Happy Birthday, Liquid Television!

It was 20 years ago today, June 2nd 1991, when MTV first aired its groundbreaking anthology show Liquid Television. It’s gone but not forgotten — how could it be? Among its accomplishments it launched Beavis and Butt-head, Aeon Flux and The Head, and brought artists like Mark Beyer, Richard Sala, Peter Bagge, Drew Friedman and Charles Burns to animation.

I had two personal encounters with Liquid Television, and today’s anniversary gives me an excuse to post them both. First up, I was honored to assist the infamous John Dilworth (Courage The Cowardly Dog) with a segment called Smart Talk With Raisin. I was his “L.A. Production Manager”, which mainly meant helping round up L.A. voice talent (the uncredited Cheryl Chase and Harris Peet) and a studio to record the sound track in. I still don’t completely understand this short – but we had a blast recording it:

My other involvement with the show was in licensing this anime segment (below) to the series. The Running Man by Yoshiaki Kawajiri was a segment of a feature Mani Mani Labyrinth Tales (1989) that Streamline Pictures (my company at the time) was distributing under the title Neo-Tokyo. It’s one of my all-time favorite pieces of Japanese animation – a powerful bit of sci-fi noir that still holds up quite nicely today.

If you have a favorite Liquid Television memory or preferred segment let us know below – and tweet the series a birthday greeting today.


  • http://www.fooksie.com Fooksie

    I loved Liquid Television. ” Winter Steel ” always cracked me up. I also liked the segment that had the real graphic looking spies/super heroes. It had a great theme song. Just can’t remember the name.

  • http://www.jjsedelmaier.com J.J. Sedelmaier

    I gots two words for you: Colossal & Abby. Abby Terkuhle and Colossal (pictures), two of the ingredients that helped change the taste of the American animation soup. . .

  • Matt Taylor

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kZornX_i-Q

    Thanks to Liquid Television season 3 episode 2 I got to see this as a kid. An excerpt from a short called Anyway by Run Wrake. Seeing this just once in 1994 was such a huge influence on my little 11 year old mind. It got me to like weird stuff. I drew all sorts of pictures of that thing walking around. It’s still kick ass.

    Happy Birthday LTV!

    • Celia

      The Run Wrake video did the same for me. I taped the show so I could pause on the credits and see who the animator was. In 2003, I finally got my hands on his DVD:http://hellomistervideo.com/?p=110

      Sadly, Anyway is not on the DVD.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        It is interesting the people you find out about or perhaps had an interest to seeing more of their work via this show. I think it sorta did that for me as well. Finding out who these guys were and wanting to see more of it that led me to that magic place, the library!

    • Ben Blohowiak

      Heck yes! I have been wondering about that short FOR YEARS–thank you so much for posting the information about it!!! Even the official Liquid Television site doesn’t have the information…you are the best. :)

  • http://www.transience.com.au dave jones

    swine cowboy
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14ARS-CqyAQ

    I remember seeing this back in ’95 when I’d just started working in animation and thinking “what the hell was that? …I need to see it again…Now…sure enough, 16 years later, it turned up on youtube.

  • Daniel J. Drazen

    Yes, “Liquid Television” launched Beavis and Butthead on an unsuspecting world, but what I remember most fondly was “Stick Figure Theater.” It was a brilliant deconstruction job on cinema good and bad. It seemed to take as its motto “Big deal, ANYBODY could do that!” and skewered the whole auteur aura of motion pictures as a result. My absolute favorite moment: the SFT version of “Woodstock” where Jimi Hendrix is playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and during one long note he checks his watch. It still makes me smile.

    • http://www.robinsteeleworks.com Robin Steele

      Thanks, Daniel — It was a pleasant surprise, making “Stick Figure Theatre,” to realize how real animation essentials shone through in the process. Stripped of all the usual bells and whistles of clean-up and costume and color and even volumes, to some degree, the animation was freed up to focus and strengthen the acting and staging. And thanks must be paid to the wonderful films that had lapsed into public domain for our foundations, as well as Madonna for lending us “Express Yourself”… the Hendrix moment is one of my favorites as well — along with Robert Scull’s animation of Hitchcock checking under the toilet seat in the “Psycho” trailer. Best regards.

  • http://aalong64.blogspot.com Aaron Long

    I never saw Liquid Television on TV (too young) although I have seen many of the shorts aired on it. The Running Man is great, along with the rest of the Neo-Tokyo feature. I love that lush, high-budget late-80s anime look, also seen in stuff like Akira and Venus Wars. Anybody know any other good ones?

    This is the first time I’ve seen the John Dilworth short, but it seems pretty cool too. I can’t watch it with sound right now, but I look to doing so after work today. I love the designs and the animation.

    • http://jadering.blogspot.com Jordan Scott

      There’s the other YASUHIKO Yoshikazu feature, Arion, and also Streamline-licensed Robot Carnival – though fat (British for “no”) chance of either of them appearing English-subbed legally.

      But the ’90s Legend of Crystania, which might still be found on out of print US DVDs, I’ve read is something wonderful at AniPages Daily: http://www.pelleas.net/aniTOP/index.php?p=415&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1 – Something to get into reading if one doesn’t already, http://www.pelleas.net/animators another page to point out for profiling animators largely linked by Akira and what else they’ve made distinctive contributions to.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        It would be nice if someone tried to re-license Robot Carnival again.

  • http://www.damianosketchblog.com DamianoD

    Liquid television was great. Even though I never experienced it during it’s run I became a huge fan of ‘Aeon Flux’ and definitely enjoyed ‘Beavis and Butt-head’. Similar programs like that on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network were also amazing. I don’t know why the short experimental format died out, it was great and interesting. Well, at least we have the internet to compensate for it’s loss.

  • Leo

    I absolutely loved it, my favorite was the stick figure theater with Madonna singing express yourself :)

    • http://www.robinsteeleworks.com Robin Steele

      Thanks, Leo! I animated that one myself!

      • Sean D.

        I LOVED stick figure theater! One of my inspirations for wanting into this crazy biz! Thanks for the nudge, Robin!

  • http://highlyrecommended.blogspot.com Satorical

    I watched Running Man every time it was repeated. I also taped the intro and outro from the show for its fantastic music by Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo).

    Licensing must have been tough for non-broadcast, because Liquid Television took forever to hit home video.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      It did, and the best we got was two tapes worth (and mostly of material produced solely for the show like Aeon Flux, Winter Steele and so-on), though I will say they did their best with what they had, but when they had to stick in a clip from “The Running Man” for a promo of the show, I thought that would be on that first tape! “The Running Man” segment alone certainly left a great impression on all of us who hadn’t seen anything like that before, and I often run into people who had kept asking to see that one again for so long. It’s a testament to it’s staying power beyond the original OVA it was a part of (and what did get a VHS and DVD release a couple times).

  • http://www.deviantart,com/fairMaien.html fairMaien

    Yeah I remember this show:)

  • Chris Webb

    I loved “Screaming Yellow Death” – the Bob Sabiston film that mixed 3-D backgrounds and 2-D Character Animation.

    “Brad Dharma, Psychedelic Detective” was also a fave.

    • http://altrokradio.com Sean Carolan

      Very close; it was “Grinning Evil Death” (though I also fondly remember Screaming Yellow Zonkers)…and here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sCc1LAfS3Q

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Another Bob Sabiston work that showed up on there was “Beat Dedication”.

      • Chris Webb

        Thanks for correcting me Sean. In the future I shouldn’t post until I’ve had my morning shot of rye…

  • D

    Its a shame that MTV isn’t doing stuff like this anymore. Now its all reality TV, flavour of the month musicians and pregnant teenagers. At least the memories of MTV as a hip, youthful, inventive and creative station blasting great music and alternative animation still remain.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Someone a while back once said he felt Liquid TV and the animation kick that MTV was in in the 90′s was perhaps part of an attempt to cater to the alternate culture of the time that went with stuff like that (which apparently died out by the end of said decade). It was fun while it lasted I could say. It’s sad we don’t have those type of people wanting that stuff today outside the net (and of course the internet certainly changed things as well).

  • http://Juanmanimation.blogspot.com J.m

    Now compare this show to MAD on Cartoon Network and cry.

    Ahhh the 90′s and their horrid, gross looking cartoons slowly paced dialogue and dark humour. We miss you all: Liquid T.v , Rugrats before it became a movie franchise, Ren and Stimpy and of course the first 5 seasons of that show called The Simpsons

  • JP

    I LOVED Liquid Television. Everything about it, but especially the Aeon Flux shorts.! And though not animated, I loved the Charles Burn pieces too (with music by Shadowy Men from a Shadowy Planet). I miss MTV (or anyone) doing cutting-edge stuff for TV. (They also had a crazily-edited docu-show called BUZZ at the time that was brilliant.)

  • eeteed

    funny you should mention mark beyer. haven’t thought of him in years.

    back in the day i used to clerk part time in a comic book shop, and mr. beyer would occasionally stop in.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    I kinda miss that saggy eyeball look Dilworth use to gave his guys back then.

    Some of my faves from that show (most of these are from the second and third season as I hardly saw the first season reran at all past ’92)…

    “Wishful Thinking” (Candy Guard)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wz1fF23uI3E

    “Bobby & Billy” (Dick and Jane on Acid I’d say)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VkVRbdd2Fg

    “The Dangwoods” (would not have been a bad series if they had continued past this pilot or such)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiuPEN2RoSE

    “Earth To Doris” (a short time later I picked up a tape from the guys who did songs like this one and thought it was the best $1 I ever spent since the tape was being sold in one of those places)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3tDw6Q0UL8

  • http://www.degrandland.com David DeGrand

    Liquid Television was a formative viewing experience for a young cartoonist. My favorite segment was always “Crazy Daisy Ed”, as I could relate to his anger. Happy Birthday to a groundbreaking and greatly missed show!

  • http://halloweenaddict.com AllHallowSteve

    Wow. 20 Years. Crazy.
    MTV was such an influence on my viewing habits, styles and creativity. Between Liquid Television, The Idiot Box, the music videos (remember those?) and Remote Control, I filled a ton of VHS tapes with material.

    As for LTV, my favorites were Aeon Flux, Psycho Gram (“Dear Mum…”) and Grinning Evil Death.

    Even the opening and closing credits were mesmerizing. I loved this show. Too bad we’ll never get a proper DVD release.

    AllHallowSteve
    HalloweenAddict.com

  • Brian D. Scott

    I used to love “The Specialists” – Mastermind, Samson, and Kitka! It was limited in terms of animation but I enjoyed the 60s spy theme and superhero vibe it had.

    • Quiet Desperation

      There was an episode where the Mastermind did not understand someone’s comment about some potatoes, and “potato = 0″ appeared as a thought bubble. Some friends and I still say “potato = 0″ when something confusing happens to this day. ;-)

  • Jason Armadillo

    I loved Liquid Television and there was so much great stuff, but above all, Richard Sala’s “Invisible Hands” is what really grabbed and delighted my brain and it has been stuck there for 2 decades.

    “Aeon Flux” was pretty exciting to watch as well…

    • JP

      Sala’s stuff is amazing moving or still.

  • http://www.frankpanucci.com Frank Panucci

    Aeon Flux Aeon Flux Aeon Flux

    LIQUID TV was the best. Every new ep was like a holiday.

    A couple of private trackers offer the entire series as DVD images, lovingly assembled from good home tapes and commercial releases so each short is presented in the best possible quality.

  • http://beesbuzz.biz/ fluffy

    Was The Maxx part of Liquid Television? That and Aeon Flux were definitely my favorite MTV animation products.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      It technically was part of a different series MTV created called “MTV’s Oddities” where it was placed alongside “The Head”.

  • http://www.jimbotheentity.com Jimbo Matison

    Wow.
    20 years?! What the honk? My buddy Sean alerted me to this and this is awesome. I was on staff at Colossal Pictures and worked on so much of LTV, it was truly a blast! We all had so much fun cranking out that show. LTV is where I made my debut, I wrote and directed Crazy Daisy Ed. Shot it on 3/4 video tape with no flashing back frames to see if the animation looked okay. Yeah, it shows. Haaa! We just couldn’t afford the film. Everyone at Colossal, we all helped each other with our pieces and it’s probably the reason why it all came out so great. I’ve remained in this business and I’ve never had so much fun as I did on LTV. A lot of that has to do with what Colossal Pictures was at the time. The greatest animation/live action blendo house in the world. We were all a bunch of runts and nuts (talented runts and nuts) doing what we loved. Everyone who was at Colossal has all gone on to do amazing stunning work, I still turn on the TV or go to a movie and the best stuff out there is still made by those guys. LTV was the punk rock of animation, raw, energetic and damned fun! Long live Liquid TV! Wooot!

  • http://www.dfremontssnailcorner.blogspot.com/ dfremont

    Those were them days! I worked in the ink and paint dept at Colossal Pictures, creating low-budget shows with whatever we could find, cardboard, glue guns, trash! made cut out and sculpey props/characters for stuff like Jimbo’s Crazy Daisy Ed (jim I still have that sculpey moose head with the arrow through it)and worked with Dennis Morella on Uncle Louie. bunch of crunchy artists blasting music and chuggin coffee. I remember me and artist Eric White were roommates, seeing the first season of Liquid TV and discovering it was made in SF, we were like “we gotta work on that!” and our dweams came twue. you felt like a rock star if you worked there, everyone was clawing to get in there.
    I went on to do a bunch of design work at Colossal, Zoog Disney, cartoon net’s Germtown, and then Wildbrain spun out of that place and we got to do our own web cartoons. then it all ‘sploded and i moved to LA to develop pilot projects with Nick and Cartoon Net. dang funnest o’ times. LTV lives, bring it back!

    • http://www.jimbotheentity.com Jimbo Matison

      Jumpin’ Jesus onna pogo stick, Dave. Will you please take a pick of that moosehead and send it? I swear that thing spoke to me in a dream last week. I wish I were joking for humorous effect there, but really, it did.

  • Chris Webb

    Hello dad, I’m in jail!
    Hi dad, I’m calling you from jail!
    Hi dad, happy birthday, I’m in jail!
    Jail, jail, hi dad

    All those years, I’m in jail now!
    I’m in jail, I like it here!
    It’s nice, I like it!
    Hello dad, I’m in jail!
    Hello, hello dad, hi, I’m in jail!
    Say hi to mom, from jail!
    I’m in jail, I’m gonna stay here!
    I like it here
    I like it, yeah, throw away the key
    I’m in jail!

    Hello dad, I’m in jail
    Jail, jail, jail, jail!

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Another “Was (Not Was)” tune on LTV that was also the title of the album was “What Up, Dog?” Pretty sweet album I would say.

  • Marie

    I remember helping to audition the actors for a live-action segment while interning at Colossal. When I showed the first episode to my family, there was an uncomfortable silence!

    It’s been 20 years?! Really?!

  • http://www.animehell.org danno

    I can’t believe nobody’s mentioned Stevie and Zoya. How can you forget Robert Stack’s voice:

    Stevie Washington, the angry youth.

    Born to Die!

    New York’s, New York.

    The turn of the century.

    All crime!!

    I loved that.

  • Yvette Kaplan

    I loved it all. But as it’s been a few posts since anyone mentioned Stick Figure Theater, I’m happy to say it again: Stick Figure Theater!! : ) My personal fave. Bravo and thank you Robin Steele, nice to see you here! : )
    Ah, there’s no doubt, Liquid Television STILL rules.

  • http://n/a FOGHEAD LONGLEGS

    Robin Steele had a brilliant and original idea when he created Stick Figure Theater. I loved all of them; it was hard to choose a favorite from Hitchcock to Hendrix, but I loved animating for Robin when he gave me D.O.A. to do. Why should I toot my own horn? Because it was really Robin’s vision of stick figures on index cards dramatizing great scenes from classic cinema or great rock music that made the Theater work. I was just in the right place at the right time and Robin did congratulate me on the animation, with a smile. Also, the producer was a person who decided to get personal & leave my name off the credits, inexplicably. That hurt. Robin’s kind words made it all worthwhile. And it has always looked really good on my reel. Thanks again, Robin! Tony

  • Compn

    i love liquid tv. psycho gram, aeon flux, beavis and butthead, stick figure theater, and almost everything that went inbetween it.

    btw mtv did a little thing a year ago called ‘mtv2 legit’ which had clips from the maxx and beavis and butthead and aeon flux, so it was kind of a throwback.

    now if only i could find all of cartoon sushi.

  • Adam

    MTV has put up a web portal containing much of the old Liquid Television line up. They have episodes of Aeon Flux and The Maxx as well as many of the animated shorts that aired in between shows. I remember the first time I saw “Frog Baseball” before Beavis and Butt Head got their own show. I have spent hours there reminiscing. Feeling nostalgic, I went over to DISHOnline.com and watched Beavis and Butt Head Do America. The hallucination scene by Rob Zombie is one of the best animated sequences I have ever seen. There are lots of other animated shows and movies at DISHOnline.com. I spend hours there watching old series and new shows. I am glad that it is included for free as part of my DISH Network employee subscription. I hope MTV adds other classics like Celebrity Death Match and The Oddities.