The Coyote: A typical pose from a Road Runner cartoon.


Medium: Theatrical Animation
Released by: Warner Bros.
First Appeared: 1949
Creator: Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese
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Chuck Jones's Coyote character is an excellent example of a cartoon "actor" playing more than one role. He was created in 1949 to fill the predator's niche in the "Road Runner"

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… series, where neither character has a name, both being identified only by species. In his second appearance, Operation Rabbit (1952), he was given his first speaking role as an antagonist to Bugs Bunny. It was also there that he received the name by which he is best known today. Don't Give Up the Sheep (1953) cast him as Ralph Wolf, opposite the laconic but unbeatable Sam Sheepdog.

Whatever his role, the Coyote never fails to elicit the viewer's sympathy, despite the heinousness of his goals — eating Bugs Bunny, stealing sheep, or doing whatever it is he wants to do with the Road Runner. We see something of ourselves in his confidence going into an enterprise, his hideously complex machinations, and, often, his momentary foreknowledge just prior to defeat.

The Coyote enjoyed a respectable if low-key career during the heyday of Warner Bros. cartoons. He made three more appearances opposite Bugs, and a total of seven as Ralph Wolf. Both roles ended in 1963 with Jones's departure from Warner Bros. And he contiued to appear in every Road Runner cartoon right up to the end of that series, in 1966.

He was never very successful outside of animation, however, appearing only as the antagonist in the comic book series Beep Beep the Road Runner, which bore only a tenuous relationship with its theatrical counterpart.

The Coyote made a cameo in Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1988, and appeared with the rest of the Looney Tunes crew in Space Jam in '96. He is sometimes seen in DC Comics' Looney Tunes comic book. And of course, all three of his roles are reprised endlessly on television.


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Text ©2000-06 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Warner Bros.