THE NEW YORK TIMES
By William Grimes
Published: December 15, 1994
For 30 years, two of America’s most ferocious rivals have, like the figures on Keats’s Grecian urn, remained frozen in time, the one in hot pursuit, the other a blithe step ahead. Now for the first time since the cartoon “War and Pieces,” which was made in 1964, Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner resume the chase in “Chariots of Fur.”
The cartoon, which was directed by Chuck Jones, the Road Runner’s creator, is to be shown for the first time, on Saturday at the American Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. It is part of the museum’s retrospective program devoted to the work of the 82-year-old Mr. Jones, “Chuck Amuck: The Cartoons of Chuck Jones.”
The retrospective runs through Jan. 1. Elsewhere in the United States, the cartoon is to precede the film “Richie Rich,” which Warner Brothers plans to release on Wednesday.
Three decades have not taken the edge off the Coyote’s hunger or the Road Runner’s fleetness of foot. In the space of five minutes, the Coyote loads himself onto an industrial-strength metal spring, shoots himself from a bow, disguises himself in a cactus suit, lays down several miles of fake road and tries to hurl commercially made lightning bolts. The equipment, of course, comes courtesy of Acme, still in business after all these years.
“There’s a symbiotic relationship between the Coyote and Acme,” said Mr. Jones. “The company exists only because the coyote needs its mechanical devices, and there’s no point to the Coyote unless he depends on Acme.”
Acme devices never work, which leads one to wonder why the Coyote sticks with the company. “Everything we do in the cartoons is observable in human behavior,” said Mr. Jones. “I’ve known men who will buy a car and complain about it for two or three years, call it a lemon and everything else, then go right out and buy the same make. By now, they’re suspicious of all cars, so they figure, well, it may be a beast, but at least it’s a familiar beast.”
The Road Runner (identified as Boulevardius burnupius at the beginning of the cartoon) was called back to active duty in September 1993, when Warner Brothers signed up Chuck Jones Film Productions to produce animated short subjects for the studio. At the moment, Mr. Jones has three cartoons in production, all featuring old stars: Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny and Michigan J. Frog. The Bugs Bunny cartoon is a new production of “Carmen” set in a carrot factory.
Mr. Jones began directing cartoons in 1938 at Warner Brothers, where, in addition to creating Pepe Le Pew, the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, he turned out the classic Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig cartoons.
The characters remain timeless, constantly in motion but always the same. The same could be said for the movie business. “When I first started animation, I was 18 and the offices were run by a bunch of old men in their 40’s and 50’s,” said Mr. Jones. “Now I’m 82 and the offices are run by a bunch of young folks in their 40’s and 50’s.”