Celebrating One of the Greatest Adult Animated Series Ever: Beavis and Butt-Head
One of the most iconic series from the 1990s is Beavis and Butt-Head. Even if you missed it when it was on the air, you’d still recognise the name, kooky faces of the protagonists, and most likely their chuckles. Showing on MTV, Beavis and Butt-Head became a cultural sensation that had an initial run of seven series from 1993 to 1997, made it to the big screen in 1996 with Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, and later being revived for a comeback series in 2011.
Created by Mike Judge, the show endured many twists and turns during its run. As you would expect from an adult cartoon, Beavis and Butt-Head caused a fair bit of controversy in 90s conservative America – which likely made it even more popular. Now, we look back on the creation of the iconic comedy series, examine Judge’s battles with 90s American society, and let you in on a few fun facts that you possibly didn’t know about Beavis and Butt-Head.
How a couple of shorts spawned 225 episodes and a movie
While a member of a blues band in the late 80s and early 90s, Mike Judge was also creating animated shorts having purchased a film camera in 1989. His short film Office Space was shown at an animation festival in Dallas and was picked up by Comedy Central, after which, he made Frog Baseball. Featuring on Liquid Television in 1992 alongside another of Judge’s shorts, Peace, Love & Understanding, Frog Baseball gave America its first glimpse of the characters Beavis and Butt-Head. Judge opted to expand on the delinquent teens that he’d created in Frog Baseball, leading to the series Beavis and Butt-Head coming to MTV on 8 March 1993.
The first season ran for three episodes on MTV in 1993, being quickly followed a 26-episode second season later in the year. Season three of Beavis and Butt-Head also aired in 1993, running for 31 episodes into 1994. Another four seasons followed until the 41st episode of season seven on 28 November 1997. Each episode ran from between five and 11 minutes with special episodes running for up to 21 minutes. The show was met with positive and negative reviews, as would always be the case with an adult animated series that delivered so much commentary and criticism of American society. Some celebrated Beavis and Butt-Head’s intelligently laid social criticism, whereas others saw the show and the antics of the protagonists as just juvenile.
The premise of the show was simple but effective, with Mike Judge performing the voice acting for the two lead characters and many of the other supporting characters. Judge also wrote and directed the majority of Beavis and Butt-Head episodes. The lead characters are socially incompetent, devoid of adult supervision, and attend Highland High. They are undereducated and spend much of each episode being delinquents. In each episode, the two sit on a ragged couch and critique whichever music video is on before going out to generally cause a bit of havoc through their schemes. Beavis and Butt-head don’t show any empathy for others, including each other, and are obsessed with sex, violence, heavy metal music, and destruction.
Prior to the series initially coming to an end in 1997, Paramount Pictures teamed up with Mike Judge and MTV Productions to create the movie Beavis and Butt-Head Do America. Released in 1996, the film was a hit at the box office, grossing $63.1 million in the US from its $12 million budget according to Box Office Mojo. The movie was met with mostly positive reviews, becoming the highest-grossing December opening ever at the time. To give Beavis and Butt-Head a bit of Hollywood shine for their leap to the big screen, Mike Judge was joined by Demi Moore and Bruce Willis. On 27 October 2011, Beavis and Butt-Head returned to MTV with a 22-episode eighth season, finishing on 29 December 2011. The series expanded immensely and included a run of comics from Marvel in 1994, a spin-off show called Daria based on Beavis and Butt-Head’s classmate of the same name in 1997, and a huge range of games, books, and other merchandise.
The controversies of Beavis and Butt-Head
An adult series based on two teenage delinquents who enjoy general anarchy and comment on society was always going to cause some controversies. One which stands out for Beavis and Butt-Head is the “Fire! Fire!” story. In many of the early episodes, Beavis and Butt-Head were obsessed with fire, particularly Beavis who would chant “Fire! Fire!” often. In October 1993, a child died in a mobile home fire in Moraine, Ohio. The fire was caused by the brother using a cigarette lighter to set fire to the mobile home, which belonged to their mother. Blame was placed on Beavis and Butt-Head because the mother claimed that her son had watched the show before burning down the mobile home.
Even though these claims were refuted by neighbours who said that the family didn’t even have cable television, MTV and the Beavis and Butt-Head creators took steps to remove all references to fire in existing and future episodes. But that’s not to say that Judge didn’t find a way to make fun of the blame being placed on the show, with Beavis regularly chanting words that sounded like “Fire! Fire!” in the same way.
Despite the links to real-world incidents, Beavis and Butt-Head continued to run on MTV and is seen as the inspiration for many later popular shows. As explained by the Independent, the DNA strands of the show can be seen in shows like South Park, Jackass, and even British series The Inbetweeners, with the creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, citing Mike Judge’s creation as an influence on their show.
Fun facts about Beavis and Butt-Head
Beavis and Butt-Head was huge, spanning hundreds of episodes and a cinematic release, so it makes sense that the show’s creators rubbed elbows with many big names and inspired other works based on Beavis and Butt-Head. So, here are some of the fun facts that you possibly didn’t know about the show:
- According to Rolling Stone, when creating the eighth season, they wanted to have Beavis and Butt-Head critique a Kanye West music video. The outspoken musician agreed to have his video on the cartoon, but someone who owned a small percentage of the song-writing declined.
- Forever fans of Beavis and Butt-Head, South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker met one of their most iconic voice actors at the Beavis and Butt-Head Do America premiere, Isaac Hayes. Hayes, who would go on to voice Chef in South Park, performed on the movie’s soundtrack.
- Despite the show last appearing in 2011, the 2019-released slot game Beavis and Butt-Head shot up the rankings according to Slot Catalog, still sitting in the top 50 games in June, one month after its release, showing the lasting appeal of the show.
- The most famous setting of the show is the living room in which Beavis and Butt-Head cast judgement on music videos, but for years, fans wondered whose house it actually was. Luckily, Mike Judge eventually cleaned up the debate by stating that the two are in Butt-Head’s house.
- The reason for the first series being so short is because Mike Judge and the show’s team couldn’t keep up with MTV’s demand for new episodes. So, MTV stopped airing Beavis and Butt-Head just two weeks after it premiered.
Beavis and Butt-Head remains a classic of comedy, showing just how funny two dim-witted teenagers can be while also being very clever with its subversive social commentary and criticisms.
Dave has over 20 years experience in the digital industry, and is founder and editor of Geektown. Obviously a huge geek himself, he can often be found in front of the latest tv show or movie, on various video games, or with his head in a comic book.