Though Adult Swim didn’t premier until September 2001, it roots can be traced back to 1994 with Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Way back in 1993, Mike Lazzo was tasked with creating a new cartoon that would appeal to adults. Taking all the assets the network owned from the old 1960’s Hanna-Barbera cartoon Space Coast, the animation was remixed and dubbed to create a spoof talk show.
The pilot consisted of an Oscar interview Denzel Washington did, which was edited and cut having Space Ghost asking questions and getting non-sequitur or nonsense answers. The show kept that format for it’s run, interviewing celebraties and having the results edited. Space Ghost would sit behind his desk where an animated television was lowered, showing the taping of his interview. The script wasn’t written until afterwards. Many of the early interviewees weren’t in on the joke, but a few, like Weird Al Yankovic, acted along or were playfully hostile.
Accompanying Space Ghost was his bandleader Zorak, a giant evil mantis, and Moltar, a lava man and his producer. Both were former villains that often chided Space Ghost during the show. Another villain, Brak, made appearances as well. His presences on the show grew as the series went on. Unlike Zorak and Moltar, Brak was a simpleton, and eventually the star of his own spin-off show, The Brak Show.
The show ran for 10 years from 1994 until 2004, producing 88 episodes. Space Ghost was the first show produced by Cartoon Network. Along with pioneering the blatant reuse of old animation technique, therefore keeping the budget low, Space Ghost was one of the first to air 11 minutes episodes. The show would air Friday nights, and an encore on Saturdays. Once they had enough episodes, they’d show two back to back. Before this, to fill in the remaining half hour, old Space Ghost episodes were shown with laugh tracks inserted at random moments.
Watching this show, it’s easy to see were the inspiration for early Adult Swim shows came from. Swim’s initial line up of Sealab 2021, The Brak Show, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and Harvey Birdman either spun out of or were inspired by Space Ghost. The Brak Show and Aqua Teen’s main characters both appeared on Space Ghost before receiving their own show. Sealab and Harvey Birdman both used the animation technique (I use that phrase loosely) of taking old footage and repurposing it.
Space Ghost was brought back by Gametap in 2006 as 5 minute webisodes, interviewing people in the games industry. This brought the episode count up to 104. A few random episodes have been made since then with various celebrities to promote upcoming movies; Zoe Saldana for Avatar, Jack Black for Gulliver’s Travels, and Will Ferrel & Zach Galifianakis for The Campaign.
Mike Lazzo was promoted to senior executive vice president (whatever that means) for Adult Swim. Along with creating Space Ghost and initialing Adult Swim, he also created Toonami (I freaking love Toonami). Trivia: he dropped out of high school at 15.
Space Ghost was an incredibly inspired show with a lasting legacy (Adult Swim’s been on for 12 years now). I remember staying up late to watch in my teen years. Much other animation blocks I’ve gone on about before, early Adult Swim is something I have fond memories for.
Did you catch Space Ghost while it aired? Who was your favorite guest (David Cross & Bob Odenkirk)? Comment below, on Facebook, or Twitter! You can now see my Saturday Morning Cartoon posts at The Two-Headed Nerd!
I used to be temporarily insane, now I’m just stupid!