If one of your first jobs is answering viewer mail for the Turner Broadcasting System in the late 1980s, you’re bound to have more than a few stories to tell. This is even more evident when you meet the future boss which will help you skyrocket to cult-like status among youths ages 18-35 in the early aughts, a post-millennial time when the world needed escapism the most.
As a writer, Matt Maiellaro helped lay the foundation of [adult swim] with scripts for Space Ghost, The Brak Show, and Sealab 2021 along with Dave Willis.
It was this love for the absurd that lead them to the co-creation of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, a deliciously debauched institution for the perpetually young at heart.
Here, I sit down with writers from other outlets and explore, among other things, the Baffler Meal (20 DVD!) Boxed set, where the Teens would fit into the video gaming world, the horror influence of their new movie, and how Aqua Teen will last Forever!
On their amazing boxed set:
Matt: We were just one day talking about it, and I said we’re really doing that? And then we are. At this point, nobody has a DVD player.
Me: I think that’s a bygone thing because Aqua Teen started on DVDs and I think it should stay on DVDs.
Matt: I agree. Gotta stay old school.
On being a Williams Street playa:
Matt: I was here before Adult Swim. I was here writing Space Ghost scripts at the community printer.
On Aqua Teen being reintroduced into the video game realm:
Matt: I am not a gamer. You stumped me on that. I do watch my kids play games, but I don’t know. Maybe we could mix Sea of Thieves with Mortal Kombat? That will be our third movie.
On the creation of the movie:
Matt: With the pandemic, our industry caught on fire, but we didn’t really have to sell it. They wanted to do three movies. Aqua Teen, Metalocalypse, and The Venture Bros.
On the longevity of Aqua Teen:
Matt: I think it could and I think it should. It’s a no-brainer. Same people, same studios.
On the completion of Plantasm:
Matt: I don’t think it was laborious because it was fun, and we did the thing over the phone. We did all of the animatics on Zoom. It took a while and we mixed the whole thing at Skywalker.
Me: Wow! And I think the explosions would sound amazing.
Matt: They ROAR, man.
On the title itself:
Matt: Just the title itself. I’m a big horror buff. So there’s Plantasm from Phantasm, the Thing, and though I don’t know John Carpenter specifically. I know his wife, and they both liked it.
On whose decision it was to put Danzig into an episode:
Matt: We called him up, and he said he’d do it, so we had our artist draw up Danzig. We sent it to him to which he expressed, “I’m way taller than that!” What’s the reference though? There’s no R2-D2 standing next to you! He did a good job though. He’s kind of a jerk, but that’s what kind of what he was in the episode.
On writing for the characters:
Matt: All of them. Like, I’ll write for Carl and he’ll write for me, but altogether, I wouldn’t say I have a favorite to write for.
On the impact of Adult Swim and adult cartoons in general:
Matt: It’s good to see people appreciate what we did there. In a way, I think we set Adult Swim on the map. This thing that nobody wanted us to do, being an uphill battle, it took on a life of its own. Nobody gave us notes. We just did what we thought was funny and because the financial risk was so low.
On its long-lasting and ground-breaking staying power with adults:
Matt: Other networks were trying to do what we were doing, but we were just doing what we wanted to do. We were doing what we’re doing and you can’t stop it.
On how they keep it fresh and innovative:
Matt: A lot of this is from our lives. We’ll hang out and write the script. It takes us about an hour as we’ll talk about shit that happened in our lives, but 70% percent of it is what we’ve been through in our lives. But it’s all personal. You know a Frylock, you know a Shake.