Alex Sarll on Facebook linked the infamous ‘last Doctor Who interview’ of Lawrence Miles (the one where he slags off everyone in the Doctor Who world except Jac Rayner, who he says is lovely and doesn’t have an enemy in the world, which is true). I reread it, and this bit struck me, which hadn’t before (possibly because I’ve recently been buying all the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD box sets and watching them with Holly):
Do you know much about Chuck Jones?
The cartoon man?
He created Road Runner. When people think about cartoons, nine times out of ten they think about Warner Brothers cartoons. When they think about Warner Brothers cartoons, nine times out of ten they think about the ones made by Chuck Jones. All the things we think we know about the Warner Brothers universe… the nature of Bugs Bunny, the nature of Daffy Duck, the rules of the chase as applied to Wile E. Coyote… they’re all down to Chuck Jones. He didn’t invent all the characters, but he defined most of them. He deliberately and consciously honed in on what made the characters work, on their most primal dynamics. The Bugs and Daffy cartoons that stick in people’s minds are almost all his. Then he did the same strip-down job to the cartoon medium as a whole, and the result was the original Road Runner series. Road Runner is culture in its purest form… I’m sorry, I’ve just realized how stupid that sounds. Never mind, it’s true anyway. It’s the whole cartoon medium in a nutshell, boiled down to one never-ending chase with rules that feel like they’re instinctive to us these days. Nobody seems to have noticed that Chuck Jones quite simply created the most powerful and inescapable myth of the twentieth century. Because when you get down to the fundamental truth of an idea, you’ve got something that’s got power. Genuine power. People sometimes talk about this in a very disparaging way, like it’s a case of bringing things down to the lowest common denominator, but that’s the opposite of what you’re doing. It’s like you’re honing the culture to a razor-sharp point. You’re creating something that’s primal and… kind of dangerous. Myths… real myths, not that wanky market-driven Anne-Rice-stroke-Neil-Gaiman shite you get these days… aren’t stereotypes or cliches. They’re just inescapable, which is why Chuck Jones is possibly the greatest creative genius who ever lived. And yes, the characters out of Queer as Folk are minor myths as well. Their environment’s quite a specific one, but the same principles apply. I mean, they should last a decade or two. Wile E. Coyote will probably survive for centuries.
I think this is truer than it looks (although we can argue if the true talent was Jones the director or Michael Maltese the scriptwriter and storyboarder). I’d argue that the Road Runner cartoons are *slightly* imperfect, though, in that in some — not all, but some — it’s made clear that the Road Runner knows that the Coyote is trying to capture it, and in some the Road Runner even causes the Coyote’s defeat. For the Road Runner cartoons to achieve true perfection, you need to have the Road Runner oblivious to the Coyote’s machinations, and have the Coyote defeated only by his own schemes backfiring. So the cartoons could be sharpened more than they have been, but they’re still magnificent.
And roughly ten quadrillion times better than anything Friz Freleng did.
(MindlessWho post will be up shortly)