Animation artist, director, producer, and scriptwriter Dave Willis is best known as the co-creator (with Matt Maiellaro) of the irreverent cable series Aqua Teen Hunger Force. This ongoing animated tale of three obstreperous, acid-mouthed fast-food entities -- the trouble-causing milkshake Master Shake; the goateed, bejeweled, science-obsessed box of French fries Frylock; and the slow-witted lump of flesh Meatwad (who was branded "not suitable for human consumption") -- immediately caught fire with the late-night cable crowd when it bowed in 2000 on the Turner Cartoon Network's after-hours "Adult Swim" block of programming, and ultimately yielded a big-screen adaptation of the series.
Willis and Maiellaro initially met and collaborated as scriptwriters and producers for Williams Street Entertainment on that company's equally irreverent series Space Ghost Coast to Coast. This half-animated, half-live-action program, which commenced in 1994 and wrapped in 2003, resurrected the Space Ghost superhero character from his eponymous Hanna-Barbera series of the 1960s and early '80s, but rewrote him as an egotistical, imbecilic, and delusional host of a talk show, in which he conducts outrageous interviews with real celebrities including Susan Powter, Bob Denver, and Adam West.
As co-directed by Maiellaro and Willis, Aqua Teen Hunger Force constitutes an "unofficial" spin-off of Space Ghost Coast to Coast. It began with an episode of the latter, where Space Ghost visits a fast-food emporium and orders a prodigious amount to eat, but -- finding himself unable to pay for the goods -- must strike a deal with the restaurant owners and put their mascots (Master Shake and co.) on his talk program. Willis and Maiellaro reportedly co-scripted between 20 and 30 drafts of that episode, but it didn't fit the bill for the Space Ghost series, as the lead character scarcely appeared in it, and the effort ultimately went unproduced. When Space Ghost took a temporary break in 2000, however, and its producers needed a substitute, Willis and Maiellaro pitched the Aqua Teen idea to them and sold it instantly. The program bowed at 1:00 a.m. on December 31 of that year, and production on the first season began immediately afterward. Aqua Teen's series run commenced September 16, 2001.
By 2005, Aqua Teen Hunger Force had drawn such a broad viewership that First Look Pictures partnered with Willis and Maiellaro to develop a big-screen feature version of the series. That endeavor, 2007's Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theatres, found the fast-food trio pursued across the galaxy by a massive piece of exercise equipment that threatens to upset the galactic balance of power. Perhaps usurping the film's release was the marketing push that led up to it: small, text-free LCD billboards featured one of the show's most notorious characters flipping passers-by the bird. Though the campaign went virtually unnoticed in New York and Los Angeles, in Boston the guerilla tactic was wrongly perceived to be a terrorist stunt; the city was practically shut down as bomb crews investigated the mysterious signs. Turner was forced to pay a the city fee, and the film gained a new, albeit unwanted notoriety that may have affected its lackluster box-office returns in April 2007. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi