“It’s a sad day for this famous and fictional old company”, said Frank Kerfuffle, long-time CEO of the Acme Corporation, which is currently filing for bankruptcy. “We have had a long and distinguished history in the film business, supplying make-believe - and generally sub-standard - products to clients such as Harold Lloyd, Woody Woodpecker and, most recently, Pete from Family Guy. But the new rules about product placement mean that there will now be fewer opportunites to feature our range of products on prime-time TV. We’re not Apple or Coca Cola, so we can’t afford to pay for the kind of exposure we’ve had for free over the years. All good things must come to an end. What can I say, as we head into receivership, except ‘That’s all, folks!’
“Our longest-lasting association - and the one for which the company is best known - was with Wile E. Coyote of the Road Runner cartoons, who tried, and failed, to catch his intended victim in every single episode of the cartoon, produced by the legendary Chuck Jones, during the golden age of cartooning. We are proud to say that whenever Wile E. Coyete needed some inspiration about how to catch the Road Runner, the Acme Corporation’s mail-order catalogue was the first place he looked.
“We stocked pretty much everything in those heady days. When Wile E. Coyote painted a tunnel entrance on a rock, then watched incredulously as Road Runner zoomed straight through, it was special-order Acme paint he used. When he fell into a canyon, and climbed out of the coyote-shaped hole he’d made in the ground, it was one of our patented 16-ton weights that flattened him. Whenever he wanted Earthquake Pills, Jet Powered Roller Skates or a Self-Guided Aerial Bomb, he just had to post a letter and the product would appear, as if by magic, a few seconds later. It’s that kind of delivery service that made the Acme Corporation the leader in the field of funny fantasy products.
“It seems hard to imagine now, but no money changed hands. Wile E. Coyote never sent a cheque with his order, and we never paid a dime to Warner Brothers to have our products malfunction so spectacularly on TV. In fact, we were grateful to Wile E. Coyote for road-testing some of our more improbable products; today we would probably call him a ‘beta tester’. The value of the on-screen exposure - an early example of product placement, you might say - is hard to guage, since most of the products blew up in Wile E. Coyote’s face, leaving him singed, sorry-looking and still hungry.
“Our contract with Warner Brothers stipulated that the laws of ‘cartoon physics’ should always be obeyed. No Road Runners were harmed during the making of the cartoons, and Wile E Coyote’s lawyers insisted that any injury arising from the mis-use of any Acme-branded explosives should be both superficial and short-lived. In fact, no matter how much cartoon violence was unleashed during an episode, everyone was friends again by the time the credits rolled, enjoying a glass of Acme beer or two in one of the actors’ trailers. I loved those guys. I just wish I knew what happened to them." *
* Wile E. Coyote defied the laws of gravity one too many times, and was buried where he lay, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Road Runner just ran out of road; the inscription on his gravestone, a model of brevity, reads ‘beep, beep’...