Interview: Dave Willis & Matt Maiellaro Talk Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Aqua Teen Hunger Force creators Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro about Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm. The duo discussed the show’s hip-hop vibe and future seasons. The movie will be available to stream on HBO Max on February 8.

“Everyone’s favorite rascals Frylock, Master Shake, Meatwad, and Carl fight the corporate overlord Amazin, led by tech mogul Neil and his trusty scientist sidekick, Elmer,” reads the movie’s logline.

Tyler Treese: Dave, I love that the movie started with the Aqua Teens all separated because you always thought that Frylock would just snap one day and leave that insanity behind, so it was very interesting to see that fallout. What made you want to start the film that way?

Dave Willis: Yeah, it’s great. You watch the whole series and you’re like, “Why didn’t Frylock just move?” So we had a built-in premise, right? He finally gets smart and does move.

Matt, it’s kind of risky to not have the crew really reunited until 45 minutes into the movie. How did you know it would work, keeping them separated and making that payoff really work later on?

Matt Maiellaro: Well, cause I feel like somehow the audience knows that were, at one time, a group and it’s just more of a journey for Frylock. Plus Dave and I went into the future and discovered that this idea would work and we saw the movie before we made it and we came back and continued to write it. So, luckily, we have a time machine, so that helped with a lot of the making of this movie.

You can’t beat a time machine for sure. Dave, the episodes of the show are 11 minutes. This is 76 minutes. So what were the biggest challenges in crafting one continuous story that has so many different beats and sustains itself for a full movie length?

Dave Willis: Well, I think we had to find those other 65 minutes Fortunately though, our scripts are usually 76 minutes long, and then we have to cut them down to a quarter-hour. So we are very used to writing at that length. Then we’re told by master control that the show can’t air unless it’s 11 minutes or they’re just going to cut to the Wendy’s commercial at 11 minutes regardless of what’s happening.

Matt Maiellaro: We asked them to speed them up 70 times, but they refused to do that. So there’s a lawsuit that we’re not allowed to talk about, but we are suing them in a big way.

I hope you guys win some money from the lawsuit.

Matt Maiellaro: We do because we went into the future and we saw us winning all the money. So I think it’s going to work out for us.

Dave Willis: That’s how Matt got that hair. That’s real stallion hair.

Matt Maiellaro: It really is.

Dave Willis: From the ponies of Chincoteague. Then he had it curled by Dee Snider’s personal assistant.

Matt, I love the Shawn Kemp Space Jam parody and his appearance later on in the movie. Were one of you a Supersonics fan? How did that come together?

Matt Maiellaro: I think that speaks more to Dave’s side. Even the whole idea of ripping off or just making fun of Space Jam came from Dave and we just had a blast putting it together. I don’t know anybody in basketball. Dave had an idea with Shawn Kemp and we got to get him and work with him. He was just a blast. He was just a blast to work with. He was so much fun.

Dave Willis: It was like, what would be the truck stop sequel? You ever go to a truck stop and there’s a whole different array of movies that you’ve never even heard of? Bruce Willis has a whole different wing of movies that he’s done that you can’t even get unless you go to a truck stop. I think we thought Shawn Kemp would probably be our version of Michael Jordan or LeBron James for the truckstop Space Jam.

He seems like such a great sport. Dave, I love that you brought back Ignignokt and Err and really breaking the fourth wall and it worked especially well because I was watching it on my computer. So how fun was playing with the medium, knowing a lot of people would be streaming this movie and working within those confines?

Dave Willis: We love the whole texting idea because we were like, “How many times have you seen a crappy movie and within four minutes you’re already looking down at your phone on a crappier screen watching something even crappier?” And now you’re multitasking between two crappy things.

We were like, “Well, even if we make the most awesome movie in the world, someone’s going to look at their phones. So why don’t we just try to make this a multimedia experience that you sign up for?” And of course, the Mooninites would just pester the hell out of you. The only thing was our original script was supposed to be hundreds and hundreds of texts that just brick your phone eventually, but we were told legally we can’t do that to people’s $1000 phones.

I love the Run the Jewels theme song for the movie. Killer Mike also voices Boxy Brown, which is a really funny gag in the movie. The series with Schoolly D doing the original theme song, it’s always had that hip-hop lyrical MC edge to it. How great was it to continue that with Run the Jewels and them putting together the song?

Matt Maiellaro: Oh, it was a perfect matchup. We chose them because they have a huge following, so we thought if they’d do our movie, more people would see our movie. But it was amazing. I think Aqua Teen was the first show to ever have that sort of urban hip-hop rappy open and Killer Mike’s got a great relationship with Adult Swim. He is local and he loved our show, so getting him on board was fantastic. And they really came to the table with that song. I wrote the song and gave it to him, but they performed it.

Dave, Season 12 was announced, which is so exciting. I’m sure you guys have had plenty of ideas in the interim. So what’s that process like, boiling it down since it is just five episodes?

Dave Willis: We have not had plenty of ideas in the interim! I think we just come up with them when we get together. But I mean, we’re recording the third one tomorrow. We’re excited about the scripts. They feel very consistent with the show. The characters have grown, but the stories are still just insane and weird. What was your original question?

Matt Maiellaro: How much money do you make? How much money? We make a lot.

Dave Willis: Lots of money. Lots of so much money.

Matt, when ATHF ended initially, it wasn’t your choice. Getting to do this movie and having another season, does it feel like you’re doing a proper send-off or are you guys hoping that it really is Aqua Teen Forever and you can just keep on doing more?

Matt Maiellaro: So the answer to your question is that we are making a lot. We’re making many more movies and we’re probably not just going to get five. We expect to get seasons of the show.

Dave, it’s been 15 years since Aqua Teen Hunger Force Zombie Ninja Pro-Am came out and that game was just an absolutely insane mix of genres, but it was very funny and the Scott Van Pelt stuff was so hilarious. What are your memories just working on that?

Dave Willis: I remember a lot of stuff like us writing notes after playing the game. The gameplay is not … if I’d played that in an arcade, I probably would’ve asked for my quarter back I remember giving notes, like, “And then he needs to be able to pull out some nunchucks here and have a fight with the frat aliens on the green, like a nunchuck fight. But then the spaceship needs to be able to be shooting lasers the whole time.” I think we got like one email back that just said, “We can’t do that.”

We worked really hard on those cutscenes and made them sort of funny and consistent with the show. But the gameplay was like … I wish someone would’ve set my expectations for what the gameplay was like before we went in and had such high hopes about a full-contact golf game.


Marvel and DC