While the six-episode run of Clerks: The Animated Series may have been short-lived and not often talked about, it's one of the most wholesome spin-offs of Kevin Smith's original 1994 film Clerks. Now, if you weren't previously aware this show existed…allow me to take you on the wild ride of Clerks: The Animated Series.
The year is 2000, and adult animation is carving out its niche on networks like MTV, Comedy Central, Cartoon Network, and Fox (pre-mouse takeover). Disney took one look at the popularity of shows like Daria, Space Ghost, Futurama, Family Guy, and South Park and decided they needed to get in the game. So, Disney did some math and looked at the popular stoner franchise Clerks (that was at Miramax, who was owned by Disney at the time) and gave creators Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier a green light for the animated Clerks show they were pitching around town.
If your first thought about Clerks: The Animated Series landing at Disney is, "it looks a lot like Kim Possible", you have no idea how right you are. Disney Television Animation was actually behind this show, and they employed Stephen Silver to design the characters for one of their first ventures into adult animation. Silver went on to work on Danny Phantom, Scooby-Doo, and of course, Kim Possible.
To say Clerks: The Animated Series did not go well from a network point of view would be an understatement – ABC aired a total of two episodes (entirely out of order) before completely pulling the plug and squashing the show into oblivion. But the one thing they didn't count on was the cult following of all things Clerks, even 21 years later.
As for the show itself, it's zany, absurdist, but still grounded in the reality of the "Clerks" franchise. There are endless film and pop culture references (remember though, it did come out in 2000), which only add to the charm and lore of the film franchise. Wacky though it may be, it's still oddly wholesome – a bridge between children's cartoons and some of the raunchier Adult Swim shows. Jay and Silent Bob aren't even drug dealers – they're fireworks salesmen, which is said to be the result of Disney not knowing the characters were drug dealers and objecting after it was already in production, so they just changed drugs to fireworks with zero explanation in the show. It even features Charles Barkley as himself and Alec Baldwin as the series villain, Leonardo Leonardo.
With Disney holding the rights to all six episodes (and any future episodes), the question has arisen: with live television production becoming increasingly more expensive to produce (thanks, COVID-19), why not put the current 6 episodes of Clerks: The Animated Series on Hulu (which would be a good home for the series, and Disney owned) and produce more from the comfort and safety of everyone's individual homes?
In a 20th anniversary interview last summer, Smith had this to say about reviving the show: "The one thing you could do right now, and you're doing today, I guarantee you, is that everybody could still make animation. Maybe we walk into Hulu and say, 'Look, this is the story. Here we did these six episodes. Disney owns them. You guys aren't doing anything with them. We have all these designs and a bunch of people we'd like to be involved with. The voice cast could come back, a bunch of the writers could come back, and stuff. But all the heavy lifting has been done. It's been time tested and vetted. So all we have to do is turn the lights back on. You could always do any Clerks cartoon you want, but if you want to do that Clerks cartoon, the one we all love, the one that would make the most sense to do, this is the very thin bridge we cross upon which may be how it gets built."
Even if we never get more episodes of the animated adventures of the "Clerks" franchise, the stub of a season we currently have is great: it's edgy, wacky, silly, but still has the same heart and charm of the original Clerks characters and franchise…even if Jay and Silent Bob do sell dime bags of fireworks.