Wile E. Coyote’s pursuit of the Road Runner always seemed like delightful chaos. But there’s actually something of a grand unified theory for the legendary cartoons, and it lies within the 1999 autobiography of former Looney Tunes animation director and industry legend Chuck Jones, Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist. In a single page, Jones laid out nine ground rules that were taken into consideration when creating the iconic cartoons.
Here’s the full text, in case you can’t make out the photo:
The Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going “beep-beep!”
No outside force can harm the Coyote — only his own ineptitude or the failure of ACME products.
The Coyote could stop anytime — if he were not a fanatic. (Repeat: “A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim.” – George Santayana)
No dialogue ever, except “beep-beep!”
The Road Runner must stay on the road — otherwise, logically, he would not be called Road Runner.
All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters — the southwest American desert.
All materials, tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the ACME Corporation.
Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote’s greatest enemy.
The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.
For what it’s worth, Jason Kottke published a similar (uncited) list a few years back that included two more items:
10. The audience’s sympathy must remain with the Coyote.