Today when you hear the phrase “liquid television”, the first thing that comes to mind may be the liquid crystal display television or LCD TV. But back in the early 90s, before the flat panel televisions came around, there was a 30 minute animated show on MTV called Liquid Television. The show was originally shown on BBC-2 in December of 1990. Then MTV picked up the show in June of 1991, and it lasted three seasons.
Liquid Television was a ground-breaking show at the time. It combined computer animation, drawings, paper cut-outs, and even live action to make something entertaining for the viewers. Each commercial free episode was filled with 8-15 experimental animated shorts .
The show had its popular cartoons, some of which you may remember, including Aeon Flux, Beavis and Butt-head, Stick Figure Theater, Crazy Daisy Ed, and Dog-Boy. Only Aeon Flux and Beavis and Butt-head actually had spin-off shows after Liquid Television. I had my favorites like Honey Bunny; Nietzsche Pops; an Office Space short by Mike Judge; a great short by Bill Plympton; and “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” by They Might Be Giants.
You may also remember some artwork from John Dilworth, in the short called Smart Talk with Raisin. He’s more recently known for doing Courage the Cowardly Dog on the Cartoon Network. Raisin’s dog, Hamilton, looks pretty similar to Courage.
I loved watching this show even though it was on late in the evening. The short cartoons were long enough to be captivating, yet not too long to bore you. I always found myself wanting to see more of them. Liquid Television was a great showcase for many artists to show their talent and get discovered.
Aeon Flux stood out as one of the longer shorts per episode. It was avant-garde and adult in nature; containing worthy social and psychological themes. Very little talking was done so you had to keep up with the action of the scantily clad heroine, who bolted from one predicament to another and usually died each episode. Peter Chung, the writer and director of Aeon Flux, previously did work in the Transformers cartoon and The Animatrix, among other films.
The original Aeon Flux animation will be released on DVD Nov 22nd. Then on Dec 2nd Aeon Flux the movie will be released. It’s great that they’ve finally brought their fans a movie, but its going to be hard to surpass the original. It doesn’t seem right that everyone will be talking, which I hope won’t ruin the movie. Also, if you’re interested, you can find Aeon Flux comics, out already from Dark Horse.
Although only a few of the original shows survived from Liquid Television, it’s still great to reminisce and see where a lot of talented artists began their careers.
Update - Oct 7, 2006: YouTube has many of the episodes available to watch.
Update 2 - Sept 27, 2007: Added link for Honey Bunny.
Update 3 - Oct 27, 2009: Head on over to MTV’s Aeon Flux hub and check out this amazing animated series.
Update 4 - Oct 10, 2011: MTV releases Liquid Television archives to the masses.