Happy 60th Birthday, Road Runner

This counts as a TV post because many of us grew up watching these things on TV: I am reminded that this is the 60th anniversary of the very first Road Runner cartoon (which was released to theatres on September 17, 1949). Nobody really thought that “Fast and Furry-ous” would be the start of a long-running series; Chuck Jones intended it as a sort of reducto ad absurdum of all the “chase” cartoons that were proliferating at the time, almost a self-parody of the rituals and rules that go into making a cartoon like this. Of course it caught on and became the pilot for a popular series that we all loved because it was so formulaic, and because the only question in every scene was just how the Coyote would fail. And from the very first film, most of the elements were in place: the fake Latin names, the “meep-meep” voice provided by background artist Paul Julian, and even the choice of a dance from Bedřich Smetana’s The Bartered Bride as the theme song.

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With Warner Brothers having canceled its Looney Tunes Golden Collection series, and with nobody showing the cartoons on TV, I’ll repeat again that the company is really missing the boat by cracking down on YouTube uploads of these cartoons: instead of pulling them off, they should be starting an official YouTube channel and uploading as many cartoons as they can. YouTube is, at this point, the only place where younger viewers are going to get introduced to these cartoon characters, which in turn will help to build the brand of the characters and help the merchandising/licensing efforts. It’s a clear sign of the screwed-up handling of these properties (not just by WB but by other companies with classic cartoon characters on their roster) that they are now primarily of interest to people who were old enough to watch them on TV or in theatres.

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