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Fans of Beavis & Butt-Head crowded into a packed meeting room Thursday at Comic-Con International for a first look at the upcoming return of the 1990s animated series to MTV. Jackass star Johnny Knoxville led a discussion with creator Mike Judge, who was on hand to answer questions, tell stories and drink a few beers.
The audience gave Judge a standing ovation as he walked onstage, beer in hand. Knoxville started off the presentation by saying he’s a “huge fan” of Judge’s work, and promised to be a “pretty lousy moderator.”
Judge revealed that Beavis & Butt-Head began as one of the animated shorts he developed while while attending graduate school in hopes of meeting television executives and breaking into sketch comedy. After bouncing from job to job and working as a musician, Judge made a short called “Frog Baseball” that featured the socially inept teens finding a frog in a field and using it to play baseball. It was picked up in 1992 for MTV’s Liquid Television animated showcase and became an instant hit, leaving the network eager to buy Beavis & Butt-Head.
Asked by Knoxville what led him to bring back the series after 14 years, Judge said, “I felt like TV was getting too smart.” He admitted he’d been jotting down ideas for new Beavis & Butt-Head stories for years. “I like to think they are kind of timeless.” In the original series, Judge had made an effort to deliberately unhip so as to not tie the characters to a specific cultural era.
He said that with their return this fall, Beavis and Butt-Head will again be critiquing music videos, a staple of the 1990s series, as well as Jersey Shore. “It felt kind of like pay dirt to me,” he said, noting he never felt “good” after watching the hit MTV reality series, making it a perfect fit for Beavis & Butt-Head.
He also promised the character will be watching a slew of the network’s programs, as well as Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts. Knoxville was particularly excited to hear about the latter, saying he couldn’t wait to hear Beavis and Butt-head comment on “the rear, naked chokes.”
Judge said he’ll continue to provide the characters’ voices and work heavily with the animation, although he admitted most of the “creative stuff is done in Korea.” He was quick to assure the audience that the show isn’t drawn in a sweatshop but rather in a building with “a very efficient use of space.”
He said he “liked to think that his fans were intelligent,” but he always had to be careful how he characterized the series because “Beavis & Butt-Head made a lot of people angry. I tried to tell everyone it was a satire.” Judge recalled the story of a young met during the show’s original run who told him, “I’ve got so much respect for you, man. I used to work at McDonald’s and we would take all the leftover grease out behind the building and set it on fire!”
Asked by Knoxville what animators he looks up to, Judge replied, “I love the golden age of animation. I love Chuck Jones. The Road Runner cartoons are like the pyramids of Egypt to me.” He also said he greatly admired The Ren & Stimpy Show creator John Kricfalusi.
Knoxville then brought the discussion to a halt, saying, “I know I should probably ask you some more questions, but I am dying to see the footage, man,” to the cheers of the audience.
The new series looks virtually identical to the original, with the animation maintaining the same feel as it had in 1992. The humor hasn’t evolved much, either, with Beavis accidentally attaching an action figure to his hand with a screw in one sequence – “Beavis screwed his hand,” Butt-Head tells an emergency-room nurse – before downing painkillers and transforming into his alter-ego Cornholio. In another scene, the duo commented on an episode of Jersey Shore, eliciting an especially enthusiastic response from the crowd.
The footage was followed by questions from the audience. When one fan asked Judge about the series’ animation style, he replied that it was influenced by his “inability to draw.”
Another fan, dressed as Cornholio, asked whether there would be any celebrity guest voices in the new series. Judge said this wasn’t likely because, “it’s complicated with these damn unions.” Another asked whether the creator had an anti-authority streak, given the themes in many of his works. Judge admitted that he probably had those feelings “buried inside somewhere.” Several fans came up on to the microphone simply to thank Judge for bringing back Beavis & Butt-Head.
Judge thanked the fans for coming, adding that they were the first outside of his friends and family to see the footage of the new series. “This was really fun,” he said, raising his beer bottle to the audience as he walked off stage.