Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Stuff I've Done--4
A long, long, time ago in a world far, far away, it was 1992. I was working with a small TV animation studio. Word came that MTV, then the outermost molecule of the cutting edge, was seeking short animated series for its hip new anthology, Liquid Television. Everyone in the studio, even me, was invited to bring their ideas to a pitch meeting.
Even back then "hip" was not what I was. If I'd been any less hip I'd have needed replacement surgery. So I decided just to be myself. I prepared two boards to present my personal mixture of art deco, obscure reference, and word play. My series was to be called Flab of Fury, Sword of Doom. It was set in a city called Decotropolis, which name I think has since been used by someone else.It's easy to tell the age of the proposal by its references: those were the days of Lone Wolf and Cub and a dog called "Spuds" who starred in Miller Light Beer ads. Mexican wrestling was still a niche genre, almost unknown outside Los Angeles.I liked my idea, naturally, but it definitely wasn't what MTV was looking for. However our company did place a series on Liquid Television: Joe Horne's The Specialists. Joe is one of the many unsung talents of TV animation. He's still in the business--he has directed dozens of series from Disney's Teamo Supremo to Boondocks--but few people remember The Specialists and its equally brilliant MTV forerunner Stevie and Zoya. We had no idea what our competition would be, but we were all confident that The Specialists would be a smash. It was clever, it was hip, it was loaded with cultural references, and at the time its visual style was absolutely unique.
Which goes to show how wrong you can be. The Specialists got barely a nod. The MTV audience doted instead upon an animated comic-book fantasy called Aeon Flux. You may have heard of it. But there was one short that even the hippest of us thought was the ugliest, stupidest, and most worthless of all the Liquid Television contenders. This was a one-shot called "Frog Football," and it introduced two characters named Beavis and Butt-Head.