When it comes to logic, Looney Tunes cartoons are like dreams, and vice-versa. There are rules, but they don’t make any sense in the real world. They mostly defy the law of gravity, if only just long enough to allow the hapless Wile E. Coyote to stand on thin air for several seconds before plummeting hundreds of feet to the bottom of a canyon, or they defy mortality (see above). Beyond those two bizarre instances, though, I always thought that pretty much anything goes in animation. It turns out, however, that Warner Bros. animation legend Chuck Jones had very strict rules about what could and could not happen in a Road Runner cartoon.
Jones had nine rules for his animators to obey. Some of the rules have a strangely persuasive rationale; “the road runner must stay on the road – otherwise, logically, he would not be called Road Runner.” But some of them, frankly, are ridiculous, even by cartoon standards. The second rule, for instance, states that “no outside force can harm the coyote — only his own ineptitude or the failure of the Acme products.” And although Jones — quoting philosopher George Santayana — acknowledges that the coyote could stop if he wanted to but doesn’t because he’s a fanatic, these “rules” help explain to me the fundamental and constant unjustness of Road Runner, which always seems to favor the bird. This is born out by a similar list that was published a couple of years ago that included the rule “The Coyote is not allowed to catch or eat the Road Runner.” However, there is at least one episode where the coyote actually caught him. And even though the story has been proved apocryphal, there is a persistent rumor of an underground cartoon with a similar outcome that was made to boost U.S. troop morale in Vietnam.
Still obsessed with Chuck Jones' coyote/roadrunner rules. Awesome to so clearly, concisely define your characters. pic.twitter.com/MRd4zguD93
— Amos Posner (@AmosPosner) March 4, 2015