‘Off The Air,’ The Best Animation Anthology Since ‘Liquid TV,’ Is Celebrating Its 5th Anniversary
Ever since MTV’s early-’90s series Liquid Television set the standard for what an animation anthology should aspire to, there have been more than a few attempts to recreate its success. No one pulled it off, though, until Adult Swim’s Off the Air, which advances the anthology format in terms of both originality and ambition.
Off the Air turns five years old on January 1st, and in honor of that occasion, a special episode titled “NEWNOW” will air all week long on Adult Swim starting Monday, December 28th, at 4:00 a.m. (ET/PT).
The extended episode features new music by EMA, Dan Deacon, Zammuto, Sound of Ceres, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, and Zach Schimpf, as well as art and animation from over 20 visual artists including Natalia Stuyk, Andrew Benson, Julia Pott, David Lewandowski, Amy Lockhart, Masanobu Hiraoka, Renee Lusano, Kidmograph, and Actual Birds On Earth. (The songs from this episode will be released on a limited vinyl EP in 2016.)
On Thursday, December 31st, the “NEWNOW” special will kick off a special two-hour Off The Air marathon beginning at 3:00 a.m. ET/PT.
If you’ve never heard of Off the Air, you’re not alone. The show, created by Dave Hughes, airs in a graveyard slot on Adult Swim. Only about four episodes are produced annually, and each episode lasts just 10-12 minutes. It essentially dares audiences not to watch it. In keeping with the show’s spirit of obscurity, I’ve never written about it on Cartoon Brew either, but come to think of it, I should have probably said something earlier.
Each episode, loosely themed around a different subject matter like liquid, conflict, or nature, is a perfect mixtape of indie animation, video art, Internet virality, music videos, and public domain footage, scored to music by indie artists. But what makes the series so refreshing isn’t merely the collection of projects on display. Show creator Hughes edits and transitions between the films seamlessly, and creates a fascinating dialogue between works that may not have much in common in their original forms. Below is an example of an earlier episode themed around robots:
Here’s the teaser for the upcoming “NEWNOW” episode. If you haven’t had the pleasure of discovering Off the Air yet, prepare yourself for an animation trip unlike any other: