by Allan Fish
(USA 1952 7m) DVD1/2
Accelerati Incredibilus vs Carnivorous Vulgaris
p Edward Selzer d Chuck Jones w Michael Maltese m Carl Stalling
Artificial Rock, Atom-Re-Arranger, Building Disintegrators, Clue Collector, Dehydrated Boulders, Do It Yourself Tornado Kit, Earthquake Pills, Elephant Bullets, Giant Rubber Band (comes in various sizes and strengths), Hitch-Hiker’s Thumb, Indestructo Steel Ball, Instant Girl (handy!), Invisible Paint, Iron Bird Seed, Jet Propelled Pogo Stick, Junior Explosive Kit, Paper Clips No. 4 (not sure what happened to numbers 1, 2 and 3), Rocket Powered Roller Skates, Smokescreen Bomb, Triple Strength Battleship Steel Armour Plate, let’s face it, you could easily go on forever. You’ll have guessed they’re not the sort of thing you’ll find in your local Target or Asda, but rather the weird and not so wonderful products of the world famous Acme Incorporated, used by the indefatigable Wile E.Coyote in the numerous cartoons where he consistently failed to catch Road Runner. You might well ask why, if the coyote could afford to buy out Acme’s entire back catalogue he couldn’t just get himself some other food than his elusive quarry, but that’s bringing logic into a world where logic not only doesn’t exist but hasn’t even been thought of. When in Buffy Xander Harris made a typical quip that “I was going to walk you off a cliff and hand you an anvil, but it seemed kinda cartoony“, it was this partnership he was referencing and Beep Beep, their first outing, remains arguably their best, a truly anarchic descent into failure for one of the most beloved characters in cartoons and inspiration for everyone from Professor Fate to Dick Dastardly, Wile E.Coyote.
All of the early cartoons with the pair featured a variation of a Latin term (Eatius Birdius was a favourite) for the creatures before descending into the mayhem. After picking himself up off the road for the first time, with knife and fork embedded in the tarmac, Coyote glances evilly at the audience and comes up with his first dastardly plan. And of course it revolves around that aforementioned recipe for disaster, the anvil. The plan is simply to walk out over a tightrope carrying the anvil and drop it on the passing Road Runner’s head to produce instant Road Runner Burger. As with Laurel and Hardy, you know what’s coming, but it’s the anticipation that one loves, and sure enough, the anvil plan ends with Coyote plummeting towards the canyon floor after taking some Acme Aspirin and waving to the audience. Next up it’s a trick revolving around a glass of water and some explosives; suffice to say that steps 4 and 5 of the plan read BOOM and HA-HA! One notice from his quarry telling him Road Runners cannot read or drink later (think about it!), he sets off after his foe again and ends up in a cactus mine, finally losing him and the power in his miner’s helmet lamp, striking a match and finding that he’s surrounded by TNT, nitro and dynamite. Forget all ideas of following W.C.Fields’ advice and giving up, Coyote is fully determined to make an absolute ass of himself. After an abortive attempt at a catapult and a rocket, he tries rocket power shoes, which rather inevitably lead to another rapid descent into the ravine below, this time clutching a wreath reading R.I.P. Emerging from his crash site seemingly unscathed but parched, he picks up his own glass of water and, hey presto, another explosion. It really couldn’t get worse for our poor antihero, or at least you think so. Next up, he uses a set of rail track to try and convince his nemesis that he’d be crossing a railway line only for himself to end up run over by a train. Sure enough, his foe is on the observation deck, and that really is all, folks!
It’s true that the Road Runner cartoons may seem somewhat repetitive – how many times can one coyote be squashed, crushed, exploded, shot, disintegrated and generally effectively killed before the idea gets stale? Judging by their popularity over half a century later, there is no limit. We love Wile E.Coyote as he’s the underdog, the one we always fight for, plus there’s the essence of what Oscar Wilde called happiness; “the contemplation of the misfortune of others.” It’s the sadist in us, and we love it.