Welcome back to The Christmas Spot! It’s that time of year once again when this blog takes a break from the usual and turns into your very own Christmas advent calendar of holiday goodness, and some badness. Starting today, it’s nothing but Christmas specials until the big day, and to kick off this year’s installment it seemed appropriate to tackle the episode “Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future” from the Adult Swim original Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force was created by the duo of Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro and was one of the inaugural shows featured on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming block in 2001. The show follows three anthropomorphic fast food items: Master Shake (Dana Snyder), Frylock (Carey Means), and Meatwad (Dave Willis). At first, the trio are a mystery solving team, but that premise is pretty much dropped after a few episodes and the show is essentially about nothing. It’s random and absurd with the bad-natured Master Shake often trying to enrich himself at the expense of his roommates, Meatwad and Frylock. Their neighbor Carl (Willis) is a frequent victim of their various schemes and they often attract the attention of weirdos, freaks, and aliens who seek to do harm. Crudely animated and briskly paced, each episode is essentially 11 minutes of surreal comedy. Most of the time it works and it’s really funny, though there are some duds in there that swing and miss badly. The show ran for 139 episodes and even spawned a movie making it one of Adult Swim’s most successful shows.
Closing out the first season is this episode, “Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future.” That mouthful of a title refers to a new character introduced in this episode, the actual Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future (Maiellaro), heretofore simply referred to as ghost or robot because I am already sick of typing out that title. The ghost first shows up at the episode’s open haunting Carl’s house. In February. Yes, this may be a sort of Christmas special but it doesn’t take place at Christmas for the sake of comedy. At first, the ghost is just annoying as he keeps telling stories about the past accompanied by an unusual amount of smoke. He shows Carl his Christmas as a child when his poor, dirtbag, of a father had nothing but carpet samples to give him as a gift. He couldn’t even play with them as the samples were also Christmas dinner. The scene is actually reminiscent of Scrooged and the flashback to Christmas past from that film.
Carl is not exactly thrilled about being haunted by a ghost robot, but he becomes really annoyed when the ghost fills his prized above ground swimming pool with blood. Apparently, the blood is actually elf blood and at this point the neighbors enter the episode to question Carl about the blood-filled pool and the weird, annoying, robot. The ghost is happy to tell them about why the pool has been filled with elf blood, but not before first suggesting they pull up a few chairs and some snacks. He regales them with a story about the origins of Santa Claus, who was once a great, red, ape named Sir Santa of Claws. He constructed crude toys and hurled them at other apes. There’s also lots of defecation, as the robot points out. This Claws came into contact with some martian elves, that he enslaved and defecated upon and the story goes on and on. Eventually, everyone either gets annoyed or falls asleep. All except Meatwad who seems both horrified and captivated by the story.
At this point, Carl just wants to know how he can make the blood in his pool go away. The ghost tells him he needs to give of himself to the great, red, ape in space. And by give of himself, he means sexually. Carl, surprisingly, doesn’t seem mad as he deadpans a “wonderful” response to the request. We then time-jump to the next day (presumably) and Frylock and Carl are discussing him selling the house. Frylock asks if he considereds just doing what the robot said, but Carl is pretty adamant about not getting raped by a gorilla in space and I can’t say I blame him. He mentions he has somebody coming over to look at the house, then tells Frylock to go away so he can take a shower. He heads off to do just that, then comes running out of the bathroom horrified and covered in blood. Frylock tells Carl he can just shower at their house, but he’s about as excited about “gettin’ nude in your house,” as he is about the space monkey.
Carl is then shown giving a tour of the house to his respective buyer, and it is none other than Glenn Danzig who is voicing himself. We’ve covered quite a bit of Danzig material this year at The Nostalgia Spot so it seems only fitting we should cover his foray into animation this Christmas, no? Danzig is illustrated as being a shirtless guy in black pants and he’s pretty intrigued about a house that bleeds. His only concern really is if the robot can make the blood flow up the walls, and the robot pops in to assure he can. He’s also in love with the idea of a swimming pool filled with blood. He’s not a good house-buyer as he’s clearly let on to Carl that he wants the place, and when he asks for a price Carl just throws out a million and Danzig happily accepts. Carl is overjoyed, a rare occurrence on this show as he usually ends up dead or something at the end of most episodes.
Sometime later, Master Shake is looking out the window at the house formerly owned by Carl and sees Danzig heading over. He tells everyone in the house to scatter as the door is pounded upon by the muscled musician. Shake cheerfully opens the door and offers food from their “Haunted Kitchen!” and Meatwad goes into a lame routine of turning the lights on and off while wailing “Daaaaaaaanziiiiiiiiig! You want something to eaaaaat?” Not amused, Danzig goes into a rant. His robot ran away and he’s the source of the house’s blood so Danzig is quite ticked off that he’s not around. He warns Shake that if he’s hiding that robot there will be Hell to pay, in more words or less. After he leaves, Shake is relieved and the ghost robot pops into the image. He announces that he hates living with Danzig and finds him annoying. Plus, he never wears a shirt. Shake doesn’t care and simply demands that the robot make their house bleed right now and then we cut to the end credits.
So this one really isn’t much of a Christmas special. It contains a really wild tale about the origins of Santa Claus, though it will be admitted in later episodes that the ghost who spins this tale knows nothing of the past and isn’t even from the future. Like many characters on this show he’s just insane. Carl is the victim, as he often is, throughout most of the episode but actually ends up doing well in the end. The main characters of Shake, Meatwad, and Frylock actually don’t have much to do since the ghost’s story takes up so much of the meager 11 minute runtime.
There’s no denying that, as a Christmas special designed to make you have those warm, fuzzy, feels “Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future” comes up woefully short as there’s really no Christmas spirit to be found at all. How much you enjoy the episode depends on your brand of humor, and if you’re amused by the Glenn Danzig cameo (which I obviously am). Danzig apparently wrote a lot of his own lines and if you’ve ever heard him rant in an interview or on stage then that probably doesn’t surprise you as his rant at the episode’s end is very much on brand. The episode is animated crudely so it’s not particularly attractive, but there’s value in the crudeness and humor as well. I find this one funny, and it’s short enough that it doesn’t overstay its welcome (though the intentionally long back story of Santa does toe the line) so I can give this one a solid recommendation.
And if you’re looking to catch this one on television this year then you may be in luck. Adult Swim is pretty good at airing its various Christmas specials throughout December. Since this one is so old and from the pre-HD era they may bypass it. In that case, it appears to be streaming for free at adultswim.com and finding it online isn’t particularly hard either. It was also released on DVD as part of Volume 2 of the show (even though it was considered a season one episode) and getting that set probably won’t set you back much. If you liked reading this though then come back tomorrow when we’ll have another Christmas special to talk about, and I promise it will be a bit more “Christmasy” next time. See you then!