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The McHenry Messenger

McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

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Analysis | Another failed attempt 

Warner Bros has received backlash after officially shelving the live action, animation hybrid film “Coyote Vs. ACME” for a tax write off 
Warner Bros.
Coyote vs. Acme, a comedy adventure film directed by Dave Green, is a combination live action/animation movie whose release was shelved by Warner Bros at the end of last year.

In late 2018, Warner Bros announced a new live-action, animation hybrid film under the name “Coyote Vs. ACME” following the popular Looney Tunes character Wile E. Coyote. Written by Samy Burch, James Gunn, Ian Frazier, and Jeremy Slater the film was highly anticipated by the public, but now the film’s history is uncertain.

The film’s production has been wrapped up since 2022 but has been permanently shelved as of now for a tax write off. Based on the 1996 book by Ian Frazier, the film follows the story of Wile E. Coyote suing the ACME company due to each of their products backfiring on him in his pursuit to catch the Road Runner. He hires an equally unlucky human attorney, played by Will Forte, to help him in his legal comedy. The film was shown in test screenings to a very positive reception, and the film was slated to be a huge success for the company. But in late 2023, it was announced the movie had finished as shelved.

Obviously a film that was so highly anticipated being shelved caused an uproar on social media sites. The Wrap reported that executives at Warner Bros did not even see the film before shelving the project. Which is weird, if a company has put money and time into a film it would make sense for them to release the film to try and make their money back right, that is unless the film was set up to be shelved. It is not new for a company especially in the entertainment industry to shelf a project for a tax break, it is just odd that the film was already finished and ready to be released when it was shelved. It was so odd that even a Texas Congressman, Joaquin Castro, took to the X to slam Warner Bros for axing the film. After scrutiny from the public and Congress, Warner Bros allowed the producers of the film to try and sell it to a variety of streaming services.

The movie was shown to executives for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Paramount. Each of these services were interested and had put in offers to show the movie but unknown to everyone involved, Warner Bros had made the decision that since the tax writeoff for the film would have been worth $35-$40 million, they wanted offers of $75-$80 million or more from the buyer. Telling these interested studios that it was a “take it or leave it situation”. The fact studios after finding out it was a flat rate price still wanted the movie but were denied is a poor decision on Warner Bros part. Paramount had announced that if they got the movie they would have also released it into theaters and given Warner Bros the earnings. The worst part is that the movie cost around $70 million, so the tax write off would not even cover how much the film took to make. Warner Bros removed the film from their release schedule back in April 2022, being replaced by “Barbie”. They even replaced Barbie’s original release date of July 21st, 2023, which was “Coyote Vs. ACME”’s planned release date.

The movie featured two-dimensional (2D) animation, which looking at the last decade or more has been a dying art form in the realm of full length features, in terms of big animation studios. Disney dropped the use of traditional 2D animation for their films after the release of “The Princess and The Frog.” It is disappointing to say that 2D animation in films just is not as profitable as computer generated images (CGI) which is why most of those big companies like Disney, and Dreamworks have moved away from 2D. Movies that use animation now mainly just use CGI, even in films that have the contrast between a human and a cartoon character. It would have been a nice spin on the industry and refreshing for audiences to see a big studio use something other than CGI. Though the use of CGI is in the movie, it is not done in the style that has become popular in the last couple of years which is CGI animation trying to look like 2D. Animators for the film worked with 2D sketches to stay as close to style as possible. Additionally for background characters and character cameos true hand drawn 2D animation was used. Shelving this film further pushed the idea and the opinion that these big studios do not care about 2D animation in films and do not see them as a profitable art form.

Now yes releasing a film like this is a risk, releasing any film in general is too. A risk many in the entertainment industry now do not want to take. In the eyes of critics animation is at a low, with remakes and sequels dominating the animation scene right now it is making it hard for studios to take risks in animation in fear of failure. That is why Warner Bros pulled the plug so late, they are scared of failing. After the huge success that was “Barbie” the studio wants that again but there is the possibility that they might fail. The same thing has happened at Disney, with them focusing more on forcing diversity rather than creating stories, and in smaller studios like Nickelodeon and their refusal to let “Spongebob” end. These are companies they need, they want money and unfortunately Warner Bros felt that this movie would not succeed, deciding to lock it away instead of taking the risk.

“Coyote Vs. ACME” may never see the light of day and unfortunately something that happens a lot in entertainment and it should not. Take risks and release the movies that hundreds of people put hours, days, years working on. Let their hard work and stories be shown. A company never truly knows what will and would not be a success, who knows this could have been the next “Barbie” but we will never see it. The government should do more in situations like this where a multimillion dollar company can just cancel something to get out of paying taxes.

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