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, commercials and comic strips. It is used also as an organization's placeholder name.
The company name in the Road Runner cartoons is ironic, since the word acme is derived from Greek (ακμή; English transliteration: akmē) 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. 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, but the owner instead); 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 Disney/Touchstone and Amblin Entertainment 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 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.
- The 2015 direct-to-video animated film Looney Tunes: Rabbits Run portrays Acme as a department store.
ACME Department Store in Looney Tunes: Rabbits Run
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