I admit it: I'm an adult (although I suppose that's arguable) who watches cartoons. And I'm not just talking The Simpsons or Family Guy (although I like those too) – I have a real thing for [adult swim] on the Cartoon Network. I know I'm not alone – those guys (and gals) at Williams Street have a major cult following. I enjoy most of their shows – excluding anime, sorry – but thought I'd highlight a few of my favorites and share some of the behind-the-scenes stories from them.
I'm not a fan of death metal, but this show cracks me up. It follows the exploits of the band Dethklok - lead singer Nathan Explosion, Pickles the drummer (doodily doo, ding-dong doodily-doodily-doo), lead guitarist Skwisgaar Skwigelf (taller than a tree), rhythm guitarist Toki Wartooth (not a Bumblebee) and bassist William Murderface (Murderface, Murderface, Murderface). Dethklok is the biggest band in the world and their fans follow them rabidly – even to the point of death. The government is really concerned that Dethklok is going to use their extremely dedicated fanbase to take over the world, so a Tribunal has been formed to gather information about and ultimately dispose of the band. And now, the trivia:
• Nathan's parents are Oscar and Rose Explosion of New Port Richey, Florida.
• Murderface's tattoos say "Pobody's Nerfect" and "This Place is a Mess".
• Musicians love the show, at least based on the number of them that have had cameos. James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett of Metallica; Jeff Loomis, Steve Smyth and Warrel Dane of Nevermore; as well as members of Cannibal Corpse, Zyklon, Strapping Young Lad, Emperor, Dimmu Borgir and violinist Emilie Autumn.
• Dethklok is going on tour this summer. How? The series co-creator, Brendon Small, says they will tour in a manner similar to the Gorillaz – the people who play the instruments for the animated characters will be the ones going on tour.
• Skwisgaar is a member of two side projects – 10 Points to Gryffindor, a Harry Potter tribute band; and
Depantsification Proclamation, a nudist Civil War-styled band.
• Toki hates Rachael Ray. We don't know why.
• Pickles has asthma.
OK, take Bruce Wayne but give him the personality of Brody Jenner. That's Xander Crews, AKA Awesome X, the "superhero" of Frisky Dingo. Now take… umm… OK, remember Arnold Schwarzenegger in his body-building days? Take that body, make him albino, give him a British accent… OK, no, nevermind. Our villain, Killface, is really in a category all of his own. He's a giant, white, British alien, it would seem, and he's hell-bent on taking over the world/blowing it up with the Annihilatrix. The thing that makes it such a funny show is that it juxtaposes the fantastical world of superheroes and villains with the mundane – the Xtacles, for example, are really concerned about life insurance and benefits. Killface has a dysfunctional relationship with his son, Simon. A few more interesting facts about Frisky Dingo:
• The name of the show was originally Whiskey Tango, but that name was already taken by a band. To avoid legal issues, the name was changed to Frisky Dingo.
• Awesome X's minions are called the Xtacles, which cracks me up every time I hear it.
• Killface, Xander, Simon and Taqu'il (Simon's favorite rapper) all have their own MySpace pages. Killface's MySpace says he is 7'6", 47 years old and loves anything with Sir Sidney Poitier in it. Xander flatly states he is only on the Internet to meet women; his favorite singers are Phil Collins and Sting and his favorite book is How to Succeed in Business Without Ever Trying Ever.
• Exactly what does Frisky Dingo mean? The code words to activate the Annihilatrix (therefore blowing up the world) are… yep… "Frisky Dingo".
• The creators, Adam Reed and Matt Thompson, also created SeaLab 2021, which also happens to be one of my favorites…
One of [adult swim]'s favorite tricks seems to be dubbing over old cartoons with subversive dialogue. In this case, Adam Reed and Matt Thompson took the old Hanna-Barbera environmental cartoon Sealab 2020, which only aired for 13 episodes in 1972. In Sealab 2021, instead of trying to save the environment, the crew pretty much spends all of their time trying to avoid work. A few things you might not have known:
• Marco Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar Gabriel Garcia Marquez has a thing for the t.v. show CHiPs, which happens to star Erik Estrada. Guess who provides the voice for Marco Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar Gabriel Garcia Marquez? …Erik Estrada.
• The main character of the show, Captain Hazel "Hank" Murphy, was voiced by Harry Goz. When Goz died in 2003 and Captain Murphy left Sealab to go fight in the Great Spice Wars. Captain Bellerophon "Torpedo" Shanks was recruited for the open position via a "Help Wanted" ad and took over as Captain of Sealab – he was voiced by Harry Goz' son, Michael Goz.
• There were real SEALABs – three of them, in fact. The first one was lowered off the coast of Bermuda in 1964 but stopped after only 11 days because a tropical storm was headed in that direction. SEALAB II was placed in La Jolla Canyon off the coast of California in 1965. Tuffy the Porpoise delivered supplies to SEALAB II. Seriously. SEALAB III of 1969 was pretty much disastrous. First, the habitat started to leak and the six divers sent to repair it were unsuccessful. Then, aquanaut Barry Cannon died of carbon monoxide poisoning because of a faulty breathing apparatus. Finally, it appeared that someone was trying to sabotage the air supply of the five other divers. The SEALAB experiments were stopped after that.
Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law
In a similar vein, the Cartoon Network took the old Hanna-Barbera cartoon Birdman and the Galaxy Trio and created Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law. The original cartoon featured Ray Randall, AKA Birdman, who was just a regular human being until the Sun God Ra endowed him with the ability to shoot "solar rays" and "solar shields" from his fists. Oh, and the ability to fly, obviously. His trademark is his battle cry of "Biiiiiiiiirdman!!!!" The updated version has Our Hero, now named Harvey, as a retired superhero who practices law with other old Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters like Peter Potamus and the Blue Falcon. He represents or prosecutes other characters, including the Scooby Doo posse (accused of pot possession), Fred Flintstone (racketeering) and Grape Ape (Steroid use).
• The law firm on the show, Sebben and Sebben, is a play on the drink Seven and Seven.
• Stephen Colbert is the voice of Myron Reducto, Phil Ken Sebben and The Eagle of Truth
• Lots of characters from Birdman and the Galaxy Trio were recycled for Harvey Birdman.
o The original Avenger is Birdman's friend and can carry him when Birdman is unable to fly. Updated Avenger is Harvey's legal secretary and does a lot of filing and taking dictation. o Falcon-7 is Birdman's government contact. Updated Falcon-7 is actually Phil Ken Sebben, one of the partners of Sebben and Sebben Law. o The original Birdboy is a boy who was rescued by Birdman because he was near-death. To revive the boy, Birdman transferred some of his powers. The updated Birdboy is now called Peanut and was hired by Harvey to be his legal clerk. He wears a sweater vest and has a rivalry with Avenger. o Birdgirl was created by Birdman's nemesis to destroy him, but she realized that she was being used for evil and defected to Birdman's side. Updated Birdgirl is the alter-ego of Judy Ken Sebben, Phil Ken Sebben's daughter. Phil doesn't know the identity of Birdgirl and hits on her whenever she shows up. o Reducto was a mad scientist who uses a shrink ray on his enemies. In modern times, he's Myron Reducto, a rival lawyer. He and Birdman now only argue in the courtroom; outside of work they are friends and even carpool to work.
Space Ghost Coast to Coast
Space Ghost is the show that kicked off the trend of taking an old cartoon and retooling it for [adult swim] viewers. Space Ghost's original debut was in 1966 in Space Ghost and Dino Boy. Space Ghost's talk show, however, started its run in 1994. Space Ghost Coast to Coast features the man himself interviewing various celebrities. In a strange twist of events, his old enemies Zorak, Moltar and Brak now work for his show as his bandleader, producer and… Brak.
• Four rocks found on Mars have been named Space Ghost, Zorak, Moltar and Brak.
• One of the show's writers was Joel Hodgson, the creator/star/writer of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
• The interview process is a bit odd for the people being interviewed. They are placed into an all-black room and "Space Ghost" asks them questions via speaker phone. Their answers are later chopped up and applied to completely different questions.
• Guests include Weird Al, Adam West, Michael Stipe (Space Ghost says, "Is that you in the corner?" and Michael Stipe responds, "Yes, it is."), Slash, Hulk Hogan, Tenacious D, Jim Carrey, Willie Nelson, Conan O'Brien, Tyra Banks and Ben Stiller. My other favorite [adult swim] offerings are Robot Chicken, Tom Goes to the Mayor and The Oblongs (though it's not a Williams Street production).
Any other [adult swim] fans out there? What are your favorites?