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Western Animation / To Beep or Not to Beep

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This time, the Chase Scene doesn't begin the cartoon.

"To Beep or Not to Beep" was a Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner Merrie Melodies cartoon released at the end of 1963. Almost all scenes except the very opening and The Reveal at the very end were taken from the 1962 full-length TV pilot Adventures of the Road Runner which was not picked up by a network. The pilot would be released to theatres alongside the largely forgotten Warner Bros. family film Lad, A Dog before being recycled into three shorts, of which this is the first (and the only one director Chuck Jones directly oversaw). This cartoon is therefore notable for having two versions, each with their own distinct musical scores. Milt Franklyn composed the music for the original pilot shortly before his death, while his successor as series music director William Lava wrote a new score for the short, with the latter being more familiar to viewers as that is the version that would be aired on television for decades afterward. It's also notable for having no explosions or instances of Ash Face at all, a rarity in the Road Runner canon.

The cartoon begins with the coyote perched on a stump reading a "Western Cookery," when the Road Runner moves up behind him to find out what's in the book. This is followed by their usual antics, which involve a lasso in the road, a large Spring Coil attached to a boulder, a construction crane, and an ever-backfiring catapult.


  • Accordion Man: When a stump is pulled down via the rope the Coyote was carrying, we see it on the top of his head. His arms are dragging behind him as he moves.
  • Acme Products: Averted this time. The catapult comes from "The Road Runner Manufacturing Company."
  • Aside Glance: When the Coyote puts a thumb in the direction of the not yet seen overpass where the chase scene will reach its climax.
  • Binomium ridiculus: Averted in the Lava variant (and the only Jones cartoon that does). In the Franklyn variant, the taxonomy appears in the opening credits (similar to the credits for Adventures of the Road Runner).
  • Eat the Camera: The ending of the chase scene and result of the Pain-Powered Leap described downward.
  • Epic Fail: Wile E's catapult plan fails in ways that break the laws of physics, six times.
  • Homing Boulders: The core of the Overly Long Gag. No matter where he stands as he pulls the lanyard, the boulder on the catapult arm always lands directly on the Coyote. Then he moves out to where the boulder can't reach him, with the wagon facing outward. The wagon flips over, with the boulder still attached to the catapult arm. Guess where it lands?
  • Jump Scare: A face to face version during the reading scene, as the Road Runner responds to the Coyote licking his chops by doing likewise. Surprised, the Coyote turns around to find himself snout to beak with his nemesis. BEEP BEEP!
  • Overly Long Gag: The final catapult gag. Wile E. is hiding inside a manhole as he triggers the catapult, and then... nothing. At first Wile E. is skittish that the catapult will smash him at any moment, jolting it briefly before diving for cover. Then, as it becomes obvious that the catapult won't work, he gets more frustrated and attempts to force it to work, until it finally fires right when he's jumping on top of the boulder. He doesn't notice until he smashes into another rock, and is now sandwiched between two boulders. Then the boulder runs into some power lines, which slingshot it back to the catapult. Wile E. hits the catapult arm, and it springs back and slams him into the asphalt, just in time for the boulder to fall on him.
  • Pain-Powered Leap: During the chase segment, the Road Runner uproots six cactus plants, which are whisked by his gust to a not-yet seen bridge. Once he passes over, the bridge contracts in the form of a slide. The first five cacti rapidly clear the bridge, while the last one slides off and follows the Coyote down to the ground far below. We don't see what actually happens, but the Coyote's response (shown in the video example) clearly indicates where the cactus caught him.
  • Pun-Based Title: Taken from "To Be or Not to Be," a line from William Shakespeare's Hamlet.
  • Seesaw Catapult: The portion of the outcropping that the Coyote was holding onto for dear life during his mishap with the coil spring. As the boulder recoils, taking this section with it, it flips across the landscape. Once the parts detach, this piece lands on a stump, with the Coyote falling to one end, the boulder falling to the other, upon which the Coyote rebounds and takes the boulder with it — right into the mouth of a narrow canyon.
  • Stock Footage: A bulk of the animation from this short is from an unsold pilot directed by Chuck Jones for a series entitled The Adventures of the Road Runner. Other portions of the pilot were repurposed into the shorts Zip Zip Hooray and Road Runner a-Go-Go.


Video Example(s):


To Beep or Not to Beep

As Wile E. Coyote is reading a cookbook, the Road Runner sneaks up behind him, mimics his lip-licking to catch his attention and startles him up towards a precipice with his signature "Beep beep!".

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / SurpriseJump

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