Aqua Teen Hunger Force (also known by various ) is an American animated television series created by Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro for Cartoon Network's late night programming block, Adult Swim. Aqua Teen Hunger Force was about the surreal adventures and antics of three anthropomorphic fast food items: Master Shake, Frylock, and Meatwad, who lived together as roommates and frequently interacted with their human next-door neighbor, Carl Brutananadilewski.
It was created as a spin-off series of Space Ghost Coast to Coast. The unannounced pilot episode aired on Cartoon Network on December 30, 2000; the series later made its debut on Adult Swim on September 9, 2001. Every episode was written and directed by series creators Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro, who also provided several voices in the series. Seasons 8-11 were each given a different alternative title, accompanied by a different theme music, as a running gag. The final episode aired on August 30, 2015, with a total of 139 episodes, over the course of eleven seasons.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, a film adaptation of the series, was released in theaters on April 13, 2007, marking the first time an Adult Swim series was adapted into a feature-length film. The series airs in broadcast syndication outside the United States and has been released on various DVD sets and other forms of home media, including video on demand streaming.
The series centers on the surreal adventures and antics of three anthropomorphic fast food items: Master Shake, a selfish, pathological lying milkshake; Frylock, an intelligent, well-meaning box of French fries; and Meatwad, a shapeshifting, simple-minded ball of ground meat. They live together as roommates, and often interact with their human neighbor Carl Brutananadilewski, a balding, middle-aged, sex-crazed sports fanatic who often gets along poorly with them. The main protagonists also interact with various villains or other individuals in each episode; these interactions are often restricted to one episode, as minor characters rarely reappear in following episodes. Some episodes feature the main protagonists interacting with celebrities (such as adult film actress Tera Patrick) and occasionally with historical figures and professional athletes (such as Bart Oates or John Kruk).
The Mooninites are two aliens from the Moon who frequently appear, serving as primary antagonists and wreaking havoc through a series of illegal or destructive actions. The Mooninites appear more than most characters outside of the main cast. Other recurring characters have made several appearances, including Oglethorpe and Emory, MC Pee Pants, Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future, and Dr. Wongburger. Episodes often end with the non-canon deaths or injuries of major characters, or destruction to their property (both Carl's and the protagonists' homes have been damaged or destroyed in multiple episodes), only to be restored with no explanation or mention in the following episode.
In the show's first seven seasons, the protagonists lived in a suburban neighborhood in South New Jersey. In 2011, during the eighth season, the location was changed to Seattle, Washington. The Seattle neighborhood appeared identical to the protagonists' neighborhood from the first seven seasons, except that each episode began with the caption "Seattle" on the bottom of the screen. As of the ninth season, the same neighborhood was located in the fictional location of Seattle, New Jersey.
The three main characters—Master Shake, Frylock, and Meatwad—were originally created for an episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast called "Baffler Meal", where they were the corporate mascots for the fictional fast-food chain "Burger Trench". The original versions of the trio were prototypes which resembled the future characters, but both Master Shake and Frylock differed in appearance, personality, and voice from their ultimate design. The original name "Teen Hunger Force" refers to the squad's mission to conquer hunger in teens.
"Baffler Meal" did not air for several years, and was not even animated or produced until after the series became popular. Instead, the Space Ghost episode was rewritten as "Kentucky Nightmare", while the trio, along with Carl Brutananadilewski, debuted in "Rabbot", the pilot episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. A full season consisting of sixteen episodes, including "Rabbot", was put into production shortly thereafter. The series was one of Adult Swim's most popular shows.
In early episodes, the trio were identified by Master Shake as the "Aqua Teen Hunger Force", which solved crimes for money. After a few episodes, this premise and the use of the name by the characters were dropped. The premise was a trick that had been added to appease Cartoon Network executives, who "didn't want to air a show about food just going around and doing random things". In the show itself, Frylock mentions that they stopped fighting crime because "that wasn't making us a whole lot of money".
Writing and direction
Every episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force is written and directed by series creators Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro, and produced by Williams Street. Much of the dialogue is supplemented with ad libs and improvisation by the voice talent. The show is fully scripted but ad libs are included in the final voice recordings and the shows are animated to include this improvisation. Many of the crew and cast members formerly worked on Space Ghost Coast to Coast.
In 2011, for the eighth season, the series' title was changed from Aqua Teen Hunger Force to Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1; Maiellaro later explained that he and Willis were getting bored with the former title and wanted to "come up with a new fresh open and a whole new show, just to try it out".
The main cast of the series consists of Dana Snyder as Master Shake, Carey Means as Frylock, and series co-creator Dave Willis as both Meatwad and Carl, as well as Ignignokt. In addition to the main cast series co-creator Matt Maiellaro voices Err and Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future. Members of the main cast and Matt Maiellaro also voice several minor and one-time characters in addition to their primary roles. All three of the main characters have appeared in almost every episode of the series. They are all completely absent from the season five episode "Sirens" and the season ten episode "Spacecadunce". Additionally, in the season five episode "Robots Everywhere", Frylock and Master Shake only make brief unseen speaking cameos, while Meatwad is completely absent from the entire episode.
Voiceover artist George Lowe has made several appearances throughout the series run. Lowe had previously starred as Space Ghost in Space Ghost Coast to Coast and the original incarnation of Cartoon Planet, from which several cast and crew members moved on to work for Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Lowe made his first appearance in Aqua Teen Hunger Force in the season one episode "Mail Order Bride" and would go on to make several other cameos. Lowe had a prominent appearance as himself in the season four episode "Antenna", and reprised his role as Space Ghost for a quick appearance in Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters. Lowe was later considered a member of the main cast in 2011 during Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1, where he announced the title for each episode and continued to make cameos. Lowe later made another prominent appearance in the Aqua Something You Know Whatever episode "Rocket Horse and Jet Chicken".
Series animator C. Martin Croker, known for his interpretation of Zorak in various shows and specials, provided the voices of both Dr. Weird and Steve during the cold openings for the first two seasons and "Allen Part One". Croker also voiced several birds in the season seven episode "Eggball". Andy Merrill has portrayed Oglethorpe alongside Mike Schatz as Emory in several episodes. Merrill is also well known for his interpretation of Brak in several shows and specials and provided the voice of Merle in "Escape from Leprechaupolis" and "The Last One". MC Chris, who has a history of voicing characters on Adult Swim programs, has provided the voice of MC Pee Pants in several episodes. Chris also provided the voice of eight-year-old Carl in "Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future" and later returned for a musical role in the season seven episode "One Hundred", after a long absence from the series. Tommy Blacha entered into the recurring cast with the introduction of his character Wongburger in the season four episode "Dickesode". With the exception of Tommy Blacha, the entire recurring cast reprised their roles for the 2007 film Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters.
In addition to the main cast, various comedians, athletes, and other celebrities have made guest appearances throughout the series, usually credited under pseudonyms.
|Dana Snyder||Carey Means||Dave Willis||Matt Maiellaro||George Lowe||C. Martin Croker|
|Master Shake||Frylock||Meatwad, Carl, Ignignokt, Boxy Brown, Various||Err, Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future, Markula, Various||Season eight episode announcer, Various, himself||Dr. Weird, Steve, Various|
Rapper Schoolly D performed the Aqua Teen Hunger Force theme song, used for the first seven seasons. An extended remix version of the theme was used in the 2007 film adaption based on the series and in the soundtrack for the 2011 video game Saints Row: The Third. After a multi-year absence from the series, Schoolly D returned for the season seven episode "Rabbot Redux" where he performed a different theme song used exclusively for that episode. The special intro used in "Rabbot Redux" featured the exact animation used in the regular intro. Each season now features an entirely different theme song from a different artist with a different animated intro. The eighth season under the title was written and performed by Josh Homme and Alain Johannes. Schoolly D returned yet again for the season nine intro for Aqua Something You Know Whatever where he wrote and performed it along with Mariachi El Bronx. In April 2013 it was announced that the season ten theme song was composed by Flying Lotus, an artist whose work has frequently been featured in several bumps for Adult Swim. Every episode features an opening sequence, with the rare exceptions of the season two episode "The Last One", the season nine episode "The Granite Family", and the season ten episode "Spacecadeuce".
In November 2006, Schoolly D and Cartoon Network were sued over the original opening theme music. A drummer by the name of Terence Yerves claimed he had also written the theme music alongside Schoolly D in 1999 while working at the Meat Locker Studio. Yerves was aware the song would be used for a television series, but did not approve of it being used for Aqua Teen Hunger Force; however, he did not file the copyright to the Library of Congress until May 2006, after the series' fourth season had already started airing. In the lawsuit Yerves demanded he receive $150,000 for every time the series was aired after the lawsuit was filed; he also demanded that all existing copies of the series' DVDs be impounded and for Aqua Teen Hunger Force to cease broadcast.
During the first two seasons, episodes cold-opened with a glimpse into the laboratory of Dr. Weird. He and his assistant Steve use the first several seconds of the show to create monsters, disasters, and various things. In earlier episodes of the first season, the monsters or creations usually formed the basis for the plot, but as the crime-fighting element of the program disappeared, the Dr. Weird segment became a non sequitur opening gag.
In the third season the Dr. Weird openings were replaced with segments from the pilot episode of Spacecataz, an unaired spin-off created by Willis and Maiellaro. Six episodes were planned for production, but Adult Swim felt that there was little, if anything, that could be made into five more episodes, since all of the characters were destroyed at the end of the pilot, despite the parent series being predominantly non-canon. These segments featured the Mooninites and Plutonians trading insults, gestures, and practical jokes. The full Spacecataz pilot is available as a special feature on the Volume Four DVD box-set. The Mooninites appear to outsmart the Plutonians for much of the series including tagging the Plutonians' ship and reversing a prank that involved 50 million large pizzas.
Cold openings were eliminated completely starting with the fourth season premiere, "Dirtfoot". A one-off cold opening featuring Dr. Weird and Steve was used once again in the season eight premiere "Allen Part One".
In 2015 Adult Swim cancelled Aqua Teen Hunger Force, after 15 years. The cancellation goes against the wishes of Willis and Maiellaro, who first learned about it from people from the animation studio, halfway through the production of the eleventh season. Willis mentioned on Reddit that Adult Swim president Mike Lazzo made the decision to end the series because "he was ready to move on from it". The double-length episode "The Last One Forever and Ever (For Real This Time) (We Fucking Mean It)" was falsely promoted as the series finale and aired on August 23, 2015. The actual series finale, "The Greatest Story Ever Told", was quietly released early online on August 26 before airing on August 30, with virtually no advertisement. At the time of its conclusion it was the longest-running original series in the history of Adult Swim.
Willis and Dana Snyder will both remain employed by Adult Swim for their work on Squidbillies and Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell. The online spin-off series Carl's Stone Cold Lock of the Century of the Week is still in production, despite the conclusion of Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
A feature film based on the show, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, was released on April 13, 2007. The movie follows the origins of the Aqua Teens, which includes an exercise machine, Neil Peart of the band Rush, a watermelon slice named Walter Melon, and an appearance by heavy metal band Mastodon in the opening sequence. The film also introduces a fourth Aqua Teen, a chicken nugget named Chicken Bittle (voiced by Bruce Campbell). The Plutonians and the Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future, recurring characters, both make appearances in the movie, as well as the Mooninites, Dr. Weird and MC Pee Pants.
In a 2010 interview, staff members of Radical Axis stated that a sequel entitled Death Fighter is in production, and mentioned the possibility that the film might be made in 3-D. When asked if the film was designed for a theatrical release, a Radical Axis staff member responded yes, but stated: "We're not sure if we have a distributor yet". This was then followed by the statement "Adult Swim will never make another movie ever again".
By 2014 the script for Death Fighter had been completed and approved, however, Willis indirectly stated that the project was scrapped, soon after announcing the show's cancellation. He later mentioned on Reddit that it would cost 3.4 million dollars to produce, and expressed interest in doing a Kickstarter to fund it.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force is the longest-running Adult Swim original series. The pilot episode "Rabbot" originally aired on Cartoon Network unannounced on December 30, 2000, at 5:00 AM, as part of a special preview of upcoming Adult Swim shows. Other shows in the preview block included Sealab 2021, The Brak Show, and Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law. Aqua Teen Hunger Force later made its official debut on September 9, 2001 on Adult Swim, where the series has since aired exclusively, in the United States.
In Canada Aqua Teen Hunger Force aired on Teletoon's Teletoon at Night block and later G4 Canada's ADd block. The series currently airs in Canada on the Canadian version of Adult Swim. It began airing in Australia on SBS2 starting April 2013.
Several pieces of merchandise have been made for the series, including T-shirts, caps, wristbands, patches, and buttons featuring characters in the series. Master Shake and Carl Halloween costumes for adults are also available. There is also a series of collectible action figures and plush toys available along with car decals. Several pieces of custom merchandise were available on the Adult Swim Shop before the site quietly shut down in March 2012. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters Colon the Soundtrack, the soundtrack to the film, was released in stores on April 10, 2007. On November 3, 2009 a Christmas album sung by characters from the show was released entitled Have Yourself a Meaty Little Christmas was released in stores.
In September 2010, Adult Swim Shop introduced a full scale, functioning hot air balloon in the likeness of Meatwad at a cost of $70,000. The purchase includes a piloted, one-hour ride anywhere in the continental United States, and the buyer got to keep it although a pilot's license would be required to actually fly it. The balloon was the most expensive item on Adult Swim Shop, surpassing the Metalocalypse "Dethklok Fountain" fountain, which was released early in 2010 for $40,000. The hot air balloon is no longer available.
The first eight seasons have been released and distributed on DVD in Volumes by Adult Swim and Warner Home Video. Each set was also released in Region 2 and by Madman Entertainment in Region 4. The movie was released on a DVD set titled Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for DVD, with the season four episode "Deleted Scenes" as a special feature on August 17, 2007. The season five episode "Robots Everywhere" was also released as a special feature on the Aqua Teen Hunger Force Zombie Ninja Pro-Am video game on November 5, 2007, months prior to official television debut on January 20, 2008.
With the exception of the season four episode "Deleted Scenes", episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force are also available on iTunes, the Xbox Live Marketplace, and Amazon Video, with seasons five and up available in HD on iTunes and the Xbox Live Marketplace, and with seasons six up on Amazon Video. The movie is also available in HD and SD on the Xbox Live Marketplace. The season five episode "Boston" has never been released in any form of home media.
There have also been video games created based on the series. Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Destruct-O-Thon, a mobile game based on the series, was published and released by Macrospace games in 2004. In 2005 Oberon Games released Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Studio Shakedown for PC. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Zombie Ninja Pro-Am, a golfing/kart racing/fighting, was developed by Creat Studios and published by Midway Games, and released for PlayStation 2 on November 5, 2007. An online flash game based on the series entitled The Worst Game Ever was released and made permanently available for free play on Adult Swim Games. Another game entitled Carl's Freaking Strip Poker was also available on Adult Swim Games, but was eventually taken down.
In January 2009, IGN listed the series as the 39th best in the Top 100 Best Animated TV Shows. The series was nominated for two Teen Choice Awards in 2007 and 2008. In 2011 Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro received Annie Award nominations for writing in the season eight episode, "The Creditor". In 2013, IGN placed Aqua Teen Hunger Force as number 19 on their list of Top 25 Animated series for adults.
2007 Boston bomb scare
The series received national attention in 2007 because of a publicity stunt that became known as the Boston bomb scare. On January 31, 2007, as part of a national guerrilla marketing campaign for the series, Peter Berdovsky, 27, and Sean Stevens, 28, installed Lite-Brite-like LED displays depicting the Mooninites in eleven different cities: Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Austin, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. In Boston, the authorities considered the LEDs suspicious, prompting the closure of major roads and waterways for investigation. Turner Broadcasting System later admitted placing the LEDs and apologized for the misunderstanding.
Berdovsky and Stevens faced charges for "placing a hoax device and disorderly conduct"; in spite of the uproar, the two mocked the media and critics in interviews. Subsequently, all criminal charges were dropped in exchange for Berdovsky and Stevens apologizing during their court date and accepting a plea bargain which consisted of community service at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Center. Turner Broadcasting paid the Boston Police Department one million dollars to cover the investigation's cost and an additional million for good will. This action was designed to settle criminal and civil claims, while the general manager of Cartoon Network stepped down because of the incident. Of the 10 cities in which the displays were placed, only Boston saw them as a matter of concern. The installations had been up for weeks prior to the panic.