those ladders are.
The 1st half of this is nice, but it's disappointing that the final part of this is almost beat-for-beat from a previous cartoon. They haven't done that very often up to this point, but when they do, I find it distressing.
Ok, this is a kind of major development: Coyote lifts manhole cover, Road Runner picks up actual MANHOLE with his beak! I think this is beyond running into the reality of a painting or defying gravity. This is something NEW, right?
The Road Runner approaches this move with the confidence of Neo seeing The Matrix for what it really is.
More Cronenbergian body horror
The Road-Runner is carrying the manhole in its beak. Is this a constructed reality? What is real? Who created this? If this is a dream, then who is the dreamer?
Pretty huge fancy bridge for the middle of nowhere
I don't know why, but this image makes me sad. It's just got something about it that's just too fuckin' poignant
Lot of theatrics for this just to be another explosive that goes off.

I would've liked to have found out more of what the deal was with this one!
ACME Iron Bird Seed

I guess they realized that someone was buying bird seed and hiding iron pellets in it and that there would be a market for a hybrid product like this
In the past, the signs have normally said "Free Bird Seed." I guess it is good that he is changing it up.
So confident, so poised
This is what it feels like to be the Coyote all the time:
TFW u have a magnet and roller skates on but that bird went onto the train tracks and now there is a train
More Cronenbergian body horror
For some reason, I am always extra impressed when one of his schemes involves installing a complicated mechanism into a section of paved road like this. It seems like this would be a lot of additional labor.
We can see exactly how this will go wrong and yet he cannot.
This is, I think, a new sensation, not seen in any previous short: the feeling of being shot in the torso from both sides at once, rapidly.
More Cronenbergian body horror
A night scheme! We never see the Coyote try to catch the Road Runner at night.

The desert is beautiful at night.
ACME Little Giant Do-It-Yourself Rocket Sled Kit

Plus: 30 miles of railroad track

PAID! Where does the Coyote get his money? It has never even been hinted at in this series. Money never seems to be a concern, at all.
This doesn't even come close to working, which is upsetting if he personally put down 30 miles of track.
I am inclined to think that this striking final image was what ultimately clinched the Oscar nom.
February 10, 1962: "A Sheep In The Deep"

This is the final Ralph Wolf/Sam Sheep-dog short directed by Chuck Jones, although there is one more left in the series.
The title is a play on "Asleep In The Deep," which is a song about sailors who have drowned.

Its lyrics were by Arthur J. Lamb with music by Henry W. Petrie.

Maurice Noble is once again Jones' co-director
The title card image is animated, and we see Sam Sheep-dog leaving his house. The camers then pulls back to reveal it was a view from Ralph Wolf's bedroom window.

They are still neighbors! In different houses. And no longer driving to work.
ACME Instant Awakener

This is easily one of the most impressive ACME products, based on what we are shown in this cartoon. Top Of The Line!
Was this sequence a direct influence on the classic opening of @peeweeherman's "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure"?

I have memories of this kind of thing in other cartoons but I must confess I had forgotten that Ralph Wolf had this kind of hi-tech early morning set-up.
Sam's bumbling, slow-witted personality outside of work is hard to square with his terrifying swiftness & brutal aggression on the job.

Ralph is always portrayed as kind of a dick. Even the charm of his hi-tech house is undermined by him using it to cut the line here.
1st attempt: once again, Ralph's impulse is to go for a simple grab & run.

Sam's response is elegant & simple. Eat banana, drop peel.
More Cronenbergian body horror
Unlike the Road-Runner shorts, whose mayhem is mostly self-inflicted & accidental, the Wolf/Sheep-dog shorts have a different element of menace to them, the threat of real violence between characters.
This is terrifying in a way that a Road-Runner short never even comes close to.
And yet, what are we to make of Sam Sheep-dog, the brutal enforcer, in fleeting moments like this, where he momentarily seems to be a different self? His eyes soften, and it as if he is looking at the results of someone else's actions.
More Cronenbergian body horror
It is amazing how often Ralph Wolf puts a tremendous amount of effort into a plan that does not take into account that Sam Sheep-dog will instantly be aware of what is happening.

This is a bad plan:
Hey, remember this lobby card from two shorts ago? For a gag that never appeared in the Bugs/Coyote cartoon?

They borrowed the image from THIS cartoon!

As if the line distinguishing Ralph Wolf from Wile E. Coyote wasn't thin enough already!
This short's main innovation: the "lunch break" interrupting the Wolf's impending head-pounding.

I love how this series keeps revealing a little more about its core reality.

ALSO: I don't think I ever saw this UNCENSORED version before, where they are SMOKING!
(Edited for TV.)
Another labor-intensive plan that simply did not factor in Sam Sheep-dog being good at his job. He is LETTING Ralph Wolf waste time & energy. Is it Ralph Wolf's pride & arrogance that blinds him to this? (I feel like they should have emphasized RW trying to be stealthier.)
More Cronenbergian body horror
"Music To Put Sheep Dogs To Sleep By" is a multi-LP set put out by Warner Bros' Records (see the logo, lower right hand corner), which according to Wikipedia, was having a good year in 1962.
The final gag starts out as a close copy of a scene from a previous short. There are a few minor variations, but otherwise, it feels like we have been here before.

But THEN...
The film subverts our expectations multiple times before once again surprising us in its final moments!

The fact that a stick of dynamite dressed up as a sheep dressed as a wolf dressed as a dog dressed as a sheep AND that Ralph Wolf dressed up as a dog/sheep/wolf is trippy
While not as epic in scale as the previous Wolf/Sheep-dog short's twist ending, they once again managed to expand the world of the short and have fun playing with the nature of its base reality.
June 2, 1962: "The Adventures Of The Road Runner"

This was a rejected TV pilot, ultimately released as a 26-minute theatrical featurette and then chopped up to make 3 separate shorts.

I am FASCINATED by it.
It's not on @BoomerangToons but it was released on the 2nd volume of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection dvds.

And you can watch it in its entirety here:
dailymotion.com/video/x3uer3s
First of all, let's unpack that poster a bit

This is the first time we are learning that the Road Runner & Bugs Bunny even KNOW each other, let alone identify as "old pals"!

It's not a shock, exactly, but it is news.
And whoever wrote this description of Wile E. Coyote - "he's the WILDEST!" - has, I assume, never watched a single Warner Bros. short.

Wile E. Coyote isn't even the wildest character in the Road Runner cartoons!

He spends all his time carefully, methodically planning things.
I do very much love this poster, however, especially the self-generated hype: "26 MINUTES OF LAUGHS... HOWLS... ROARS! the funniest cartoon featurette in years"
Michael Maltese is co-credited, but I have no idea if this was simply because they used some footage from old shorts, or if he was an active part of conceiving this as a TV pilot.

It may be that this was mostly the work of Chuck Jones & new collaborator John Dunn.
The idea that some TV exec in 1962 rejected a Road Runner TV series directed by Chuck Jones makes me furious.
Even though there are TWO credited co-directors (Layout artist Maurice Noble & animator Tom Ray), there is no question that Chuck Jones is the guy running the show here.

I really like the use of the rough pencil sketches for the title cards.
Opening sequence (using a mix of new & old animation) feat. an original song by Milt Franklyn:
Fun little "Warner Bros" visual gag here:
Three sequences in, we get a series of quick blackout gags culled from old cartoons.

26 minutes is a lot of time to fill, so it's not surprising that they would want to pull old clips-- after all, those shorts hadn't been playing on TV, so a lot of these might be new to people
One huge obvious concern w/r/t a Road Runner TV series is whether it is sustainable beyond a 6 or 7-minute short.

The 1st big swing this pilot takes is to introduce the "talking" version of the Coyote to the Road Runner universe. (He has previously only appeared with Bugs Bunny)
In fact, I believe this is the first time he has been billed as "Wile E. Coyote" in a non-Bugs short. All previous Road Runner cartoons simply list him as "Coyote."
The implication that all previous Road Runner shorts were, in fact, filmed by Wile E. Coyote for reference purposes using hidden cameras is terrific, adding an extra layer of depth to his fastidious methods.
Another entirely new development: CONSEQUENCES!

For the first time ever, we see the Coyote in a state of recovery, bandaged from his injuries.

Clearly, this TV series was looking to do more than be a long version of the theatrical shorts. They wanted to go deeper.
Calling out the absurdities of the past Road Runner cartoons and addressing them head-on was also a ballsy thing to do-- by speaking to some of these things, it kind of leaves them no choice but to move on to something new and figure out what this show is gonna be.
The next big development is the use of Ralph Phillips & his (unnamed) friend, watching "The Road Runner Show" on TV.

This widening out beyond the desert to the larger world gives the show a lot more flexibility, format-wise. Going forward, they really could have done anything.
ALSO: it was also pretty smart to feature kids glued to the TV, watching The Road Runner Show. I can't believe this didn't help the show get picked up!

[It feels like a prototype of the "on the next episode" trick @MitchHurwitz used at the end of the pilot for AD.]
Two tricks here: the minimalist nature of these scenes (funny dialogue but using LOTS of pauses and not much movement) & all to set up the use of a previously released short.

It is easy to imagine them figuring out ways of shoehorning in just about any old Looney Tunes film here
I mean, if they can figure out a way to squeeze this totally unrelated short into the pilot, there is really nothing they can't do.

Which is great, actually, for the flexibility of the series. Any Looney Tunes character can show up, for any reason.
It is looking like this series fully intended to address any & all of the series' biggest mysteries.

I bet for sure we were going to eventually be treated to an in-depth look at the ACME company.
For the 1st time since 1952's "Operation: Rabbit", Wile E. Coyote drops the phrase "super-genius"! [IQ: 207]

(Every business card and mailbox since then has identified him at the more basic "genius" level)
We cannot trust this fake Latin species name the way we do when we have seen them in previous Road Runner shorts.

"Super-Sonnicus Idioticus" is insulting in a way no other RR Latin name has been, but it matches the name he once gave to Bugs Bunny ("Rabbitus Idioticus Delicious")
This whole pilot is a huge information dump-- we are learning more about the Road Runner universe than we have since the very first short in 1949.

ALSO: Mel Blanc doing some great work with the Coyote's pretentious pronunciation (in a sequence that also saves money on animation)
"4,000 Recipes For Road Runner"

In some ways, this expanded look at the RR universe brings it closer to the more codified absurdity of the Wolf/Sheep-dog shorts, as previously unspoken elements are now more or less fully explained.

It's a trade-off, but I think it's worth it.
The catapult sequence is such an all-time classic that I'm stunned to realize it was made for this pilot & that, despite this, it was REJECTED?

After proving that the series could be more than just an extended RR short, they close with this & the suits PASS ON IT? UNBELIEVABLE.
26 minutes is a lot of Road Runner. And I don't think all of it works. It would be much stronger as a modern, less-than-20-minute TV pilot. But holy shit, this catapult sequence should have sealed the deal.
And given that Warner Bros was on the verge of shutting down theatrical shorts (only to re-open it to make cheap, crappy ones), the TV execs who rejected this essentially were cancelling Chuck Jones' Road Runner series at the one point it could have continued as something good.
Here's an interesting thing: the full catapult sequence, with 2 entirely different musical scores!

The 1st is by Milt Franklyn, for the rejected pilot.

The 2nd is by Bill Lava (who re-scored it for 1963's re-edited short, "To Beep Or Not To Beep.")

I have to admit that I am probably partial to the ominous Bill Lava score, even though I'm sure it is more respectable to favor Franklyn's.

(I think it is mostly down to having watched it with the Lava score more frequently on TV.)
More Cronenbergian body horror
Consequences and major truths revealed
Final reprise of the opening song is a nice touch.

Plus, there is a LOT to unpack in these final moments:
Despite his declared "super-genius"-level IQ (207), his mailbox still reads "genius."
This is probably just me, but the Coyote's front door reminds me of the front door on The Flintstones (which Michael Maltese left WB to write for.)
Wile E. Coyote lists himself occupying the top FOUR slots on his "genius chart" AND he misspells his own name?? I genuinely don't know what to make of this.

Einstein is ranked 5th.
The Road Runner closes out the pilot by running through the sleeping Coyote's bedroom and INTO a projected film on his screen, his momentum sucking the Coyote's bed onto the screen as well.

Kind of a dick move on every count.
I am kind of surprised that this chart was never issued as a poster or print even at the height of the Warner Bros. Studio Stores:
ALSO: the pilot being rejected & salvaged for parts occurs right on the edge of the classic era coming to an end. There are a few more coming up before we enter a very weird & rocky era for Road Runner cartoons.

It is a damn shame this series wasn't picked up.
June 30, 1962: "Zoom At The Top"

I think this is technically the penultimate Chuck Jones RR short of the classic era, although there will be a few edited from the salvaged remains of the TV series pilot, and a couple more Sheep-dog/Bunny efforts. But we are very close.
It is also I think the last one scored by Milt Franklyn, who died several months prior to its release.
Road Runner (disappearialis quickius)
Coyote (overconfidentii vulgaris)
They are still making a genuine effort to stage scenes in new ways.

I have been hard on these shorts on the few occasions they have repeated themselves, but so far most of the time they seem keenly aware of the need to never do the same gag the same way.
New gag, strikingly staged.

[ALSO: adds weight to the theory that The Road Runner is like Neo in The Matrix, able to ignore the "rules" of this reality in ways the Coyote simply cannot.]
Coyote Thinking Sequence -- the first one in which he is UNABLE to think of an idea!

[This could also reflect a growing & quite reasonable concern that it is getting harder to think of new ideas, especially after making a 26-minute Road Runner TV pilot!]
A masterful sequence! Genuinely suspenseful, managing to be both funny AND terrifying. And this is just the set-up! They take their time with it, and it makes all the difference:
THEN, a great contrast in pacing.

The way the Road-Runner confidently jumps up and down 4 times on the trap's trigger mechanism after all that build-up is really funny:
Let me back up a minute. I just wanna reemphasize how strikingly staged the previous scene was & what a great contrast to the up-close work of the trap sequence.

Because of the repetitive & limited nature of this series, these little variations and shifts make all the difference
ACME Bird Seed

ACME changes the packaging design for their bird seed frequently.
I don't know that we have seen this kind of visualization of laughter in a Coyote cartoon before.

Up to now, any verbal expression has been either a physical sign being held up or that one time when the word "TOING!" appeared in mid-air, indicating speed...
More Cronenbergian body horror
And, it should be noted, this particular instance of Cronenbergian body horror was bad enough to warrant the Coyote SPEAKING! (Albeit only a single word.)

His voice here sounds slightly different than in the Bugs shorts or TV pilot, although unmistakably Mel Blanc, of course:
I like the gags where there is clearly a lot of very careful preparation but a very simple, disastrous oversight.
ACME Instant Icicle Maker
"Freeze Your Friends - Loads Of Laughs"

The more hyped the ACME product, the more skeptical I am at this point. It's usually a bad sign.
ALSO: look at this thing! It's enormous! Who is the market for this product? Have you EVER seen a novelty product this enormous?? It also looks HEAVY! How much do you think this cost??
This sequence also shows us that the Coyote DOES test things out before he tries to use them to catch the Road-Runner.

Although, in a second, we will revisit whether or not his tests were thorough enough...
But first, a moment to appreciate this brief musical cue by Milt Franklyn, which starts Christmas-y and quickly pivots to the prank theme. Really nice work.
OK, now LOOK at this.

A) machine activates on its own
B) it doesn't just freeze a layer of ice around him, it apparently causes him to VANISH or melt into a puddle!

ACME! This product is a horror! As bad as the pills which cause earthquakes and tornadoes
I mean, maybe he should have waited to see if the frozen cactus thawed normally, but actually this machine seems deadly even if it functioned normally, right?

(Which is fine if it is for killing Road-Runners, but it was marketed as a fun gag to "freeze your friends.")
ACME Boomerang

The previous 2 boomerangs were non-ACME!

No idea what brand the Iron Glue is. (Could be ACME, but I don't see any brand indicated here.)
Another great long sequence of patient Physical Comedy

A) we hear a rare "voiced" laugh
B) an effect use of silence instead of musical scoring
C) one final fun musical flourish at the end from Milt Franklyn, R.I.P.
May 11, 1963: "Woolen Under Where"

Ok, I would've sworn this was a Chuck Jones-directed short, but he only has a story credit, because he was FIRED by Warner Bros. & it was handed off to two of his animators to direct.

It still very much FEELS like a CJ short...
This is all news to me, but apparently Chuck Jones & his wife, Dorothy Webster Jones, wrote an animated feature film for UPA. This violated his exclusive contract with Warner Bros. and they only found out his involvement when they picked it up for distribution!
I get that he broke the rules, but in hindsight it seems like a weird reason to fire him, since it ended up being a Warner release anyway? Anyway, I have never seen this film but it stars Judy Garland & Robert Goulet as cats in Paris.
Btw, this was 8 years before Disney's The Aristocats and it looks an awful lot like The Aristocats but I'm certain that this has been hashed out fully in some corner of The Internet by now.
In any case, this is the sole Wolf/Sheep-dog film directed by the team of Phil Monroe & Richard Thompson, who do a fine job.

It is also the last short to feature Ralph Wolf & Sam Sheep-dog. And, in keeping with the progression of the series, there are big new developments...
Sam and Ralph... LIVE IN THE SAME HOUSE NOW.

After multiple films in different nearby houses as neighbors, they have moved in together!

It is my belief that they are a couple now. LOOK at the way they look at each other over breakfast!

If not, I am 100% "shipping" for them.
I mean, just look at this reveal and tell me this isn't a portrait of Domestic Bliss:
Even the way they withhold the reveal of WHO is behind that newspaper implies that this is a Big Deal.

(And let's be honest, even if they are just platonic friends who share a house, it's a significant development in this, their final film together.)
They make Sam a lot more clumsy in this one, for some reason. He's always been a little awkward (outside of work), but they kind of veer into making him a full-on doofus here.
ALSO: instead of being a dick and racing to beat Sam, Ralph punches his time card for him.

THEY ARE A COUPLE. And Sam is making Ralph a better person!

Which makes their professional dynamic even more fucked-up and fascinating.
The 2nd appearance of "TOING!" which was a noise the Road-Runner made two years earlier!

Does this mean that Ralph Wolf has achieved RR-level speed, or are there different levels of TOING!??
Not just "TOING!" but also "PING"
There are also sound effects to accompany the onscreen text, but they seem like different noises than "TOING!" or "PING" so perhaps the words are there because those sounds cannot be heard by human ears?
Add "TING!" to the growing list of sounds spelled out on screen!

Or maybe they aren't sounds at all, but FEELINGS?
Wolf's 1st attempt is thwarted not by Sam being skillful but as a result of his clumsiness.

I have to say, a little bit of awkwardness in Sam is charming, but I'm less into him being just a lucky oaf. What's fascinating about him is how terrifyingly effective an enforcer he is.
1) Grass-as-carpeting device is fun
2) The sheep are so dumb in these
3) On-screen question marks!
4) Sam back to being stealthy & brutal
More Cronenbergian body horror
This was a dumb one to be so confident about. His entire plan was to wear a partial suit of armor, and he was aggressively cocky about it.

(Also, the tongue-pull is more Cronenbergian body horror.)
Ralph is also demonstrating less skill in this short, so far. This plan was clearly put into action without enough prep.
This plan SHOULD work. At least, there is no reason to believe it won't.

(Also maybe a nice moment to remind ourselves that by this point there is a strong likelihood that Sam & Ralph are lovers IRL)
Rare use of a WIPE edit:
I'd like to think that this is somehow due to skill rather than blind luck, that Sam Sheep-dog has fortified his sitting spot against explosives, or picked his location so expertly that he is impervious to any schemes of this nature.
My first instinct was to criticize this as yet another really stupid plan. I prefer it when the plans seem to stand a greater chance of working. But I think this is funny. The scuba outfit is funny enough to justify the whole thing.
Kind of a callback to these shots from the previous Road-Runner cartoon:
The last 50 seconds of the FINAL Ralph Wolf & Sam Sheepdog short, and they could not be more perfect.

Kudos to directors Monroe & Thompson for sticking the landing.

AND to new composer Bill Lava, whose work here is excellent and about whom I will have MUCH more to say soon...
Seriously, is there a better ending to ANY cartoon series of the classic era? These things weren't thought of or designed that way, so it's not like that was the goal. But this is perfect.
Watching the Wolf/Sheep-dog shorts in chronological order has been a revelation. 10 years, 7 films. Quickly finds its footing & reveals more/expands the core idea with each short. And ends in a truly surprising place.
June 8, 1963: "Hare-Breadth Hurry"

The final Coyote/Bugs Bunny short!

This one is different from the previous 4 in that it is Bugs Bunny inserted into a Road-Runner cartoon rather than facing the refined, speaking "Wile E. Coyote" he has gone up against before.
The 4th wall-breaking conceit of this film sort of establishes that these are just cartoons, but also gives us the rather upsetting news that the Road-Runner is capable of being injured.
Recycled footage from the time the Road-Runner went at "TOING!"-speed:
Oh, also: this is a Chuck Jones film, co-directed by Maurice Noble, even though he was fired & kicked off the prior short. We are not yet done w/Jones' classic WB output, but we are close.

Bill Lava is the music guy now & his work here seems similar to Milt Franklyn, to my ears
We see Bugs Bunny pop some pills here:
ACME Super Speed Vitamins

ACME's pharma division is a true nightmare.
Here we have Bugs Bunny admitting that he takes drugs in order to run fast:
Even though the tension is almost immediately deflated, I must admit I always found this moment genuinely worrying:
A plan with only a modest chance of working fails in a way that seems entirely impossible
To be clear, THIS is where he accidentally caught that enormous fish:
Bugs is kind of MST3K-ing the cartoon as it happens.

Also: a rare glimpse at the nuts & bolts of the Coyote's process.
Coyote accidentally shoots himself in the asshole
Here it is IN SLOW MOTION:
It is unclear why the direct shot to the asshole causes him to fly straight up, but it does
New NRA spokescharacter just shot himself in the asshole and is about to shoot himself in the face
The Coyote is fascinated when he oughta be concerned. He should know by now that the answer will not be good for him.
Life Lessons
I would've liked to have seen a shot indicating he had ordered a bushel of carrots from ACME. This is the 2nd one used so far.
It feels especially unfair to pit Bugs against the voiceless incarnation of the Coyote. He is brutally outmatched here, maybe more than usual.
The 4th appearance of a useless tiny umbrella!

Here they all are:
The useless tiny umbrella survived both the anvil falling AND the truck running over it!

Sure, the former was a near-miss but the latter is a sign that it is maybe a tough little umbrella
Is this reversed footage from earlier in the cartoon?
I only ask because he looks weirdly drawn going in the opposite direction but now that I really look at it to compare, he looks a little weird in both directions. His eyes look weird!
Amazingly, I believe the gag of the cannon simply lowering and firing him directly into the concrete has not already been done in one of these.
The extra little effort of a 3-second button where he pounds the rubble out of his ears like a swimmer does with water is the kind of detail which makes these cartoons a little more special than the cheaper ones that are about to start being made about 2 years later.
Bugs has already done a lot of (unseen) prep work for the final sequence. Just waiting for it to start. Showed up early, like a pro.
ACME glue

(1st ACME product ordered by a non-Coyote/Wolf?)
I think my favorite thing about the final sequence is the way Bugs' final trap seems to include deliberate callbacks to the way the Coyote began their earlier shorts...
The portable door, the elevator & the telephone seem to be echoed in Bugs' use of a phone booth, telephone & totally out-of-nowhere door. These introductory moves are now kind of mirrored in Bugs' final gambit against the Coyote.
There are moments of this that are as razor-sharp as ever but also little tiny hints that we are coming to the end of the Golden Age. (Things like re-using a shot from earlier in the same short)

And Bugs laughing at his own joke at the end is not my favorite thing, ever.
December 29,1963: "To Beep Or Not To Beep"

This short is one of 3 salvage jobs using the 26-minute rejected TV pilot.

Newly re-scored by Bill Lava, it basically uses all the parts of the pilot that didn't feature the Coyote talking, or the two kids.
Bill Lava is the guy who did the music for the 1964/65 Road Runner cartoons, which were all super low budget & not individually scored. They used his stuff more like stock music.

Here, he seems to be enjoying the greater resources of the tail end of the classic era:
We open on two of the only entirely "new" images of the short, the cover of the book "Western Cookery" & an inside spread featuring the recipe for "Road-Runner Surprise!"

We then cut to the Coyote reading it, in what looks like a slightly re-drawn shot taken from the TV pilot.
In the pilot, the book was called "4000 Recipes For Road-Runner," the book was thicker (trade cloth) and its interior shots featured text that was blurred/unreadable.

Both books features the recipe for "Road-Runner Surprise!"
Because of the cobbled-together nature of this short, we get no Latin names for RR & Coyote.

In hindsight, it might have been possible to add them into this scene (and not much more effort than it took to re-design that book from the pilot footage.)
However, by shifting this scene to the beginning, its ending is now re-contextualized to become a Coyote Thinking Sequence
Re-scored by Bill Lava, this is the scene from the TV pilot that transitions into the Coyote watching & evaluating footage of failed efforts. Here, it simply ends with a normal blackout.
Milt Franklyn's original score from the pilot. Comparing them, my preference switches back & forth between whichever one I am listening to.
The biggest difference can be heard in the "button" at the end, two different ways of orchestrating the same gag.

Here-- first Franklyn's, then Lava's:
In the pilot, this was essentially the introductory sequence (after the titles & an opening song), where the Road-Runner's speed was established.

It's a scene common to almost every RR short, but it's unusual to have it occur 2 minutes deep.

I wonder what the logic was?
This is just 38 seconds of the tour de force 2-and-a-half minute sequence that concludes the pilot. It basically takes up over 1/3rd of this short.

I cannot decide if I prefer Bill Lava's score. I am so familiar with this version from TV airings of it.
Slight variation from the pilot, and I think this one is actually way better!

Great final music as the camera slowly pushes in for the big "Rosebud"-style reveal.

(The TV version cut to an injured Coyote in his workshop & the reveal was about the Road Runner Blue-print Co)
For one thing, it's just cleaner to have the reveal be ON the catapult after 2.5 minutes of catapult gags instead of having it happen back in the Coyote's workshop.

Also, "Patent Pending" is a funnier detail than "and elsewhere."
Both the Road-Runner and the Coyote have patents pending.

The reveal that the Road-Runner has gotten into the manufacturing business seems like a pretty major countermove. What motive could he have other than fucking with the Coyote?
The truth is, we know SO LITTLE about The Road-Runner. Maybe he has his own reasons for starting this company.

But it seems reasonable to assume that his company deliberately made faulty catapults so that the Coyote would fail repeatedly.

The implications of this are STAGGERING
June 9, 1964: "War and Pieces"

This is it. The final "new" Chuck Jones Road-Runner film of the classic era.

From here on out, it's all downhill: low-budget imposters & then some later attempts to recapture the old magic, w/mixed results.

(This twitter thread is far from over.)
Road-Runner (Burn-Em Upus Alphaltus)
Coyote (Caninus Nervous Rex)
I will do this at least one more time before this thread is done, but let's just check in with how much things have changed since their 1949 debut:
The opening 60 seconds of this short contains the post-freeze frame Road-Runner slow speed-up that they haven't used since the earliest shorts!

I LOVE IT.

Coyote gets his freeze-frame the moment before his grenade goes off, leading to a nicely charred Coyote Thinking Sequence.
1st attempt (post-intro) is a new spin on an old classic that has never gone well. This time, however, it has a fresh outcome...
Maybe I'm sick, but I would have ended this gag here instead of carrying on and showing more:
More Cronenbergian body horror
I totally get why they opted to soften the horror of the gag with this sillier reveal, but I am against it.
1) This is impressively hi-tech, even the sounds it makes
2) he sets it up correctly
3) it probably wasn't gonna work, even though the Road-Runner is kinda dazzled by it
4) the ONLY reason he gets injured is because he loses his patience

100% Coyote's fault
A moment of appreciation for how delighted the Road-Runner is by this big laser beam
More Cronenbergian body horror
ACME Invisible Paint

One of the most game-changing products they have made & based on all evidence presented here, 100% effective & washes off quickly & easily with water. They could literally JUST make this one thing & be a billion dollar company. ALSO: it should be outlawed.
Elegantly animated sequence. Chuck Jones cartoons are always so well DRAWN.

Why is it that drawings of Looney Tunes characters on "merch" (posters, clothes, dvd box covers, etc) are never as good as the drawings in the classic cartoons? They always look so boring in comparison
I mean, these aren't *bad* drawings -- they're all very nice & professional and all that -- but there is something about them that I don't have the knowledge to articulate, something that makes them different in subtle but significant ways from how earlier drawings looked/felt?
TFW u paint yourself head-to-toe with invisible paint but u miss a spot
Oh nothing, just an invisible coyote
Ok, so this went badly. And you are frustrated to once again get hit by a truck that makes an identical sound to the Road-Runner. But seriously, I hope you don't stop using the invisibility paint because of this. It is the most promising thing you have come across in a decade!
Invisible Cronenbergian body horror!
This is both gorgeous-looking and clever/funny.

Also: unlike any shot in any previous Road-Runner cartoon
Is it just me, or does the ominously droning music in this clip sound like parts of the score from the Godfather movies?
FISH to Coyote: "what is your favorite LP by @TheMagFields?"

[Fish is shocked that it isn't 69 Love Songs]
Maybe the single most lurid sequence in any Road-Runner cartoon: Coyote tempts RR with pornography in order to shoot him square in the face.

"SECRETS OF A HAREM" rings the Road-Runner's bell in a BIG way. Look at him INSTANTLY backing up after zipping past.
Coyote secretly listens as Road-Runner somehow seems to be watching "Secrets Of A Harem."

His shotgun won't go off.

HIS SHOTGUN WON'T GO OFF.

A lot of layers to this scene beyond predator/prey.
The Road-Runner is H-O-R-N-Y! #MeepMeep
H-O-R-N-Y Road-Runner and furious Coyote who wants to know just what is making the Road-Runner so sexually excited.

This is a previously unexplored dynamic between these two.
The single most awkward moment in the entire Road-Runner series, as the Coyote pushes RR away from his supposedly fake pornography viewer to see what, exactly, the RR was watching so excitedly

TWO THINGS:
1) placement of the Coyote's left hand
2) expression on Road-Runner's face
The Coyote attempts to watch "Secrets Of A Harem" and shoots himself in the face.

Note how he holds his right arm with his left arm. I am not sure what it means, but it means SOMETHING.
This is the Coyote after shooting himself in the face. Is this a reference to something? I really don't know.
Penultimate gag has a lot of nice moments in it...
They are both happy in this moment. But only one of them knows what is about to happen.
Second "cloud" gag in this short! And I don't remember ANY clouds in any previous shorts in this series! (There may have been, but none come immediately to mind)
The Road-Runner is COLD, man. Look at that smile while a fucking bolt of LIGHTNING strikes the Coyote.
More Cronenbergian body horror
SIGH.

Ok, I know this should be a celebratory tweet to mark the end of the Golden Age of Chuck Jones RR shorts, but after tweeting 37 cartoons from 1949 to 1964 with no "problematic" jokes, the Coyote blasts a rocket through the earth to China & meets the Chinese Road-Runner:
After successfully navigating dozens of shotgun & explosion gags without resorting to the ethnic & racial stereotypes that were so common in the cartoons of the 30s & 40s, the series makes a shockingly unexpected turn in its final 60 seconds.
The next phase of Warner Bros cartoons is basically this: they shut down & re-opened, this time making cheaper cartoons that were not as good.

In many cases, not good at all.

Bill Lava's new arrangement of "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" is unpleasant (w/visuals to match)
The next two RR shorts will be, once again, patched together from the remains of the unsold TV pilot. Scraps, but watchable ones, directed by Chuck Jones.

After that, things will get significantly worse, and FAST...

#MeepMeep
January 1, 1965: "Zip Zip Hooray!"

Salvage job #2 is less artful than "To Beep Or Not To Beep" and more obviously made up of what's left from the rejected TV pilot.

(Even so, it still manages to repeat one full scene, and less effectively. We'll get to that in a second.)
Score by the now-deceased Milt Franklyn rather than paying Bill Lava to re-score it like the previous one.

ALSO: Chuck Jones goes uncredited here, which seems like a spite move, right? Pretty lousy of whoever made that call. (Maurice Noble & Tom Ray were co-directors, too)
We open with this fun but disposable little prologue with the sign shaped like the WB logo.

No Latin names, which will also be true going forward. (Those kind of extra layers will not be a priority for the new cost-cutting regime.)
This device of the kids watching RR on TV was great in the pilot but in some ways I prefer just seeing these clips here, none of which involve shoehorning in the unrelated short, "From A to Z-Z-Z." They just use the parts that are standalone funny.
Then we shift right to the part where the kids trigger the Coyote into breaking the 4th wall & coyotesplaining all about Road Runners.

This is all good but it does make for a talkier, less action-packed RR film than usual, especially for one w/the word "Zip" in its title TWICE
The short ENDS on the same exact scene that "To Beep Or Not To Beep" STARTED with, only in that short they weirdly re-animated it with a new score by Bill Lava

Here they just went back to the old pilot footage. So this is the 3rd time this scene has been released in theaters!
Also, this is a weirdly anticlimactic ending. (It worked better as an opening scene.)

Followed by the new closing music, which is ugly to my ears as the new introductory fanfare.
February 1, 1965: "Roadrunner A Go-Go"

Salvage job #3 is perhaps the least artful of all. (Also, this cartoon is one of the few not available on the @BoomerangToons app even though the version I found online has the Boomerang logo in the corner.)
Chuck Jones uncredited again! They must've been really mad at him. I wonder if he got paid for these.
Opening with Milt Franklyn's song "Out In The Desert."

This always reminds me of The Big Lebowski. (I wonder if the Coens had this in their mind at all; if not, they are both certainly pulling from the same inspirations.)
"Coyote reviewing footage" is yet another lengthy segment seeing its THIRD cinema release in just over 3 1/2 years.
OOF, this short even recycles clips from the TV pilot that were themselves recycled from older theatrical shorts!
And we close with the catapult segment, also seeing its 3rd theatrical release. I would say that, unlike the other two salvage jobs, this one is too much of a double rerun without much to justify its existence.

I think it is 100% fine that @BoomerangToons left it off the app.
It closes with the Milt Franklyn TV pilot version of the catapult ending, which I think is less effective than the Bill Lava version in "To Beep Or Not To Beep."
February 27, 1965: "The Wild Chase"

Ok, here we go. The first truly TERRIBLE Road-Runner cartoon, part of the new regime of low budget, low quality Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies.

This one stars the Coyote & Road-Runner but ALSO Speedy Gonzales & Sylvester the cat!
This one is also NOT on the @BoomerangToons app, but I think it is to their credit. It is so bad, it is hard to believe it is an officially released Warner Bros short.

Here is the full short at archive.org:
archive.org/details/Merrie…
Shockingly co-directed by the legendary Friz Freleng, just 7 years after winning his 4th Oscar.

1965 was the SAME year that Freleng & Hawley Pratt ALSO won the Oscar for "The Pink Phink" which shows you just how truly phoned-in this was (or perhaps how low their WB budgets were)
The work Freleng & Pratt did on the Pink Panther shorts was cool & fun, at least that's my memory of the 1960s ones I've seen. (I know they made a lot of them.)
UGH, I am prepared to defend some of Bill Lava's music during this period but I have to say this opening music just gets on my nerves right away:
The Road Runner is from Texas? That doesn't ring true to me.

Also, this race is stupid and "The Big Race" is a stupid name for it, especially in quotes.
1st joke gets this cartoon off to a pretty lousy start.
Here is our inexplicable cast of players.

The Coyote is particularly badly drawn here.
The first 45 seconds is as poorly directed as anything I have ever seen. SHOCKINGLY BAD.
SIGH. About the only thing I can say about this is that it's one of the few things that isn't stolen from an earlier Road Runner short, but I can't be sure this isn't lifted from a Speedy Gonzales film or something.
This music is super annoying.

I wonder what they were thinking when they were making this, and how people reacted when they saw it in theaters? Did anyone recoil? Or did people generally not notice?

The whole vibe of this endeavor is "nothing matters."
THEN we get to the part where they just start straight-up stealing sequences from Chuck Jones cartoons.

I mean, Warner Bros owns 'em, but this is still pretty shocking to see. It doesn't even MATCH the drawing/animation style of the non-stolen shots.
I mean, it seems clear that Friz Freleng REALLY must have had zero interest in making a Road Runner cartoon. This is like copying someone else's algebra homework in the cafeteria before school.
The sheer joylessness of this team-up is really what makes it a slog. It feels like someone forced them to make it.
ACME bird seed
ACME iron pellets

(And there they are in an earlier Chuck Jones cartoon. He sometimes re-used shots but it never felt like this. And they were HIS shots in the first place.)
Sylvester is such an afterthought in this cartoon. It is mostly Coyote schemes and this cat who normally talks just silently tags along for most of it.
Random freeze-frames during this cartoon mostly reveal off-model terrible drawings.
It makes me laugh that the Coyote has ACME bird seed disguising ACME iron pellets and Sylvester just has a big generic yellow box that says "CHEESE" and it contains slices of swiss cheese.

I am a lazy person but this cartoon makes me feel like I have never known true laziness
I don't trust any of the proportions in a single shot of this film.
The Coyote's scheme reprised from an earlier Chuck Jones cartoon.

Sylvester is hiding off-camera in two of these shots but not in the other two.
If you told me a child won a contest to draw the Coyote and Sylvester laughing I would feel better about this shot.
What the hell I am gonna go out on a limb and declare this gag the high point of this short. The boulders look a little weird but on balance this is better than the rest of it.

Bear in mind, this cartoon is lowering my standards with every passing second.
Another stolen Chuck Jones sequence with a hilariously pointless walk-on by Sylvester in the last few seconds:
TFW u r doing a scene & u let sylvester also be in it 4 a few seconds
Sylvester is a huge help
Ok here is the final plan, to catch up with them in a rocket ship that rides on train tracks
Here they come! I genuinely cannot tell how far away anything is in this cartoon, ever
I know this is a cheap shot but if you zoom in close it looks even worse
Wait, WHAT? This is the path of "The Big Race"? Run along the tracks and then veer off suddenly into the desert instead of continuing into the tunnel??? Who designed this race???
OH I SEE IT IS A TUNNEL TO NOWHERE THAT I GUESS WAS JUST DESIGNED TO MAKE NO SENSE YOU JUST GO THROUGH THE TUNNEL AND FLY OUT THE OTHER SIDE IN MID-AIR
Sylvester is also surprised that anyone would have ever built a tunnel that just shoots you out into mid-air halfway up the mountain because there is simply no reason for such a thing to exist
I wish this was the Coyote reacting to Sylvester showing him how bad this film is
It is even worse with this annoying music over and over
Fittingly, it ends by swiping fireworks from a previous Chuck Jones short's conclusion but then tacks on a pretty crappy font of its own to close it out.
Here is a fairly ugly poster for a 1966 Warner Bros revue packaging a bunch of shorts which clearly includes "The Wild Chase."

Notable for showcasing "The Fastest Characters In The Cartoon World!" both driving anthropomorphic cars, for some reason.
I wonder if Chuck Jones ever saw "The Wild Chase" or if he and Friz Freleng ever talked about it.

I kind of hope he didn't, and they didn't, unless it was to commiserate about how poor the budgets were during this era and what a nightmare it was to make cartoons like this.
"The Wild Chase" is certainly a notable curiosity but I am still STUNNED that it actually made it onto Vol. 4 of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, considering that more than a dozen of the classic Jones shorts I tweeted about earlier in this thread have never made it to DVD
July 31, 1965: "Rushing Roulette"

5 months after Freleng/Pratt's disastrous "Wild Chase" mash-up comes this effort, which is -- compared ONLY to that short -- a triumph.

The punny title alone is enough to move it up a full notch:
One of two low budget Road Runner shorts to be directed by Robert McKimson, creator of Foghorn Leghorn, the Tasmanian Devil & Hippety Hopper.

(The other one would be over a year later.)
I don't know why DePatie & Freleng gave themselves this prominent credit that previously always went to the director. The kind interpretation is that they were taking the blame.

GRIM FACT: McKimson would die of a heart attack 12 years later while at lunch with DePatie & Freleng
It's not as lush as the days of Carl Stalling, but I find this opening music by Bill Lava (which will recur a LOT in later shorts, IIRC) to be quite charming.

I believe that while this short was specifically scored by BL, from now on they will just use his cues like stock music
No Latin names anymore, even though they could have done them right here and it's not like they cost any money. In fact, they save a few seconds of animation.

Did they think those jokes were too highbrow or something?
He "catches" the Road Runner, but the Road Runner just drags him along at high speed until the Coyote hits a cactus.

I don't recall this happening in any previous RR short, so already McKimson has more skin in the game than Freleng did in "The Wild Chase."
So you can see from watching the first 16 seconds that we have dropped down many notches in animation quality from any previous Jones short, though I must confess that "The Wild Chase" has disoriented me into appreciating the significant improvement from that particular low.
I like this. This is basically a variation on the "Secrets Of A Harem" scheme, but appealing to the Road Runner's narcissism instead of his lust.

I also like how the Coyote put so much effort into the front view and ZERO into making it look good from the side.
We never saw him sign it and he wasn't standing in that pose, but also that isn't a real camera so I am asking the wrong questions here.
They are still using the same footage for every explosion that was in the very 1st RR short.

Also, it's great that he got shot both by the cannon and by the canon.
Even a solid RR gag like this one feels a little too herky-jerky in its rhythms. My guess is that as the animation budgets shrunk, it became simply impossible to do the kind of work they'd done before.
ACME Sproing Boots
("Puts A Spring In Your Step")

This is an improvement on when Ralph Wolf had to order 2 bed-springs for the same purpose
There are moments in this that COULD be from a Chuck Jones RR short. I don't mean as in they borrowed footage, I mean there are moments here that work just right. But also moments that are cheaper and less precise.
Rare view of that red truck that usually runs him over
WHY was there a boulder perched at the end of a long flat rock perched on the edge of a cliff? Did the Coyote set this up for something else and forget about it? Is this some other coyote's set-up? Or Sylvester's? We never find out the answer.
AJAX?? Come on.
I don't get how the Coyote being glued to the road makes it so that, when startled, he pulls out an entire segment of it straight up into the air.

I'm not buying it, but mostly because they don't SELL IT hard enough here.
The off-camera flip that occurs here happens too fast and for no known reason
I mean, you look at the footage but unless that glue is some kind of alien tech I don't know how to explain what happens here.

It appears to me that the chunk of road JUMPS up on its own, FLIPS itself and then SLAMS the Coyote back down
Coyote's plan is to catch the Road Runner using a railroad handcar but I think this is the moment when we learn that the Road Runner is not only faster but also somehow STRONGER than the Coyote
The Road-Runner aggressively pushes the Coyote all the way up this steep incline! That bird is strong! The Coyote doesn't even attempt to resist what is happening!
FIRST OF ALL, who built train tracks to go up to the top of that mountain and end at that CLIFF? That is NUTS.

SECOND: was THIS the Road Runner's plan? Push him to the edge of the cliff & then startle him? It seems like it. This is the most aggressive thing RR has done, maybe?
No, the most aggressive thing the RR has done remains starting businesses to make intentionally faulty products to hurt the coyote (and, presumably, many others? Or else, why have locations in 4+ cities??)
The best sequences in this cartoon, it is easy to imagine them being 50% better if they had been attempted a few years earlier. But this one is also fine, more or less. A little plinky-plonky with the music, and the infrastructure of the tracks makes no sense, but it's OK.
This seems like a good plan but terrifying. That cactus burned to nothing in an instant.
There was no reason to also burn the road sign. That could get someone killed.
Dude, Road-Runner been whippin out mirrors since 1953 and he'll do it again tomorrow
This feels like more of an extreme wide shot than we are used to seeing in a Road Runner cartoon. I like it.
More Cronenbergian body horror

(bonus points for the detail of the mirror cracking before his eyes go bloodshot)
I like the patient start to this, and seeing the tower fall in a wide shot is satisfying. And that button is nicely done, as well.

McKimson is operating at a low budget but is still basically a pro who knows what he's doing here.
Would it have really been that hard to cover up the opening where the TNT is plainly visible?
2nd time the Coyote has used a piano to catch the Road Runner and BOTH times he has ended up with a mouth full of keys
I like this, and I don't care how he got the boulder up there.

Let's just assume it took a lot of effort and that the story of how is not worth our time.
Blueprints! It has been a while.

It still makes me sad that he no longer includes little jokes to himself. He has been broken a bit by all of this.
MOST of this is good! I like the big rolling boulder part of it.

The ending beats are a little awkward, though. I think when they try to do little details to make it better, it has the odd effect of making it weird when they aren't executed quite correctly.
Coyote suddenly sweating for less than one second is weird
Really? The "VAN" van is here?

I'm not expecting Simpsons-level background jokes at this budget, but they couldn't have written ACME on the side of this thing? I wish I could believe that writing "VAN" on the side of a van was an intentional joke but I think it's highly unlikely
Rare boulder gag that ends without injury.

Coyote does not seem concerned about being trapped, presumably he knows other ways out.

Feels kind of wrong to end with just a mild inconvenience after what should have been a severe flattening.
Cool tiny helicopter + anvil plan
After a short burst of speed from the Road Runner, the Coyote catches up and it is looking promising.
Anvil flies upward
Cool tiny helicopter SHATTERS in all directions
Coyote flesh sticks to concrete

Everything is different!
More Cronenbergian body horror
Anvil then bus equals pain indicated by yellow lines in all directions
Greyhound logo?

Why not the word "BUS" like it's the "BUS" bus?
Road Runner supposedly driving the bus but that is NOT the Road Runner's profile, not even close.

#LostHighway
More Cronenbergian body horror
Overall, a pretty conventional RR short finale without any huge twist to it. The reveal that the RR is driving the vehicle is too familiar, basically boilerplate by this point. (I'm not sure what a better ending would be.)
It's almost better to think of this era of WB shorts like a weird reality show challenge where veteran animators have to make a Road Runner film with unbelievably limited resources. McKimson fared better than Freleng, but none of these failures have to do w/their level of talent
I wish there was an Oral History of this time period that went into detail as to why these specific cartoons turned out the way they did, but the basic facts seem to be that they took the money away, and there was a limit to how well-made the cartoons could be.
We now enter the weirdest phase of Road Runner theatrical shorts, as Warner Bros subcontracted out to a company called Format Films & produced 11 RR films in a mere 8 months, all directed by one man.

Enter Rudolph "Rudy" Larriva (seen here, center, dancing with June Foray):
Rudy Larriva was an animator on Chuck Jones' early WB shorts, and later on he moved over to work for Disney. He spent the 1950s working on Mr Magoo shorts and directed The Alvin Show for TV.

Then, in 1965, he inherited The Road Runner.
Two things I have read online but cannot confirm-- maybe they are not true!

1) Chuck Jones was annoyed that Larriva quit WB & went to work for Disney, and never spoke to him again

2) Larriva was embarrassed by the low quality of his Road Runner cartoons
In any case, to put things in perspective, Rudy Larriva directed as many Road Runner cartoons in 8 months as Chuck Jones did in 8 YEARS.

And with much smaller budgets. So, yes, there is an undeniable drop in quality.
August 21, 1965: "Run, Run, Sweet Road Runner"

The 1st Larriva short isn't on the @BoomerangToons app. I think it doesn't really need to be, for reasons I'll go into in a little while.
On Saturday mornings when I was a kid, they wouldn't show the opening titles with credits but would instead run THIS kind of title card for a few seconds:
Bill Lava scored this cartoon individually, but the next one would just use his cues like stock music. I like this one:
As always, I am baffled that DePatie/Freleng wanted their names to take the spot that used to go to the director, who is now squeezed onto the same page as everybody else.

Also: Rudy Larriva also WROTE this cartoon. Writer/director!
Right off the bat, the short gets weird.
In this moment, the short has the benefit of the doubt from me.

Let's see where they are going with this. It is always possible that it *could* be something great.
NOPE! Strike One! Weird hopscotch thing, feels like a dream, what is this, why is this, who thought this would be a good way to start their first Road Runner cartoon???
The clouds blow away, but they didn't matter anyway, because the drop-off they reveal is now plainly visible to the Coyote and what IS this?? What is going on here? Who set this up? The Road Runner? WHY???
This is not a question of having a low budget. If you can animate THIS, you can afford to animate something else that makes more sense and is satisfying. I don't understand any part of this sequence.
This is a rough start to this cartoon. It looks familiar but is so far a nonsensical echo of what this series has been for the previous 16 years
Here it is for you to process for yourself, the first 60 seconds of this film, which has even more things wrong with it that I didn't go into. (Also, it must be said, Lava's scoring here is not great.)
Coyote filing some sharp spikes. This looks brutal.

The drawing style in these shorts is not great and all over the place, I assume that is just a budget issue. (I actually don't even mind how crude they look, to me it's a question of what they do with it.)
I kind of like how lo-tech this is for the Coyote, who has previously used rocket ships and invisibility paint. This is a bed frame with spikes, hanging 4 feet above some bird seed.
Signs appealing to the Road Runner's hunger, frugality, sentimentality & desire for comfort.

Sort of doing his best to sell a kind of obviously not-great scheme.
This sequence is way better than the hopscotch one. They should have led with this.
Coyote is for some reason SHOCKED that the Road Runner ate the bird seed real fast and ran off.

This is like when Scully was skeptical of Mulder's ideas after she had witnessed stuff like shape shifters.
Coyote looks goofy the way they draw him climbing down
Nicely plotted sequence of events
I will say that it takes up almost 2 full minutes, which is a lot for a fairly minor scheme + reaction. A lot of time is wasted.

Chuck Jones could have done this in a minute and change and it would've felt twice as suspenseful...
More Cronenbergian body horror
Coyote Thinking Sequence, in which a cloud of rage becomes a cloud of inspiration for a plan involving actual clouds
ACME Lightning Rod

(Yet another ACME product that, like the vast majority of them, actually does function exactly as it is supposed to, even if it fails to help catch any Road Runners.)
Coyote making a fake female Road Runner using a lightning rod and very few other materials. This is pretty impressive.
How to draw (female) Road Runner eyes
ACME glue

(used to apply beak + feathers)
Affix tail feathers
Lure with horn
Wait with axe ready
Road Runner kisses female road runner without asking and does not stop to look back and notice that her head has flown off; meanwhile, almost gets chopped by axe.

A lot going on in these frames, and there are no heroes here
TFW u make a fake bird as a sex trap but its head flies off and lands on your head
More Cronenbergian body horror
This should be a GIF about how the world is a terrible place:
After mostly avoiding anything problematic in over 40 films from 1949-1964, the Coyote makes a big slow entrance dressed as a Native American
This is why it is no big loss for this short to be left off the @BoomerangToons app, which I think does a pretty good job of keeping it "all ages" appropriate for 2017 without being too precious about policing old cartoons. This short doesn't need to be featured for kids today.
Not to mention that this final segment feels endless and the short overall isn't good.
The coyote has never looked more like an asshole than he does at this moment
More Cronenbergian body horror
OK, so: a pretty rough start from writer/director Rudy Larriva, w/10 more to go.

There were moments here & there that showed some potential. Rocky & Bullwinkle had already proven that you didn't need big budgets or good animation to be funny.

Maybe the next one will be better?
ALSO: I think the title was pretty good. I felt like it should have been used for a more ambitious short
September 18, 1965: "Tired and Feathered"

Arriving in theaters less than a month after Rudy Larriva's debut RR short, his sophomore effort is a HUGE improvement by comparison.
I am fond of this track by Bill Lava, a kind of "light" recurring RR theme.

I understand why some might find it kind of cheap-sounding & rinky-dink, and maybe I only like it because of familiarity, hearing it over and over when these shorts were airing on TV, but I like it:
Opening sequence has some urgency to it. I like the Lava score here.

I wish that these cartoons were not official WB-sanctioned shorts but were instead underground films w/no content restrictions. This crude lo-fi style would be fun if you felt like ANYTHING could happen here
Ok, THIS is a big move.

He catches the Road-Runner.

There have been close calls before, and yes, he gets away, but this is unlike anything that has happened before in a RR cartoon, and points to writer/director Rudy Larriva for taking a big swing.
I have documented close calls at least one "catch" before, but the key factor in these previous incidents was the Road-Runner's total lack of concern.

LOOK at his face. Does this bird seem worried to you?
Now look at this.

This is a Road-Runner we have never seen before. Scared. He can be caught. He can be killed. And he KNOWS it.

Rudy Larriva has single-handedly changed the base reality of The Coyoteverse.

No longer are the Jonesian Gods protecting this bird.
This is the Road Runner looking at the Coyote with new eyes

He has watched him fail 100,000 times, crushed by the Fates again & again

But this was close. Next time could be closer

For the 1st time, this seemingly invincible bird looks upon the Coyote & sees his killer
For the Coyote, however, this is just another FAIL.
Oh boy, this flapping goes on way too long. 7+ seconds!

This is an instance where saving money is just the death of Comedy. If you're gonna go this far, why not 20 seconds? Or 50?
Coyote Thinking Sequence (feat. Eye-Poking Road-Runner Tail Feather)
Shout-out to moment of Coyote cleavage
There is a lot to like in this 60 second-sequence, mostly due to Bill Lava's music, which I think really gives the scene its energy:
A few things to unpack from that clip, first of which is: this is a cool shot.

Jones would sometimes do these, usually w/the Coyote's head at one side or the other. This is dead center, like if Wes Anderson directed a Road Runner cartoon.

Which, y'know what, he SHOULD. Why not?
I'll reiterate: @WarnerBrosEnt should get Wes Anderson to make a Road Runner short.

Doesn't have to be a chase picture. It can be sad. I just want to see what his vision of the ACME warehouse is.
This action by the Road-Runner is motivated by the earlier scene, his first true brush with Death.

Things have changed. It is kill or be killed now.

The Coyote begs for mercy, but there will be none.
COLD. AS. ICE.
ACME Rapid Transit
This is another nicely rendered moment.

I wonder what Rudy Larriva doing these with a decent budget would've looked like? Because this isn't bad.
BIRDS And Their HABITAT
(author, publisher unknown)

50mph seems like a low estimate based on what we have seen. The Road-Runner has gone so fast at times that it has destroyed bridges, left behind a trail of blazing fire and sent concrete roads flying into the air like ribbons.
Coyote Thinking Sequence, with book

Larriva's Coyote seems like more of a jerk when he gets his ideas.
This looks so painful
Still, was it so painful that it would cause the Coyote to FREEZE in pain for 7 seconds? This is the feather flapping moment all over again.

If they wanted to save money on animation, they should have done more gags where the audience has to read a sign, a poster, instructions
Another nice moment, where the "solution" makes things worse:
Ok, the remaining 2 minutes & 40 seconds of this cartoon is just one long sequence.

This is cool. I'm not even sure if any of the Jones shorts devote that much time to one scheme. (I don't recall any.)

It begins with a dreaming Coyote being awakened by a ringing phone:
Who is on the phone? It's the Road-Runner, prank calling him! (Yet another aggressive act by the RR, who is now blatantly taunting his predator.)
TFW u answer the phone and it is that bird u have been chasing all over the desert
Unsympathetic anti-hero behavior in the desert reaching Walter White levels now
Coyote Thinking Sequence, holding broken pay phone
ACME explosives

(Or is it just "ACME EX"? It doesn't look like the word continues beyond the letter "X", or if it does it means the lettering on the box is crooked because otherwise we would see the tops of the letters)
Chekhov's hammer and boards and bird seed and detonator:
This is a nicely-paced sequence of the Coyote carefully putting in the work. Almost a full minute and it's only PART of it:
I love the cross-fading montage of him building something before we know what it is. I don't think Jones ever used this technique in a RR cartoon, and it works really well with the build-up here...
Speaking of cross-fading, did you know that Rudy Larriva directed this opening sequence for The Twilight Zone?
The Coyote looks really proud of the fake Bird Sanctuary he made
I don't think this is how telephone wires are supposed to look. I am assuming it was just easier to draw them like this? Maybe I am wrong & this is 100% accurate.

Either way, I like the amount of detail this sequence is building in. This step will be important in the payoff.
Painting and waiting
One of my favorite fake signs in a Road Runner cartoon, especially since he buries the "free phones" hook in what amounts to the fine print, which I think makes it more convincing.
Road-Runner reading the sign. Will he be persuaded?

Meanwhile, the Coyote is with Chekhov's detonator and bird seed.
SUDDENLY: the phone rings! The Coyote is taken by surprise.
The Coyote glances over at the "bird sanctuary," the source of the telephone ringing. He looks down at the detonator. He is trying to carefully figure out what's going on.

The beats here are not a million miles from Chuck Jones, who loved slow, thoughtful reaction shots
Looking up to see that the phone couldn't possibly still be connected, scratching his head.

(Jones' later stuff like the Grinch or his Tom & Jerry shorts were full of this kind of stuff, he loved milking a character's thought slow process)
The final 67 seconds has some awkward pacing in places but overall is pretty great.

Why does the Coyote answer the phone? Because he has to know, and he refuses to surrender.

The reveal of the Road Runner eating Chekhov's bird seed is a powerful moment.
This is no accident. The Road-Runner is devouring the bird seed while detonating explosives because it intensifies both experiences for him.
After a very poor 1st attempt, I think Rudy Larriva found his footing & made a very solid Road Runner cartoon here. It is nowhere near the level of a Jones film, but I'm not sure Jones could do that much better with such limited resources.
October 23, 1965: "Boulder Wham!"

Is the title a play on words that I'm not picking up on?
This short is the 1st to be directed but not written by Rudy Larriva, w/story credit going to Len Janson.

Forgive me, but looking up who Len Janson is led me to discover a REMARKABLE imdb page. This guy worked on a million shows! And-- as far as I can tell -- he is still alive!
This was his first and only Road Runner cartoon but he would get an Oscar nomination two years later for a "pixelation" film (live action stop-motion), "Stop Look & Listen"!

Before "Boulder Wham!" he wrote 3 episodes of TV medical drama Dr. Kildare!
His next animation writing would be for the 1969 tv series Cattanooga Cats, which I have never heard of
One episode of an authorized Jerry Lewis cartoon series which did NOT feature the voice of Jerry Lewis? Sabrina & The Groovie Goolies? The Flintstones Comedy Hour?

His credits only get more insane. I am gonna be at this for a little while. Len Janson NEEDS to be celebrated.
16 episodes of Lassie's Rescue Rangers but who knows how many of Fat Albert or Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch.
TWO episodes of Star Trek: The Animated Series!

A return to live action TV with "Korg: 70,000 B.C."!

Unknown episodes of Hong Kong Phooey, Wacky & Packy and Uncle Croc's Block!
Batman! Gilligan! Shazam! Ark II! Isis!

I thought when I googled this guy's name it would be a dead end, and we haven't even gotten to the REALLY good stuff yet. Len Janson's career is a treasure trove of fun & crazy shows.
23 episodes of Tarzan! A couple of shows I've never heard of, and then...

THE NEW SHMOO?!!! Are you kidding me? Len Janson was part of bringing back Al Capp's SHMOO as an animated cartoon character for television??
2 episodes of The Love Boat!

26 episodes of The Smurfs!

More late era Flintstones, including the TV movie "Yabba Dabba Doo II"

This guy was writing shows I watched as a kid!
Len Janson was nominated for an Emmy for "My Smurfy Valentine" and also wrote scripts for the Smurfs Xmas AND Springtime specials!

Plus, the story for "Wind-Up Wilma" which was part of a limited prime time revival of The Flintstones.
Here is the plotline for "Wind-Up Wilma":
Len Janson wrote the Saturday morning cartoon show The Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour!

13 episodes of The Biskitts!

CREATED the tv series Benji, Zax & The Alien Prince!

Unknown # of episodes of Going Bananas!

And the TV movie CONDOR
Len Janson never stops working! He makes me feel like I have done NOTHING with my life.

Slimer! And The Real Ghostbusters! He is UNSTOPPABLE
Another Emmy nomination for The Real Ghostbusters but Len Janson but he is also busy working on Sonic The Hedgehog, Tiny Toon Adventures and the 90s reboot of Land Of The Lost!
These are the final entries on Len Janson's IMDB. I can't find any info on when he was born, how old he is now, or ANYTHING other than various facts about his work on many many shows

Anyway, this guy wrote the next Road Runner short.

This was a long tangent but it was IMPORTANT
ANYWAY: here are the opening titles, which feature a tiny amount of animation:
Jones shorts would have longer chase prologues, but always done differently. Larriva ones are shorter but always basically the same, as in using some of the EXACT same animation.
It is amazing how something as short as 8 seconds can kind of feel a little too long.
Here is the cool thing Len Janson did with this, his ONLY Road Runner short: he basically wrote a kind of "bottle episode."

The RR runs across a section where the road is out & there is no bridge. The Coyote spends the rest of the film trying to get across.
This hadn't been done in any previous Road Runner cartoon, a whole short dealing with just one setting and one situation. It probably saved money while also being a fun new scenario to play with. Nice work, Len Janson!
I have to say: pretty bad, having the Coyote stand where his head blocks that boulder in the distance. It looks weird, like he has on a space helmet or something!

Why not have him stand somewhere else? Or move that boulder?
The RR is just standing there. Is he being a dick? I can't tell. But I think he might be.
Coyote Thinking Sequence, feat. Thought Cloud w/Lightbulb!
I mean, the thing about this plan is, even if it works, it ONLY gets him across. It doesn't help him catch the Road Runner. But that's the nature of most of this particular short: the Coyote isn't even going for a full "win", he's just trying to get back to the regular chase.
The music editing is super choppy and the timing is sometimes weird, but I would say on balance this segment works. A lot of nicely timed moments mixed in with some weirdness
I like this confident tightrope walking swagger.
Nice low angle for this part of the fail, with great panicked expression
More dead center framing, Wes Anderson-style
I do not care for this goofball Coyote expression I accidentally freeze-framed on
This part is pretty great, his little scramble to get out of the way
Despite the overall crudeness of these Larriva shorts, I think there are a lot of pretty vivid moments where the crudeness adds to their strange charm
This segment is good! The timing of the way it builds up and pays off is good!

But then the end of it is weird! The music and the Road-Runner's triumphant jumping up and down feels like it should be the end of the whole cartoon!
The pole vault fail is well-timed, and there is some genuine care evident if you look frame-by-frame, especially in the next part...
The frames in between these are pretty fun, too. This all happens so fast but you can still see his clear moment of realization watching it at full speed
The Road-Runner CELEBRATES the Coyote's misfortune. This is new. We have never seen this before.

So, to answer my question from earlier: yes, he IS being kind of a dick.
And this music cue is all wrong for the middle of the cartoon. It sounds like the perfect ENDING music, and the moment itself works better as a final button anyway.
Oh, yeah, also:
Pole Vaulting Made Easy (author, publisher unknown)

A modern Road-Runner cartoon would have him watching a lot of instructional YouTube videos on his ACME smartphone
Coyote Thinking Sequence # 2, feat. Thought Cloud + the word "IDEA"
TFW ur first idea is a cloud with a lightbulb and your second idea is a cloud with the word "IDEA"
Wait, was his idea just to browse through the ACME mail order catalog?
ACME Deluxe Hi-Bounce Trampoline Kit

As good a time as any to reiterate that most ACME products have worked properly. They are associated with failure mostly bc the Coyote often uses them to do dangerous things they weren't intended for
I don't know why he is so excited about this trampoline plan. This seems like such a long shot, as schemes go.
Weird moment where Road Runner had no eyes or eyelids, just pure blue face above the beak
The further away the characters are drawn in these, the weirder and more off-model they get.
Also, when rocks fall, it seems to be happen for reasons that have nothing to do with physics. It's just time for them to fall.
This sequence of events makes little sense from one shot to the next, things are up, then down, and it is hard to tell how the rock suddenly is above him after being below him moments earlier. Maybe it all adds up, but not the way it is shown to us.
The bones of this sequence basically work but it feels like a step is skipped, and it would of course work a lot better if they were able to properly animate it. The moments of anticipation are the easiest to do well on a low budget, w/Lava's music easily setting an ominous tone.
And then there are odd moments like this one, where we just cut to the Road Runner watching as if this is a live broadcast and Camera One isn't ready so they just cut to Camera Two to kill time
Hypnotism For Beginniners (author, publisher unknown)
I don't know why he is so excited about this. Has he forgotten what happened when he read Hershenberger's book? (Probably, yes.)
This hypnotism sequence has a nice mood to it, but I can never tell exactly what is happening in all of its beats. Is the Road Runner ever really affected by it, or is he faking it the whole time?

Here, he looks like he is not buying it, at least to begin with.
A) I don't like the use of the signs. I feel like the use of signs like this is fine for gags in RR cartoons, but lazy if they are just telling us what's happening

B) Is the Road Runner faking it? If so, he is being super sarcastic about it.
I can't tell if this is the moment that the Road Runner breaks out of his spell or if it's the moment he stares down the Coyote as if to say, "you never had me in the first place."
This meaning of that shot-- the Road Runner blankly, confidently staring back at him -- is very different if he was truly hypnotized and breaks out of it compared to if he was playing along sarcastically. Was the Road Runner ever really in danger? I cannot tell!
Either way, the Road Runner does not hesitate: the instant the Coyote hypnotizes himself, he makes a move to put him in harm's way. And he is SMILING about it.
This image is chilling
The cut to fully hypnotized Coyote is kind of frightening. It is a little more intense than one expects, even if you know what's coming. The way they draw him plus the music cue that accompanies it, all more disturbing than funny.
This is such a disappointing burn. If the RR is going to go to the trouble of making up these little signs, I really would've appreciated a bit more of a zinger to end on.

(I realize I'm actually criticizing Len Janson here in terms of the clarity of the beats/quality of zinger)
More Cronenbergian body horror
Final segment: I'm sort of not wild about this final bit. He learns martial arts & then lures the Road Runner back across using a horn that goes "meep meep."

I don't like that it's 2 things instead of 1 + the rest of the short is all about him getting ACROSS. This breaks that.
It just feels like this plan could have slotted into ANY Road Runner short, but this film had its own special thing going on -- getting across -- and it would have been stronger to stick with that theme
And MAYBE luring him across is an okay twist, because it is at least related to the specific situation, but then it just leads to "ok, now he'll use the martial arts he JUST learned, which has nothing to do with the thing this whole cartoon has been about."
I'll say this: if THIS is the Road-Runner's genuine reaction to hearing what he thinks is another Road Runner, he has gotten real dumb all of a sudden. [Or maybe he is H-O-R-N-Y again. Do I need to remind you what the RR looks like when he is H-O-R-N-Y?]
Flashback to when the Coyote caught the Road Runner enjoying porn

[title: "Secrets Of A Harem"]
The 1st part of the plan works, and the Coyote tosses aside his horn in a way that makes it look like an exclamation mark.

The Road Runner looks neither disappointed nor surprised.
WTF happened to the Coyote in this one frame
I can't believe ACME sells invisibility paint and he is trying this.
I guess this segment is significant for featuring a physical fight between the Coyote & Road Runner, although the cloud of dust caused by the RR's speed obscures whether or not the Coyote ever actually lays a hand on him
As far as I can tell, the entire "fight" is just the same 4 drawings over and over
Also: when they fight, they make cat noises. This is new information
The dust clears, and the Coyote is in mid-air, but it's also a new angle we haven't seen before. We are denied the satisfaction of seeing him in the location we spent most of the short focused on. It is kind of a letdown!
The failure to stick the landing is papered over a bit by the charm of a meta gag, at least a little.

I can think of a dozen more satisfying ways to pay off what they set up, but I still give them points for the basic idea of this short, which broke new ground and was fun.
Having the Road Runner jump up and down, beeping, in a celebratory fashion TWICE in an episode is bad. This is a bad ending simply because we already saw it a few minutes ago, mid-cartoon. They blew it!
ALSO: I kind of think it makes the Road Runner look bad to see him so emotionally invested in the Coyote's pain.
ALSO: that's a Coyoteverse wrap on Len Janson, whose long & impressive career includes two episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures but no more Road Runner. He did something special with his sole effort, writing an episode unlike any of the others. If he is out there, tell him I said hi!
One more thing about Len Janson, just because it's cool. I wish I could find more specific autobiographical information about him, because he seems to have had a crazy and awesome career.

October 30, 1965: "Just Plane Beep"

After the distinctive "bottle episode" nature of the previous short comes another "themed" effort, arriving a mere 7 days later!
Story credit for this one goes to Don Jurwich, who would write 2 of the 11 Larriva RR shorts, both immediately identifiable for their distinctive plots.

(This is the one with the airplane & the other is the one with the Giant Robot Coyote, which we will get to within the week.)
A quick dive into Don Jurwich's imdb shows that he is currently 84 years old & has a list of credits 5 miles long, incl. an Emmy nomination for The Smurfs in 1981!

Laff-A Lympics! Yogi's Space Race! Superfriends! The Fonz! Richie Rich! Captain Caveman! Scooby-Doo! Scrappy-Doo!
G.I. Joe! Hulk! Droopy! Flintstones! Tom & Jerry! Yogi Bear! Mumbly! The Pink Panther! The Courtship Of Eddie's Father!

(One thing seems clear -- once these guys got in good with Hanna-Barbera in the 1970s, there was no shortage of shows to work on)
Rocky & Bullwinkle! Wacky Races! Josie & The Pussycats! Jabberjaw! George Of The Jungle! Kwicky Koala! Jetsons: The Movie!

His two RR credits were fairly early in his career, when most of his experience was as a layout artist, although most of his credits are as a producer
The left image is how this short begins, and it is the same animation they keep re-using at the top of all of these, only this time they reversed it (as you can see from the still on the right, from the previous short.)
A random flier lands on the Coyote's face (a device that hasn't been used in any previous RR cartoon)
ACME War Surplus Sale
2nd appearance of a desert USPS public mailbox, a relatively new development in this series which also allows them to conveniently re-use this animation of the Coyote mailing something
His current mailbox simply says "COYOTE" whereas previously it had his full name & occupation listed
I like that they just throw this in as an extra piece of bad luck
snow/rain/heat/gloom of night/coyote in road
This is pretty ridiculous when you consider that we soon learn that this parcel contains a WWI-era airplane
I cannot make out the details on the shipping label
Pretty big development for ACME
Someone use these blueprints to make an airplane
The Coyote's life is exhausting
Pretty solid start and I like the button of the parachute opening
I find it hard to be too critical. I am certain I would not do this well assembling and/or flying an airplane.
Nor do I have this good an attitude regarding failure at this level
Quick fixing:
The Coyote looked down and quietly thought to himself, "maybe THIS time will be different."
It looks weird when they just draw the Road Runner as a moving cloud of dust or whatever
Simultaneously crashing a plane while trying to get rid of a hand grenade makes for a pretty solid sequence
Quick fix #2:
Okay, so he hits some electrical wires here and crashes again. I really just have a question regarding the scene that immediately follows this one...
Do these stamps indicate that the Coyote took down two electrical towers? Because it didn't look like he even damaged them a little.

(Maybe I am just misunderstanding the entire gag here.)
This is a nice Chaplinesque little scene, and it has a good payoff shortly after
After the blueprints blow away, we cut to the Coyote back in the air for a solidly executed reveal of what a terrible job he has done re-building the plane:
Nice little details as his seat falls out of the plane before he does.
The Road Runner is largely MIA for most of this short, which is primarily focused on the Coyote trying to build & then repair an airplane

Still, that doesn't stop RR from showing up for his now seemingly obligatory victory dance, meep-meeping & jumping up & down like a real jerk
Overall, a solid RR debut from writer Don Jurwich, trying something different and mostly succeeding!

Don Jurwich will return -- 4 months and 6 RR shorts later -- with "The Solid Tin Coyote"!
By the way, a few years back, @WBHomeEnt released a Road Runner DVD that, bafflingly, featured 8 of the 11 Larriva shorts, 1 of the 2 McKimsons, 1 of the 3 later Jones shorts + a few more recent post-Jones efforts.

All when there are still classic-era Jones RR shorts MIA on DVD!
The idea of releasing the Larriva RR's on disc when there are still prime Jones ones in the vault is bad enough, but if you're gonna put the Larrivas out, don't just do 8 out of 11, @WBHomeEnt! That's bonkers! (I still bought this release, cuz I'm a sucker.)
In any case, I have high hopes that eventually @WarnerArchive will put out some kind of Chronological Coyoteverse release that provides the kind of experience I have been organizing myself using the @BoomerangToons app + a few supplemental sources...
November 13, 1965: "Hairied and Hurried"

After two "themed" RR shorts in a row, a return to a more typical collection of gags; this one was written by Nick Bennion, whose imdb page raises more questions than it answers...
Although this is the first of 2 RR shorts written by Bennion, it is not his Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies debut...
Bafflingly, his WB debut was as co-writer (with director Robert McKimson) of the FINAL Foghorn Leghorn theatrical short of the classic era, "Banty Raids."

It featured the one & only appearance of a womanizing beatnik bantam rooster who pretends to be a baby.
Prior to that, he wrote an episode of the animated Dick Tracy tv series and after his 3 shorts at Warners (spanning 1963-1966), he wrote two eps of Disney's Wonderful World Of Color in the late 1970s.)

I wonder what his main thing was? It's a mystery!
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