MTV used to be a very different animal. For starters, the network used to actually play music! Although the M in Music Television has become increasingly obsolete, there was a sweet spot between when MTV began creating their own content and when they realized how much more lucrative it would be to do only that. This time period produced a slew of memorable programs, many of which were cartoons aimed at adults.
The animation renaissance truly began with Liquid Television in 1991. This animated showcase provided a launch pad for cartoons that became network staples such as Aeon Flux and Beavis and Butt-Head – special shout out to The Maxx, which aired on MTV’s Oddities. Although undoubtedly the most famous cartoon to come out of Liquid Television, Beavis and Butt-Head was surpassed in every way by its spinoff, Daria.
It’s been 20 years since Daria Morgendorffer, the girl who didn’t have low self-esteem, but simply had “low esteem for everyone else” first stole our hearts in a series rife with social satire, snappy dialogue and lovable characters. In honor of this anniversary, we’ve dug up some facts about this groundbreaking and unforgettable series. Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Daria.
15 Daria was created to bring female viewers to MTV
The edict came straight from Judy McGrath, the president of MTV back in the ‘90s: Beavis and Butthead needed both a smart teenaged character and a female character, so the on-air promo department decided to merge these ideas and Daria was born. She was meant to be a mixture of two popular actresses at the time: Janeane Garofalo and Sara Gilbert, from The Ben Stiller Show and Roseanne, respectively.
During the latter half of Beavis and Butthead’s run, McGrath was hoping to find a program that would speak to teenage girls, as the network had a staggering dearth of female viewers. Four other female fronted pilots were pitched before it was suggested that the clever, deadpan, recurring character from Highland be spun off into her very own series. None of the other pilots tested well and the department’s production budget was almost tapped, so luckily, the fifth time was the charm.
14 Daria started out as a sketch on the back of a paper plate
According to an article he wrote for Huffington Post, John Garrett Andrews – a producer on Beavis and Butthead – was not the first to sketch out a framework for Daria. He was, however, the first person who drew something that Mike Judge and MTV actually approved of. Apparently, Judge was a bit uncomfortable drawing female characters back then, so pretty much everyone was attempting to draw Daria as they saw her, based on information from him. Andrews sketched out a version of the character, not too dissimilar to the Daria we know and love, on a paper plate leftover from lunch. He was partially inspired by his high school girlfriend, Lindy Regan.
Partially based on Andrews’s sketch, an artist named Bill Peckman created Daria as she appeared on B&B. Due to the fact that the character was kind of forced on Judge, she was basically phased out once the show became a bonafide hit. The initial designs for Daria were much more similar to its parent show than the finished product, but the creators worried that this would alienate the very demographic that they were hoping to attract.
Karen Disher, along with Edward Artinian and Willy Hartland, redesigned the character and designed the supporting cast as well. They also made the animation style sharper and cleaner, which helped to further distinguish Daria from Beavis and Butthead.
13 Daria was named after one of Mike Judge’s classmates
Not only did Mike Judge know a Daria in school, but he also called her Diarrhea, just as his creations, Beavis and Butt-Head would later do to the fictional Daria in their show. Daria got the last laugh, it would seem, considering the long lasting impact of Daria Morgendorffer on pop culture. It’s tempting to wonder if Judge granted the character this moniker because he was unhappy about being forced to write her into the show in the first place.
Interestingly, in Greek, the name means “upholder of truth” and we all know that Daria was one to always tell it like it is. Her last name was also pulled from real life. The mother of one of the writers had the maiden name of Morgendorffer. Showrunner Glenn Eichler insists that while the name sounds Teutonic, they were avoiding specifying anyone’s religion, because Daria was satirizing the social behavior of all Americans in general.
12 Mike Judge was not involved in the series
When Daria was pitched, Mike Judge was busy working on both Beavis and Butt-Head Do America and King of the Hill. According to John Garrett Andrews, Judge was cool with Daria getting her own show, as long as the network didn’t need anything from him. Production moved forward without Judge, and Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis – apparently Lewis was the Jane to Eichler’s Daria – were tapped to run the show. Both had worked on B&B and much of the crew behind Daria came from that series as well. MTV didn’t really have an animation department at the time, so they were basically it.
Interestingly, when he was interviewed years later, Judge appeared annoyed that the network moved ahead with Daria without his involvement. He felt that MTV was trying to prove that they could create something successful without him. Although Judge said he'd never seen the show, he admitted to hearing good things. Judge didn’t approve of several people that MTV had work on the series, although he felt that Eichler was a good choice for showrunner.
11 Production on each episode took ten months
The original Daria pilot, “Sealed with a Kick” was a five minute animatic, which is basically a motion comic. A radio play is created and then synced to the storyboard panels. The pilot tested well and the series was picked up. Making Daria was an incredibly labor-intensive and fairly expensive process. It didn’t come as cheap as Beavis and Butt-Head, because the screen time on that show was split between animation and music videos, which cut down on costs considerably.
In order to bring Daria to the small screen there were about thirty-five artists working under the supervision of Susie Lewis, as well as somewhere between six to eight freelance writers working under Glenn Eichler. Not to mention all of the actors who were employed, many of whom were pulling double or even triple duty. The actual animation itself was done in Korea. All in all, every single half -hour took about ten months to produce.
10 Jane, Quinn and Helen are all voiced by the same actress
It’s crazy to consider that three characters who sound as different as Jane, Quinn, and Helen were all voiced by the same woman: Wendy Hoopes. According to the actress, she used a low, high, and medium register to differentiate the characters from one another. It worked, because Daria’s bestie, her sister, and her mom sound nothing alike! Today, she continues to do voiceover work, as well as acting in film and television.
Hoopes wasn’t the only actor to lend her voice to more than one character. Lisa Collins voiced both head cheerleader Brittany Taylor and Fashion Club overlord Sandy Griffin – although as tribute to her grandmother, she was credited as Janie Mertz.
Marc Thompson was the actor behind football champ, Kevin Thompson. He also voiced both the most severe and the most delicate teachers at Lawndale High; Mr. Anthony DeMartino and Mr. Timothy O’Neill, respectively. Apparently, he got so worked up when playing the former that the director was concerned for his safety.
Lastly, Ashley Albert voiced both the bitterly divorced Ms. Janet Branch and super-slow-talker Tiffany Blum-Deckler.
9 The theme song was by a band called Splendora
Splendora was comprised of Cindy Brolsma, Jennifer Richardson, Janet Wygal, Tricia Wygal, and Delissa Santos. Their one and only album, In the Grass, was released in 1995 to little fanfare. A year later, when Brolsma was working as a producer on Daria, she cleverly placed a copy of Splendora’s debut on Susie Lewis’s desk. Lewis liked the album and contemplated having the band write the show’s theme song.
Other bands were considered as well. Money was definitely an object and so it was a given that the tune would have to be dreamt up by an unknown band. Splendora recorded a four-track demo, which included lyrics by Glenn Eichler. Apparently, there are five other versions of “You’re Standing on my Neck” that no one else has ever heard. The theme’s trademark "la la la la la" has become one of the most recognizable aspects of the series. Unfortunately, after contributing a track to each of the two Daria movies that followed, Splendora called it quits.
8 Tracy Grandstaff was forced to get a vocal coach
As Daria, Tracy Grandstaff became the voice of a generation. Difficult as it may be to imagine, initially not everyone believed that she was the right woman for the job. Although Grandstaff had voiced Daria on Beavis and Butt-Head, the showrunners wanted someone with more voice acting experience since the character would now be starring in her own series. They also felt that she wasn’t necessarily deadpan enough and wanted to explore other options. John Garrett Andrews went to the mat to keep Grandstaff, because he felt that she was Daria.
Andrews hired Grandstaff a vocal coach to appease everyone, although he didn’t feel that she needed one. Early on she was forced to do take after take, in an attempt to get her to sound even more monotone. Everyone just wanted to be sure that the right tone was established for the character. This led to a bit of back and forth, before it was finally agreed upon that the way that Grandstaff had been voicing Daria was what had already been established and therefore, that was the way to go.
7 Trent was inspired by Jordan Catalano from My So-Called Life
Glenn Eichler was a big fan of My So-Called Life, which had become a hit through its reruns on MTV, despite being canceled far too soon by ABC. MSCL served as a reference point for Daria in more ways than one, not the least of which was the inspiration for Jane’s dreamy older brother, Trent. There wasn’t a girl alive in the ‘90s who didn’t have a crush on Jordan Catalano, as portrayed by the incomparable Jared Leto. Eichler liked the idea of a gorgeous guy who wasn’t too bright. However, he chose to make Trent more of a flake than a dummy.
That covers Trent’s personality, but what about his name and look? Susie Lewis named him for Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and he was modeled after Dave Navarro from Jane’s Addiction. Both musicians were widely adored by girls everywhere in the ‘90s and if there was a common cartoon crush from that era, Trent Lane was definitely it.
6 There was almost a Mystik Spiral spinoff
Trent was a musician who lacked the ambition care to about much, including his dream to become a rock star. He played in a band called Mystik Spiral – but they’re thinking of changing the name. The band consisted of Trent on vocals and guitar, Jesse Moreno on rhythm guitar, Nicholas Campbell on bass, and Max Tyler on drums.
Glenn Eichler wrote a script for a spinoff about the band. He had written three different drafts by 2002, but MTV animation was closed, so sadly, the show was never produced. Thankfully, the script was included in the Daria: The Complete Animated Series DVD box set, so we can feel properly crushed by the fact that the series doesn't exist.
The band moves to Mirage, which is supposed to be a “cool town”, in the hopes of finally making it big. Eichler stated that his only regret was that he “never got to hear 'Incontinent Love’ set to music”. It was a song that he had specifically written for the series. Considering how awesome “Freakin' Friends” is, this is a loss for us all.
5 Almost all of the music had to be replaced in order to release the series on DVD
Like its parent show, music played a pivotal role on Daria. Unfortunately, 99% of it had to be replaced or the series never would’ve been released. The cost of licensing was simply too high. Glenn Eichler explained this in depth in the DVD insert: “[It’s] like one of those astronauts in a Twilight Zone episode who returned from space and his wife can’t figure out what’s changed about him, until it slowly dawns on her that instead of a cool song from 1997 playing when he walks into the room, it’s some tune she’s never heard.”
The box set was divisive, with some fans overjoyed by the fact that the series was released at all and others feeling that it shouldn’t have been released incomplete. Eichler addressed that issue as well: “Does that mean this box set is compromised? Season 1 Daria would’ve said, ‘Yes’. Season 5 Daria would’ve said, ‘Shut up and pass the remote.”
The nondescript music – for better or worse – is just that, nondescript. It neither adds nor detracts from the show, although a couple of jokes fall flat without the songs that made them funny. While new viewers are unaffected, longtime fans miss the presence of awesome musicians such as Fiona Apple, PJ Harvey, Beck and Radiohead, among so many others.
4 It’s the longest running MTV animated series
Daria ran from 1997-2002, making it the longest running animated series to air on MTV – unless you count Celebrity Deathmatch, which was made using claymation. The series outlasted its parent show and has arguably had a longer-lasting impact on pop culture as well. Beavis and Butt-Head is a perfect snapshot of the time period in which it was created and Mike Judge’s brilliance was clear from the start.
However, while that series is firmly stuck in the '90s, Daria remains just as relevant today as it was when it was created. Daria wasn’t just the voice of that generation, but of any generation. The reason why you’d be hard pressed to find many diehard B&B fans still walking around is because while that show made people laugh, no one was relating to those two dummies.
The issues raised on Daria, the witty dialogue, the astute observations about social behavior, and the clever satire made the series unique. On top of all that, there was a lovable cast of characters who were put into painfully relatable situations. Daria has, and will continue to endure.
3 Daria has a live-action movie trailer
Don’t explode with excitement just yet, because the trailer’s a fake. A few years back, seemingly out of nowhere, MTV posted its dream cast for a live-action Daria movie. The choices were pretty spot-on, with Aubrey Plaza heading up the cast as Daria herself and Ellen Page as her bestie, Jane. Daria’s parents would be played to perfection by Annette Bening and Will Ferrell, and wait for it… Christopher Walken would play Mr. DeMartino.
Cut to two years later and College Humor decided to at least partially make this a reality by creating a fake movie trailer starring none other than the amazing Aubrey Plaza. She is the sole member of the hypothetical cast who makes an appearance in Daria’s High School Reunion, but the trailer is absolutely perfect. It’s seriously everything that you would want in a live-action adaptation of this beloved cartoon and if it ever somehow became a reality – it won’t, but we can dream – count us in!
2 One of the artists recently sketched out Daria, 20 years later
To commemorate the show’s 20th anniversary, co-creator Susie Lewis and character designer Karen Disher happily returned to Lawndale and gave Entertainment Weekly a much-needed update on where all of our favorite characters would be twenty years later.
Jake and Helen are happy retirees who even take dance classes together. Quinn is still living in Lawndale, raising her triplets – Timmy, Tommy, and Teddy – alone after ditching her college sweetheart. She also has a YouTube channel where she discusses dessert and skin, called "S’mores and Pores". Kevin and Brittany are married, with five kids. The latter is the local weather girl and the former is a stay-at-home dad. Although Kevin has put on some extra pounds, Brittany still wears her high school cheerleader uniform every Halloween.
Mystik Spiral may be history, but Trent never gave up on his dream and continues to play with Trent Lane and the Mystikal Explosion. Now living in Queens, he even made some money off Mystik Spiral's tune, “Freakin’ Friends”. Jane is a professional artist, living in SoHo and married to an archeologist. She and Daria still spend tons of time together, and as always, enjoy going to social events and only talking to each other.
As for Daria, she moved to Hell’s Kitchen and became the lone female writer on a late night talk show. She lives with her cat, Godzilla, who she trained to use a toilet. Daria’s tried online dating, without much success thus far. By the way, she’s totally over Trent.
1 There was talk of a revival
Way back in 2011, when Beavis and Butthead returned with their first new installments since 1997, there was talk of bringing Daria back as well. Unfortunately, there haven’t been any updates since. This is probably due to the fact that bringing back B&B didn’t exactly turn out the way that everyone had hoped. A good revival provides something for fans both old and new, and the return of everyone’s favorite morons from Highland just didn’t bring much to the table to create new fans. However, a Daria revival most likely wouldn’t have as much trouble attracting new viewers.
The stories told in Daria are timeless-- literally everyone who has survived high school can relate. We never quite get over some of those experiences. Sure, we move on and live life. It’s not as though we remain trapped in that past, but we remember what it felt like when we were and that is why Daria resonates with people of all ages. It’s the reason why we can rewatch those episodes so many years later and they still make so much sense. On top of all that, there is still so much story left to tell. Unfortunately, there is no revival on the horizon, but that doesn’t change the fact that there should be.
Did we miss any interesting facts about Daria? Let us know in the comments!