"Hmmm-hmmm, it's time for me to eat.A plot where the antagonist tries several times to capture, kill, or otherwise defeat the protagonist, and keeps failing spectacularly, either because the target is too smart, or because the antagonist is just really unlucky. Often this plot will climax with a plan that looks actually serious, but will fail just as surely as the others. A Sub-Trope of Failure Is the Only Option, except this specifically focuses on repeated failures in succession. Frequently linked to Harmless Villain and Amusing Injuries, and may induce Rooting for the Empire if the antagonist is pathetic enough. Compare Catch That Pigeon!, Stern Chase, Villain Decay (just here the villain decays immediately by design).
Catching a pig is quite a feat!"
Catching a pig is quite a feat!"
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- From 1993 to 1995, Energizer ran a series of commercials where the ficitional Supervolt battery company hired several famous villains (Darth Vader, King Kong, Count Dracula, etc.) to destroy the Energizer Bunny, with either the batteries in their weapons running out of power, or other circumstances allowing the Bunny's escape. A few of these commercials even had Wile E. Coyote himself as one of the Bunny's assassins.
Anime and Manga
- Team Rocket. They must capture the super-Pikachu!
- Nadie and Ellis in El Cazador de la Bruja are constantly on the run, having to evade various traps laid by Rosenberg and the Witch Coven and bounty hunters, sent by the same people.
- Lupin III will never be captured by Inspector Zenigata. Well... at least not unless Lupin is trying to mess with Zenigata's mind. Zenigata admits that he wouldn't know what to do if Lupin was actually caught permanently.
- The Dutch comic De Generaal, and the lesser-known ¡Viva Zapapa!, both by Peter de Smet, are filled to the brim with this trope. The main character, The General, assisted by a zany professor and a soldier, and armed with a rather ancient tank, repeatedly tries to take power from The Marshall (seated in a fort; the general's HQ is a preciously guarded tree). Their lack of success in whatever way they try is only surpassed by a motorcycle policeman's failures to book The General for breaking just about any law or rule the policeman thinks applicable.
- ¡Viva Zapapa! takes the same basic idea, but instead of the complexity of the plans themselves, it's usually the bumbling assistant to The Great Revolutionary Leader Zapapa who manages to scupper those plans (if they had any chance of success in the first place).
- Ghost Rider vs Water Wizard worked like this, mainly due to Ghost Rider being seemingly unstoppable. Water Wizard eventually made a deal with the devil, specifically the Evil Sorcerer Moon Dark, and looked like he would finally be able to defeat Ghost Rider, but did not.
- The Tintin album The Broken Ear features this as a subplot. After Colonel Diaz is arbitrarily demoted to corporal by General Alcazar, he makes four failed attempts at assassinating Alcazar. The second and third attempts leave Diaz with Amusing Injuries, though the four attempt does backfire lethally.
- Parodied several times in Garfield:
- In one strip, Garfield chases a mouse as Jon cheers him on, only to step on the mouse by accident. He promptly stops and revives the mouse before sending it off unharmed, his dialogue basically explaining it was all an act for Jon's sake.
- In another strip, Garfield is being chased by a big dog, only to stop and demand to know what's going to happen now the dog has caught him. The answer? They start dancing the tango, with Garfield noting he wants to lead the next time.
- Another "dog chasing Garfield" strip ends with the reveal that they were actually both trying to chase an ice-cream truck, not chasing each other.
Eastern European Animation
- The middle of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie where the Vulgarian spies are attempting to capture the car.
- The old, old movie The Great Race was live-action Road Runner cartoon from start to finish. It was itself an inspiration for Wacky Races.
- In Caddyshack, Bill Murray's Carl tries increasingly drastic plans to get a certain gopher.
- The full premise of MouseHunt.
- Of Unknown Origin plays this trope for horror. Bart Hughes gradually undergoes a mental breakdown as he is repeatedly thwarted in his attempts to kill the rat that lives in his new house.
- The Villain is a Western example wherein the titular bank robber is trying to capture The Handsome Stranger (no really, that's his name) and Charmin'. Every scheme is right out of a Roadrunner cartoon, including painting a tunnel on the side of a rock and getting stuck in his own glue trap.
- A Fish Called Wanda has Michael Palin trying to kill an old woman before she can testify about his boss. Each attempt succeeds in killing not her, but one of her dogs. Palin's character is an animal lover, and this impacts him greatly until, with the killing of the third and last dog, the old woman has a heart attack and snuffs it.
- Smokey and the Bandit has the Bandit manage to elude the law as it pursues him across the south. Sheriff Buford T. Justice especially keeps failing spectacularly to capture him.
Live Action TV
- The Dukes of Hazzard. Kind of the whole point of the show — a live-action version of the classic cartoon series, with Boss Hogg and Rosco coming up with scheme after scheme to destroy the Duke family, but the Dukes always coming out ahead in the end.
- The Stargate SG-1 episode "Bounty" was about a bunch of bounty hunters going after the Stargate team, and all but one of them fails spectacularly and hilariously.
- Farscape: In "Revenging Angel", the protagonist's hallucination was a direct Homage to the Chuck Jones cartoon.
- The climactic chase between Roy and Simon in Return of the Cartoon Man is an homage to this type of cartoon, and uses many of the requisite gags.
- Happy Tree Friends: Sniffles, while normally a hero, has these moments when trying to eat The Ants. But every time this happens, The Ants end up killing him in ways that are sadistic even for the show itself.
- Black Kitty vs White Kitty in Goodbye Kitty.
- Looney Tunes' cartoons have been doing it for years.
- Bugs Bunny: Many characters have attempted to catch and/or kill this Rascally Rabbit, including Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Marvin the Martian, and the Tasmanian Devil, as well as numerous one-time villains, but Bugs is always cunning enough to outsmart them.
- Daffy Duck: Duffy Duck was the road runner at first, then he became the coyote after he was changed into a near-Butt-Monkey.
- Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird: Aww, an adorable black-and-white tom-cat tries to catch and eat a cute yellow canary.
- Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner: These two are the Trope Namers. Interestingly, they were originally intended as a parody of Tom and Jerry (or indeed, Bugs Bunny) type cartoons, where instead of the pursued outwitting the pursuer, the coyote was his own worst enemy due to his increasingly convoluted ploys. (The initial plan had been for the pursuer and pursued to not even make sense, like "an aardvark chasing a wildebeest".) Instead, they were successful enough that subsequent chase cartoons chose to Follow the Leader.
- Played with in the Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog shorts, the protagonist was in fact the bodyguard, thwarting the antagonist from pursuing it's prey (in this case a field of sheep). Amusingly, this was just a routine day job for the two; they're good buddies off the clock.
- The High School A.U. version of the Looney Tunes, Tiny Toons, had many teen versions of the original Looney Tunes and some original characters. Among them: Calamity Coyote and Little Beeper (teen versions of the Coyote and the Roadrunner) and Furrball and Sweetipie (Silvester and Tweety). There was also a little baby mouse Li'l Sneezer that was sometimes chased by Furrball and, in a curious continuation of the food chain, a nerd worm named Bookworm chased by Sweetipie, in all cases with bad consequences for the predator. But the writers soon left this formula and focused more on other kind of plots.
- Some Classic Disney Shorts, particularly the ones involving Donald Duck of Donald Duck used this trope, but not quite to the degree of the Warner shorts.
- Tom and Jerry: Tom the tom-cat and Jerry the mouse are a classic example, but these cartoons belong among the rare ones which sometimes Played With this trope. Jerry was very antagonistic in some cartoons, to the point where Tom was the likeable character of the two and viewers rooted for him, hoping he would catch the bloody vermin. In some episodes, Tom had at least some vindication by the end, such as the episode in which he forced Jerry to learn how to "hunt cats" from his nephew. Sometimes Tom and Jerry even collaborated against a common enemy, like a new evil tom-cat in their house.
- Some of Tex Avery's MGM shorts:
- Screwy Squirrel
- George and Junior
- Droopy vs. Spike
- De Patie Freleng Enterprises had The Ant and the Aardvark series.
- Columbia Cartoons-Screen Gems' The Fox and the Crow shorts of the '40s often have a variation of this dynamics.
- Dexter's Laboratory:
- An episode in which Dexter got a bicycle turned into a direct homage to the Road Runner cartoons. Dexter tried to get even with a roller-blading Dee Dee.
- Episode "Mom and Jerry" was a Tom and Jerry pastiche in which Dexter got trapped in the body of a mouse and his mom mistook him for a regular mouse. Hilarity Ensues.
- The Superman: The Animated Series episode where Mxyzptlk first appeared.
- Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines: The whole series boils down to the Villain Protagonists trying to, in their own words, "Stop that pigeon!"
- Wacky Races: Dick Dastardly's plans to stop the other racers, which often use the same visual gags as the Road Runner cartoons. One of the writers for both shows was Michael Maltese, who had collaborated with Chuck Jones on the Road Runner shorts.
- Scooby-Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf: Just think of Wacky Races, only with Scooby-Doo and monsters, and the role of Dick Dastardly (basically the Coyote) replaced alternately by Count Dracula and the Hunch Bunch. Except their main target is only Shaggy's car, in hopes he loses the race so he will remain a werewolf forever.
- The Fairly Oddparents homaged the Road Runner cartoons in "Back to Norm" where Crocker, in possession of a genie, wishes for elaborate traps to capture Timmy Turner, rather than wishing him to Mars.
- An episode of Johnny Test parodied this concept including Johnny going "beet beet" in the same style as the Roadrunner's trademark "beep beep" sound and Bling Bling Boy questioningly the sheer improbability of a train passing through a fake tunnel AND an anvil falling randomly from the sky. Oh, and Johnny and Bling Bling even had their "Latin" names.
- The Donkey Kong segments of the Saturday Supercade. Mario was the Coyote, and DK was the Roadrunner.
- Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog is perceived as this with Sonic and Tails playing the Road Runner while Scratch, Grounder and Dr. Robotnik (whom we call Dr. Eggman these days) usually played the Coyote. In the ending credits, Robotnik tries to smash Sonic in a trap in a road. When Sonic came, Robotnik pushed the button and seemed to have caught Sonic. However, when Robotnik went to check, he found no sign of Sonic whatsoever. While he left the remote control unguarded and stood at the trap area, Sonic appeared and pushed the button, smashing Robotnik. Sonic then left, dropping the remote control at the trap area. When Robotnik, in a pancake shape as a result of the smashing landed, he hit the button, causing the trap to smash him again.
- Phineas and Ferb:
- Candace is always trying to bust her brothers but never succeeds, instead she's getting either injured or humiliated. This is the "unlucky" variant, as her brothers do nothing to stop her, and usually don't seem to share her belief that they'd be in trouble if she succeeded.
- Dr. Doofenshmirtz scheming to take over the tri-state area and constantly being thwarted by Perry the Platypus.
- The Dreamstone toys with the concept somewhat (it probably borrows more from the premise of the Trope Namer's sister series Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog) though is still clearly inspired by it, with the Urpneys frequently using cartoon gadgets to try and steal the Dreamstone from the Land Of Dreams. Expect Amusing Injuries galore.
- Hanna-Barbera's Blast-Off Buzzard (a segment of 1977's CB Bears) had the title bird in pursuit of Crazy Legs Snake. And unlike H-B shows in general, this segment was completely dialogue-less.
- De Patie Freleng Enterprises' Crazy Legs Crane was always chasing a dragonfly (a tiny dragon with wings).
- In Animaniacs, about half of Slappy Squirrel’s plots revolve around old villains trying to get Slappy, and failing badly.
- Taz-Mania: This trope sums up the attempts of both Francis X. Bushlad, and Bull Gator and Axl, to capture Taz, and Taz's attempts to capture the Kee-Wee.
- Oddly enough, The Itchy & Scratchy Show in The Simpsons almost never actually use this trope, despite being a parody of Tom and Jerry, the premise being more an ultra violent Screwy Squirrel cartoon. In almost every episode, Itchy the mouse actually seeks to murder his best friend, the cat Scratchy, for no reason, and always succeeds... except for one occasion, which we never got to see.
- Angry Birds Toons revolves around the Bad Piggies attempting to steal the Angry Birds' eggs with the intent to eat them, and they're always thwarted. The show does, however, have the occasional Slice of Life plot instead, applying to either the birds or the pigs.
- Oggy and the Cockroaches is an interesting case: while it's clear that the cockroaches are the antagonists of the series, either side of the ongoing fight can be the winner of the fight for the episode, sometimes both sides win, other times neither will, and yet still a third party can end up the winner.
- Zig & Sharko, created by the creators of Oggy And The Cockroaches above. This one plays out more like a traditional Road Runner Vs. Coyote, though, with the added addition of Marina (the Road Runner of the series) having extra help to defeat Zig through Sharko, who uses brute force while Marina stays unaware of Zig's plans.
- Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch had the former always getting antagonized by the latter, the latter's plans always failing on their part.
- In Bordertown, in cold opening of every episodes, Bud the border patrol agent is constantly trying to catch the human smugger El Coyote but he's always outsmarted by him on multiple occasions or by his bad luck.
- Betty Boop revolves around this concept except that in her case is a sexual predator the one trying to get her. One different from episode to episode.
- The alligators Floyd and Jolene trying to eat the cubs in Kissyfur.
- The wolves Huff and Puff try to eat the eponymous Piggsburg Pigs! always failing While E. Coyote-style.
- A recurring villain in Shaun the Sheep is a Fox that constantly tries to eat the weakest members of the farm, like the chickens of Timmy the lamb.
- A similar case of a recurring fox villain in the Orson Acres segment of Garfield and Friends tries to eat several bird characters and the two chicks Sheldon and Booker.
- One Garfield sketch deconstructs the trope, asking just why cartoons portray cats being bad guys for chasing mice when, in the real world, cats are normally seen as the good guys for doing this, due to the fact that mice spread disease, spoil food and damage property.
- A Running Gag in Gravedale High is Mrs. Crone's zombie cat trying (and failing) to catch the Quasimodo-like rat suffering Coyote-style damages (but as it is a zombie cat he never gets really harmed).
- Paranormal investigator Professor Dweeb and his Poodle dog trying to capture Slimer in The Real Ghostbusters Spin-Off Slimer has this dynamics.