March 24, 2005

From simplicity, genius.

Whenever you find yourself struggling with complex plots in books, or convoluted gimmickry in films, take a deep breath and meditate on the proven Zen of Chuck Jones - condensed into ten simple rules. These ten simple rules, properly applied, are why the original Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons are works of staggering genius, and so many others suck rocks.

I would have to add an intangible, there - timing. The 1960s saw an attempt to reissue the duo in a new series of cartoons which appear on the surface to follow these rules - but fall massively flat. The timing is just way off. A couple of obvious differences in the two series include music which is noticeably changed, including the use (in the latter, failed version) of 'musical dialogue' - a near-violation of some of Chuck's Rules. The later 'toons also involve much more 'mugging for the camera.'

Finally, a personal observation on the whole nature of the victim in each. Wile E., in the later editions, is a smug and annoying bastard who is deserving of every bash on the head. The Roadrunner in those is almost a Deus Ex Machina put there to provide it as the filmmakers eagerly share the relief of bashing said noggin with the viewers - losing the entire tao-like sense of balance that the originals maintain. The originals posit a situation of equilibrium, where all the violations of physics serve to maintain a comic balance that can never change, and we the audience know that. The Road Runner knows that. Wile E. doesn't - and that's what makes him sympathetic. We watch him try to deform reality in his desired direction, and reality itself - not a smug director, writer, filmmaker or even Roadrunner - slaps him back. His refusal or inability to understand his predicament is what make his reactions and his perils so funny (to me, at least).

The later ones were nothing more than cheap shots at some poor yokel who was to dumb to know better, taken by an actor (whether the Roadrunner, the director, or the audience, it's irrelevant). That's the difference. The originals were classic existential farce, worthy animated successors to Herriman's Krazy Kat.

Posted by jbz at March 24, 2005 2:26 PM | TrackBack

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