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"The gremlin in Falling Hare (who, let us reiterate, is *not* Wendell Willkie) has an elegant flying helmet/plane tail design and a Benny Rubin-like laugh."
August 29, 2001 9:50 PM   Subscribe

"The gremlin in Falling Hare (who, let us reiterate, is *not* Wendell Willkie) has an elegant flying helmet/plane tail design and a Benny Rubin-like laugh." The Warner Bros. Cartoon Companion covers the heyday of Merrie Melodies and Loony Toons, with capsule biographies of Warner Brothers animators, explanations for no-longer-obvious cultural references, and brief notes on the characters. No design to speak of, but a wonderful resource for anyone searching for a list of WB cartoons that parody Cab Calloway, arguing about whether Elmer Fudd predates Yosemite Sam, or just wondering what the heck Marvin the Martian's given name was.
posted by snarkout (29 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
this is awesome!
posted by kevspace at 10:14 PM on August 29, 2001


I was in a coffeeshop last week and there was a delightful cd in the stereo, until the coffee shop worker ran screaming from behind the counter yelling "no more Cab Calloway! no more!"

true story.
posted by judith at 10:15 PM on August 29, 2001


My father would flip in his grave (if he were dead) to discover that Looney Tunes cartoons constitute my primary source of information about America in the mid-twentieth century.


On a totally unrelated subject, does the following analogy really work?

Sam Sheepdog:Ralph Wolf::Road Runner:Wile E. Coyote
posted by Avogadro at 5:51 AM on August 30, 2001


One of the coolest things about this site is the biographies of the little known characters. It makes me curious as to the influences of current animators and comic book artists - Douglas Corrigan:Non-stop Corrigan:Jimmy Corrigan?

Avo - That's a tricky analogy. Sam Sheepdog whoops Ralph's butt, though at first glance Sam is the "dumb one". However, I think that beneath Sam's oafish exterior lies the brains of a truly great detective and law man, and when coupled with Sam's hulk-like strength, Ralph doesn't stand a chance.

On the other hand, that stupid Road Runner needs to get taken round back of the tool shed.
posted by J. R. Hughto at 6:17 AM on August 30, 2001


I also think it's important to note that Sam and Ralph are just doing their jobs. They punch in every morning and punch out every night, and probably have a Loony Pint together before going home.

The Road Runner and Wile E. are embroiled in a bitter life or death battle, it's about a starving coyote, desperate to satiate the gnawing hunger, and an oblivious, incessantly beeping bird.

Sam & Ralph are the odd couple sitcom to RR & Wile E's revolutionary drama.
posted by cCranium at 6:51 AM on August 30, 2001


I have a tendency to judge people by whether they prefer the Road Runner or Wile E. Coyote. People who prefer Wile E. value his Sisyphean struggle against fate, and are the sort of people who can be depended upon.

Those who prefer RR value the quick and easy path to success and believe that the world owes them something. If civilization falls, you can blame it on the fans of the Road Runner.

Wile E. has a passion for what he does that cannot be extinguished. Sam and Ralph are wage earners. When the whistle blows they cease to be who they are. Or, while they are at work, they become who they are not.

Avo, making your comparison and specious, and, potentially, fatal to the human race.
posted by anapestic at 6:54 AM on August 30, 2001


Avo, making your comparison and specious, and, potentially, fatal to the human race.

I mean "is" in place of the first "and".

I feel so unclean.
posted by anapestic at 7:11 AM on August 30, 2001


If civilization falls, you can blame it on the fans of the Road Runner.

Will this work in those nasty Israel/Palestine threads?
posted by lia at 7:15 AM on August 30, 2001


If civilization falls, you can blame it on the fans of the Road Runner

Oh yes.
posted by dhartung at 7:38 AM on August 30, 2001


Actually, I should have vectored a meme.

If civilization falls, you can blame it on the fans of the Road Runner.

Boy Howdy.
posted by dhartung at 7:39 AM on August 30, 2001


but... but.... road runner gives me such fast cable access
posted by lotsofno at 8:33 AM on August 30, 2001


How can you not love a coyote with such brand loyalty? Wile E. is the ultimate customer to a marketer. He continually purchases ACME products, disregarding the fact that they continually place him in mortal peril with their catastrophic failures coupled with his flagrant misuse. Any coyote presented with such merchandise in today's world would return to the dealership armed with a crack team of lawyers, and would live out his life dining on ostrich egg omlettes, prepared in his French Chateau by his extensive staff, all paid for with punitive damages.

The Road Runner and Wile E. are embroiled in a bitter life or death battle, it's about a starving coyote, desperate to satiate the gnawing hunger, and an oblivious, incessantly beeping bird.

It could also be viewed as the constant struggle between technophiles and technophobes, technology versus humanity. Road Runner solely uses his instinct and genetic nature, while Wile E. is constantly reliant on technology in his pursuit of flesh. The coyote attempts to replace his genetic disposition with technology, and continually fails miserably. It's obvious, to me at least, that the Loony Toons staff were true technophobes, portraying man as the ultimate victor of man vs. machine.

That said, I favor the coyote.
posted by OneBallJay at 9:17 AM on August 30, 2001


If Commander X-2's current name, Marvin the Martian, was an "ex post facto moniker", how did he come by such a name? If this is not an exceptional case (note Michigan J. Frog), how is it that these characters came by these names, and are they actually used in any of the cartoons? Is this a case where a beloved character is given a name by the audience, when none presents itself? Costello's Veronica comes to mind...

I find the Sisyphus comparisons to Wile E. exceptional. Good work.
posted by J. R. Hughto at 9:23 AM on August 30, 2001


It's obvious, to me at least, that the Loony Toons staff were true technophobes, portraying man as the ultimate victor of man vs. machine.

Not necessarily. I read this situation more as Man vs. Nature, with Wile E. standing in for man. This is the Laocoon myth - it is man's destiny to always struggle with nature, always lose, but never give up the fight, painful as it may be. Wile E. is the mature adult who intimately knows the pain of existence, but is unable to withdraw. He is a testament to fortitude, determination, and endless hope in the face of pain.

I can only hope to live my life as bravely.
posted by J. R. Hughto at 9:27 AM on August 30, 2001


Any coyote presented with such merchandise in today's world would return to the dealership armed with a crack team of lawyers, and would live out his life dining on ostrich egg omlettes, prepared in his French Chateau by his extensive staff, all paid for with punitive damages.

Incidentally, the title piece of Ian Frazier's collection Coyote V. Acme is the opening statement of Wile E. Coyote's lawyer in a product liability suit against ACME.
posted by lia at 9:49 AM on August 30, 2001


I always assumed that Acme was the only game in town. I don't know whether that was because it had beaten down all its competition or if the sort of merchandise that Wile E. needs is, in fact, something of a niche market.

Nonetheless, it is clear that Wile E.'s continuing struggle in the face of monopolistic oppression is to be admired and, indeed, cheered.
posted by anapestic at 10:29 AM on August 30, 2001


I don't know whether that was because it had beaten down all its competition or if the sort of merchandise that Wile E. needs is, in fact, something of a niche market.



From Coyote v. Acme:

As the Court is no doubt aware, Defendant has a virtual monopoly of manufacture and sale of goods required by Mr. Coyote's work. It is our contention that Defendant has used its market advantage to the detriment of the consumer of such specialized products as itching powder, giant kites, Burmese tiger traps, anvils, and two-hundred-foot-long rubber bands. Much as he has come to mistrust Defendant's products, Mr. Coyote has no other domestic source of supply to which to turn. One can only wonder what our trading partners in Western Europe and Japan would make of such a situation, where a giant company is allowed to victimize the consumer in the most reckless and wrongful manner over and over again.

*snicker*
posted by Avogadro at 11:47 AM on August 30, 2001


Why is it clear that Wile E.'s struggle is to be admired?

The Miltonian (or is it Shatnerian) "Paradise Lost" argument about man's need to struggle is all well and good, but in my mind Wile E. Coyote is nothing more than an egotistical bastard with an unhealthy fixation. I mean "Super-Genius"? Please. I'm an idiot and I know better than to chase a bird on a rocket powered pogo stick.

We have all been suckered by promising advertising (I mean, the jet boots *look* like a good deal), and I don't fault him too much for his failure to check with consumer advocacy groups prior to purchasing some of his equipment, but at some point you have to accept the fact that catapult-based systems are not the final word in technological achievement.

Then there's the obsession. He is clearly a Coyote of means (else ACME would have cut him off years ago) and doesn't *need* to hunt in order to survive. Even if he did, he could certainly choose a more accessible goal. For example, a little recon would show him that the sheep are pretty vulnerable during the shift change. He compounds his obsessiveness with textbook insanity behaviour - repeating the same actions over and over, and expecting different results. I can certainly understand surprise the first time that the Road Runner is able to run into the painted facade, but the fifth time? If he's such a mastermind, how come it never occurs to him that balanced rocks make poor anchor points?

Meanwhile, you have the Road Runner existing in zen-like harmony with the Looney Tunes Universe. We, as viewers, make the mistake of thinking that his failure to fall over the cliff is an example of his EXEMPTION from the laws that govern his universe, when in fact it is his guileless acceptance of that reality which keeps him suspended. Wile E.'s mistake is that he is trying to apply non-Looney laws of physics to his Looney world. (There's a belief system subtext here, but I don't want this to turn into a religious flamewar.) The Road Runner never displays any technological hostility - in fact, he appears to be a licensed engineer (well, locomotive engineer, anyway). Even though the Coyote is clearly a homicidal stalker, the Road Runner never stoops to spite or malice.

Now go and wash your bowl.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 12:02 PM on August 30, 2001 [1 favorite]


CUJoe, I'm afraid that you're laboring under some serious misconceptions. Clearly, it is Wile E.'s fate to chase the bird. He has no choice in the matter. It is the way he embraces the inescapable that causes right-minded people to admire him. It would be easy for him to either give up or go about the duties the universe has given him in an apathetic manner.

As for "zen-like harmony with the Looney Tunes universe," you overlook the rather ugly schadenfreude exhibited by RR. He has been known to hold up signs, mocking the Coyote: hardly an absence of spite and malice. Aside from the glee he takes in seeing the Coyote suffer (not, mind you, in his own escape), there seems to be nothing in his head. While it may be "zen-like" to clear one's mind of extraneous thoughts, it is somewhat less admirable where there are no thoughts to begin with.

Finally, the Coyote is all about the chase, not about the kill. Given his own experience with innumerable injuries and miraculous recoveries, he must know that even if he were to catch the Road Runner, he would not be able to do him lasting harm.

The road runner was born with immense advantages, and has done nothing with them. He represents those who feel no responsibility to make the world a better place for anyone but themselves. Wile E. stands for the rest of us: doing our best to make good in an unfair universe.
posted by anapestic at 12:35 PM on August 30, 2001


Obviously, CUJoe's belief in free choice clashes with Pesto's Calvinistic leanings, as evidenced in their differing opinions regarding Wile E. Coyote's struggle with the universe.

Finally, the Coyote is all about the chase, not about the kill. Given his own experience with innumerable injuries and miraculous recoveries, he must know that even if he were to catch the Road Runner, he would not be able to do him lasting harm.

Sadly, I must disagree with my colleague. Given Mr. Coyote's predilection towards using deadly force, as well as his repeated perusings of cookbooks specializing in the preparation of organisms in the class Aves, we can assume that the intent of Mr. Coyote is to capture, detain, and consume Mr. Runner.
posted by Avogadro at 1:03 PM on August 30, 2001


Fated, Pesty? If the Coyote is merely destiny's child, unable to alter his course, then there would certainly be no reason to raise him up. He does what he must do, because he is fated to it. Likewise, deriding the similarly fated Road Runner is no more appropriate than blaming TV's Wil Wheaton for the actions taken by Wesley Crusher at the controlling hand of the scriptwriters. Your suggestion that he excels at following his predetermined script is logically flawed, since clearly the fervor of his actions is also fated.

I'll concede the sign issue, but argue that he is acting in a teaching capacity. The zen master often appear gleeful at the predicaments of the student. He chides in order to instruct. In this way he is an agent of the universe, which is neither good nor evil. It is the Coyote's self destructive behaviour that causes his misfortune, not RR's signs. His struggle *against* harmony. The Road Runner has embraced life. He bends like a willow in the face of the Coyote's violent maelstrom. He is Taimak of The Last Dragon to the Coyote's Sho-Nuff.


Additionally (since it came up while I was writing this) I agree with my friend Avogadro regarding The Coyote's intentions and the basic Free Will v. Determinism conflict between myself and Mr. Pestic.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 1:37 PM on August 30, 2001


If we are to accept the premise that the road runner is a zen master and the coyote his pupil, then we surely must judge the master by his ability to teach his pupil something. Thus, by the very terms you have set up, the road runner is an utter failure.

I fail to see the relevance of Mr. Wheaton to this discussion. However, dropping names and attempting to cloud the issue instead of working toward a logical point is consistent with the no-effort philosophy of your animated hero.

The road runner is, in fact, a cipher. The cartoons are all about the coyote's struggle. Making the road runner into a zen master is tantamount to making the holy grail the hero of Arthurian legend.
posted by anapestic at 2:19 PM on August 30, 2001


I disagree with the premise that the zen master has anything other than his own enlightenment as a goal. You're trying to paste the Coyote's Type-A behaviour onto the Road Runner yet again. My point was never that the Road Runner was the hero, but rather that the Coyote was not worthy of admiration. I've stated that I feel the Road Runner is in fact an agent of the universe - he's a force of nature. The Coyote is a buffoon, destroyed by his own desires.

My purpose in bringing in TV's Wil Wheaton was to illustrate the idea that, if you remove free will, it is pointless to extol or deride the actions of the character. Either the character has the ability to change his situation/behavior or he is merely a puppet in some Divine Punch Show. You can't have it both ways.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 3:13 PM on August 30, 2001


(you guys are hilarious)

But what about Bugs Bunny's continual need to disguise himself and often cross-dress? Is he suffering from some sort of disease where he's afraid to "unleash the bunny within" or are there gender identity issues at play? Are his ongoing dialogues with Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam a cry for homosexual acknowledgement or is he just an "ornery rabbit"?
posted by owillis at 3:17 PM on August 30, 2001


Bugs Bunny is a perfect marriage of The Everyman and The Trickster. His dressing up is an obvious manifestation of that essential Loki/Kokopelli nature. I don't view the addition of gender bending as anything other than a manifestation of his own gender identity comfort level. I'm not saying he doesn't slide down the kinsey scale every now and again - but I don't think the obvious attraction between Bugs and Elmer has anything to do with sex.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 3:30 PM on August 30, 2001


The struggle between fate and free will is the subject of much of Greek tragedy, most notably Oedipus. There, you have someone who is fated to do what he does yet participates in his own destruction. Sophocles (and Aristotle, in his commentaries) does have it both ways. Knowing the outcome does not remove the nobility of the struggle.

Wile E. knows from the outset that he has no chance of prevailing. He is very much a puppet. But the fact that failure is a certainty does not take away his character. Within the constraints of certain failure, he finds the most inventive ways possible, within the limited technologies available to him, to pursue the impossible dream.

Would you have baseball teams quit playing their games when they fall from contention for the playoffs? Would you have someone with a diagnosis of terminal cancer not continue to pursue the best life possible? Life is, inevitably, a losing struggle, yet we persevere. That is the invincibility of the human spirit; that is the joy of the chase; that is Wile E. Coyote.
posted by anapestic at 3:33 PM on August 30, 2001


Wile E. knows from the outset that he has no chance of prevailing. He is very much a puppet.

So the Red Sox are like Wile E. Coyote?
posted by owillis at 3:46 PM on August 30, 2001


Sophocles knows, but not Oedipus. When Oedipus figures it out, he stabs himself. Wile E. would probably just buy his mom some flowers and start over. If Oedipus were written as a french farce with Oedipus chasing his mother in and out of bedrooms ad infinitum it might be a more apt comparison.

Still, it's a fair point. Viewing RR as Greek Tragedy would make Wile E. a deeply deeply flawed Tragic Hero. That hardly makes him a figure to be admired or emulated.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 5:02 PM on August 30, 2001


If the Road Runner suffered from all this, I'd pin it more as an existentialist drama, a la Sartre.
posted by plinth at 5:35 AM on September 2, 2001


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