Animation Director, Pee-wee’s Playhouse (1986-1991); Executive Producer, Liquid Television (1991-1994)
Not long after the debut of MTV, my grandfather called the cable company and asked if he could have the channel scrambled. In the early days MTV was a showcase of bizarre animation, giving airtime to experimental work. At the time Prudence Fenton was a young animator just out of art school, hired by MTV to make station IDs. She continued throughout her career to push ideas and technologies as far as she could. By 1986 it worked! Far-out creativity made its way into network television with the legendary Saturday morning children’s program, Pee-wee’s Playhouse, where Prudence Fenton worked as the animation director. She brought the Penny Cartoon and other stop-motion wonders to the show.
Then in 1991, along with Japhet Asher, she worked to make Liquid Television a reality, which further embraced the experimental by commissioning independent animators to make short segments and creating a venue in which to show them. With Weird Vibes, the resurgence of Liquid Television, and new episodes of Beavis and Butt-Head, maybe television is ready to get back into that territory again.
When I called her up asking for an interview, she was surprised I knew who she was. I thought, “Shouldn’t everyone?” She is a pioneer.
VICE: How did you start working for MTV?
Prudence Fenton: In art school I started doing my own animations by doing things with flip cards and shooting on Super 8. From there, I was hired by a company called Broadcast Arts that was about to do station IDs for MTV.