Tag Archives: Chuck Jones

Kid Stuff: Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote

It's actually a classic cat and mouse story, except Wile E. Coyote fancies himself a genius, and he always JUST MISSES his prey. Uploaded by thecartoonpictures.com.

Poor, poor Wile E. Coyote. Never quite able to capture his prey. Many times he got close – oh so close, so tantalizingly close – only to hear “Beep Beep” (actually more like “Meep Meep”) and be left empty-handed.

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RR and Wile E. are creations of the great Chuck Jones for Warner Brothers. Wile E. would devise the most elaborate contraptions (often purchased from Acme Corp.), and would easily outsmart the poor Road Runner. Unfortunately, he would also outsmart himself.

I like what writer Kevin McCorry said: “Wile E. Coyote is every man’s failing hero. His facial expressions or proclamations on hand-held signs as one of his schemes is about to go painfully awry are always totally empathetic…The ACME materials that he utilizes become more and more fantastic, like tornado seeds, earthquake pills, dehydrated boulders, an ice-making machine, and a jet-powered unicycle, and all fail by necessity of their one possible fallibility, which Wile E. never anticipates.”

Road Runner became so popular that, out of all the Warner Brothers cartoon characters, the Saturday morning show had the title “The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour.” While essentially a takeoff on the classic cat and mouse game, in Chuck Jones hands the characters became much more complicated – and more popular.

Kid Stuff: Looney Tunes

Over the course of a decade, the amazing animators at Warner Bros. created a host of unforgettable characters. Uploaded by zewebanim.com.

It’s hard for me to imagine now, but Looney Tunes – and its sister Merrie Melodies – both originated because Warner Bros. wanted short films to feature their extensive music library. What followed was an enduring American treasure, running in theaters from 1929 to 1970.

Not surprisingly, the original creators of the series came from Walt Disney’s animation studios. At first, Merrie Melodies were in color and Looney Tunes in black and white, but after 1943 both were in color and featured the same characters. About all that distinguished them was their introductory music.

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The first big Looney Tunes star was Porky Pig, introduced in 1935. Daffy Duck came along in 1937, and Bugs Bunny in 1940. The list of characters Warner Bros. created became popular with adults as well as kids. Just look at WB’s astonishing cartoon cast: Elmer Fudd (1940), Tweety Bird (1942), Pepe Le Pew (1945), Sylvester (1945), Yosemite Sam (1945), Foghorn Leghorn (1946), Marvin Martian (1948), Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote (1949), Speedy Gonzales (1953), and Tazmanian Devil (1954).

The cartoons have been on American television almost nonstop since the mid 1950s. They’ve also appeared in India, Denmark, Ireland, Indonesia, Israel, the UK, Singapore, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, and Japan.

Several of the giants of animation helped make Looney Tunes such an international hit. Chuck Jones directed many of the most famous WB classics, including the Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd “Hunting Trilogy.” Friz Freleng directed more cartoons than anyone else, and was instrumental in developing many of the most popular characters. And Tex Avery is credited not only for creating Porky Pig, but also Chilly Willy for Walter Lantz Studio.

Looney Tunes have been nominated for 25 Best Short Subject Academy Awards, and won five. And four Looney Tunes have been selected for the National Film Registry. Here are some wonderful memories:

Holiday: How The Grinch Stole Christmas!

Here the Grinch holds the leg of Max, the dog, who was added for extra comic effect. Uploaded by web.mit.edu.

Most movies made from TV shows reflect nothing so much as Hollywood’s lack of imagination. So it was with the movie version of this beloved Dr. Seuss (Great American Things, April 21, 2009) TV special. It wasn’t that Ron Howard and Jim Carrey ruined it; they didn’t. It’s just that the original is so well crafted, so well produced, and so fresh even after 43 years that it didn’t need to be remade.

Unfortunately, the version you see on television these days has been edited slightly for time. Commercial breaks were shorter in 1966 than they are today, so unless you watch it on DVD, you’re missing a little bit. Not that you’re likely to notice.

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Several elements went into making this such a memorable Christmas animation. The story, of course, which for the most part is taken directly from the book. (The dog Max was added for excellent comic effect, along with the difficulty Max and the Grinch have getting down the mountain to Whoville.) Choosing Boris Karloff as the narrator and voice of the Grinch was inspired. And the special was directed by the great Chuck Jones, known for making so many of the classic Warner Brothers cartoons.

But probably my favorite part of the program is the contribution of Thurl Ravenscroft. Who’s that, you ask? Well, he’s probably best known as the voice of Tony the Tiger. But in How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, he sang the wonderful song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”: