Road Runner Cartoons Make My Stomach Churn

by L.A. Mood Comics and Games

The issue of “cartoon violence” was a big one in the 1970s, which is probably why it worried my mother when I watched Road Runner cartoons on TV.

You know the ones.

They feature a rail-thin Wile E. Coyote chasing after the peppy Road Runner in an endless quest to make a meal of the speedy bird. They end with the predator falling off a cliff, running into a mesa, being crushed under a boulder, or exploding when the Acme brand gadget he has mail-ordered (such as explosive tennis balls) backfires on him.

Those cartoons were extremely violent, no question. But Mom needn’t have fretted.

I didn’t grow up to be a violent adult. Decades later, I understand the difference between make-believe mayhem and the real deal.

In fact, those cartoons had the opposite effect: They increased, rather than impaired, my empathy.

I watched those Looney Tunes/Merry Melodies animated shorts so often that at some point the constant unhappy endings began to wear on me. I started to grow uncomfortable.

Contrary to what the creators intended, I began to feel for the hapless Coyote.

Pretty soon, every time one of the cartoons came on, I would feel nauseous seeing the poor Coyote blown up, run over, or plunging to the canyon floor.

It didn’t matter to me that he wasn’t real, and he always came back in the next episode unscathed. Perhaps I kept watching hoping against hope the Coyote would finally triumph.

As a kid I didn’t have the vocabulary to express my feelings, but it struck me that something terribly unjust was happening on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour.

You mean to tell me, he’s doomed to always get mangled and burned, and he never once gets the Road Runner?

Young boy though I was, that message didn’t strike me as a positive one.

So it won’t surprise you when I say I don’t think I ever read a single issue of the Gold Key Comic Beep Beep The Road Runner, which had a sizable enough readership that it lasted from 1966 to 1984.

I did, however, have high hopes for the movie Coyote vs. Acme.

Based on a 1990 New Yorker humour piece of the same name, it promised to bring a measure of justice to the Road Runnerverse.

The movie follows in the footsteps of 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit by using a combination of animated and live-action elements.

Will Forte plays a down-on-his-luck attorney who takes the Wile E. Coyote’s case against Acme Corporation, which has been supplying him with defective products for years, foiling his repeated attempts to get an honest dinner.

As smarter people than me have pointed out, it’s a classic David-against-Goliath story. John Cena, no stranger to big-screen comic adaptations, stars as Forte's opponent in the courtroom.

If you haven’t heard of this motion picture, that’s because it was suppressed before it even got released – Warner Bros. shelved the film last year in order to claim a tax writeoff, according to multiple media reports. (It got replaced in last summer’s release schedule by a little picture called Barbie.)

Coyote vs. Acme was in the news this month because Forte finally got to see the finished product, which he said is “incredible.” (I’m assuming he got a private screening.)

“Super-funny throughout, visually stunning, sweet, sincere and emotionally resonant in a very earned way,” he posted on social media.

“As the credits rolled, I just sat there thinking how lucky I was to be part of something so special. That quickly turned to confusion and frustration. This was the movie they’re not going to release?”

Yes, it’s too bad Coyote vs. Acme will never see the light of day. I would have loved it.

I bet it would even have calmed my gut.

Dan Brown has covered pop culture for more than 31 years as a journalist and also moderates L.A. Mood’s monthly graphic-novel group.

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