Getting Looney About Road Runner and Coyote

Two producers discuss the theatrical Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote shorts and the upcoming Looney Tunes Show.

Rabid Rider offers another 3-D thrill ride courtesy of Reel FX. Images courtesy of Warner Bros.

With Warner Bros.' Coyote Falls getting shortlisted for an Oscar nomination and Rabid Rider, the third and final theatrical short opening tomorrow with Yogi Bear (Wile E. Coyote tries to ensnare Road Runner with a sports car), we thought it would be a great opportunity to find out more from supervising producers Tony Cervone and Spike Brandt (Duck Dodgers, Back at the Barnyard, Space Jam).

Bill Desowitz: Congratulations on Coyote Falls getting shortlisted for an Oscar.

Tony Cervone: You know it's an honor just to be shortlisted.

BD: Who knows? You might even get nominated.

Spike Brandt: That would be cool.

BD: So how did this project come about?

SB: Originally, we did a test for the upcoming Looney Tunes Show. There's a CG short in most of the shows with Road Runner and Coyote done in the style of the show. So it's a different style from the theatricals, which are more of a classic style.

TC:

And originally the theatrical shorts were going to be animated in the same style as the series. But it was Matt [O'Callaghan, the director] who kept pushing to make it more like the classic models. And we're glad that we did because that was a smart thing to do. But Spike and I approached this with some trepidation. We're very classic 2D animators. We didn't approach this both in stereoscopic and 3-D lightly. We've done little tests and have had this discussion for 10 years, so it took a long time to reach this point.

Coyote Falls is shortlisted for an Oscar nomination for taking the classic characters to new heights.

BD: And what do you think?

TC: I really think the animators at Reel FX did a great job.

SB: Yeah, when we first saw some of the animation from Reel FX, I was shocked in a good way because it really felt like the Coyote. It wasn't like we had to make a lot of excuses for it in CG. They really broke a lot of the CG rules in order to create the Road Runner and the Coyote for these shorts.

TC: The rigging that they've done with these models is breaking some new ground as far as trying to bring a traditional 2D cartoony character into this CG world.

SB: And they also did multiple arms and stuff and using 2D sensibilities with the 3D model. At one point, when he's hanging from the bungee cord and trying to grab the Road Runner and snaps back up, he has like eight arms instead of two.

TC: Reel FX were always trying to find the 2D equivalent in 3D and then doing it. It's a very fluid model: if you go through these cartoons a frame at a time, you'll see that the model is distorting just like a drawing would.

SB: You get that distortion in one of the first scenes I saw of the Road Runner zipping down the road. They didn't cheap out at all and the animators were really interested in preserving the animation style that had been created in the 2D shorts and really embraced that.

TC: I know it's a big deal to put the textures and the fur and all the bells and whistles. But it has to be invisible -- it has to be part of the character.

2D-style distortion is still maintained.

SB: Well, they gave you fur on the one hand but then they took away on the other hand with the animation.

TC: That's a great way of putting it: they were always adding something.

BD: And what was it like doing stereoscopic 3-D?

TC: The surprising thing was that until I actually noticed the jokes were funnier in 3-D, I didn't realize how much it adds to the humor. Nobody talks about comedy in 3-D, but because of this broad, physical comedy, it actually makes things better. We've all seen that canyon before, but seeing it in 3-D with a little more reality to it, was new. He really was falling far.

BD: And the story challenges?

TC: We wanted to keep the classic dynamic. These cartoons are three minutes so it had to be something that reads right away.

SB: There are lots of premises, but the ones we responded to were the ones we knew would work in 3-D, so the idea of the Coyote jumping off a bridge attached to a giant rubber band [in Coyote Falls] immediately sparked our interest. And Matt's team of storyboard guys came up with the best gags that would go together. And so there were many versions of Coyote Falls until the final one was selected.

Physical comedy is tailor made for 3-D.

BD: What can you tell me about the upcoming TV series early next year?

TC: The Looney Tunes Show is mostly an animated, traditional sitcom [done principally by Rough Draft and Toon City] starring Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. In addition, there's a Merrie Melodies segment, which is kind of like a song parody that utilizes different characters and different musical genres, and, again, in most there's a CG Road Runner/Coyote cartoon done by Crew 972 in Israel.

BD: But as you said, more in keeping with the look of the show, not the theatrical shorts. What is the look of the show?

TC: We wanted to change up the style a little bit. It took a while to evolve: In the very beginning, the new design of the characters made them look a little young, but we've moved passed that and they're streamlined versions of their normal selves.

Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.