For those who know me, it will come as no surprise that I am a huge fan of the Looney Tunes. So I've been watching this new Looney Tunes Show with hope. Alas, whoever has created it doesn't understand the very specific rules that made Bugs Bunny et al. so very great. So many good ideas executed poorly! The idea of Daffy moving in with Bugs is funny. But why does Bugs live in a house? Bugs Bunny lives in a hole in the ground. Always. And Bugs doesn't instigate trouble. Trouble finds him. And so on.
The greatest example of a failure to understand the rule is the new Road Runner-Coyote short. It starts out with a very funny premise: the Coyote is in a ninja outfit, sneaking and leaping across the desert towards a mesa where the Road Runner is sitting, meditating under a full moon. Funny! Then the Coyote leaps and kicks the Road Runner - only it's not the Road Runner, it's a dummy!
Wait - something's already off. Since when did the Road Runner participate in the Coyote's downfall?
Then the cartoon goes completely off the rails. The Road Runner appears, also dressed in a ninja suit, and attacks the Coyote. With razor sharp talons. And slices him to pieces.
It didn't make me laugh. It made me uncomfortable. Do you see the problem here? Everyone I've told about this says, "No! That's wrong! The Road Runner never engages the Coyote!!" That's my reaction too, and I'm glad to hear so many people feel the same way.
But even more clearly, the rules for Road Runner/Coyote cartoons were laid out a long, long time ago by the man who created them - the inimitable Chuck Jones. He even shared those rules with the public in his autobiography, CHUCK AMUCK. An excerpt:
RULE 1. THE ROAD RUNNER CANNOT HARM THE COYOTE EXCEPT BY GOING "BEEP-BEEP!"
RULE 2. NO OUTSIDE FORCE CAN HARM THE COYOTE - ONLY HIS OWN INEPTITUDE OR THE FAILURE OF THE ACME PRODUCTS.
RULE 3. THE COYOTE COULD STOP ANYTIME - IF HE WERE NOT A FANATIC.
RULE 4. NO DIALOGUE EVER, EXCEPT "BEEP-BEEP!"
RULE 5. THE ROAD RUNNER MUST STAY ON THE ROAD - OTHERWISE, LOGICALLY, HE WOULD NOT BE CALLED THE ROAD RUNNER.
RULE 6. ALL ACTION MUST BE CONFINED TO THE NATURAL ENVIORMENT OF THE TWO CHARACTERS - THE SOUTHWEST AMERICAN DESERT.
RULE 7. ALL MATERIALS, TOOLS, WEAPONS, OR MECHANICAL COVENIENCES MUST BE OBTAINED FROM THE ACME CORPORATION.
RULE 8. WHENEVER POSSIBLE, MAKE GRAVITY THE COYOTE'S GREATEST ENEMY.
RULE 9. THE COYOTE IS ALWAYS MORE HUMILIATED THAN HARMED BY HIS FAILURES.
These are the nine basic rules that defined the success of these cartoons over the last 60-odd years. Note that Rule #1 - the first rule! - prohibits just what the new short does. If the Road Runner engages, he sinks to the Coyote's level. By breaking rules 1, 2, 5, and 9, the makers of these new cartoons have diminished the Road Runner.
There are a few hard and fast rules in life. One of them is this: the Road Runner runs. On the road.