December 04, 2019

Conspiracy Theory Rock

There's a great story with THIS one.
By March 14, 1998, we were in our second year doing the "Saturday TV Funhouse" cartoons with Robert Smigel for Saturday Night Live. Robert sent over a Schoolhouse Rock parody called "Conspiracy Theory Rock" and I was juiced to dive into this one. There hadn't been a lot of SHR inspired parodies done, and we could do it better than anyone else because we could resurrect a lot of the crew that actually had done it with us in 1993 ! The brilliant Bill Peckmann designed the piece and also created the storyboard, and Vinnie Bell was head animator - both SHR veterans !
The final result is incomparably spot-on.

Now the fun part... throughout its production, I asked Robert several times whether this cartoon was really going to air. It was ruthlessly coming down upon the corporate/network realm and its control over information - especially SNL's parent company NBC.

Finally, it aired live in the east/midwest time zones, but then we later heard it was mysteriously absent from the west coast feed that night. Considering that the cartoon actually depicts itself being yanked, it was a chilling reality... Bill Moyers did a segment on PBS and dubbed it an example of "Network Self-Censorship" and The Nation also did an article on its being yanked by NBC. It was very hard to find online for a long time (except on our studio reel) until it finally popped up on the "Best Of Saturday TV Funhouse" DVD in the mid-2000s. Later, Mark Maron also posted it as a favorite of his...
All that's missing is an introduction by Rod Serling...

All the production artwork for "Conspiracy Theory Rock" from 1998. Conventionally hand drawn/animated but digital ink & paint and compositing, gorgeous boards by Bill Peckmann.

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