Watch Smarter

Meep Meep!

The surprising history of how the Road Runner—and other classic cartoons—got their sounds.

We all know what the scrambling cartoon caveman in The Flintstones sounds like, or the sound of a roadrunner sticking out his tongue. But these classic cartoon sounds don’t exist in real life. Where do they come from? How did somebody settle on a sound that’s so different from anything in the real world?

In this episode of Watch Smarter, Slate’s video series about hidden tropes in pop culture and beyond, we trace the surprising history of cartoon sounds we all know but have never quite understood. Our story begins with live orchestras in the 1920s and ends, more or less, inside a coke bottle.

See all Watch Smarter episodes and follow the series on Facebook.

Shon Arieh-Lerer is a writer, producer, and a member of the comedy group His Majesty, the Baby.
Aaron Wolfe is a writer, filmmaker, and obsessive fan of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. Find him at aaron-wolfe.com.