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The Head is Born, Part 2

I’ve never been very good at math but there is one equation that I do understand: creativity + ambition + timing + a little luck = success.

I’ve never been very good at math but there is one equation that I do understand:  creativity + ambition + timing + a little luck = success.In my previous entry I wrote about the seeds of inspiration that produced a random sketch that would later evolve into a TV series.  But getting there wasn’t easy.  I already had my foot in the door at MTV, thanks to a couple of animated shorts I did, featuring a character called “The Mutilator.”  Part Mad Max, part samurai warrior, Mutilator was a post-apocalyptic bad–ass just trying to survive in a violent, dangerous world.  The crudely hand-drawn films were making the rounds in Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation and eventually landed on the desk of an MTV executive.   At the time MTV Animation was in its infancy and hungry for original content.  They were developing Beavis and Butt-head (another Spike and Mike alum) into a weekly series and the thinking was that “The Mutilator” would become their favorite show (similar to what “Itchy and Scratchy” were to the Simpsons).

The Mutilator, 1991. Click the image to view a full-size version.

A deal was drawn up and I quickly got animating on a series of three minute Mutilator shorts to be featured on B+B.  The shorts would be fast paced, action packed and extremely violent – just the sort of thing Beavis and Butt-head would flip for.  As a kid fresh out of film school with little professional experience I could not have been more excited.  Someone was PAYING me to do the thing I LOVED…Then the shit hit the fan.  Or, to be more specific, the trailer burned down.

See, a couple of kids in the mid-west accidentally burned down their parents’ trailer and they said they learned this from watching none other than Beavis and Butt-head.  The story sent shockwaves across MTV and fearing a backlash, the decision was made to remove all “fire” references from Beavis and Butt-head.  This decision was soon followed by a mandate to tone down violence across the channel for fear that it would inspire more imitateable behavior.   It was only a matter of time before the proverbial ax came down on Mutilator.  I argued that my cartoon featured fantastical characters existing in a sci-fi world – hardly imitateable - but it mattered not.  Poor Mutilator was on the chopping block.

Reading the handwriting on the wall, I realized I was going to need a Plan B.  I took a look in my sketchbook and arrived at the picture of the guy with the gigantic head.  Something sparked in my brain -- there was a show here.  I quickly wrote up a premise about the symbiotic relationship between a loser named Jim and the alien that plays house inside his massive cranium.  Quirky, weird, I thought this might be perfect for MTV.  I started drawing up some boards.

The Head Pilot – original storyboards, 1993.

A few days later I would sit down with the execs and hear the words I knew were coming:  “We’re sorry we can’t move forward with Mutilator.  But we really like you so…got anything else?”  Right on cue I whipped out my boards and the execs all huddled around to take a closer look.  Now at this moment we have three of the four components I mentioned at the top of this article – creativity, ambition and timing.  And as luck would have it, Mike Judge happened to enter the conference room at that very moment.  And I’ll never forget the sound of his intoxicating laughter as he checked out to my strange drawings.  His laughter, I believe, is what helped seal the deal.  A few weeks later, “The Head” would begin production as part of “MTV’s Oddities.”  Thanks, Mike!

MTV’s The Head, 1993. Click the image to view a full-size version.

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