Monday, 13 February 2017

Wile E. Coyote Loses in 20 Frames

The following frames almost read like a Mike Maltese storyboard. They’re from one of the gags in Beep, Beep, a 1951 Roadrunner cartoon.

Like all of Maltese’s best gags in the Roadrunner series, you don’t exactly know what’s going to happen to Wile E. Coyote, but you know something’s going to go wrong. In this case, the blueprint that opens this gag sets up the audience (and Wile E.) for a surprise. It envisions Wile E. as a tightrope walker, aided by Carl Stalling placing “She Was Only an Acrobat’s Daughter” in the background score. Tightropes are tight, right? Not this time. We’ll let the artwork do the talking.

Layouts are by Bob Gribbroek, with the backgrounds by Phil DeGuard (note the brighter colours and less abstract designs than what Maurice Noble came up with by the end of the ‘50s. Phil Monroe, Ken Harris, Ben Washam and Lloyd Vaughan are the credited animators for Mr. C.M. Jones. Also on the soundtrack are “Grand Galop Cromatique” by Franz Liszt (Freleng used it in Holiday For Shoestrings); Raymond Scott’s “Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals,” the old stand-by “Shortenin’ Bread” and a favourite for Roadrunner cartoons, Smetana’s “Bartered Bride.”


  1. Maltese managed a great balance between gags that took advantage of the ability to do anything in cartoon (i.e.- ice-making refrigerator can allow you to ski across a canyon), and gags like the tightrope, where the natural combination of gravity and the weight of an anvil on a thin wire means it makes perfect real-world sense that Wile E would go to the ground before ever getting out on the wire to drop the anvil.

  2. The best gags of the RR series usually involve a huge build-up and then deliver a antithetical payoff. The writers of The Simpsons refer to these type of gags as a "Screw You".

    My favorite is from "Zoom and Bored" (1957): After a long pan up a cliffside covered with an elaborate chute, Wile E. lights the fuse to a bomb, and it immediately explodes in his face. Fade out.