Adult Swim – The History of a Television Empire

Adult Swim – The History of a Television Empire

♪Intro Music♪ ♪Starkey – Eris♪ ♪[beatmasta.oknd] – [top.down] Beatmasta x Altitude♪ It’s incredibly rare when a television network can hone on the sensibility of an entire generation, and immediately click with its audience. For my parent’s generation, that was MTV, but for my generation, it was, and continues to be, Adult Swim. Adult Swim may have evolved into the animation empire we know it as now, but didn’t start out that way. Now let me take you back to 1992. Ted Turner had just launched the Cartoon Network. A channel with absolutely no original programming that was built on the back of the MGM cartoon libraries Turner had acquired. So it was essentially the Hannah Barbera re-run channel. But Turner wants to make the foray into original programming. And that first original program was Space Ghost: Coast to Coast. It was the brain child of Mike Lazzo: Cartoon Network’s original head programmer that would later go on to head up Adult Swim. Lazzo was a huge fan of the short-lived Space Ghost cartoon from 1966, and since he had access to those cartoons through the Hanna-Barbera libraries, he had the idea to re-contextualize those original animation cels and splice them in with interviews of actors and musicians, giving the washed-up superhero his own talk show. Space Ghost: “Hello, I am Space Ghost. Welcome to my show.” So, why the need for re-purposing animations from the 60s? Well, for the first four years of the show, there was basically no money allocated to the production budget. Space Ghost was an all volunteer gig since the network was hemorrhaging money at that point. There was no safety net, it was a trial by fire effort. But the lack of funding and the indie garage feel gave Space Ghost a unique aesthetic that was different than anything else on late night at the time. Space Ghost: “Okay, so explain this now: your human dad, put his human penis in your shark mother’s vagina, and you sat by and let this happen? Pathetic.” It was experimental and bizarre. A sort of ‘anti-comedy’ that help popularize ‘cringe humor’,
♪[beatmasta.oknd] – [top.down] Beatmasta x Altitude♪ a genre we see today in things like Nathan For You and Adult Swim’s own Eric André Show, André even stating that Space Ghost was his main influence with coming up with the concept. In December of 2000, after the success of Space Ghost, several new shows had stealth releases, under the guise of a “Special Programming” tag
♪[beatmasta.oknd] – [top.down] Beatmasta x Altitude♪ to test the water of the viewing public. Those shows were: Sealab 2021, Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, The Brak Show, and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. All of which, were direct spin-offs of Space Ghost. Master Shake: “Master is my name, and thirst is what I tame.” Aqua Teen Hunger Force, assemble!”
♪Aqua Teen Hunger Force Theme Music♪ Frylock: “Frylock, the hunger, hater, tater!” Meatwad: “Meatwad, ball of compressed meat!” All the shows utilize that same lo-fi animation re-purposing technique
♪Harvey Birdman Theme Music♪ Lazzo and his team pioneered. And less then a year later on September 2nd, 2001, those five shows, along with Home Movies, formed the initial line-up for Cartoon Network’s
♪Dust Devil – D-Code♪ official late-night animation block: Adult Swim. Branded as alternative programming for when Cartoon Network’s primary demographic would normally be at sleep. But we weren’t asleep. We were up every night, watching intently as this odd ball block of experimental animation deconstructed and redefined the format. It changed the conception of what television could be, because Adult Swim wasn’t just a channel. Over the years as it evolved, it become its own personality, its own voice, speaking directly to the audience. Watching Adult Swim wasn’t about viewing each individual program. It was about experiencing the entire night’s content: the shows, the bumps, sketches, music, promos, and of course the signature fourth-wall breaking inter-title cards. Adult Swim was for fans, and it was the first network that felt truly interactive; they’d respond to emails, open a dialogue with the audience, you can submit artworks or music and have it seen by the programmers, and maybe even get featured. People grew whole careers out of being featured on Adult Swim. ♪Flying Lotus – GNG BNG♪
Flying Lotus: “I was living at my mom’s house and the only TV I would watch is Adult Swim, I would get high real quick, watch some cartoons, and, uhm they’d have a little blip on saying that ‘yeah, you think you got some beats, huh?, send them over.’ And then they put the address on there, and uh, the first, the first thing they played, they made a promo for The Boondocks around one of my tracks.
♪Flying Lotus – Massage Situation♪ And it just, yeah, it blew me away, man. The only TV that you watch, you know, you hear my music on it.” Adult Swim had a hand in launching the career of dozens of artists, even boosting the popularity of the Odd Future collective, with their show, Loiter Squad. “I was sucking my daddy d***, when I was seven years old-” Space Ghost: We can get away with “dick”, can’t w- We can’t say “dick”? I though we were Adult Swim. Who’s in charge of these rules? How about “penis”, can we say “penis”? MF Doom, Danger Mouse, Killer Mike, Killer Mike: “I’m Killer Mike, you’re been watching Adult Swim.” All these artists use Adult Swim as a conduit to grow their audience. It broke grounds in offering creators different formats for their art. Even taking show like Children’s Hospital, which had started as a web series, and importing it into their nightly line-up. They were the first network to really embrace the digital world. ♪Rick and Morty Theme Music♪
Walter Newman: “We’re always, especially Adult Swim, are trying to stay ahead of the curve and bring people, something they can’t see anywhere else, and that includes online, so we’ve hired writers off of Twitter accounts we’re taking pictures, we’re looking online, and you know, we’re looking on Instagram, we’re looking on Facebook, we’re looking on Vine, you know, for me it just inhaling as much content as possible and trying to figure out what works for us.” Adult Swim also became the go-to network for cancelled or soon to be cancelled programming. It had a direct role in the revival of one of FOX’s most popular cartoons: Family Guy. Peter Griffin: “Hi there, I’m Peter Griffin. Next Sunday, Adult Swim is airing an episode of Family Guy that FOX refused to show. But my good pals at Cartoon Network are showing it. Although, I think making couple of changes, because I’m so controversial.” After Family Guy’s cancellation in 2003, it premiered in re-runs on Adult Swim and exploded, in the ratings, boosting viewership to over two hundred percent, and less then a year later, it was renewed by FOX for another season. The show even added this bumper to one of its later episodes, taking a jab at FOX for its unjust termination. ♪Futurama Theme Music♪
And in 2007, an almost identical renewal deal happened with Futurama, after an increased in viewership when the show started airing on Adult Swim. But probably Adult Swim’s biggest contribution to television, was its introduction to mature anime to an American audience. and it started with Cowboy Bebop in 2001.
♪The Seatbelts – Tank♪ Adult-oriented anime became the backbone of the network. Sort of an extension of Toonami, which ironically, later became incorporated into Adult Swim after its own revival campaign. Steve Blum: “Thank you to Cartoon Network, thank you to William Street, and everybody at Adult Swim for actually paying attention to the voice of the people. You have spoken loudly and you spoken clearly. #BringBackToonami.”
♪Richie Branson – Bring Back Toonami♪ But Adult Swim wasn’t just about giving content a second chance. It was about giving it that first chance.
♪[beatmasta.oknd] – [top.down] Beatmasta x Altitude♪ It’s a hub where creators can create. Where the art is experimental and trangressive; it’s surreal, it’s sloppy, it’s a place that welcomes risk-taking, that wouldn’t immediately dismiss a show where the main character is literally a pair of ass cheeks. Adult Swim cancelled your favorite show? Good. The important part is it gave you a favorite show. Most of which weren’t even designed for longevity, they’re supposed to be fleeting, that what makes them so special. It’s about spontaneity, it’s about the community, it’s about the experience, and that one thing you can’t get from Netflix. ♪Williams Street Theme Music♪ ♪Tyler The Creator – Hey You (Prod. Toro Y Moi)♪

100 thoughts on “Adult Swim – The History of a Television Empire

  1. Fact: Adult Swim showed us ‘Cowboy Beebop’ and critically shaped me thereafter. Fell in love with that shit. I would stay up all night just to catch Inuyasha or the latest featured show

  2. Final nail in the coffin for me, in terms of respect derived from their stance that they supposedly welcomed "groundbreaking", "against-the-grain", "original" content, was when they cancelled World Peace because Buzzfeed wagged its finger and Blockhead Joe straight-up lied.

  3. Now I kind of feel bad for never watching adult swim as a kid, but like, some of their ads we're legit scary to me as a kid lmao

  4. [as] was a big part of my childhood here in Brazil. It launched in 2005 and used to start around 11pm in CN if I remember correctly. And I would just be awake to watch all these spectacular fun cartoons without my parents knowing. I remember that it felt different than anything I've ever seen… And through it, I discovered cartoons, series and animes that I still love to this day.
    Brazil is well known for our really good voice acting. People around here are really passionate about the characters and its voices. And [as] gave the actors here complete freedom to create and adapt the toons to our culture. It was magical, there's even videos of the actors remembering how fun it was to do those voices…
    But of course, it didn't last long. Some politician here thought that it was not "politically correct" and in 2008 they demanded that CN stopped with the Adult Swim programming. And so it was done…

  5. Wow. I'm going to be honest with everybody here: When I heard Steve Blum's voice, it instantly took me back 15 years. When I was 9 and 10 and I waited religiously for the new DBZ . Anyways, it brought a few tears to my eyes…

  6. I'll never forget one night instead of commercials, they played the entire music video for "bodysnatchers" by Radiohead. Became an instant fan.

  7. I saw a few programs on Adult Swim and some of the programming on the network is offensive and I am an adult! Programming is too over-the-top.

  8. No matter what you say, I still think Netflix is more appealing than Adult Swim. (Although I do like most of the shows on Adult Swim.)

  9. I know this video is all about positivity, but my one gripe with Adult Swim is that I really wish their shows were more well-animated. Sure, there are well-animated stuff like The Boondocks, Black Dynamite, Moral Orel and The Venture Bros, but I think Adult Swim would be more successful if they had more aesthetically pleasing and lovely animation.

  10. I, for a good reason, find myself coming back to this video all the time. I'll go ahead and say, this is one of my favorite videos on YouTube period. A lot of that might have to do with nostalgia lol.

  11. This made me cry a little because my brother and sister came down every summer and in Saturdays we used to try and stay up till Naruto came on man good memories

  12. I'm like 3 years too late for this video, but adult swim was what threw me into anime, the first anime i watched was eureka seven, at around age 6/7, the combination of mechs and funk rock music, as well as the gripping relationship building of that show, absolutely fascinated me as a child, so much so that i woke up at around 6 AM every morning, switched the TV on, and went to Cartoon network, where the next episode of Eureka began to roll, its also the only anime that i can't watch in japanese, i have to watch it with english dubs due to the impact it had on my life at that time, which eventually lead to me thinking about it out of the blue a few years later, and i was perfectly able to recall the name of the show and try to find a place to watch it online, and i watch it when i'm in need of some stellar emotional imagery, and its also possibly why the slice of life/relationship based anime resonate a lot with me. Without it, i doubt i'd be the kind of person i am today, something else probably would have taken my attention and placed my interest in something completely different to what it offered.

  13. I think as is still alive but slowly on it’s decent which is sad as we need a new community and platform for the new generation it was mtv then as what will it be next

  14. Hell yes.
    I remember being 12 years old and watching the first night of Adult Swim broadcasting. And when I saw Trigun, Big O, The Beak Show, and Cowboy Bebop etc…I was hooked like most all you. Great trip down memory lane friend, thank you.

  15. I used to record Adult Swim on VHS, come home from elementary and watch it with my sister on a small little TV with a VHS input. Shows like Home Movies… Sealab2020, The Oblongs, The Brak Show… etc.

  16. Yeah I love this channel I remember when I was about 6 I was watching cartoon network and then adult swim came on when it did my mom immediately turned the TV off and made me go to bed but then I got curious and pretend to be asleep and then watched it and fell in love now it's the only thing I watch i may have not watched when it first started but after this video I know that it has come a long way and that it has changed my life

  17. Okay but what about conspiracy theories, programming, drama, that sort of stuff? AS always had a very experimental feel, almost profoundly so. I can't help but wonder if it was some sort of psy-op for something larger. In any case it was pure brilliance. I wish it would be more balanced with its overt vulgarity and toilet humor. Anime brings a good balance to the tone, and their original content vice-versa. I would like to see more and better original content, less Fox legacy shit. King of the Hill can stay, and Home Movies/Dr. Katz and Baby Blues can visit.

    [as] was better when anime filled the night or played multiple nights. Once doesn't cut it. Three or four would be a nice balance. It would help fill space weaning off of MacFarlane shows. Shows like the Boondocks, Space Ghost, Brak Show, Harvey Birdman, or any [as] classic, belong on the air where they can fit. Even some newer shows are solid content, and I'd like more in their vein: Black Jesus, Dream Corp, Eric Andre, Xavier Renegade Angel, Tigtone, and even the likes of Tim & Eric, if sparingly.

    Please much less politically left-leaning humor; try to balance it more. It's fair to have it sometimes. But an overall shift in tone to more mature content would be lovely. Vulgar, puerile, and demented humor has its time and place but may be having an adverse effect on people in such large doses. Remember, many children grow up watching [as] every night regardless of programming, well into adulthood. So let's help them find joy and meaning in their lives, yeah? I think [as] can do that.

    Also, please, much less Bob's Burgers. And MacFarlane. I can't watch them anymore. Get King of the Hill renewed!

  18. I keep coming back to this video. When I was like 10 I discovered adult swim because i was prone to bad insomnia as a kid so I would sneak out of my room and watch tv all night. usually i would get tired and go to bed before the boring half hour infomercials, but then i saw aqua teen hunger force and was fascinated. i would stay up until 1 am and sleep through my first two periods at school and on the bus.
    Then I hit 13 and anime was thrown in the mix and I stayed up until 4 am sometimes. I was OBSESSED. I loved how fucking odd it was, even if some of the jokes flew over my naive little head. Even if I wasn't a fan of the show, I would generally stick around to watch it anyways because of the bumps and such. My dad would catch me and ground me sometimes in some weird cat-and-mouse wherein he would try to get me to sleep.
    This continued intermittently when I couldn't sleep throughout high school. Honestly, I probably used it to avoid some teen angst and it probably caused my grades to suffer but it made me so happy and truly grew my interest in animation and weird art and stories.
    The point being, I didn't even remember how important adult swim was and is to me until I first watched this video. It's like it unlocked all these memories and I can't thank you enough.

  19. I feel like I missed out on Adult Swim, simply because cable was so damn expensive 10 years ago. ATHF FOREVER!

  20. I miss the ANIME lineup!
    Cowboy Bebop,
    Deathnote (my personal favorite) Inuyasha , Bleach , FMA , ghostInShell , Code Geass , Naruto , aqua teen , that show about those rock metal heads , I think it’s called metalocalypse …. I know this isn’t in order and there were many more anime , but staying up at Saturday night till morning watching this really made me a happy kid.

  21. You were the channel that inspired me to learn video editing

    This video is beautiful and only learning editing now do I appreciate the skill and work that goes into every bit of your work

  22. The adult swim bumpers are so good that there's actually a community of people on 4chan who make their own bumpers in the same style as adult swim. You can find them on the board /wsg/.

  23. Come back! I dig your analysis and video essays on stuff you grew up with because its my era. Your editing and music selection is everything man. Missin it. Hope to see more content soon.

  24. i remember when adult swim first came out … we saw the firts episode of sea lab and yes i was very blazed .. it was a little strange at first but next ting you know youre smiling and laughing your butt off… thank you classic adult swim and i hope people keep enjoying you as much as i enjoyed it.

  25. I grew up watching [AS]. Shows like Space Ghost Coast to Coast and Aqua Teen Hunger Force helped mold me into the man I am today.

  26. Damn…. I was almost 16 when [as] started in 2001! I've been watching since day one! Or, before that when SGC2C was on really, really late on Cartoon Network back in the '90s! My absolute favorite [as] show of all time is Tim and Eric awesome show! That show was (and still is) f'n brilliant!!!!

  27. I feel like you should’ve mentioned dragon ball Z when you were mentioning toonami, Mostly considering how it was the biggest show from anime that attract the most people to it, and it’s the most recognizable Out of their lineup

  28. There is something so goddamn awesome about hiring nobody scrubs off of twitter and putting their asses on network asap

  29. Adult swim peaked when they aired Cowboy Bebop but then hummanity kinda peaked at that moment so not bad I must say.

  30. 7:44
    I sound like a dumbass when i say this but when i was a 9 i stay up on the weekend and watch adult swim sometimes im in the dark then the show is over then the Williams street thing pops up and something about me looking at it in the dark as s kid made me feel scared(i was such a scary kid when i was young🤦🏾‍♂️)

  31. Friends would pile into my living room a dozen deep to check out the latest offering from AS (among other things). It truly made my college years some of the most entertaining of my life.

  32. Adult swim is the only thing that makes me want to move to America. I got to watch it in Jamaica and not just the shows online and want it so bad

  33. Lol funny that you picked Venture bros for the longevity bit. Hype for what season 8? Venture bros is what keeps me going in the longrun. Every few years we get a season that blows the last away.

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