Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Interview With Hannibal Blatch, ACME Company CEO

Hannibal Blatch, ACME CEO
The Acme Company, headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, is one of the most diverse manufacturing and distribution companies in the world today.  For decades, customers from Alabama to Zimbabwe have looked to Acme for pet supplies (Acme Birdseed), recreation (Acme Jet-Propelled Pogo Stick), novelties (Acme Explosive Tennis Balls) and even for local weather control (Acme Do-it-Yourself Tornado Kit).

Today we're happy to have Acme's long-time CEO Hannibal X. Blatch here with us to talk about his company's history and shed some light on a controversial lawsuit filed against him in the 1970's. 

Knucklehead Humor: Thanks for talking to us today, Mr. Blatch.  Let's start by having you tell us a little bit about your company's history.

Hannibal Blatch: Yeah, sure.  The original owners of Acme were Ron and Josephine Farkle, who started the company in the 30's as a roller skate shop.  You remember those old metal skates that you had to have a special key to adjust the size?  Ron and his sons made the skates, and Jo ran the front of the store.  It really was a mom and pop operation.  They began to expand in the early 40's, adding a variety of other toys like Acme pogo sticks, Acme red wagons, and Acme hula hoops.  Acme's Toy Store grew in popularity and then in the 1952 the business just exploded.

KH: You mean, sales increased dramatically?

HB: No, I mean the factory blew up. See, Ron and Jo's youngest son Frank was into firecrackers and other explosives and was something of a pyromaniac.  He was trying to improve on Acme's original product, the roller skates, by adding external propulsion mechanisms, or as they're more commonly called, rockets.  During initial testing, Frank's first pair of rocket skates exploded upon ignition, blowing the entire Acme factory sky-high. 

KH: My god, was anyone hurt?

HB: Uh, yeah, the guy wearing the skates was Jackson Pollocked all over the floor. 

KH: Okay, changing the subject.  How did you get involved with Acme?

HB: Well, by this point Ron and Jo Farkle had turned the day-to-day operation over to Frank and their other son Martin.  Those two rebuilt the factory pretty much from scratch and decided to make Acme an all-purpose manufacturing and distribution company.  They moved away from toys and expanded into areas like novelties, military gear, hardware, anything you could think of.  I applied for a job in the warehouse and started out literally sweeping floors and stocking shelves.  Martin Farkle took a liking to me, and gradually gave me more responsibility.  From the warehouse I was promoted into the shipping department, then up into the business department, and after Frank passed away in 1962 and Martin retired a year later, the board of directors appointed me CEO. 

KH: So you could say you really did start at the bottom and worked your way to the top.

HB: I think I did just say that, in so many words. 

KH: How did the company evolve under your leadership?

HB: I just followed the course that the Farkle Brothers had set, continuing to expand our product line.  Acme became a household name, featuring products like Acme Roller Skis, Acme Giant Springs, Acme Earthquake Pills, and so on and so forth.  Our product development department was staffed with geniuses from MIT and Caltech, and they came up with some brilliant ideas.  My personal favorite is the Acme Invisible Paint.  One coat of that will render any object completely invisible.  I painted my car with that stuff once, and you should've seen the looks I got on the freeway. 

KH: So is it safe to say that you took the company from being an innocent toy manufacturer to producing a diverse line of dangerous -- some would say lethal -- products?

HB: Lethal?  No, I wouldn't say that our products are . . . wait a minute, you're referring to that stupid legal bullshit from several years back, aren't you?  Wile E. Coyote was a complete buffoon who used our products for purposes other than which they were intended.  There is nothing inherently dangerous about, say, the Acme Spring-Powered Shoes, but if you're going to be stupid enough to attach them to a large boulder, you deserve whatever harm befalls you.  But despite his own colossal stupidity, Coyote decided to sue us anyway.  I'd call it a frivolous waste of time, but unfortunately the courts saw it differently.  Simply put, Wile E. Coyote was a conniving liar, looking to make a buck at Acme's expense. 

KH: Well, that lawsuit put Acme on the front page of every newspaper in the country and cost the company millions.  There must've been some truth to the plaintiff's allegations.

 HB: None whatsoever!  I'm telling you, our stuff is safe.  Just because Wile E. Coyote got hurt while using, or more accurately, misusing Acme products doesn't mean the products themselves are to blame.  Hell, ANYTHING can cause injury in the hands of an idiot.  People spill hot coffee on themselves, but I don't see you getting all up in Maxwell House's face for producing "lethal products."  It's ridiculous.  I challenge you to name even one Acme product whose main purpose is to cause harm. 

KH: The Acme Giant Catapult comes to mind.

HB: Okay, look.  The catapult was a key exhibit in the lawsuit because Mr. Coyote apparently can't read a warning label.  It's right there on the side of the device, "Do not stand directly behind catapult after loading, because if the load is too heavy, the entire catapult may tip over backwards and crush the hell out of you.  The user is advised to stand off to the side of the catapult to ensure his safety."  And anyway, who uses a catapult and a boulder to catch a friggin' roadrunner?  It's ironic, isn't it, that Coyote intended to use the catapult to harm the roadrunner, but it ended up harming Mr. Coyote. 

KH: So you admit that the main function of the catapult is to cause harm.

HB: Maybe when it's used by Mr. Coyote, but history has shown that he can harm himself with pretty much anything.  Rocket skates, anvils, a Christmas package machine, giant rubber bands . . . he's just a world-class injury magnet who doesn't learn from his mistakes.  But to answer your question seriously, the Acme Catapult was never intended to be a weapon.  It's more of a display item. 

KH: What are your personal feelings about Mr. Coyote?

HB: If it weren't for the fact that he screwed us out of millions of dollars, I'd actually feel sorry for the guy.  He was so focused on catching that damn roadrunner that he barely noticed all the physical pain and suffering he caused himself.  In a weird way, that's kind of admirable.  But at the end of the day, he was a liar and a cheat and for that I can't forgive him.  And that's a shame, because he was always our best customer.  No one's done the math, but I wouldn't be surprised if most of the money he won in the lawsuit was money he'd paid to us in the first place.   

KH: Did the lawsuit have any impact on Acme's product line, or on how you do business?

HB: It set us back a bit at first, we had to lay off some employees and streamline our distribution routes, but other than that it was business as usual.  Most of our business now comes from Internet orders, which helps with some of the overhead.  And because our company is so diverse, we're not as susceptible to the current economic downturn.  We'll be fine. 

KH: What do you see for Acme in the future?

HB: Just continuing to do what we do best, provide our customers with a wide selection of top-quality merchandise at competitive prices.  You need birdseed, call Acme.  Running low on axle grease, call Acme.  In the mood for a thrilling ride, who are you going to go to for a jet-propelled unicycle?

KH: Acme?

HB: Damn right.  We've got it all.  That's what ACME stands for, A Company Making Everything.

KH: Thanks for talking with us, Mr. Blatch.  Best of luck to you.

HB: No problem, thanks for having me.


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Eva Gallant said...

Brilliant, once again! I loved this post!

Suldog said...

God bless Mr. Blatch! Without his fine products, my childhood Saturday mornings would have been much bleaker.

Frank Lee MeiDere said...

You have a true knack with these things. But...have I read this before, or am I suffering a deja vu moment?

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