Mark Twain inspired Chuck Jones to create this Looney Tunes character

The animation legend said that Mark Twain gave him a key concept in creating characters.

The Everett Collection

Where does inspiration come from? That's a question that creative types get asked a lot. For some, they draw from the world around them. Others may get inspiration from dreams. Inspiration for the greatest classics can come from the most unusual places.

For Chuck Jones, it came from reading Mark Twain.

"From the time I was very young, I have always read a lot," said Jones in a 1996 interview with The Research Library at Animation Art Conservation. "One of the great fortunes of my youth was that I always had books around me. My father always made it a criteria for every house we rented, that it be furnished and have lots of books."

"The way I found Mark Twain, well, I was just browsing around, I was probably about five or six years old, and I ran across this book, Tom Sawyer," Jones continued. "I proceeded to read everything he had written... I loved it all."

"I found the coyote in the fourth chapter of Roughing It, which is a journal he wrote about traveling by stagecoach to Carson City, Nevada. Twain opens that chapter with a description of the coyote, which is about as accurate as anybody has ever described one. He, also, humanized him. And that was kinda news to me. I hadn’t run into anything where I felt that a coyote was like a human being."

A humanized coyote? You can see the framework of the famous Looney Tunes character Wile E. Coyote taking shape.

"It was a new concept to my young mind, this way of humanizing the coyote’s traits. It’s a concept that stayed with me," Jones said. You can see how this thinking followed him through life, as he humanized not only coyotes, but bunnies, pigs, ducks, chickens, and so much more. "Obviously, I wasn’t looking for ideas when I was five or six years old, but I got them anyway. Mark Twain gave me the whole key to thinking that animated characters think the way we do."

"By the way," Jones added, "I’d like to reiterate that the term, 'animate' as defined by Noah Webster is 'to evoke life.' 'Evoke life.' And that’s what animation is all about."

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timothys71 29 months ago
Wow; you learn something every day! I never would have guessed that the Wile E. Coyote character was inspired by Mark Twain.
Jeffrey 29 months ago
Hello MeTV. what is this, ''Watch MeTV's Super Colossal Cartoon Christmas'' this Monday at 8PM/7C! doing in February 25th?
LoveMETV22 Jeffrey 29 months ago
It's called a "Related Link" as this story is in the "TOON IN WITH ME" category. as the
"Watch MeTV's Super Colossal Cartoon Christmas "was. As with other stories and quizzes
there are always related links.
F5Twitster 29 months ago
"You can see how this thinking followed him through life, as he humanized not only coyotes, but bunnies, pigs, ducks, chickens, and so much more."

And as Twain might've added, the only thing that resists being humanized is humans, who're the most determined species on earth when it comes to crawling on all fours and taking the place of the animals they think exist for no other purpose than for them to eat.
Runeshaper 29 months ago
That’s so cool! Mark Twain inspired the concept of Wile E. Coyote and evoked life!
Eloise Runeshaper 29 months ago
The author and illustrator Beatrix Potter was doing it around the same time in England, putting words in animals' mouths and dressing them in clothing and shoes. She wrote "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" among other books.
Runeshaper Eloise 28 months ago
Very cool (-:
Pax Eloise 25 months ago
A. A. Milne would also do something similar in his Winnie the Pooh books.
AgingDisgracefully 29 months ago
Can I get some TV historian to confirm that Rico on The Untouchables was the inspiration for Tennessee Tuxedo's pal Chumley? I'll hang up and wait for my answer.
I thought this might be a prank comment.
Googling results AMAZED me !
"Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales (1963–1966)
Chumley Walrus, Flunky, Jerboa Jump, Bellboy, Peanut, Piano Mover, Platypus, Slippery Hood, TV Repairman"
I was young and have no recollection.
THANKS for calling it to everyone's attention, AD !
ilovecentralia17927 29 months ago
While we're on the subject of cartoons, check out this video of my 10 year-old cat watching classic cartoons on MeTV!
cantorpennerandpeeweefan 29 months ago
Please bring back EGGHEAD with NEW EGGHEAD cartoons .
Are there any plans to have NEW
Cartoons with Bugs Bunny Daffy Duck
Yosemite Sam Elmer Fudd and
Porky Pig??
Not 100% sure, but HBO Max may have done a cartoon revival not to long ago.
Maybe: louannmaryanncplboylefan
may know as they share similar interests with you.
NO, The Original Animators and Artists for those Characters are all dead, & the new ones aren't worth anything. Worthless, in other words.
I have seen an occasional appearance by Egghead during the Looney Tunes hour on Saturday mornings, but I agree; I would like to see more of the Egghead cartoons even though they weren't shown on CBS when I was a kid. Some say that Egghead evolved into Elmer Fudd, and others say that they are separate and distinct characters. Unfortunately the cartoonists who developed those characters are long gone, so we can't ask them.
I don't mind seeing an occasional "new" Looney Tunes cartoon, but most critics seem to agree that the newer ones are not as good as those produced during the series' 1930's-1960's glory days.
Pax Jeffrey 25 months ago
You are what is wrong with this world. Condemning someone for trying to become a legend in their own right is the same kind of toxic gate keeping that has been done by the studios in misinterpreting cartoons to fit other words, both people like you AND the studios need to knock it off and make cartoons that fit into the legends, as well as not be afraid to tackle a politically correct culture!
LoveMETV22 29 months ago
Thank You MeTV for the interesting story on Chuck Jones, also Thank You for the:
"Jones in a 1996 interview with The Research Library at Animation Art Conservation" link.
Although it may not be practical in every story that is posted, it is nice when additional information that supports the story is included.
cantorpennerandpeeweefan 29 months ago
I wonder who created the Looney Tunes Character EGGHEAD?
Some persons say that EGGHEAD and
ELMER FUDD were the same cartoon character.Is this true?
I wonder if EGGHEAD and ELMER FUDD were the same person,?
Does anyone out there reading this
believe that EGGHEAD and ELMER FUDD even resemble each other?
I read somewhere that the voice of
EGGHEAD was very similar to the
Voice of movie actor and comedian
Joe Penner and Eddie Cantor and
Pee Wee Herman all had a similar
Acting Style. One article refers to
Joe Penner as the Pee Wee Herman
Of the 1930s.I read an article on the
Internet that Pee Wee Herman (Paul
Reubens) wants to do a REMAKE of
The EDDIE CANTOR movie from
1934 called KID MILLIONS .
I wonder when if ever Pee Wee Herman still plans on doing a
Remake of Kid Millions?
I wonder who created Bugs Bunny
AND I wonder if METV has ever shown the cartoon Porky's HARE
HUNT which is supposed to be the
FIRST appearance of Bugs Bunny.
I believe the question " Were EGGHEAD and ELMER FUDD the same character?"
was already asked by either bagandwallyfan80, bagandwallyfan52 or Mark091.
Animation historian Michael Barrier said "Elmer Fudd was not a modified version of Egghead" and that "the two characters were always distinct.
Michael LoveMETV22 29 months ago
Isn't this thesame poster undera different name?

Same style, same overly long user name
LoveMETV22 Michael 29 months ago
Mmmm.... Anything is possible. LOL
Isadore "Friz" Freleng - who later created the Pink Panther - created Bugs.
ItalGal68 LoveMETV22 29 months ago
In response to cantorpennerandpeeweefan,
That's not what Bill The Curator says, but what does he know? He pronounced the Sylvester/Sylvester Jr. cartoon as "Pop-I'm-Pop," when it should have been "Pop'im Pop," AND on a French Cartoon-themed day, he shows a Coyote-Roadrunner cartoon, but not a single Pepe le Pew cartoon!
Pax ItalGal68 25 months ago
Well, that happened because of women hating Pepe Le Pew, or at least some political activist Karens that all look like the south end of a north bound mule, and that bray like, well, you know. Even LEGO has not made Minifigures of Pepe Le Pew and Penelope Cat because of these things, which is sad.
Pacificsun 29 months ago
Not pertaining to cartoons/animation, but still to the influence of Mark Twain as a personality, his character was used in a ST:TNG clever two part episode. I thought he was portrayed very well, being that it was a complicated enough episode anyway.

Here's the link pointing to the two part episode, the 2nd part was nominated for a Creative Arts Emmy Award!
Pacificsun 29 months ago
Very, very cool interview! Thank you so much for the story!
ELEANOR 29 months ago
This story is a strong argument for books. There has been a subtle move to reduce the power of books. In some elementary schools, they have renamed the library -- they call it the Media Center. Books can be read electronically, say on a Kindle. But there is still a strong argument for the printed books. They can be held with physical print on physical pages, a slight library odor emanating as these pages are being turned. Oh the majesty and glory of the printed book!
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LoveMETV22 Catman 29 months ago
Lol. I'm a big Plato, and Socrates' fan. I enjoy your perspective and comments too.
Pacificsun Catman 29 months ago
Well do you think you could synthesize what it was meant to say.

Don't take me wrong, I've taken plenty of literature including the classics and the subject of mythology. I just don't understand the point of this one.

Pacificsun Catman 29 months ago
But the thinking ended up in print for everyone to learn.
Pax ELEANOR 25 months ago
No, the argument for printed books is weak and it is also rooted in nostalgia, xenophobia, and elitism. Moreover, I could carry a whole library in a tablet, let alone a computer, or even my smartphone. Yeah, try doing that with physical books...that is not going to go over well for you.
Barry22 29 months ago
Anybody hear about the live action/animated movie they plan to make called Coyote vs. ACME, where the Coyote files a lawsuit against ACME. John Cena will play a lawyer. Not making this up.
Pax MrsPhilHarris 25 months ago
So, will he be saying something like "You can't sue me" in this film? I figured that, if he worked for Acme/Ajax, that he would be pulling off some sort of stunt like that in the film. Also, I remember that, as a child, that a place that I had lived in Mississippi at the time did, in fact, have an Acme company, and so I asked my brother one time, "I wonder if they ever got any complaints from a coyote, a wolf, or a duck from their products being defective"? Needless to say, my brother thought that my comment was a stupid one. However, I thought, and still think, that it was comedy gold.
Pax MrsPhilHarris 25 months ago
Oh, I found out that I was indeed not making it up, as there is a company that goes by the name Acme Services. I figured that they must get a LOT of prank calls about all of those defective devices too. They also have poor exhausted service representatives that have to say things like "No, we do not make rocket propelled skates", "No, our products do not work for catching road runners", etc.
MrsPhilHarris Pax 25 months ago
🤣 I agree! It is comedy gold!
WordsmithWorks 29 months ago
The earlier silent Roadrunner chaser or the later speaking Super Genius. Preference?
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Zip Barry22 29 months ago
If it looks like a coyote and barks like a coyote...
denny Barry22 29 months ago
To a 7-8 year old in the 70s they were the same. Same artist, same voice artist.

Ralph Wolf has virtually the same character design as another Chuck Jones character, Wile E. Coyote—brown fur, wiry body, and huge ears, but with a red nose in place of the Coyote's black one; (usually) white eyes instead of the Coyote's yellow ones; and, occasionally, a fang protruding from his mouth. He also shares the Coyote's appetite and persistent use of Acme Corporation products, but he covets sheep instead of roadrunners
Coldnorth denny 28 months ago
Omg that was one of favorites. One’s name is Sam can’t remember the other name. So many years since I’ve seen those
Pax denny 25 months ago
Were that not confusing enough, Ralph T. Wolf also has a counterpart that is named Joe that, for all intents and purposes, DOES look like Wile E. Coyote, albeit with darker fur colors. Fred the Sheepdog is also like Sam the Sheepdog, except that his red fur area coloring is black, as opposed to the red fur area covering of Sam the Sheepdog.
Andybandit 29 months ago
I am glad that Chuck Jones created the Wile E. Coyote. It is fun watching him trying to catch the road runner. The Coyote also has something done to him. Meep meep.
madvincent Andybandit 29 months ago
Wile E. Coyote
Super Genius......
Pacificsun Andybandit 29 months ago
Interesting how that cartoon really appealed to kids.
I remember laughing.
Zip Pacificsun 29 months ago
They were always interesting,
Coldnorth madvincent 28 months ago
I was boarding a flight a few years ago and as the flight crew was welcoming everyone, a piglet looked right at me and sail “ SUPER GENIUS. I looked at my t shirt and I forgot I was wearing a Wilie Coyote one. I turned red cuz everyone was laughing.
Coldnorth madvincent 28 months ago
Lol a piglet, it was supposed to be pilot. I swear auto correct does that on purpose.
Pax madvincent 25 months ago
"Hello, how are you doing? My name is Mud"
"And remember, Mud spelled backwards is Dum"!
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