Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Or: High Climbs and Misdemeanors




Welcome to Fourteen DePatie-Freleng Road Runners, Or: High Climbs and Misdemeanors. This blog will examine a series of Road Runner cartoons which were made in 1965 and 1966 by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises (D-FE) and Format Productions. These outfits inherited a pair of well-known characters -- Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote -- who were created by the acclaimed Chuck Jones. He directed 24 Road Runner cartoon shorts for release starting in 1949 with Fast and Furry-ous. Wile E. and his speedy potential prey became so popular that every year from 1952 to 1966 saw at least one new Road Runner film . . . and the series gained popularity even as Hollywood's animation industry decayed over that time.

Warner's handed Jones a notice of dismissal in July 1962 as operations at the cartoon studio were starting to wind down. The days of the theatrical short subject -- animated and live-action alike -- seemed to be almost over. But the television market demanded lots of new animation, which was limited (or as insiders said, "planned") true to the axiom that industries involved in mass production must cut costs (as we learned from fellow director Friz Freleng's By Word of Mouse).

Road Runner Show for TV was planned by spring 1962 and Adventures Of The Road Runner was the intended pilot. A delay occurred because the ABC television network ended its business relationship with Warner's. By the fall of 1962 Warner's cartoon shop was as good as shut although a few animators drew pay into April 1963. War and Pieces, the last Chuck Jones Road Runner, joined a cartoon backlog and was finally released in June 1964.

* COMPARISON REVIEW . . . THIS IS NOT A D-FE RR * 

WAR AND PIECES (6 June 1964)πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„: Direction by Chuck Jones; Co-direction by Maurice Noble; Story by John Dunn; Animation by Ken Harris, Richard Thompson, Bob Bransford and Tom Ray; Layouts by Dave Rose; Backgrounds by Philip DeGuard; Editing by Treg Brown; Music by Bill Lava.



The end-stage Termite Terrace releases, made around 1962 and released as late as summer 1964, show the effects of their shrinking budgets through harsh music and clunky (by pre-1962 standards) animation. War and Pieces is unquestionably the cheapest Chuck Jones RR and seems to be even cheaper than some of the other cartoons (such as Gerry Chiniquy's Dumb Patrol and Hawaiian Aye Aye, Phil Monroe's The Iceman Ducketh, Bob McKimson's A Message to Gracias and False Hare) which were released around its time. But Jones is still at the helm, directing Warner's most talented crew.

One way Jones trimmed the budget was to send character roughs to his animators without much (if any) of a cleanup stage. Some animators naturally turned out cleaner work than others, and this contributes to the cartoon's uneven appearance. Burn-em Uppus Asphaltus, for example, has a strangely crooked smile in his first scene.


Jones introduces the characters through a similar (but much more stylized) freeze frame/slow motion technique he used in his first few RRs. Caninus Nervous Rex hurls a hand grenade, which rebounds off a saguaro cactus and goes POW, leaving him blackened and ragged. He extinguishes his smoldering tail and wanders away to plot his next scheme.




With pulleys attached to a cactus, and a length of rope, Wile E. plans to launch himself across a chasm to Road Runner, who is waiting on the other side. Under Tom Ray, his nose vibrates as he pulls (Jones still wanted extra touches of animation here and there) until the bottom half of his fur tears off. Helpless (and embarrassed about the reveal of his dotted shorts), he steels himself for a long fall. When it happens, he faces the camera and waves goodbye -- animation like this would not be seen in any post-1964 Warner's short and would also be rare as hen's teeth among most competing studios' output.





In the next scene Wile E. seems to be a pancake fan, for his latest trap is a hydraulic press activated by electric eye (not a laser, as some say -- it would be late in the year when Jonny Quest and James Bond introduced spectators to that potential death ray). But Road Runner steps into the beam only when Wile E. rushes at him, triggering the old business (really old by '64) of a character being demolished by his own trap.


A rather lengthy scene follows in which Wile E. paints himself invisible -- Jones seems to be killing time. An unusually pleasant Lava melody helps (his music over the whole film is better than average for his cartoon shorts), and Jones' genius comes to the fore once Wile E. is out of sight -- there's no more animation of him to be done! All we see are his footprints on the desert floor, then footprints on the road, then an onrushing truck! After the vehicle's dust clears, footprints stagger to the edge of a cliff . . . Wile E. is next seen in a riverbed, where he shoos a fish.


After drying himself offscreen, he totes a disguised shotgun under good clean animation by Ken Harris. Road Runner rushes to the trap, which appears to be a hand-cranked peep show. The bird turns out to have at least one of the Seven Deadly Sins, and so does his would-be predator in a bit somewhat less tidily (but still decently) animated by Richard Thompson. The results are predictable but the gag is redeemed by its follow-through scene in which Wile E.'s hair looks rather like that of a blackened Albert Einstein.


A grappling hook is Wile E.'s next tool, but his timing is bad -- it appears that the summer monsoon is starting. Lightning electrocutes him.


The rocket he rides fails to rise above the local relief but takes him through the planet instead. He finds himself in a strikingly stylized (to be expected with Maurice Noble in charge of designs) Oriental setting, where he encounters and tries to catch a Chinese Road Runner. The bird's gong proves as impermeable as some barriers from earlier films, and Wile E. doesn't fully regain his senses until after he has fallen back to his side of the world . . . only to find that he has a visitor from the Orient, ready to end the cartoon with an "old Chinese proverb."


* NOW BACK TO THE TOPIC * Cartoons are rated by emoticons as follows:
πŸ˜„: Weaker Format subcontracts.
πŸ˜„πŸ˜„: Intermediate among D-FE RRs.
πŸ˜„πŸ˜„½ Marginally above average.
πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„: Definitely above average.
πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„: Best of the bunch. Scale goes higher, but not for any D-FE RR -- see above.

Soon after the 1963 shutdown, Friz Freleng joined producer David DePatie, founded D-FE, and put it in action crafting animated titles for feature films such as Blake Edward's The Pink Panther, which was first released in mid-December 1963The animated characters in that successful movie were said to be funnier than the live-action portrayals, and D-FE thrived. DePatie and Freleng sought to keep new animation flowing to theatres. To this end, they signed a contract with Warner Brothers in July 1964 which allowed them to make "fresh" cartoons with established Warner's characters. 

D-FE operated at the old Warner's cartoon shop. Stylish cartoons featuring the Pink Panther or Inspector were released by United Artists. Cheaper-looking cartoons featuring some combination of Speedy Gonzales, Sylvester Cat, Daffy Duck, Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner were made for release by Warner's. Freleng directed the earliest of these, including The Wild Chase wherein Road Runner raced with Speedy while Wile E. teamed with Sylvester. News of this cartoon appeared in the 9 September 1964 edition of Daily Variety under the heading "Races Paired," as it was scheduled to be shown with another Blake Edwards movie, The Great Race (however, that film's release was delayed until July 1965).

THE WILD CHASE (27 February 1965)πŸ˜„πŸ˜„: Direction by Friz Freleng; Co-direction by Hawley Pratt; Story by John Dunn (uncredited); Animation by Norm McCabe, Don Williams, Manny Perez, Warren Batchelder and Laverne Harding; Layouts by Dick Ung; Backgrounds by Tom O'Loughlin; Editing by Lee Gunther; Voice Characterizations by Mel Blanc; Music by Bill Lava. Produced by David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng.

The first D-FE Road Runner was also in the first 3-cartoon package shown when The Road Runner Show debuted in September 1966. Thanks to Friz Freleng's skillful timing, The Wild Chase entertained casual viewers who had yet to see classic Chuck Jones shorts from which it borrowed. Freleng had it presented for Oscar consideration! But to observant eyes connected to minds aware of Warner's history, this cartoon has (desert set notwithstanding) a forest of vices. Among them is a lack of perspective motion. Overhead shots of Coyote falling in perspective are absent. 

"At last the big question of who is the fastest can be settled." A race between Speedy Gonzales of Mexico and Road Runner ("The Texas Road Burner") has been organized. In a betting house which straddles the border, Texas cowboys and Mexican peasants line at appropriate sides to place their wagers -- a fine throwaway moment, although it would have been more attractive if ladies had been in the queues. As the two contestants are announced, Sylvester and Wile E. appear behind shadows of sombreros and Stetsons respectively; Hawley Pratt, so good with shadows, is an asset here. Another good throwaway looks at an official who's careless with his pistol. The two predators go to their ambush stations beside the highway and await their racing prey.

Road Runner rushes past first. Wile E.'s reaction to the slipstream is animated by Warren Batchelder (who was Robert McKimson's best animator of the late 1950s and early 1960s). It's a standout moment in this film. The ensuing chase quickly turns to re-used animation from the Chuck Jones classic Zoom and Bored (1957) in which Wile E., lost in a dust cloud, becomes aware that he has run off a cliff. Those who haven't seen the older cartoon are likely to find this sequence very entertaining (as I did on first view in 1967).

After Wile E.'s offscreen impact, Sylvester chases Speedy. Almost all of Sylvester's animation in this film is disappointing even though two of the animators (Batchelder and Perez) had experience with him. Meanwhile, Wile E. climbs the cliff. He's off-model (the animator's lack of experience with the character shows) but we sense his exertion as he grapples up. Road Runner startles Sylvester off the cliff; he falls, striking Wile E. Both drop offscreen. 

Their next attempt involves boulders and levers. As the racers pass below, Sylvester and Wile E. flip their boulders -- which bounce off each other. Both predators realize their peril and try to flee, but their scrambling feet find no traction. Each is crushed by his own rock.

The next scene is out of Jones' Wild About Hurry (1959). The difference is that Sylvester puts cheese beside Wile E.'s seed-and-pellets bait. A grenade on a magnet-powered roller skate will blow Speedy and Road Runner to edible bits -- at least that's the plan. But the skate assembly comes undone, leaving the grenade in place. Wile E. and Sylvester, unaware of this, snicker under new animation which is far below Jones' standard and barely professional. Sylvester peers up (come now, that's a shrapnel-spraying grenade!) but Wile E. reins him down and peers over the edge himself. The older, much better animation from Wild is recognizable at once as Wile E. reacts to the sight of the grenade just before it explodes.

Another Wild gag follows. Wile E. flips a rock slab to the edge of a cliff. In this new animation he's again off-model but his ears wave nicely -- evidence that Don Williams (who had a way with long ears during his time at Hanna-Barbera animating Doggy Daddy) handled him. Soon we get to the older animation as Wile E. presses, then jumps on the rock. Sylvester joins him under Manny Perez animation which is almost decent except for a brief but noticeable cel error which puts Sylvester's eyes way in front of him. The rock breaks off and carries them down -- without the spinning sequence that made the gag work in 1959.

Next, there's a bit from Hopalong Casualty involving a culvert and a dynamite detonator whose handle descends under its own weight while Coyote carries his explosive bundle inside. Sylvester doesn't notice and gets his fur blown off. He stands stunned and Sixties-rigid as Speedy and Road Runner race past.

Much of their final leg is along a railway. The two predators take advantage of this with a rocket-powered railcar (another idea borrowed from Wild). But the race eventually detours from the tracks. The railcar stays on until it reaches an open-ended tunnel which was formerly connected to a bridge. With the bridge gone the railcar takes to the air, crosses the finish line first, then arcs to the sky and explodes. The cartoon ends with pieces showering down. Letting the railcar crash in a market would have been better as Sylvester and Wile E. could then have been garlanded in flowers or food.

Freleng let other men direct most D-FE cartoons after the winter of 1965. Robert McKimson's first turn with Road Runner was released that summer.

RUSHING ROULETTE (31 July 1965)πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„: Direction by Robert McKimson; Story by David Detiege; Animation by Bob Matz, Manny Perez, Warren Batchelder, Norm McCabe and Don Williams; Layout by Dick Ung; Backgrounds by Tom O' Loughlin; Editing by Lee Gunther; Music by Bill Lava; Produced by David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng.

From the early 1950s to the 1963 shutdown, Robert McKimson was usually the weakest of Warner's three main directors. Animators in his unit sometimes complained about his alleged lack of care or creativity. But he could still create new, distinctive characters (like the beatnik rooster in Banty Raids and the redneck housekeeper of Claws in the Lease) and handle established ones competently. In the very late Bartholomew Versus the Wheel, McKimson tried hard to craft a distinctive style. Some may be surprised at how good Rushing Roulette is. They shouldn't be.

It's evident in this film that the Jones style was a hit with McKimson. He encouraged Ung and O'Loughlin to follow the great Maurice Noble designs of a few years earlier as closely as possible. He oversaw his animators to a degree which kept Road Runner and Wile E. on-model or at least never far off. If Detiege (whose storytelling was too often talky) wanted to bring Beep Beep The Road Runner-type dialogue, McKimson's answer was a firm no. Bill Lava had a fairly diverse orchestra which provided upbeat music (soon he would face more austerity). 

The action begins with a brisk appearance by Road Runner, who dashes right into a taut rope which Wile E. is holding. The bird isn't bothered and continues to run, dragging Wile E. through a stand of cacti. Many of these spiny plants are on a moving overlay which provides a 3-D effect and gives the scene extra tension. Wile E. strikes a tree cactus.

The next set has a cannon disguised as a camera in a photographer's booth. Wile E., complete with carnival barker's hat, offers to take pictures for free. When Road Runner poses, Wile E. pulls the cord. The cannon just clicks like a camera shutter, and when Wile E. steps in front all he finds is an autographed picture of his potential prey. Wile E. decides to pose for himself, and that's when the cannon discharges as it was built to do. A photograph of the scorched, stunned Coyote drifts in view.

After the smoke clears, he steps into Acme Sproing Boots. The coil springs produce fast high jumps, and Wile E.'s ears wave with each jump (probably a Don Williams job, more on-model here). Control is difficult, and Wile E. barely avoids jumping off a cliff. Just as he thinks he's safe, Road Runner startles him off. He falls in fully animated perspective (the Jones-style overhead shot is back!) although it would have been better to see him face up. Thanks to the springs, he bounces back up and strikes an overhang, dislodging a boulder on top. Wile E. and the boulder go down. Wile E. strikes the highway first and takes the boulder's impact. His boot coils spring out from under the rock.

Wile E. paints a strip of Ajax Stix-All Glue across the road, but Road Runner seems to have teflon feet. A perplexed Wile E. (with another of his many effective expressions in this film) steps on the glue and gets stuck so fast that when the bird startles him the whole glued block of road rises. It flips upside down and traps Wile E. beneath.

The next gag involves the two characters on railroad handcarts, and it's the film's weakest sequence. After a brief handcart duel Wile E. becomes strangely passive, letting Road Runner push him up a mesa to a cliff edge. Road Runner startles him and down he goes, reusing animation from his first fall.

We then see a slow pan up a tower -- another money-saving trick, but the music is pleasant and soon we're at the film's most clever bit. Wile E. is controlling a solar mirror whose intense sunbeam incinerates a cactus and a sign. Special photography involving two exposures of the sunbeam (one of them against a black background) produces a near white hot effect. McKimson had earlier experience with this technique in Aqua Duck (where one really believed that Daffy was being sun-broiled) and Well Worn Daffy. Road Runner saves himself by using his own mirror to reflect the sunbeam back to Wile E.'s tower. Wile E. and his mirror crash. The mirror cracks everywhere, then Wile E.'s eyes become bloodshot.

He next offers a free piano course. The first (only!) lesson involves Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms. If all notes are played correctly, a key wired to high explosives gets pressed and presumably Wile E. won't need to de-feather the carcass. But our bird misses the trap. Out of temper, Wile E. shoves him aside and plays the correct sequence. BOOM! His teeth get replaced by piano ivory. This gag originated in Bob Clampett's Booby Traps (1944), with Private Snafu as the victim. Friz Freleng used it in Ballot Box Bunny (1951) and Show Biz Bugs (1957). 

Wile E. is next seen atop a narrow butte, ready to push a boulder. In the old Jones tradition he has a blueprint detailing his trap and the prevailing conditions -- height, wind speed, bird's velocity ("150 MI. PER HR"!). The boulder just misses his intended target and rolls off opposite rock walls, knocking the butte down section by section. Thanks to a handy manhole, Wile E. has a narrow escape though he gets trapped inside when the boulder comes to rest atop the cover.

Finally, Wile E. pursues Road Runner by helicopter, intending to drop an anvil. A speedy chase ensues. Wile E. closes in, gets the anvil ready . . . and crashes above a tunnel! He falls to the road, gets crowned by the anvil, then is struck and carried by a Greyhound bus -- driven by Road Runner! McKimson assigned his best animator, Warren Batchelder, to this closing sequence.

There was more demand for new Road Runner shorts than Freleng or McKimson could fill. D-FE was already planning for the TV market of fall 1966, when The Road Runner Show would join the Saturday morning schedule on CBS. The hunt for a sub-contract ended at Format Productions, where Herb Klynn (a friend of Freleng) agreed to let some of his artists make eleven Road Runner shorts for Warner's.




19 August 1965


Freleng wanted someone with experience at Warner's to direct the cartoons. Rudy Larriva looked like a good choice -- he had been Chuck Jones' star animator for several years up to 1943 before gaining further experience at Disney and UPA. At the latter studio, he was promoted to director in 1958 and made several Mister Magoo shorts. He also crafted the earliest opening titles of The Twilight Zone. In 1959 he joined Klynn at Format Films. In 1960, Larriva was one of several Format animation directors who worked (more tidily than some) on a series of made-for-TV Popeye cartoons under the supervision of Jack Kinney. Klynn shut Format Films in 1962 but by 1964 had a new Herb Klynn & Associates, later Format Productions, up with Larriva among his employees again.

Larriva was meticulous but conservative. He sought to keep his Road Runner series under budget from the beginning by storyboarding the first two cartoons himself. Later he offered work to young story men such as Len Janson, Dale Hale, Don Jurwich and Tom Dagenais. Former UPA colleagues Hank Smith and Tom McDonald animated Run, Run, Sweet Road Runner, the Larriva Eleven (L11) pilot.

RUN, RUN, SWEET ROAD RUNNER (21 August 1965)πŸ˜„: Direction and story by Rudy Larriva; Animation by Hank Smith and Tom McDonald; Layouts by Erni Nordli; Backgrounds by Tony Rizzo; Edited by Lee Gunther; Music by Bill Lava; Produced by David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng.

This cartoon was released shortly before the others in Larriva's series, but looks and sounds as if it was made quite some time earlier. There were no ex-Warner's animators on staff and on that account the animation suffered. It was smooth at times, but Jones or McKimson wouldn't have been pleased with the modelling. McDonald had a weak start with eyebrow-fluttering, but turned out to be the better animator. His shaggy Wile E. was off-model, yet more appealing than Smith's (in any scene where the characters look like they might have stepped out of a Paul J. Smith cartoon from the Lantz studio, it's likely that Paul's brother Hank animated them). A cost-saving trick shows Wile E. already well down the canyon when the first overhead shot starts (most overhead shots in later cartoons would look even cheaper). Larriva drew his story with the hope that elaborate setups would cover the limited animation. Bill Lava conducted sparse but fairly pleasing music (in later cartoons Lava's stock instrumentals were arranged to aural virus effect).

After Wile E.'s fall, McDonald lets him slowly open his eyes while sprawled on the bottom. All of the other Road Runner directors would have insisted on faster timing. Ray Thursby does the first of his leisurely pans, presenting Wile E.'s point-of-view as he looks w-a-y up. The scene is somewhat pleasing even if Jones wouldn't have agreed: there is grace in Thursby's work (he became Larriva's favourite crew member), Lava offers a pleasant melody, and McDonald's art is effective in its way.

Wile E. rises (offscreen) and sets up a bed of covered spikes baited with signs and seed. Erni Nordli (the only artist in this cartoon with previous experience under Jones) isn't as imaginative here as he was ten years earlier in Gee Whiz-z-z, but he guides Tony Rizzo well. That's good because like many other sequences under Larriva's direction, much of the running time belongs to artists other than the animators. McDonald finally lets Wile E. leave his binoculars under the hot sun, next to the rope which suspends the file-sharp spikes. After a near-injurious mishap (with a nice if slow sight gag of the sheet peeling away to reveal a shivering Wile E.), Smith abruptly takes over the animation, showing Wile E. under a dark cloud of anger. Wile E.'s expression changes (one of Smith's better moments) as the cloud gives him an idea.

With a lightning rod (disguised as a female Road Runner) and a rain dance outfit, Wile E. tries to raise his own version of the southwest summer monsoon. Slowly, clouds gather. Rain starts to fall. Lightning strikes the disguised rod . . . Road Runner sidles closer . . . and Wile E. anticipates the moment when he'll have an extra-crispy bird ready to eat. Contact . . . nothing happens. Wile E. pounds his drum to stoke the monsoon, then uses an umbrella -- a shocking mistake. After Rizzo-style pyrotechnics (a few steps down from Harry Love's simulated explosions which McKimson and other D-FE directors were still using), a charred Wile E. stands still as a statue as Lava's closing theme fills the soundtrack. That's a weak denouement and Larriva doesn't learn from it, as his next film shows.

TIRED AND FEATHERED (18 September 1965)πŸ˜„πŸ˜„: Direction and story by Rudy Larriva; Animation by Hank Smith, Virgil Ross and Bob Bransford; Layout by Ernie Nordli; Backgrounds by Anthony Rizzo; Edited by Lee Gunther; Music by Bill Lava; Photography (uncredited) by Ray Thursby; Produced by David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng.

We may never know exactly how Friz Freleng reacted to Run, Run, Sweet Road Runner, but it's a fair bet that he considered it barely passable. Matters had the potential to get worse: Tom McDonald, the better of Larriva's two animators, left Format to direct animation for Al Brodax (The Beatles). Freleng called some ex-Warner's animators and found not one but two who were willing to rescue Larriva: Virgil Ross and Bob Bransford.

Bransford was a former Jones associate who spent the 1950s assisting master animators Ben Washam and Abe Levitow. He first received credit in the classic Chuck Jones RR Hopalong Casualty, and worked steadily in the Jones unit through War and Pieces. Ross was in the middle of a career which would span more than 50 years; he already had experience under top directors Tex Avery and Bob Clampett. Through the 1950s and early 1960s he was one of the most consistent animators in Freleng's unit and the Warner's studio.

But Tired and Feathered starts with Hank Smith animation of the bird as seen through Wile E.'s binoculars. Wile E. licks his mouth; though Smith's tongue movement is smoothly done the scene is no match for earlier hunger animation as supervised by Jones. Wile E. chases the bird (who has a modest speed, as we'll soon see) and actually grabs its tail! But the feathers are loose, and the canyon is deep. Lengthy recycled animation follows as Wile E. trys to fly. Just before he falls, his feet wave the same way Bullwinkle's feet waved in a Rocky & Bullwinkle bumper. Wile E. blows at a feather, which drifts back and pokes an eye.

Wile E.'s next attempt involves a bowl of seed beside a road at the bottom of a gully. The layouts and backgrounds here are good; I especially like the jagged band in the rock face. Wile E. rolls a big log (presumably petrified) upslope long enough for more recycled animation to be evident. RR startles him atop the log and tips him down. Wile E. is flattened twice by the log, then shaved by a bus ("Acme Rapid Transit"). He stalks away, embarrassed (it's better than leaving him dazed and still).

Wile E. is next seen reading a bird book which says that road runners travel 50 miles per hour -- a far cry from the road-burning, highway-distorting Chuck Jones runner or the 150 mph bird in Bob McKimson's Rushing Roulette. With a motor-propeller assembly on his back, Wile E. is ready to catch prey. But when the motor starts, part of his tail gets amputated! The motor stalls with Wile E. high over terrain which Philip deGuard painted six years earlier for use in Hopalong Casualty. This work would be used in quite a few other cartoons (often with an overlay) even though in every case it clashed with the more simplistic art. An attempt to restart the motor by spinning the propeller (mind you don't lose your hand, wiley one -- remember the starting cord!) goes the wrong way. The smear animation as Wile E. gets pulled down is quite creditable for Ross.

Bransford takes over when Wile E. answers a telephone and reacts to the bird's taunt -- a sharp job which shows some of the old Jones style. In the false bird sanctuary sequence that follows, Ross handles most of the outside scenes (including Wile E. wondering why the disconnected telephone rings) while Bransford animates Wile E. in the booth -- with the thankless task of showing the Coyote blackened and cross-eyed after the explosion. Another long, elaborate gag is lame at the end.

A novel about the crew behind the Larriva Road Runners could let Friz say, "Thanks for getting this done under budget Rudy, but from now on you just direct these things. A youngster half your age will do the next story."

BOULDER WHAM! (9 October 1965)πŸ˜„πŸ˜„1/2: Direction by Rudy LarrivaStory by Len Janson; Animation by Virgil Ross, Bob Bransford and Hank Smith; Layouts by Erni Nordli; Backgrounds by Anthony Rizzo; Music by Bill Lava; Edited by Lee Gunther; Produced by David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng.

The Motion Pictures Screen Cartoonists Union, Local 839, was a tight-knit group. For Hollywood animators this was a mixed blessing. Established members could work for as long as they wanted and transfer between studios almost at will, but few newcomers were as lucky all through the 1960s. As a result, credited animators in 1965 were mostly middle-aged men who wearily mass-produced cartoon footage and collected their paychecks. The Larriva unit was typical.

Young storyboard artists had a somewhat easier time with Len Janson as a case in point. This former Disney in-betweener was at the start of a writing (and directing) career which would include the Oscar-nominated Stop Look and Listen (1967). For Boulder Wham! he had the idea of letting Road Runner stay on one spot over most of the film.

Before the bird reaches that spot there is an opening chase with re-used Hank Smith animation. It ends when RR rushes across a chasm. Wile E. stops at the opposite edge and looks in horror at the deep Hopalong Casualty canyon -- a Virgil Ross pose.  Ross and fellow animator Bransford try to save the cartoon with some of the best expressions and poses under Larriva's direction.


Ross puts Wile E. in an idea pose which would be used for publicity art around 1980. In the tightrope bit that follows, Bransford gives Wile E. a sinister expression as the camera slowly closes in to make the sequence look more fully animated than it is (clever photographer, that Ray Thursby). Wile E. soon learns that tightrope walkers need two secure ends; as he wobbles, the camera is angled below him -- a good touch. He falls but gets a breather when both ends of the pole snag opposite canyon walls. This doesn't last -- a boulder soon carries him to the bottom. The overhead shot of a Rizzo (not DeGuard) canyon starts with the rock already far down -- a typical Larriva money-saver.

Wile E. gets another idea, then obtains cleated shoes and a pole to vault with. As he starts his run, one ear tilts more than the other -- a Ross signature. He doesn't catch the bird but lets another overhead shot happen -- without a face-up fall and goodbye gesture as in earlier Jones cartoons. "Face down, far down" at the start of an overhead shot is the rule under Larriva.

An Acme Deluxe Hi-Bounce Trampoline Set is Wile E.'s next bird-catching tool. But he jumps off an unstable boulder, which bounces on the trampoline. Wile E. has just enough time to clasp his hands in prayer before the boulder crushes him.

Next, Wile E. is inspired by a hypnotism manual. Smith animates a grinning Coyote with hypnotic rings in his eyes. Once the session starts, Bransford takes over with a tight close-up and sinister expression. Wile E.'s right eyelid is more sharply angled than the left for extra effect. The contrast between Wile E.'s wide evil smile and Road Runner's goofy face leads to some of the best laugh-inducing moments in the entire Larriva series. More laughs come when Smith lets Wile E. hypnotize himself (quite a difference in style between Bransford and Smith at that time), then Ross does the trance walk, goodbye wave, and gravity stretch.










Wile E. studies martial arts and lures Road Runner with a horn. Under Bransford, he prepares to attack with threatening gestures. His appearance is almost good enough for Jones, as expected of Bransford. But no part of the bird moves. Finally the two tangle to the incongruous sound of fighting cats.

The fight ends with Wile E. in thin air, and one more overhead shot to show his point of view. Ross lets him produce a "That's All, Folks" sign -- a nice touch, because Warner's had abandoned this traditional end title.

After gravity takes Wile E., the bird celebrates with beeps and jumps. This animation would be re-used in the next cartoon!

Droopy ears are among Virgil Ross' traits.
Droopy ears are a Virgil Ross trait.


JUST PLANE BEEP (30 October 1965)πŸ˜„: Direction by Rudy Larriva; Story by Don Jurwich; Animation by Bob Bransford, Hank Smith, and Virgil Ross; Layouts by Erni Nordli; Backgrounds by Anthony Rizzo; Edited by Lee Gunther; Produced by David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng.

Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines was such a hit in the summer of 1965 that its impact on popular culture lasted several years -- without it Hanna-Barbera might not have put Dastardly and Muttley in biplanes by fall 1969. But Warner's was much faster, releasing Just Plane Beep just a little over four months after the movie was distributed.

It's possible that the cartoon was in production months before the movie's release, but don't bet on it. All evidence indicates that JPB was rushed, as if cel work only began after Independence Day. Animation is limited from start to finish, re-use is frequent, and there isn't much detail in the props (sorry if that made you groan).

Smith's chase footage is again re-used at the start. In this cartoon, it's photographed through a mirror so that the characters face left instead of right. Road Runner rounds a curve; Wile E. does not. He strikes a rock wall and falls back. As he lies supine, his face is covered by a piece of paper (admittedly an effective bit of dark humor).

It's a war surplus flyer which invites the customer to send a coupon. Wile E. mails it under Bransford's guidance. His eyebrow is arched away from his face; that's a carry-over from the good old days with Chuck Jones. It's seen again when Wile E. studies his blueprint-style instructions.

Ross poses Wile E. at his letter box as he awaits delivery. He steps on the road, shielding his eyes. Suddenly the van strikes him under. There's no reaction before impact (Wile E. doesn't seem to see the van). Wile E. is knocked down again when he pulls out the crate, which pins him. This reworks  similar but better-executed gags involving a delivery van and Rudolph Cat in Frank Tashlin's Puss 'n Booty (1943). A perspective shot of the "Acme War Surplus" box follows. Wile E. builds his plane and with Bransford's help tries to start its engine by spinning the propeller. He doesn't lose any body part but gets flung high -- and discovers that his parachute pack isn't properly strapped on. He strikes the road hard enough to punch a coyote-size hole. The pack drops in and belatedly blooms.

On the first run, Ray Thursby's camera slowly sways and zooms to simulate motion as the plane trundles along the ground. The scene would have been more convincing if foreground rock formations had been on separate overlays. Instructions tell Wile E. to pull back the stick; in his panic, he breaks it off. His plane strikes rock with typically crude impact/explosion graphics.

Wile E., wearing headgear, consults his blueprint for the second time. He takes off from a cliff and tries to drop a time bomb, but the device gets caught in the tail. Wile E. frees the bomb and throws it, but the plane crashes and again there is no love (Harry Love, that is) in the explosion that follows.

His third session with the blueprint is simulated by re-use of footage from the first time (no headgear). He flies into the Hopalong Casualty canyon, which has an overlay with moving dust cel to represent the bird's run. This changes to a Tired and Feathered road scene. Wile E. tries to shoot the bird, but his propeller isn't synchronized with the gun. The plane becomes immobile.

Wile E. rebuilds the propeller with planks and returns to the air. He notices the high voltage wires too late. They electrocute the plane (without flashes, bolts, or sizzles -- Larriva could be cheap) and fling it back.

The instructions blow away, and Wile E.'s unassisted rebuild can't carry him or his bomb for long. Aware that the end is near, Wile E. salutes his audience. After the blast, the bird is rude exactly as at the end of Boulder Wham!, for that's just plain re-used footage yet again!


HAIRIED AND HURRIED (13 November 1965)πŸ˜„πŸ˜„: Direction by Rudy Larriva; Story by Nick Bennion; Animation by Hank Smith, Virgil Ross, and Bob Bransford; Layouts by Ray Morita and Shirley Silvey; Backgrounds by Anthony Rizzo; Editing by Lee Gunther; Music by Bill Lava; Produced by David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng.

The Larriva Eleven series can be divided into "early" and "late" eras. The four early ones have the most uneven animation but some fine layouts from the very capable Erni Nordli, who unfortunately chose to join Joe Oriolo's studio (where he would try to lend quality to the now-forgotten Johnny Cypher). Two former Jay Ward staff members -- Morita and Silvey -- arrived as replacements. One of them designed some attractive vegetation for Rizzo's desert.

Nick Bennion was hired for the storyboard. His previous work at Warner's was in Bob McKimson's Banty Raids (which was submitted for Oscar nomination and has since become a cult favorite). His two stories for Larriva (Shot and Bothered is the other) aspire to pre-1964 traditions and he also tries to coax the animation back to older, better levels.

H&H begins with Wile E. roasting an old boot over a fire -- a throwback to the mid-1950s when he would boil a tin can (Guided Muscle) or bake a mud bird (There They Go-Go-Go!). In both of those older classic cartoons, Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese crafted a sublime opening set-piece which satirized make-believe. Bennion, despite his effort, is no Maltese and Larriva is most certainly no Jones.

Wile E. deserts his fire and pursues the bird. In the late era animator identification becomes more difficult -- this chase has traits of both Smith and Bransford. Perhaps all of the animators from this point on worked from model sheets provided by Bransford, whose earlier experience under Jones made him the most valuable asset in Larriva's animation department. The chase ends when Wile E. abruptly becomes winded -- all this footage would be re-used over the remainder of the series. Just as abruptly, Wile E. gets an idea and smirks like a villain.

He is next seen using a snow machine to cover part of the road. Then he erects signs, hoping to trick Road Runner into chaining himself. A magnetic gun works on chains -- and a snow thrower which the highways department sent to the low desert on short notice. Good stretch animation by Ross follows as Wile E. is pulled around a rock pillar, but it's wasted because the gag isn't funny.

Quintessential Bob Bransford: stylized mouth, upturned cheeks, long stiff ears.

Next, Wile E. uses a kite-and-reel apparatus. He reels up a practice bomb, taking more time than Jones would have allowed. Bransford tries to redeem this with eyebrow movement which is definitely better than the infamous flutter in Run, Run, Sweet Road Runner. The real bomb slides down to Wile E., with predictable results.

Thursby kills more time with a slow pan up a cliff face. Wile E., complete with parachute pack, jumps into the Hopalong Casualty canyon. He spots a whirlwind in his path. The perspective shot of Wile E. approaching the camera is smooth, but slow ... and his expression doesn't change. The wind spins him and he discards his parachute in fury, unaware of the nearby cliff. A standard Larriva overhead shot follows.

A remote-controlled barrier (somewhat like the chase stopper in Stop! Look! and Hasten!) proves disastrous when Wile E. gets his thumbs caught in the gap. He looks at the camera helplessly as a truck rushes to him from behind (with brisk perspective motion of the vehicle). He's knocked into a rock pillar; the boulder on top drops off and slides over his face (ouch, but where's the laughter).

Smith animates the dynamite-on-extender bit which was done better in Gee Whiz-z-z. Behind him are large shrubs with crowns that appear to be made of icing sugar --  unusually beautiful vegetation for the L11. Thanks to a big rock which traps Wile E. with his dynamite, they survive the blast.

Wile E. teaches himself karate and dresses in an appropriate outfit. He demolishes a cactus tree, then positions himself to attack the bird. A Rizzo impact graphic follows, and Wile E. is next seen as a hood ornament on a truck which for the moment can beep in the rear. A droll Bill Lava cue accompanies this fair ending.



HIGHWAY RUNNERY (11 December 1965)πŸ˜„πŸ˜„: Direction by Rudy Larriva; Story by Al Bertino; Animation by Virgil Ross, Bob Bransford and Hank Smith; Layouts by Erni Nordli and Don Sheppard; Backgrounds by Anthony Rizzo; Editing by Joe Siracusa; Music by Bill Lava; Produced by David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng.

News that Al Bertino would craft the storyboard for Larriva Road Runner #6 must have given Friz Freleng high hopes. Bertino was a veteran who had spent many years at Disney as animator then writer. In later freelance years he did stories for Terrytoons, UPA, Lantz and Format (where he worked on The Alvin Show and had the opportunity to meet Larriva).


But he never worked for Chuck Jones. This is obvious early in HR when the bird takes control of a car and uses it to chase Wile E. (who looks foolish standing in front of the sputtering vehicle with limp wrists -- Jones would have made sure he was more strongly posed). RR abandons the car, which smashes Wile E. against a rock wall. We just see clattering wreckage after impact; Wile E. is presumably trapped between the front end and the wall.

After that, however, the film improves. Wile E. uses a giant rubber band to slingshot himself. He slowly pulls himself to a telephone pole, killing time but building suspense. He's slung through a variety of obstacles, each of which make him wince a little on impact. He remains in condition to grab the bird, and almost does. After crashing into a cliff face he toots his nose cheerfully, then is horror-stricken on seeing the Hopalong Casualty canyon below. Cymbals clash as gravity starts to pull; Wile E. is next seen squashed like an accordion. As such, he makes music while stalking away. Siracusa's sound effects in this sequence and throughout the film lend the right amount of zaniness.

The next gag is also good. Wile E. tries a land sail powered by an electric fan. However, neither the power cord nor Wile E.'s lungs can get him across a canyon.

Wile E. tries a time bomb in a phony egg. The bird sits on it, but what hatches out is quite a surprise: a mobile clock which has an instinct for stalking coyotes. It blasts Wile E. twice.

A rocket carries Wile E. far above the Earth and explodes. Unusually good perspective animation for the L11 follows as Wile E. is flung at the camera. He then goes all the way down in the only unabbreviated fall Larriva directed.


CHASER ON THE ROCKS (25 December 1965)πŸ˜„: Direction by Rudy Larriva; Story by Tom Dagenais; Animation by Hank Smith, Virgil Ross, and Bob Bransford; Layouts by Don Sheppard; Backgrounds by Anthony Rizzo; Editing by Joe Siracusa; Music by Bill Lava; Produced by David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng.

The lost desert traveller is a familiar image in cartoons. Everyone knows the picture of a thirsty character under the broiling sun, leaving a trail as he crawls across sand. Sometimes he's hounded by vultures (as in a 1965 MAD Magazine bit drawn by the unforgettable Don Martin, who let his man win). There might be someone like a peddler or something like a coin-operated fountain or vending machine in the man's path.  On occasion he's an E.T. begging for liquid ammonia or methane.

Warner's let Daffy be the dehydrated trekker in 1963 with Bob McKimson's Aqua Duck, in which Robert Gribbroek crafted a desert fit for Salvador Dali. Perhaps someone thought of re-using Gribbroek's backgrounds for Wile E.'s turn in Chaser, but was unable to find any art (when Warner's shut down its cartoon studio, most of the works left behind were put to trash -- only those papers and cels carried home by ex-employees were likely to survive).

So we see Anthony Rizzo's less remarkable paintings in a cartoon which looks as if it was made to get the Larriva unit back under budget after the animation splurge late in Highway Runnery. The sun never looks as searing as it did in the mirror gag of McKimson's Rushing RouletteChaser starts with stock pursuit footage of Hairied and Hurried origin. After becoming winded, Wile E. notices the hot sun. He sees the bird swimming in a palm-shaded oasis pond and charges into his own hallucination, which masks a canyon. The camera does all of the animating with a slow close-up of the bottom as Wile E. drops.

He sees the bird swimming again; though skeptical, he marches into what turns out to be a real pond. He executes the three-finger drowning clichΓ© rather slowly.

Next, Wile E. paints over a TNT cylinder so that it resembles a cold drink. The bird takes his refreshment before Wile E. snatches it. He tries to drink from the straw but gets a crude blast.

Wile E. plants a "Free Bird Bath" and climbs a nearby rock pillar. As the bird bathes, Wile E. leaps! The camera substitutes as animator again with a slow close-up of the ferocious Coyote (at least his expression is effective). RR jumps out in time as Wile E. crashes in the birdbath and again finger-counts a drowning. His attempt to get out leads to a roll off a cliff with the camera animating the fall a second time.

The fire hose sequence that follows has a metaphorical overtone for droughty California in 2014-2015 (where 10-day forecasts sometimes promise then withdraw rain) when Wile E. tries to drink from a hose. No water comes out until Road Runner turns the tap. Wile E. gets whipped around and then sprayed against a cliff in a sequence which lasts much too long. His fall is represented by a typical overhead shot with the camera fixed and Wile E. little more than a speck at the start.
Finally, Wile E. detours RR into a drain pipe and tries to blast him with a cannon. After the detonation, Wile E. crawls into the pipe, unaware that the cannonball is rebounding off the barrier cable. He gets knocked back into the cannon and the bird blasts him out twice before the film abruptly ends -- as if footage was cut.

According to legend (started by an inaccurate synopsis in a Warner's short subject release sheet), the ending has a cannonball or Coyote striking the sun so that it drops below the horizon. Jerry Beck sets the record straight here.

Dagenais would go on to storyboard Clippety Clobbered for Larriva plus Sugar and Spies for McKimson, then return to Larriva's unit for its whole Daffy-Speedy trilogy in 1967. A 14-year stint at Hanna-Barbera followed, with a 1979 Love Boat episode on the side. He reunited with Larriva in 1983 for The Puppy's Further Adventures and Rubik, The Amazing Cube. He died in 1985.


SHOT AND BOTHERED (8 January 1966)πŸ˜„πŸ˜„: Direction by Rudy Larriva; Story by Nick Bennion; Animated by Bob Bransford, Hank Smith, and Virgil Ross; Layout by Don Sheppard; Backgrounds by Anthony Rizzo; Edited by Lee Gunther; Music by Bill Lava; Produced by David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng.

Nick Bennion storyboards his second Road Runner. As in Hairied and Hurried, he harks back to the Chuck Jones era (the opening titles use a frame from Adventures Of The Road Runner) and coaxes some above-average animation. But like every other story man in the series he has limited success against the conservative, tone-deaf director.

Even the animation is poor at times. A chase through pipes ends with Wile E. on a weak ledge, thinking that he's been saved from a bad fall. The camera follows him down, all stiff body and fluttering ears (Jones and his animators crafted a similar gag much better in War and Pieces). At the bottom, a boulder crushes Wile E. in a strange-looking scene where an impact fracture runs through Wile E.'s face.

Next comes the tunnel sequence. This has some of the most interesting animation in the L11, with two perspective runs done by two or three separate animators. Wile E. drops a boulder to obstruct the road, then waits for RR beside the tunnel. The camera pulls back to show the obstruction from inside the tunnel (nice job), then cuts outside and greets the bird's first runRR is drawn rather simply in the early frames, as if Smith was the animator. But the bird's pupils dilate at the end, giving the sequence an old-school quality more suggestive of Ross.

Bird versus boulder results in a free runner who leaves a rubble pile behind. Wile E. attaches himself to the tunnel's upper edge with suction cups, but the blocks rimming the entrance aren't well mortared. One block works loose and drops, leaving Wile E. helpless as the bird runs with a cheerful open smile and more of a Jones look (well done Bransford).

This ends the film's best part. The other block drops, leaving Wile E. on the road as a car strikes him down. In anger (Jones would have made him look enraged), he hurls a stone which ricochets and dislodges a boulder. Wile E.'s attempt to dodge it drops him off a cliff. At the bottom, three rocks crush him.

A stock chase sequence follows. After that failure, Wile E. erects a tennis net across the highway. A truck tries to drive through the net and Wile E. steps on the highway for a better look. The net flings back the truck, which strikes Wile E. hard. An imprint of his body mars the vehicle's rear.

An attempt to swing TNT at the bird turns disastrous. Wile E. tries to cover himself in the crate of explosives but the burning stick drops in with him.

A skateboard chase leads to the earlier pipes and cliff. Wile E. drops from sight and the camera shakes on impact in typical made-for-TV style.

Wile E. straps a bomb on himself and breathes helium to be buoyant in air. He drifts to spiky vegetation and gets punctured! He falls to a slope and burns his feet. A pond is nearby, but that's where the bomb lands. The ending is crude in titles and graphics.


OUT AND OUT ROUT (29 January 1966)πŸ˜„πŸ˜„1/2: Direction by Rudy Larriva; Story by Dale Hale; Animation by Virgil Ross, Bob Bransford, and Hank Smith; Layout by Don Sheppard; Backgrounds by Anthony Rizzo; Edited by Roger Donley; Music by Bill Lava; Produced by David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng.

From the opening titles with their dragster, this cartoon promises to be about speed -- which is what CARtoons Magazine contributor Dale Hale has in mind. The relatively brisk pace is enough to put O&OR in an upper tier among Larriva-directed cartoons.

The film starts with a skateboard chase which has some of the better-known Virgil Ross animation in the series; under his guidance Coyote plucks and grabs a flower to save himself from the inevitable fall. Too bad he doesn't watch his step.
Virgil Ross plucks a flower.

Next, he uses a hunting falcon who balks at following orders but is animated surprisingly well, with wing beats timed to convey strength. This bird has been likened to Malcolm Falcon of Road to Andalay. Wile E. frees himself from the falcon's talons, but not from gravity.

He uses doves to dress himself as Mercury (speedy messenger for the Roman gods). Those little birds flutter their wings cheaply but are strong enough to drag him over three tree cacti (a different species in each case, to mask re-use of Coyote animation) and through a rock formation before dashing him against a cliff -- knocked as senseless as Katnip ever was.

Then, the dragster! It's good to see Wile E. building by his own hands rather than taking delivery from Acme. The vehicle works well but Wile E. fails to look where he's going (big mistake in canyon country). Rizzo shows attention to detail with car parts after the drag chute opens. The sequence is marred only by a gratuitous rock fall.

A windy day (with nice animation of tumbleweeds and swaying cacti) raises hope that a land sail will work for Wile E. He doesn't capture the bird but goes off a cliff instead.

Finally he sets a glue trap. It's obvious that the branch he perches on is primed for breakage. Ross sticks him on the road and lets him crouch low to avoid injury from overrunning vehicles. But when one such vehicle is a roller driven by Road Runner all he can do is take the humiliation that comes with being flattened.

THE SOLID TIN COYOTE (19 February 1966)πŸ˜„πŸ˜„: Direction by Rudy Larriva; Story by Don Jurwich; Animation by Hank Smith, Virgil Ross, and Bob Bransford; Layout by Don Sheppard; Backgrounds by Anthony Rizzo; Edited by Joe Siracusa; Music by Bill Lava; Produced by David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng.

Jurwich's second story in the L11 is a big improvement over Just Plane Beep, although we have to wait through two preliminary, derivative gags to see this -- and there never is any improvement in direction. A tar bucket isn't as funny as the tar-and-feather machine in Guided Muscle; the mirror beside the cliff was done better as a brick wall in Zoom and Bored. However, this latter gag leads to the film's main plot element.

Wile E. falls in a dump, landing in a bathtub. He rises, animated by Ross (ear tilt); an idea comes to mind. He makes several trips behind a rock formation, carrying piles of junk without being distracted by Road Runner's taunts.
Fear take by Virgil Ross,
We first see Wile E.'s creation as a black silhouette behind a tall scaffold. The unveiling becomes a moment of terror (more Ross animation) for Road Runner. It's good to see the bird cured of his happy-go-lucky attitude even if only for a short time.

After Wile E. activates his big unit  (the remote would have been ahead of its time if it weren't for the vacuum tubes), the camera slowly pans up as machinery cranks inside -- quite a few seconds go by without animation, and when the robot walks we see recycled footage of a foot stepping down. Wile E. is so intent on trying to control his creation that he doesn't jump out of its path in time. He gets squashed like an accordion.

More time is spent letting the robot slowly lower his hand. Wile E. steps aboard and enters LIFT HAND. The hand slowly rises. Road Runner rushes by, and Wile E. enters HUNT (which is probably what Jones would have cut to without the slow lowering and lifting). A dissonant horn blows as the robot begins its chase. Wile E. enters STRIKE; the robot strikes him flat as a sheet of paper.

The robot's head looks safer until an ATTACK command produces an arc which electrocutes Wile E. Still determined, he attaches fangs to the robot's snout and issues another hunt command. The robot catches Road Runner but shows a preference for coyote flesh on receiving EAT, STUPID.


ONE MORE TRY, YOU IDIOT! follows, and the robot keeps running until it crashes in a canyon, having ignored all stop commands. Wile E. lies in the wreckage, dazed and defeated.


CLIPPETY CLOBBERED (12 March 1966)πŸ˜„: Direction by Rudy Larriva; Story by Tom Dagenais; Animation by Bob Bransford, Hank Smith, and Virgil Ross; Layout by Don Sheppard; Backgrounds by Anthony Rizzo; Edited by Al Wahrman; Music by Bill Lava; Produced by David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng.

The last Format Road Runner is painfully boring to the audience and just painful for Coyote, although by the time it's over we can see that some people tried to lend quality to the film.
The editor wasn't among them, by the sound. There are abrupt changes in music cues and Wile E. doesn't howl or even yelp when he should (after his contact with the cactus some animator, Ross I think, appears to have been convinced that an especially loud coyote yell would be put on the soundtrack).

The story is centered around a chemistry kit which enables Wile E. to make a variety of compounds. First, he creates "invisible paint" which makes all treated objects transparent -- their outlines remain visible. It's not as good as the similar War and Pieces paint which made Coyote disappear completely. A totally invisible character would have saved additional money. Perhaps Larriva didn't feel clever enough to attempt an outline-free invisibility gag the way Jones did.

Next comes the super-bounce rubber skin which produces a super-tedious sequence in which Wile E. bounces all over the desert. Larriva lets Wahrman insert some inappropriately sedate music, further ruining Lava's reputation. A tree stub appears and vanishes without any change to the rest of the background.

Improvement comes in the hand-jet sequence, with some brisk perspective animation. Ross treats us to an onrushing Coyote whose look of determination changes to terror (ears rise, jaw drops) as he spots a truck. Animation like this should have been more common in the L11. More clever work is seen after Wile E. collides with a locomotive -- during a close-up of his face, an image of Road Runner appears in one eye. The bird offers a friendly wave, then dashes away from the iris-out as the Format sub-contract closes.

McKimson had another go in late 1966.

SUGAR AND SPIES ( 5 November 1966)πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„:Direction by Robert McKimson; Story by Tom Dagenais; Music Score by Walter Greene; Animation by Bob Matz, Manny Perez, Warren Batchelder, Dale Case and Ted Bonnicksen; Layout by Dick Ung; Backgrounds by Tom O'Loughlin; Edited by Lee Gunther. Produced by David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng.

Gadget-laden superspies were prominent through most of the 1960s, starting with Sean Connery's James Bond in 1962. By 1966 several Bond spoofs were in various stages of production with Matt Helm (Dean Martin) and Derek Flint (James Coburn) appearing early in the year. And over the time that the D-FE RRs were being released, Hanna-Barbera was issuing Secret Squirrel episodes (with some written by Michael Maltese!) to television. D-FE made sure that Wile E. would have his turn in the gadgety-spy genre.

In Sugar and Spies, Wile E. wears a costume which looks rather like the Black Spy's outfit from MAD Magazine's Spy vs. Spy. He obtains it from an enemy agent's discarded kit. He flutters his eyebrows rather cheaply, a bad omen for the animation. It's still better than in any of Larriva's cartoons, but suffers by comparison with Rushing Roulette (and, of course, every Jones RR). 

Nevertheless, under McKimson's direction Sugar and Spies is by far the best of the three Dagenais-storyboarded Road Runners. Walter Greene's music adds a welcome jauntiness.

The first item Wile E. tries is a vial of sleeping gas, which works on a cactus tree (the plant yawns, folds its arms, then lies down). Road Runner blows the gas back on his would-be predator, who sleepwalks off a cliff. An alarm clock provided by the bird wakes him and he becomes aware of his peril just before gravity takes hold and sends him on a good perspective fall.


Next, Wile E. mails a time bomb. Road Runner, disguised as a postman, returns the package which needs an extra stamp. Wile E. takes it inside his cave, gets blasted, then stamps his eyelids before passing out.

Spy Putty X-Plosive launches a boulder as Wile E. watches in the foreground -- which turns out to be unsafe. 

Wile E. adds gadgets to a Model T-like car. The first ejection gives rise to a spoof of vintage Hertz advertisements in which a man would drift gently down to the driver's seat of a moving car. The second traps him under the car. There's also a cannon, which discharges a ball to quash any complaint Wile E. might have about excessive height.

Finally, Wile E. sets up a dozen remote-controlled missiles. The first destroys a cactus as he intended. The second, programmed to strike Road Runner, also works properly -- which is unfortunate when the bird takes cover beneath Wile E.'s seat.
The explosion fuses the missile's wing
s on Wile E.'s arms, and Road Runner programs it to the moon. As Wile E. launches, Road Runner darts away. His dust forms the end title.

* Special thanks to Greg Duffell for identifying animation by Warren Batchelder, Ken Harris, Virgil Ross and Richard Thompson; Chase Pritchard for spotting work by Bob Bransford, Tom Ray, Manny Perez, Virgil Ross and Hank Smith; and "Don M. Yowp" for providing a history of D-FE and Format in his Tralfaz blog of 23/1/2021.

Perspective animation in Shot and Bothered

The Format Road Runners, erratic as they were, could have been much worse. With a Beep Beep The Road Runner comics style, the cartoons would have been talky. Outsourcing the animation to a foreign country would have imposed limitations in storyboard artist/animator interactions.

But with Warner's and Format located in the same metropolitan area, members of the two studios could meet at will. When a story man on Rudy Larriva's team wanted extra effort he could make a visual presentation to the director and animators, showing them what was desired. On occasion Larriva would say yes.

Shot and Bothered, with its Nick Bennion storyboard, is a case in point. The film treats us to perspective animation of Road Runner rushing through a tunnel ... twice ... by at least two separate animators. One can practically hear Nick at his storyboard conference saying, "Guys, we shouldn't be cheapskates all the time."

Here are some frames from the first tunnel run. It looks as if Hank Smith or Virgil Ross (or both) worked on this sequence. Smith may have been the weakest of Larriva's three credited animators in S&B, but as a trained professional he could have handled perspective movement. I'd like to think that Smith did the whole run and Larriva directed him to dilate pupils at the end.














Here are representative screenshots from the second run.










 I have no problem crediting former Chuck Jones associate Bob Bransford with this sequence. It's somewhat similar to the bird's perspective motion in the opening titles of Hopalong Casualty (which has Bob's first screen credit); the bird looks more naturalistic and lively even though the pupils don't dilate as at the end of the first run.

Both runs, as seen in play, provide some of the best animation in the entire L11.





































































































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