Interview: Aqua Teen Hunger Force co-creators and voice acting icons Dave Willis & Matt Maiellaro spoke to The Natural Aristocrat® about ATHF Season 12 and classic series moments!
• Dave Willis voices Carl Brutananadilewski, Meatwad, and mooninite Ignignokt to name a few.
• Matt Maiellaro voices the Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future / Turkatron, fellow mooninite Err, and Markula to name a few.
• This interview contains minor spoilers for ATHF Season 12.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT (NIR REGEV): What prompted the executives to come to their senses and bring Aqua Teen Hunger Force back? It was really Adult Swim’s flagship show all these years, and I never understood why it was canceled in the first place.
Did it have anything to do with Mike Lazzo retiring? Because I know he put his foot down originally and said he “was ready to move on from it.”
DAVE WILLIS: We’ve always felt this way that we’ve got all the people that make the show and we’re all on the same page and we love doing it. It’s fun. There’s no problems or drama and we’re so proud of it.
I think we always think that, but we don’t always maybe say that. Matt at a presentation for the movie (Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm) in New York was just like, ‘We could make more of these tomorrow. You know?’
And I feel like that kind of spurred it on a little bit.
MATT MAIELLARO: I think so too.
DAVE WILLIS: I mean, it was kind of nice to take a break from it. But, you know, it felt like making the movie was so much fun and everybody enjoyed it. It was a very positive experience.
And granted that doesn’t always result in a great thing. They were always saying if everyone’s enjoyment at making the movie ended in a good movie, Cannonball Run II would be the best movie ever made.
But I feel like the movie was proof in the pudding too. It was great, and we’re real proud of it. And these five are just sort of an extension of that.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: You agree Matt?
MATT MAIELLARO: Yes, I agree to all that. I would just repeat what Dave said, it’s right.
I think that we’re just ready to go. It’s like there’s no development, there’s no nothing. It’s a successful show. You just flip the switch, and we’re just going.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: I’ve always wondered why the leprechauns from “Escape from Leprechaupolis” never returned to ATHF?
I know one of the voice actors Scott Hilley has since passed, but they were some of my favorite characters. I can still hear him saying like, “Flip flops, what is this?!” to this day.
DAVE WILLIS: You know who was supposed to be the lead leprechaun?
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Who?
DAVE WILLIS: Fred Schneider of the B-52’s. We recorded him but he was kind of sedating the recording and we just ended up going a different direction with Scott Hilley and Andy Merrill. It was great!
Yeah, maybe we’ll bring him back. Maybe Jim Fortier will do the voice. He actually does a little leprechaun voice in episode four of these five.
Carl buys a knockoff Peloton. It’s called The Leprechaun.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: I can’t wait to watch it! My favorites actually have always been the Carl dating episodes. My favorite episode of all time was the “Mail Order Bride” one. I’ve seen it practically 10 million times over the years.
Are there gonna be more date episodes this season? ‘Cause the one-liners in those are just unbelievably hilarious.
DAVE WILLIS: Episodes where Carl and Master Shake are competing over the same woman?
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Yeah!
DAVE WILLIS: (laughs) That’s always a winning formula!
There was the other episode too where they were trying to date the same woman and she turned out to be a parasite from Outer Space (“Jumpy George”).
MATT MAIELLARO: Oh yeah, another funny one.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: You guys have really changed up the animation.
I mean, personally for me there was always a certain comfort with the After Effects style, but it’s significantly advanced now.
ATHF Season 12 looks very modern since you’ve gone with Bento Box Entertainment. Do you oversee that side directly these days or how does it work?
MATT MAIELLARO: Yeah, Bento Box Entertainment did the movie and Floyd County Productions did these new five episodes.
We were so happy with the new fresh design and more fluid movements. They kind of bolstered and enhanced the colors.
It was the After Effects way for that long period of time. It went away for a while. We’re gonna bring it back, ;et’s enhance it, but not go crazy with it.
So we’re real happy with it. And the movie looks so great! We just kept that look for these new five episodes. It’s awesome!
I think we storyboarded for the first time in our lives the movie, like the way they really do cartoons (laughs). And that’s how we did it this time too. It’s more efficient, it’s faster, we’re real proud of how it looks.
DAVE WILLIS: Yeah, I mean in the previous animation, if Shake was to hold a switchblade, it would be like this (shows real switchblade on screen). But now he can wrap his fingers around it and flip the Blade.
MATT MAIELLARO: (jokes) That’s how we got funding for the new five episodes right there! Dave and his blade.
DAVE WILLIS: I showed everyone in power, my sharp blade. Look at that. Can you see your reflection?
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Yeah, I can. (laughs)
MATT MAIELLARO: (jokes) Discovery saw the reflection too.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: I won’t spoil any details but in the first new episode of the 12th season, Shake is wearing a VR headset… And I couldn’t but wonder if there’s ever gonna be another Aqua Teen Hunger Force video game?
I mean the show just lends itself to that kind of medium. I remember playing the PlayStation 2 game back in the day.
MATT MAIELLARO: Oh, I think the people who make Fortnite are real interested. (laughs)
DAVE WILLIS: We’re hoping to get one of those big old school pinball machines. That’s what we want!
MATT MAIELLARO: Yeah, that’s what we want. In the shape of Shake.
DAVE WILLIS: And the balls instead of being silver, they’re like red with eyes, Meatwad’s, little meat wad balls.
They’re not round, they’re lumpy. So it’s really hard to play. Really hard! And they’re sticky. They get stuck to the flippers.
We can never implement our wildest dreams. That’s what happened with that video game (Aqua Teen Hunger Force Zombie Ninja Pro-Am). Like we were very proud of those cut scenes.
We were like, “This needs to be a melee on the golf course. This needs much more action!”
And they’re like, “We’ve used our action budget.”
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Dave, where did you develop so much of Carl’s slang like ‘tallboys’ and the like?
DAVE WILLIS: ‘Tallboys’ is a Georgia thing, but I think my dad and his brothers are all from Long Island.
I think when we did the show originally, New Jersey just seemed like a silly, fun thing to do. My college roommate was from Jersey, he was huge into the Giants. He’d always like just worship the G Men!
So I think a lot of it came from sort of channeling that.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: I hope to see Carl’s ‘Stone Cold Lock of the Century of the Week’ come back!
DAVE WILLIS: (Does Carl Brutananadilewski’s voice) They’re not coming back. They’re not coming back until the Giants bring back (Bill) Parcells and return to their formal glory!
Until then, until that day, I’m no longer watching the Giants. I’ve moved on. So I get the shakes, I’m in withdrawal, you know, but I refuse to watch them on a Sunday.
Not until they get rid of Danny Dimes. They need a tank for Caleb Williams. And then we can show them the pure power of the Big Blue!
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Thanks guys, I just want to mention one of my favorite episodes the last couple of seasons was “Storage Zeebles”, The Smurfs / Gulliver’s Travels parody. It was amazing!
DAVE WILLIS & MATT MAIELLARO: Thank you!
– Release Date: Aqua Teen Hunger Force Season 12 premieres on Adult Swim / Cartoon Network on November 26, 2023 at 11:30 pm ET/PT.
Don’t miss Master Shake, Frylock, Meatwad and Carl’s latest adventures on one of television’s best animated comedies!
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