The Aquabats Assemble a Super Show! — On TV!
There comes a moment in every man’s life — if he’s wildly successful, horribly unsuccessful or just had way too much to drink in Las Vegas — where he will ask himself, “How did I get here?”
For Christian Jacobs — lead singer of alternative rock band The Aquabats; co-creator of the hit kid’s show Yo Gabba Gabba!” and star and executive producer of the new The Aquabats! Super Show! — that moment came while he was having 300 cheeseburgers thrown at him.
“That was the most ridiculous part of the first couple weeks of shooting. We had about 50 people on top of all the prop trucks throwing — literally throwing! — cheeseburgers at us for a half hour,” Jacobs laughed. “I had to ask myself, ‘How did I get here?’ I’m a middle-aged man in a tight shirt being pelted with cheeseburgers!”
But Jacobs knows exactly how he arrived at the moment of being pelted with cheeseburgers. Since he formed the Aquabats in 1994, “MC Bat Commander” (as he’s known on stage) knew he wanted to one day take the band to TV. It’s been a long time coming for Jacobs and his bandmates, but The Aquabats! Super Show! is now airing regularly on The Hub, Hasbro’s cable network. New episodes air Saturdays at 11 a.m. EST, with encore showings throughout the week.
Along the way, the ‘Bats toured the world with their unique brand of rock crossed with tongue-in-cheek battles; created a hit TV show in Yo Gabba Gabba! that is known to kids across the land; and even had more than a few memorable gigs at Coachella, SXSW, the Warped Tour, and more.
“It was 1998 when we did our first developmental deal for a TV show with another studio way, way back in the day,” Jacobs told Spinoff. “We’ve been trying since — trying and failing. [Laughs] Everything caught up with us at the right time. I think back in the day, this would have been too weird for TV. But there’s plenty of weird, crazy stuff that’s doing great on TV now.”
The show follows the Aquabats, a free-wheelin’ rock band with a sweet battle van who moonlight as a group of superheroes in an eternal quest to triumph over evil (and sometimes just for a tasty cheeseburger). The band’s villains are more campy than scary, and a funny joke is just as important as a ferocious punch.
The show could be considered a lovechild of the 1960s Batman and 2007’s Flight of the Conchords.
“If the person is over 30, I’d say it’s like Batman meets The Monkees, with a little bit of Sid and Marty Krofft’s in it,” Jacobs said. “If they’re under 30, I’d say Power Rangers meets Flight of the Conchords, very sarcastic. If they’re kids… superheroes fighting monsters.”
“And at some point, something will explode,” Jacobs added.
There’s also the band playing music, a brief cartoon interlude as well as a cameo in every episode. John Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) appears, as well as Weird Al Yankovic, Rip Taylor and Lou Diamond Phillips (Young Guns).
“There’s so much to wedge into 20 minutes — its super-challenging to do all the jokes we want, all the fight scenes, and still get a song in,” Jacobs said. “It’s a good problem to have.”
Fans of the Aquabats need not worry — Jacobs says the band still has a “run or two” left in it. In the meantime, Aquacadets will recognize some of the villains come from the pre-existing Aquabats Universe. Manant appears in the first episode, and the Floating Eye of Death will cast its evil gaze in an upcoming episode. But, sorry, no Sand Fleas or Martian Girl…yet.
“We’ve written a treatment for Martian Girl, and a few others from the past. Budget and time constraints [prevented those episodes this season],” Jacobs said. “I can’t tell you too many details, for spoilers. But various existing villains and some new ones [show up this season] — you’ll have to tune in.”
The irony for Aquabats fans is, this show probably wouldn’t have happened if not for the success of Jacobs’ other creation, Yo Gabba Gabba!
“For sure, The Aquabats! Super Show! predates Yo Gabba Gabba! If anything, Gabba is a spinoff of Aquabats, because some of the characters from Gabba are literally taken from the Aquabats’ universe,” Jacobs explained. “Muno, the red Cyclops, and Brobee the little green guy, they were both monsters we would take on tour. We were banging our heads against the wall (with the Aquabats show) and we said, ‘Let’s do something different that might be easier to understand.’ People still weren’t getting Gabba so we decided to just do it, make it ourselves. We made it, it got picked up, it is what it is now.
“We went out and independently shot a pilot for The Aquabats! Super Show! exactly how we wanted it,” Jacobs continued. “And now here we are a couple years later. I think it speaks to doing things independently and showing people, as much as you can, a complete version of what you want to do, instead of a CliffsNotes version.”
The new show has been fun, but also a huge challenge for Jacobs, bigger than he imagined. For one, Gabba is shot on a set, while Aquabats is shot on location, making for a whole new set of difficulties (lighting, weather, etc.). For another, in Aquabats, Jacobs finds himself in front of the camera in a speaking role, rather than behind the camera in a producer role. There’s also the many special effects which need to be added in to each episode.
And then there’s the Battle-Tram, the Aquabats’ touring bus/battle vehicle.
“That thing…don’t get me started,” Jacobs laughed. “At one point we had to tow it to the site and have a mechanic fix it on-site. We’d just push it into a shot. It’s on its last leg, but it looks good!”
Jacobs lists such cartoons as Space Ghost, Birdman, Speed Racer, Herculoids and Thundarr the Barbarian as shows that influenced him as a youngster. “For some reason all those things got trapped in my brain,” he said. A major inspiration for the villains in Aquabats was another show from his youth: Jason and the Argonauts.
“I’ve tried to watch some shows with my kids like that. The pacing doesn’t do it for them, but the action? They’re riveted,” Jacobs said. “[I decided] that rather than going CGI, let’s make it stop-motion…our kids have never seen anything like that. By adding some old-school elements to a fast-paced, short-attention-span theater for kids, I think it works. And it’s unique to kids who have never seen anything like this.”
Jacobs is hoping the show catches on. If it does, is he ready for the level of fame that D.J.Lance from “Yo Gabba Gabba!” has to live with?
“[Laughs] I don’t know, I feel bad for D.J. Lance sometimes. He can’t go out of his house! People are like [in a kid’s voice] ‘D.J. Lance!'” Jacobs said. “We’ve got one good thing going for us: the Aquabats have always had disguises. You never see us out of our costumes on the TV show!”
So don’t expect to recognize the guys who got pelted with 300 cheeseburgers walking the street. That’s probably a good thing for everyone involved. After all, who wants to be quizzed about getting showered with cheeseburgers.
“When you get hit with a cheeseburger from 20 feet up, it doesn’t feel good. It’s not like getting hit with a sponge. It hurts!” Jacobs said. “There’s a shot where Jimmy the Robot gets showered with burger pieces. After a few takes, the burgers had fallen apart. They were decimated. They started scooping up burger pieces off the ground and throwing them. It was ridiculous.”