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“Roadrunner” Creator Chuck Jones had 11 Rules for Writing the Cartoon

Image Credit: Instagram

Anyone who works in a creative field will tell you that, for any given style, project, or medium, there must be a clearly defined set of rules.

It’s okay to break them, but only deliberately and with a very clear purpose in mine.

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“Good night, Ralph. See you tomorrow, Sam.” Ralph Wolf can’t catch a break … Directed by Chuck Jones in 1955, “Double or Mutton” has Ralph Wolf trying to steal Sam Sheepdog's flock of sheep using, among other methods, a highwire, a helicopter and a Bo Peep disguise. The title is a play on the gambling wager "double or nothing." Enjoy the clips! ?What’s your favorite Ralph Wolf-Sam Sheepdog episode?

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For Chuck Jones, the creator of the Roadrunner cartoons, creating rules for your show was a clear way to make sure everybody was on the same page. Today, those rules serve as a reminder for creators everywhere that having a solid backbone to your system is key for keeping your sanity.

The rules were shared recently by film director Amos Posner after he ran across them at the What’s Up, Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York.

They were originally printed in Jones’ 1999 autobiography Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist, and here’s a slightly longer version, shared by Jason Kottke some years ago:

1. The Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going “meep, meep.”

2. No outside force can harm the Coyote — only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products. Trains and trucks were the exception from time to time.

3. The Coyote could stop anytime — if he were not a fanatic.

4. No dialogue ever, except “meep, meep” and yowling in pain.

5. The Road Runner must stay on the road — for no other reason than that he’s a roadrunner.

6. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters — the southwest American desert.

7. All tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation.

8. Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote’s greatest enemy.

9. The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.

10. The audience’s sympathy must remain with the Coyote.

11. The Coyote is not allowed to catch or eat the Road Runner.

And this is funny – Michael Maltese, a writer who worked for Jones on the series, said in an interview that he’d never heard of those rules.

Maybe that’s a testament to how well he followed them – they were unwritten for his underlings, yet still followed.

There’s a reason classics reach that status, and I’m guessing Chuck Jones was a legend in his own time.

What do you think about these rules? Let us know in the comments!