"This show would have been impossible to do two years earlier," Jay Edwards told the sold-out theater at Cinefamily for Saturday's Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast reunion panel. Edwards was responding to a question posed about the influence of newly invented digital editing techniques on the 1994 show's aesthetic, crediting the availability of non-linear editing software with making it possible for the producers to create the cut-up narrative style that became the signature of the series.
Originally airing on Cartoon Network from 1994-2004, Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast was ostensibly billed as a late-night talk show hosted by a largely forgotten 1960s cartoon superhero. Celebrity guests would be interviewed in a separate studio, with their responses to seemingly nonsensical questions like "Are you getting enough oxygen?" frequently removed from the original context and repurposed to fuel each episode's plot. These plots often revolved around the machinations of Space Ghost's arch-enemies Zorak and Moltar, the talk show's band leader and producer, respectively.
The secret of Space Ghost's lasting appeal may be its is-anyone-watching gonzo approach to comedy. The combination of recycled animation and often confused, sometimes hostile guests gave the whole enterprise a handcrafted, lo-fi feel that invited the savvy viewer to be a part of its weirdness. The show felt like a shared hallucination amongst a small band of initiates. Or as Cinefamily's head programmer Hadrian Belove summarized in his introduction, "The first time you saw it, you wondered if someone had put something in your drink."
The 90-minute interview and discussion, featuring voice actor Andy Merrill (voices of Brak and Lokar), editor Jay Edwards, animator and voice actor Clay Martin Croker (voices of Zorak and Moltar), and animator and editor Jon Schnep, delved into the minutiae of the show's production, including the evolution of the format. "We used to interview people wearing the Space Ghost suit," Merrill recalled.
Initially, the episodes were constructed around the answers given by guests during the interview segments. This proved to be too labor-intensive for the show's staff, and after the first few episodes, this method was abandoned in favor of tailoring the interviews to fit the plot of the episode.
After 45 minutes of conversation about the birth and early development of the series, the onstage panelists were joined by the voice of Space Ghost, George Lowe, via telephone from his home in Lakeland, Fla. The telephone call was broadcast on the theater sound system, while a video loop of Space Ghost himself loomed over the proceedings, adding to the illusion that the animated talk show host himself had hijacked the conversation.
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The reunion culminated with a brief audience Q&A session, followed by Merrill singing a medley in the voice of Brak, including the chorus of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance," which had the theater in stitches. Several classic episodes of Coast-to-Coast were shown on the theater's screen while a reception and signing were held on the back patio.
The whole affair had the extemporaneous and whimsical atmosphere that both Space Ghost and Cinefamily strive for. The full house of faithful viewers speaks to the appeal of that atmosphere, which, in reply to Space Ghost's perennial opening question, does seem to supply enough oxygen.
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