It's an eternal battle of need versus speed, aggravation versus acceleration. Throughout Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote's careers in over two dozen Warner Bros. cartoons chronicling the duo's encounters, their classic chase formula has never lost its tension. The luckless Wile E. comes up with increasingly elaborate and seemingly foolproof schemes to snag Road Runner who, oblivious to the danger, always eludes the pathetic coyote's painstaking plans. According to Chuck Jones, the duo's creator and chief director, in Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times Of An Animated Cartoonist, he and the artists behind the Road Runner and Wile E. cartoons adhered to some simple but strict rules:
Rule 1: 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 Acme products. Wile E.'s ineptitude, possibly a by-product of his distracted obsession with catching Road Runner, is compounded only by the Acme company's products - which may work for other customers, but seem never to work for Wile E., who repeatedly risks life and limb counting on their effectiveness. In Operation: Rabbit, for example, Wile E. constructs an elaborate Acme-manufactured contraption guaranteed to catch Bugs Bunny. Inevitably, the apparatus fails and Wile E. is defeated once again.
Rule 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) Of course he can't quit; he's certain that the next attempt is sure to succeed. He's the personality type that twelve-step programs are made for. Of course, first you have to want to quit.
Rule 4: No dialogue ever, except "Beep! Beep!" Oh, and the occasional dialog sign that comes in handy just as Wile E. realizes that his efforts are going to bring him nothing but big pain.
Rule 5: Road Runner must stay on the road - for no other reason than that he's a roadrunner.
Rule 6: All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters -- the southwest American desert. That's because there's everything you need for a funny cartoon in one place: winding roads, peaks, canyons, cacti, and boulders, all of which defy conventional physics. In Chuck Jones' classic There They Go-Go-Go!, the starving Wile E. resorts to creating a chicken out of the desert mud. When the speedy Road Runner whizzes by, friction causes the road and Wile E.'s feet to catch on fire, sending the coyote into a frantic craze, in which he attempts to capture his prey with a rope, a sling-shot, a rotating circle of spiked balls, a booby-trapped ladder, and a pile of rocks.
Rule 7: All tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation. Talk about the first real example of "branding" in American commerce! Of course, not even an Acme brand Burmese tiger trap, an Acme brand steel wall, or Acme brand muscle-building vitamins can help Wile E. catch-up to the supersonic Road Runner in Stop! Look! Hasten!
Rule 8: Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote's greatest enemy. Another Chuck Jones' classic, Scrambled Aches, has Wile E. watering a rock in order to grow it to boulder-size so he can crush Road Runner flat in his tracks. In true Wile E. style, the rock expands just as the tottering coyote lifts it over his head, letting gravity take its course. It's the law, you know.
Rule 9: The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures. Easy for you to say.
Rule 10: The audience's sympathy must remain with the Coyote. From Beep, Beep to Zipping Along to Freeze Frame, and despite his constant failure, fans continue to love Wile E. Coyote and his always one-step-ahead costar, Road Runner.