In their 2015 book A Beautiful Constraint, authors Adam Morgan & Mark Barden posit that the limitations we face in any endeavor (be it artistic or otherwise) can be a source of inspiration. We can turn restrictions into opportunities.
Decades earlier, Chuck Jones, the legendary Looney Tunes director, made use of this concept in his animated cartoons. The result was a series of modern minimalist masterpieces.
With regards to his iconic creations, Coyote and Road-Runner, the rules that Jones imposed on himself were made public in his 1999 autobiography, Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist. Let them serve as a guideline as you construct your own beautiful constraints in order to more creatively ship your next project.
Chuck Jones’ 9 Rules for Coyote and Road-Runner Cartoons
1. The Road-Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going “beep-beep!”
2. No outside force can harm the Coyote—only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products.
3. The Coyote could stop anytime—if he were not a fanatic. (Repeat: “A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim.” –George Santayana)
4. No dialogue ever, except “beep-beep!”
5. The Road-Runner must stay on the road—otherwise, logically, he would not be called Road-Runner.
6. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters—the southwest American desert.
7. All materials, tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation.
8. Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote’s greatest enemy.
9. The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.
In a post a few years back, writer Jason Kottke shared a slightly different list with two more rules:
10. The audience’s sympathy must remain with the Coyote.
11. The Coyote is not allowed to catch or eat the Road-Runner.
Cartoon: Zoom and Bored (1957) Directed by Chuck Jones Color Model Cel and Painted Background Photo: Chuck Jones (circa 1990s) Chuck Jones Center for Creativity / Museum of the Moving Image