After establishing their shows as cult favorites, the creators of some of The Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim’s biggest hits have released DVD collections from the network’s Sunday night line-up of extremely weird adult-oriented animation. “Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Vol. 3” and “Space Ghost Coast to Coast: Vol. 2” (“SGC2C”) highlight some of the best of Adult Swim’s animation oeuvre. “SGC2C” originated more than a decade ago when Cartoon Network recycled an old cartoon, Alex Toth’s 1966 series “Space Ghost.”
The show gradually evolved into its fake talk show format, interviewing live action celebrities within a show created without regard to the interviews’ content. Space Ghost (now going by his real name, Tad Ghostal) has interviewed Matt Groening, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Jim Carrey, Fran Drescher and Michael Stipe, among others; Pavement and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth have both performed on the show. Cartoon Network aired “SGC2C” at midnight on Fridays throughout the late ’90s, and the 15-minute program was later incorporated into Adult Swim’s Sunday lineup.
“Aqua Teen Hunger Force” (“ATHF”), also clocking in at fifteen minutes, is unique to the Adult Swim lineup simply because the characters and animation are originals, not repurposed and revoiced from corny Hanna-Barbera cartoons. However, the characters — sassy bastard Master Shake (a giant talking milkshake), computer whiz and straight man Frylock (a floating box of fries who can shoot laser beams out of his eyeballs) and Meatwad (a shape shifting ball of hamburger) — originally appeared on a “SGC2C” episode. The three anthropomorphic fast food items live together in a house in New Jersey; in the past, they supposedly solved crimes. Now, they just piss off their pathetic ex-metalhead neighbor Carl and deal with (i.e., ignore or make fun of) bizarre aliens and monsters who pass by. The show’s originality and humor really has to be seen to be appreciated.
“SGC2C: Vol. 2” and “ATHF: Vol. 3” both feature some of each series’ best episodes. Guests on the “Space Ghost” DVD include Janeane Garofalo, Carrot Top, Ben Folds, Method Man and James Hetfield and Kirk Hammet of Metallica. The episodes on “Aqua Teen” are relatively recent, and part of a continuing streak of great episodes: “Frat Aliens,” perhaps one of the series’ best episodes, kicks off the first disc, followed by “Revenge of the Trees” (the one where some local trees are angry), “The Cubing” (the one with the wisdom cube) and “Spirit Journey Formation Anniversary” (the one where Shake writes a new Birthday Song), among others.
In addition to the truly awesome episodes on these DVDs, Warner Bros. has stocked each collection with a bounty of sweet extras. One of the fundamental ways that the series differ is in how they’re animated. “Aqua Teen” is created entirely with computers, using Adobe Photoshop images and Final Cut Pro. “Space Ghost,” however, was made five to ten years before that; the DVD even features a pencil test and footage of rough sketches animated into Space Ghost’s repeated movements. “SGC2C: Vol. 2” also boasts commentary on all 14 episodes, Matt Groening’s full live action interview, the show’s pilot (which used only material from the original ’60s series), a biography of Sonny Sharrock (the guitarist responsible for the “SGC2C” theme) and a Thurstom Moore performance paying tribute to Sherrock. The commentary is the only disappointing extra, simply because commentary tracks are usually pretty dull. However, it’s cool to hear the particulars of each show. For example, all of “Jacksonville,” the episode on which members of Metallica appeared as guests, was animated completely before the writers knew that the band would be appearing on that program.
The extras on the “ATHF: Vol. 3” DVD include commentary on four of the 13 episodes (which encounter the same pitfalls as on the “SGC2C” discs), as well as a “making of” featurette on the episode “The Cloning.” It’s pretty much just home movie footage of two guys in khaki shorts deciding whether Shake should throw an axe or shoot a crossbow at the Aqua Teens’ television set. The most fun extras include two versions of a karaoke music video for the occult/metal epic “Spirit Journey Formation Anniversary” and a version without vocals so viewers can sing along at home. There’s a featurette on Schoolly D, who wrote the “ATHF” theme song and pages of the scripts from five episodes complete with the writers and actors’ notes, along with the voice-over track. But the absolute coolest bonuses on the “ATHF: Vol. 3” DVD are answering machine messages recorded by Meatwad, Frylock, Shake and Carl that can be recorded as personal voicemail and short, quirky animated Adult Swim promotional spots. If the desire hits to hear Meatwad sing “Oh girl, your lips are so smooth” or Carl share his thoughts on fitness (“You’ll die anyway … Someone’ll stab ya. So make sure your abs are frickin’ ripped”), here’s your chance.
Show: 5 out of 5 stars
Picture/Sound: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4 out of 5 stars