How Aqua Teen Hunger Force Impacted My Life: A Love Letter

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“It’s better to burn out than fade away.” – Neil Young

With the news of the final season of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, I wanted to take this time to write some reflections. First and foremost, I’d like to say unlike most other shows I enjoy that stop production, I’m actually okay with this. ATHF has certainly been a journey for me, both as a show and also growing into the online personality I’ve become.

Myself (left) with Dana Snyder (right) voice of Master Shake – circa 2006

I’m sure I’ve told the story many times before, but December 30th, 2000 is when it began. I would spend my weekends with my grandparents out in Brooklyn (at the time, the only place that carried Cartoon Network). I’ve always been a night owl, so I would watch late night CN programming like Space Ghost, Oh Canada, the Banana Splits, etc. But what was this new show with rude, talking food creatures? It was hilarious, and I wanted more.

Fast forward to September 2001, it was a rough time for the world, and different for me. I was in the midst of college and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life (which for the most part, in a semi-unfortunate way, included copious amounts of lounging on the internet). I’d moved so many times I had minimal real life friends, so I’d take to the internet and chat with other people who had shared interest. I’d been involved with a group dedicated to the cult series Mystery Science Theater 3000, and had even started my own fansite (among which there were countless ones already). When Aqua Teen Hunger Force finally hit the airwaves on Adult Swim, I was front and center every Thursday night. With everything going on in real life, it was kind of therapeutic to escape with Master Shake, Frylock, Meatwad, and the rest.

In 2002, I started Aqua Teen Central (the fansite that would later grow into the news-based Adult Swim Central) which, at the time I feel was my most successful contribution to the internet. The site, while not the only one in existence at the time, garnered much praise from fans as well as from the creators, Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro (among other Williams Street staffers). For someone who has had as troubled a life as I have (and that’s putting it lightly), it was very redeeming and even a bit touching that there was a mutual respect from the people who put the show together (especially the unsung heroes such as the editors, animators, etc. for which I gained even more of a respect for in terms of how an animated show is developed).

Myself (left) at San Diego Comic Con 2006, waiting to get my ATHF Vol 4 DVD signed by co-creator Dave Willis (right)

Shortly after, I decided I was going to dedicate my online life to spreading the word of Aqua Teen. This eventually, culminated at 2006’s San Diego Comic-Con, where I met many of the people who not only put ATHF together, but many of the other Adult Swim shows. I discovered that many of the creators of the other shows (save for one who will remain nameless) were rather gracious and appreciative of their fans. This was definitely the basis for what eventually became Adult Swim Central.

From 2006 until about 2009, Aqua Teen Central was where it all was. Different parts of the ATHF staff would contact me from time to time. Letting me know about events they were doing (conventions, etc.) or giving me tid-bits of behind the scenes info on the show. Quite possibly the only time up until now that I can say I attended a real-life movie premiere, having been invited to the NYC premiere of the ATHF movie (which I missed a super important math test in college in order to see) as well as the after party.

At Radical Axis (former animation studio for ATHF) L to R: Myself, Craig Hartin (one of the head animators for the show), co-creator Matt Maiellaro, and editor Nick Gibbons

Eventually ATC expanded into other Adult Swim territory, including the Swimcast (which we still do today, just not as often). I think part of the reason I’m fast to come to terms with the end of the show is the fact that things have changed, both on Adult Swim as well as with my dedication towards the network proper. Swim’s been moving into a different direction than it had been in. Instead of relying heavily on their in-house/Williams Street programming, they’ve welcomed Hollywood into the fold with shows like Rick and Morty, Mike Tyson, Childrens Hospital, and others.

Sure, there’s still a bit of a “classic Swim” feel with the remaining WS shows in Squidbillies and Your Pretty Face is Going To Hell as well as “experimental” programming like Too Many Cooks and Fish Center. It has become obvious Swim is catering less to the crowd that brought it a cult following and more the coveted 18-35 year old demographic that drives most of the popular networks. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. Change is inevitable with everything in life. People move onward and upward into different (and sometimes better) things.

Master Shake (Dana Snyder) with “Master Shake” (Me) at Dragon Con

The end of Aqua Teen Hunger Force marks the final nail in the coffin for the original five Adult Swim shows (along with Harvey Birdman, Space Ghost, Sealab 2021, and The Brak Show). The show has had a robust and interesting run: 15 years of over 100 episodes, a feature length movie, a sub-par Playstation game, various merchandise, and the adoration of countless fans (some even celebrities) worldwide.

Hosting a Swimcast down at Dragon Con in Atlanta, GA

In closing and to summarize, Aqua Teen Hunger Force has directly (and indirectly) helped shape parts of my life. I’ve met many people in my travels, even more that I call friends. I’ve learned plenty about comedy, animation, and even classic rock. Traveled to pretty cool locations like SDCC, Dragon Con, and more. Even had the chance to chat with celebrity-types, which I never would have before.

Framed mural of every ATHF character (save for a couple of guests) in the first 100 episodes (plus movie) of the series. Autographed by the cast & crew

My thanks to go out to Dave Willis, Matt Maiellaro, Dana Snyder, Carey Means, the unsung heroes like Todd Redner, Ned Hastings, Jay Edwards, Nick Gibbons, Craig Hartin, and dozens of other people that deserve to be namedropped (which I will probably do throughout the remainder of the year). For me, Aqua Teen Hunger Force will truly be Forever. I await the beginning of the ending of the series, this coming June 21 at midnight on Adult Swim.

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