The company name in the Road Runner cartoons is ironic, since the word acme is derived from Greek (αιχμή / ακμή ; English transliteration: acmē) 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 were a flood of businesses named Acme (some of these still survive). For example, early Sears catalogues contained a number of products with the "Acme" trademark, including anvils, which are frequently used in Warner Bros. cartoons.
We were little madcaps along the beach and we did what we enjoyed doing and could get dirty and could eat hot dogs and so on. 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.
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 - none of which ever 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)".
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.
Examples which specifically reference the Wile E. Coyote cartoon character include:
Animated films, TV series
The Tiny Toons 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." Calamity Coyote often bought products from Acme in his quest to catch the road-runner Little Beeper.
The 2003 movie Looney Tunes: Back in Action showed the head offices of Acme, revealed to be a multinational corporation whose executive officers were led by a supervillain called "Mr. Chairman", portrayed by Steve Martin.
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.
External World, David O'Reilly's short film, features Acme Retirement Castle, a dystopian retirement facility for disabled cartoon characters.
Live-action films, TV series
The 1988 Disney/Amblin film Who Framed Roger Rabbit attempted to explain Acme's inner workings in detail. The movie's plot is centered on the murder of Marvin Acme, 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 factory. The Acme Corporation also appeared to produce non-Toonish devices, and had a company slogan: "If it's Acme, it's a gasser".
In the movie Armageddon (1998), a reference is made to Coyote's failed attempts to catch the Road Runner with an Acme rocket.
In Last Action Hero, ACME products (ACME dynamite, ACME Storage Center cardboard boxes, ACME video store, old ACME Engineering sign, ACME construction crane...) can be seen in the "Jack Slater IV" movie. An excerpt from a Wile E. Coyote cartoon is also shown early in the movie.
In the web series Web Therapy (2009), a reference is made to ACME by Lisa Kudrow's character Fiona Wallice as a non-reliable DNA lab, its label including 'a Road Runner and a coyote'.
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".
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.
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".
^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.
^Catálogo Cogumelo 30 anos. Cogumelo Records. 2012. p. 83.