One of Warner Brothers' more inconsistent characters. In one incarnation, he does not talk, only holds up signs, and is constantly chasing the Road Runner. In another, he talks constantly, proclaiming to be a super genius, and chases Bugs Bunny. He's really cool either way, though, and you have to feel sympathy for him. He deserves some Road Runner Chow after all that chasing.

Before the facts, let me set the mood:

It's the classic scenario between predator versus prey. The never ending struggle for survival which has feuled natural selection between species for eons. It is a noble battle, it is a necessary battle, and it is a lethal battle.

The predator (Eatius birdius) is on the hunt in his quest for survival. He catches the scent of a potential meal. Instantly a cold blanket of calm cloaks the predator, and all of his senses become enhanced, his mind more alert. He slips behind a nearby outcropping, and drops closer to the ground so as not to be spotted by his prey (Accelleratii incredibus). Inside the mind and body of the predator a deadly transformation has begun. His already alert mind becomes more focused on the prey blocking everything else out. His digestive juices, and no small amount of adrenalin, begin pumping, and salivary glands become active. As his bloodlust becomes more intense, a line of drool escapes the confines of the predator's glistening fangs, and runs slowly down its fur and lands on the dirt of the desert floor. He's waiting for the just the right moment to make his attack.

That moment comes prematurely, as a sudden shift in the wind carries the predator's scent to his prey, alerting the prey to the predator's presence. The prey becomes wary, and slowly scans the area for available escape routes. As he scans, he notices a subtle, almost imperceptible motion near a rock to his right. The predator realizes that he has been spotted and there is an preternatural silence for an eternal moment. Then the chase begins! The prey flees relying on its natural defense - its sheer speed - to deliver it to safety. But the predator is prepared, and being naturally cunning makes an adjustment in his strategy.

Suddenly, incomprehensibly, the predator stops and pulls out a box labelled "ACME Rocket Skates". He slips on the skates, and lights a match putting the flaming tip to the wicks of the rockets. The rockets, of course, explode, turning the noble predator into a coyote shaped cinder. The prey returns to gloat over its escape. It stands before the immobile cinder and says "Beep-Beep!" The cinder collapses into a pile of ash with two eyeballs on top.

The eyes blink twice.

The prey disappears over the horizon leading a trail of dust.

Wile E. Coyote, was the predator I just described. The prey in question is, naturally, the Roadrunner. That sort of scenario was not at all uncommon in the Roadrunner cartoons created by Chuck Jones of Looney Toons. The fact is, there was a very specific formula in all of the Roadrunner cartoons (Duh!). Chuck Jones outlined that formula in Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times Of An Animated Cartoonist. I will shamelessly exploit U.S. Code Sec. 107 (Fair Use) just for you. Here is the formula:
  1. Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going "Beep! Beep!"

  2. No outside force can harm the Coyote -- only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products.

  3. The Coyote could stop anytime -- IF he was not a fanatic. (Repeat: "A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim." - George Santayana)

  4. No dialogue ever, except "Beep! Beep!"

  5. 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.

You will notice that Rule 2 and Rule 8 contradict each other. But I'm not here to pick nits.

I have probably not seen every Roadrunner cartoon ever made, but I have only seen Wile E. catch the Roadrunner once. And it was the only Acme product that I've ever seen that worked according to specs. That memorable event occured on May 20, 1980. In that episode, The Coyote chased the Roadrunner through a steel tube which was large on one end, and very small on the other. They both came out small on the narrow end. So they run back through to the large end, whereupon they returned to normal size... That is, the Roadrunner returned to normal size, and the coyote remained in his reduced form. However, the Roadrunner hesitates, and the coyote grabs the (comparitively) huge ankle of the Roadrunner. The Roadrunner puts his head down to peer at the miniscule coyote and blasts him with a resounding "BEEP-BEEP!"

So the coyote holds up a sign inquiring of the audience: "Well - you always wanted me to catch him - now what do I do?"

(Thanks to Velox for reminding me of the particulars of that episode)

I also looked for a comprehensive list of the genus and species names used for the coyote. If I can put together that list, I'll put it here! However, for your enlightenment and edification, I looked for the real genus/species names. The Roadrunner is also known as Geococcyx californianus and the coyote is Canis latrans.

Not as fun, to be sure, but at least you can impress your friends next time a Roadrunner cartoon comes on.

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