To Beep or Not to Beep

To Beep or Not to Beep

"To Beep or Not to Beep" is a Merrie Melodies animated short starring Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner. Released December 31, 1963, the cartoon was written by Chuck Jones and John Dunn, and directed by Jones (Maurice Noble received credit as co-director).

The title is a play on the famous line in Shakespeare play "Hamlet". This installment of the Coyote-Road Runner series marked the first time that no Latin-esque terms are used to indicate who each character is.

Almost all of the footage was originally made as part of a television pilot named "Adventures of the Road-Runner". The pilot never sold, and several gags from the short were rearranged into this cartoon. A whole new soundtrack was crafted by musician Bill Lava and editor Treg Brown.


Unlike all previous shorts, there are no Latin names in this cartoon.

The opening scene shows Wile E. Coyote reading a "Western Cookery" recipe book in total peace. Completely unaware that his prey has zoomed up behind him to sneak a peek at his book, he slurps at the prospect of a road-runner banquet featuring "Road Runner Surprise," and gets answered by another slurp. Turning to find himself face-to-face with the Road Runner, the Coyote gives himself a real headache responding to a surprise "Beep-Beep" from point-blank range.

The coyote has a lasso placed in the road, and when he hears his opponent, he pulls back on the lasso, but forgot to allow himself room on the cliff to step back. He falls toward the ground, and the end of the lasso latches on to a loose rock on another outcropping as he passes it. "Knowing" the rock will be heavy enough such that the impact is stopped, Wile ties his end of the lasso around his waist, and then he hits the ground at full force. Still dazed by his miscalculation and the resulting impact, the coyote pulls on the lasso and drops the rock on himself, leaving his form coiled up as he walks away.

The usual road chase is now shown, and the Road Runner escapes by a hair, causing several cacti to uproot due to his speed. They continue to follow the Road Runner across the landscape, and Wile continues chasing until he sees that a bridge is being retracted due to the bird's trajectory, and that he is about to fall into a ravine. Wile, having failed to stop, falls through the ravine and is followed by one of the slower cacti that did not make it past the bridge. It follows the poor coyote to the ground, causing him to leap in pain all the way up to the top of the ravine.

Not having learned from previous uses of this device, the coyote attaches a spring to a loose rock and tries to shoot himself toward the Road Runner, but instead the rock is thrown backwards and it continues to pull the coyote back like a Newton's cradle until the rock hurtles over the edge of the cliff and Wile holds onto the brink. Wile manages to stay put until the rock flies back the way it came, taking out the entire outcropping and throwing the coyote across the desert. The rock and the spring finally detach themselves, but this leads to the broken outcropping forming a see-saw, with Wile pushing on one end and the big rock landing on the other side. This catapults the coyote even further across the desert, and he falls through a narrow canyon which the rock hangs up at the top of, leading to the spring retracting and Wile being trapped directly under the rock. By loosening the harness, the coyote escapes and sighs with relief, having escaped with only a fall to the ground.

Lying in wait for the Road Runner inside a crane, the coyote pulls up a wrecking ball to drop on the Road Runner when he passes this segment. However, he pulls it up "too" far, and the wrecking ball rolls onto the top of the crane and smashes the cockpit.

The final segment features six attempts to flatten the Road Runner with a boulder hurled by a catapult.

Attempt 1: Wile stands behind the catapult. The boulder simply falls on the coyote when it is released, due to its weight being too much for the catapult to handle.

Attempt 2: Wile stands in front of the catapult and (predictably) gets smashed due to his location.

Attempt 3: Having learned from the first two, Wile stands well out of the way of the catapult, out of range, to make failure 1 impossible. However, the "catapult" flips itself over and squashes its owner.

Attempt 4: The coyote stands to the side and releases the boulder, which is punched up into the air, and unfortunately falls in the wrong direction - toward the coyote instead of the road. Embarrassment results.

Attempt 5: Having been smashed every time in some way or another, Wile hides underneath the catapult itself when he releases the string; however, the entire catapult comes apart and smashes its owner.

Attempt 6: This time, Wile hides inside a manhole while he releases the string. However, the catapult jams, and the coyote prods the body of the catapult and dives into his manhole, hoping it will then work. Nothing happens, and the coyote now shakes the catapult, with no better results. Now "very" impatient, Wile lodges himself between the arm and the body and stands up, still not succeeding in getting the arm to throw the boulder. So he climbs up the arm and stomps on it, "still" failing, and then slides down to the rock itself and tries to pry the rock free. The catapult finally unjams, something that Wile E. Coyote initially fails to notice (still trying to pry the rock free) until he sees he is suddenly being hurled toward the side of a large rock formation. Wile worriedly points towards it before impact, and the rock continues to fly through the formation, having taken a slice of that with it. This piece falls off the amalgam, freeing the coyote. A network of power lines captures the coyote and slings him all the way back on top of the catapult's arm, which plops him on the ground to be smashed once and for all by the boulder.

After that final disaster, the audience discovers the reason for thcatapult's "artificial intelligence." The camera zooms in towards the manufacturer's nameplate and reveals that the catapult had been built, not by ACME, but by the "Road-Runner Manufacturing Company — Phoenix * Taos * Santa Fe * Flagstaff." The Road Runner on the nameplate gives the audience a "Beep-Beep" and then zooms off.


*Co-Director: Maurice Noble
*Story: John Dunn, Chuck Jones
*Animation: Richard Thompson, Bob Bransford, Tom Ray, Ken Harris
*Backgrounds: Philip DeGuard
*Effects Animator: Harry Love
*Film Editor: Treg Brown
*Music: Bill Lava
*Voices: Mel Blanc, Paul Julian
*Director: Chuck Jones


Jones would practically remake "To Beep or Not to Beep" two years later as "Bad Day at Cat Rock", an entry in the "Tom and Jerry" series.

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