Every Frame a Painting: Chuck Jones

Tony Zhou: If you grew up watching Looney Tunes, then you know Chuck Jones, one of all-time masters of visual comedy. Normally I would talk about his ingenious framing and timing, but not today. Instead, I’d like to explore the evolution of his sensibilities as an artist.


Chuck Jones’ rules for writing Road Runner cartoons

In his book Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist, Chuck Jones claimed that he and the artists behind the Road Runner and Wile E. cartoons adhered to some simple but strict rules:

  1. The Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going “meep, meep!”
  2. No outside force can harm the Coyote — only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products. Trains and trucks were the exception from time to time.
  3. The Coyote could stop anytime — if he were not a fanatic. (“A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim.” — George Santayana).
  4. No dialogue ever, except “meep, meep” and yowling in pain.
  5. The Road Runner must stay on the road — for no other reason than that he’s a roadrunner.
  6. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters — the southwest American desert.
  7. All tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation.
  8. Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote’s greatest enemy.
  9. The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.
  10. The audience’s sympathy must remain with the Coyote.
  11. The Coyote is not allowed to catch or eat the Road Runner.

However, in an interview years after the series was made writer Michael Maltese said he had never heard of these ‘rules’.

(via kottke.org, though it’s interesting to note that the wording varies quite a bit depending on where you find this list, like Mental Floss, Open Culture and Wikipedia.)

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