Sit back and imagine working on something for months, maybe even years. You put your heart and soul into a creative endeavor that you believe in with a recognizable movie star and classic cartoon characters like Wile E. Coyote and his forever nemesis, Roadrunner, and get to the finish line. You await a release date because principal photography has been done for a year. Then, the news is not only will it not be released, but it will be shelved forever because the studio chose to go the $30 million tax write-off route.
This is precisely the scenario the creatives behind these action/animated hybrid Coyote vs. Acme are facing at a studio in Warner Bros that is supposed to be considered pro-creatives. The SAG-AFRA and WGA strikes have made tremendous gains in their collective efforts for overall improvements for workers in the industry. However, the tax write-downs that began with projects like Batgirl and Scoob: Holiday Haunt is another issue that must be rectified. If you’re a director or writer, what confidence do you have going to Warner Bros. and trusting them not to decide to do this again? Especially when the 2024 film slate has a lot of holes in it because of the reluctance to provide a fair deal.
I’m not sure how you can’t sell a Roger Rabbit-like film with one of the most identifiable stars on the planet, but apparently, that was a bridge too far. It’s not just local to one studio. Disney took a $1.5 billion content write-off charge last year, where many streaming titles were pulled to the effect of the creatives involved not having records of them—all of these projects that took thousands of hours to create just gone without a trace. When you do this, you’re essentially giving two messages. Some viewers might be reluctant to check out new things because previous seasons or theatrical installments are suddenly taken off the board. It’s also a red flag to storytellers because you’re telling them what they do is distilled down to content.
To move where the industry can champion new ideas or take fresh approaches to old properties, you must start allowing things to be. Unfortunately, Coyote vs. Acme will collect dust in a vault in an alarming trend that needs not to creep into more normalized.