Cartoon Network has given us plenty of memorable characters since it first launched on Oct. 1, 1992, from Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup to Johnny Bravo to Jake the Dog. However, one character you probably won't be reminiscing about as you think back on all of the good times you've had with Cartoon Network's programming these past 23 years is Moxy.
In fact, you might not even know who Moxy is, and that's a shame, because Cartoon Network probably wouldn't be the network it is today without him.
Moxy was the star of the first piece of original programming to air on Cartoon Network, originally called The Moxy Pirate Show, which premiered in November 1993. In each episode, the titular orange anthropomorphic dog — dressed in a yellow T-shirt, red and black checkered pants and Mickey Mouse gloves — would introduce and comment on classic animated shorts as well as appear in some unrelated comical segments in between. It's kind of like what Beavis and Butt-Head did with music videos over on MTV.
It may not have been a completely original show, but The Moxy Pirate Show did help the fledgling Turner Broadcasting property start to form its own identity as a place that would eventually become known for subverting the classic Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera cartoons that made up its initial programming schedule.
Cartoon Network brought in the now-defunct Colossal Pictures, the animation studio also behind the early '90s MTV animated series Aeon Flux, to help realize Moxy for the small screen. The team went through a "trial-by-error process" of going through about 100 characters before settling on the final design of Moxy, The Moxy Pirate Show director George Evelyn said in a behind-the-scenes clip filmed during the production of the series.
Moxy was unique in that he was what was referred to as a "live animation" cartoon, which the New York Times described in a September 1993 article as "a live animation character" that "can move freely and banter with people in 'real time.'" A computer technician would control Moxy's facial expressions, and the movements of a puppeteer wearing special body sensors on his head, torso and legs would be translated onto the screen by Moxy, according to the New York Times. The animated Moxy would also be placed in a real miniature set of his studio created in forced perspective to give it the illusion of depth.
Though he may seem like inspiration for The Simpsons' Poochie a few years later, the character of Moxy wasn't so much cool as he was a bit off. The jerkiness of the early CG animation used to create the character coupled with a voice provided by comedian Bobcat Goldthwait made Moxy even more over-the-top, surreal and with an air of inebriation not seen in your typical cartoon character. Moxy's ramshackle studio, uneven eyes and torn ear also made him seem like he had lived quite the life.
"The premise is that Moxy's the toon who didn't quite make it, so we gave him a job as a janitor at the Cartoon Network," Cartoon Network's first president Betty Cohen said in 1993, also adding that "he jams our signal once a week."
Perhaps in an effort to reel in some of Moxy's craziness, Cartoon Network eventually brought in a trusty sidekick/straight man for the character named Flea, a purple flea that wore a blue beanie with a propeller for what would then be called The Moxy Show. Penn Jillette provided the voice of Flea, who would often get peeved at Moxy for his stupidity, like not understanding the concept of a cartoon catchphrase.
Soon enough, Moxy and Flea would get equal billing on what became The Moxy & Flea Show with the little pest getting some new headwear in the form of a blue fez and a new voice provided by Chris Rock, who surprisingly toned down the anger and brought a bit more sass to the character. The Moxy & Flea Show also updated the animation of the show a bit, giving it a smoother look overall and making Moxy look like a '50s teenage hoodlum with cuffed blue jeans, a green and black striped T-shirt and what looked like black Chuck Taylor All Star low-tops. He also got some new deep orange fur, but his white gloves and that bite out of his ear still remained.
Moxy reportedly stayed on Cartoon Network until 2000, when the network moved many of the classic cartoons it had been airing as part of the Boomerang programming block to its own channel of the same name. However, Moxy did not seem to make the cut, and now, the character is nothing but a distant memory and not one that many early Cartoon Network fans seem to remember, either.
In a November 2003 interview with IGN, Andy Merrill, who wrote for Space Ghost's various shows on Cartoon Network and voiced Brak, suggested that the various incarnations of The Moxy Show didn't click with audiences. However, Moxy seemed to bring a smile to kids' faces as he improvised live during Turner Broadcasting's Great International Toon In, showing off his Elvis Presley impression, demonstrating his karate skills and talking about his girlfriend, Melody from Josie and the Pussycats. Say what you will about Moxy, but it sure seems like he did what he needed to do.