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The Acme Corporation is a fictional corporation that features prominently in the Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoons as a running gag featuring outlandish products that fail or backfire catastrophically at the worst possible times. The name is also used as a generic title in many cartoons, films, TV series and comic strips.
The company name in the Road Runner cartoons is ironic, since the word acme is derived from Greek (ακμή ; English transliteration: akmḗ) meaning the peak, zenith or prime, and products from the fictional Acme Corporation are both generic and failure-prone.
The name Acme became popular for businesses by the 1920s, when alphabetized business telephone directories such as the Yellow Pages began to be widespread. There was a flood of businesses named Acme, including Acme Brick, Acme Markets, and Acme Boots. Early Sears catalogues even contained a number of products with the "Acme" trademark, including anvils, which are frequently used in Warner Bros. cartoons.
Warner Brothers animator Chuck Jones has said the name Acme was chosen because of its prevalence:
Since we had to search out our own entertainment, we devised our own fairy stories. If you wanted a bow and arrow you got a stick. If you wanted to conduct an orchestra you got a stick. If you wanted a duel you used a stick. You couldn't go and buy one; that's where the terms acme came from. Whenever we played a game where we had a grocery store or something we called it the ACME corporation. Why? Because in the yellow pages if you looked, say, under drugstores, you'd find the first one would be Acme Drugs. Why? Because "AC" was about as high as you could go; it means the best; the superlative.—Chuck Jones in a 2009 documentary
The name Acme also had other connotations for people in Los Angeles at the time. Cartoon animation is drawn on paper and cels which have holes punched in them for registration. There were two standards: Acme and Oxberry. Oxberry was an American company started by John Oxberry in New Rochelle, New York, that produced a wide array of motion picture and special effects equipment, and was seen on the American east coast while Acme was dominant on the west coast during the early years of animation production. The Acme film equipment company in California not only made the hole punches but the animation stands used by all the west coast animation studios, as well as lights, some cameras and other film gear. Animators working at Warner Brothers used Acme punched paper shot on Acme animation stands drawn on Acme disks (light tables), so that having products come from Acme in cartoons was an inside joke that any animator would recognize.
The traffic lights in Los Angeles during the time the Warner Bros. cartoons were being made were manufactured by the Acme Traffic Signal Company. The traffic lights paired “Stop” and “Go” semaphore arms with small red and green lights. Bells played the role of today’s amber or yellow lights, ringing when the flags changed—a process that took five seconds. The Acme semaphore traffic lights were often used in Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons for comedic effect due to their loud bell which was often followed by screeching tires and many sight gags.
It is a common misconception that Acme is an acronym standing for such things as "A Company that Makes Everything", "American Companies Make Everything" or "American Company that Manufactures Everything".
Before Road Runner, an "Acme Company" which controls the production and sale of the fictional element "tungite" appears in the 1940 serial Mysterious Doctor Satan.
In Road Runner
The company is never clearly defined in Road Runner cartoons but appears to be a conglomerate which produces every product type imaginable, no matter how elaborate or extravagant – most of which never work as desired or expected. In the Road Runner cartoon Beep, Beep, it was referred to as "Acme Rocket-Powered Products, Inc." based in Fairfield, New Jersey. Many of its products appear to be produced specifically for Wile E. Coyote; for example, the Acme Giant Rubber Band, subtitled "(For Tripping Road Runners)".
Sometimes, Acme can also send living creatures through the mail, though that isn't done very often. Two examples of this are the Acme Wild-Cat, which had been used on Elmer Fudd and Sam Sheepdog (which doesn't maul its intended victim); and Acme Bumblebees in one-fifth bottles (which sting Wile E. Coyote). The Wild Cat was used in the shorts Don't Give Up the Sheep and A Mutt in a Rut, while the bees were used in the short Zoom and Bored.
While their products leave much to be desired, Acme delivery service is second to none; Wile E. can merely drop an order into a mailbox (or enter an order on a website, as in the Looney Tunes: Back in Action movie), and have the product in his hands within seconds.
The name "Acme" is used as a generic corporate name in a huge number of cartoons, comics, television shows (as early as an I Love Lucy episode), and film (as early as Buster Keaton's 1920 silent film Neighbors and Harold Lloyd's 1922 film Grandma's Boy).
Examples which specifically reference the Wile E. Coyote cartoon character include:
Animated films, TV series
- The 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit attempted to explain Acme's inner workings in detail. The movie's plot is centered on the murder of the founder of Acme Incorporated. Many of the film's scenes involve Acme products, and the climactic scene of the film is set in the Acme warehouse.
- The Tiny Toon Adventures series expanded on Acme's influence, with the entire setting of the show taking place in a city called "Acme Acres". The show's young protagonists attended "Acme Looniversity." In one episode, the coyote sues Acme, accusing it of making products which are unsafe. At the legal hearing, however, an Acme representative argues the products are not dangerous if used properly. For example, the coyote would attempt to launch himself using an Acme catapult by cutting the rope used to wind it, but the Acme representative pointed out that he was supposed to simply pull a lever.
- The corporation's influence also happened on Animaniacs, such as the Acme song from Cookies for Einstein, and Pinky and the Brain's home in Acme Labs.
- Acme Corporation is the main antagonist of the 2003 movie Looney Tunes: Back in Action. The head offices of Acme are depicted, revealing it to be a multinational corporation whose executive officers are led by the villainous Mr. Chairman, portrayed by Steve Martin.
- The cartoon series Loonatics Unleashed is set in Acmetropolis.
- In Family Guy, Peter is seen running an Acme store and Wile E. Coyote is complaining about some of the products he purchased which failed and mentions his many years of being an Acme customer. Peter offers to give him store credit.
- In Wakko's Wish, the Animaniacs feature film, the Warner siblings and other characters live in the village of Acme Falls.
- External World, David O'Reilly's short film, features Acme Retirement Castle, a dystopian retirement facility for disabled cartoon characters.
- Bell X1's song "One Stringed Harp" includes the lyric "Like Wile E. Coyote/As if the fall wasn't enough/Those bastards from Acme/They got more nasty stuff".
- The Brazilian thrash metal band Chakal has a song titled "Acme Dead End Road" from its 1990 album, The Man Is His Own Jackal. The song begins with the Road Runner signature sound "beep, beep".
- Joey Green wrote "Cliff-Hanger Justice," a fictional account of a product liability lawsuit by Wile E. Coyote against Acme, which appeared in three parts in the August 1982, September 1982, and October 1982 issues of National Lampoon magazine.
- Ian Frazier wrote a fictional opening statement as a humor article in The New Yorker Magazine (v66, Feb 26, 1990, p. 42) in the form of a lawsuit by Wile E. Coyote against the Acme Products Company. The piece is the title work of his collection, Coyote v. Acme (New York: Noonday Press) 1997 ISBN 0-374-52491-2; ISBN 978-0-374-52491-3.
- The Comprehensive Perl Archive Network provides an "Acme::" namespace which contains many humorous, useless and abstract modules for the Perl programming language.
- E.O. Costello. "ACME". The Warner Brothers Cartoon Companion.
- Peggy Stern and John Canemaker (filmmakers) (March 24, 2009). Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood (Documentary). Turner Classic Movies and Warner Bros. Event occurs at 12 min. Retrieved April 29, 2009.
- CityDig: Should I Stop or Should I Go? Early Traffic Signals in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Magazine. Retrieved 2015-01-01.
- "What does ACME stand for?". AcronymFinder.
- Catálogo Cogumelo 30 anos. Cogumelo Records. 2012. p. 83.
- Gordon III, James E., "A Bibliography of Humor and the Law", 1992 BYU Law Review No.2 427 at 451, retrieved August 15, 2013 from http://www.law2.byu.edu/lawreview4/archives/1992/2/gordo.pdf
- Wile E. Coyote, Plaintiff. vs. Acme Company, Defendant IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, SOUTHWESTERN DISTRICT, TEMPE, ARIZONA CASE NO. B19294, JUDGE JOAN KUJAVA, PRESIDING Frazier, Ian, The New Yorker, February 26, 1990, p. 42-44 Satire. Archived June 19, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
- "Journal of acme (189)". use Perl;. May 23, 2001. Archived from the original on May 11, 2011.
- "Wile E. Coyote vs. Acme Company". 'Lectric Law Library. Archived from the original on October 24, 2009. — Mock legal opening statement