Today is the tenth anniversary of the panic heard around Boston. Before Bostonian Mark Wahlberg gifted us all with the movie disaster that was The Happening, there was the Mooninite panic of 2007: Talk about advertising gone very, very wrong.
To preface, we have to explain Mooninites. These are fictional characters on the Adult Swim animated television series Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Their names are Ignignokt and Err. The crudely drawn characters are two-dimensional alien villains from the Moon who frequently visit Earth and cause senseless destruction and chaos for the main protagonists. One of which is a giant anthropomorphic milkshake.
The night before January 31st, 2007 someone had the bright idea to put up numerous electronic placards containing litebrite-like sketches of Mooninites giving the middle finger all over the city of Boston. Local artist, Zebbler in association with a marketing company called Interference Inc., created 20 of these devices to promote the soon-to-be-released Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theatres.
They were placed in public areas such as – train stations, overpasses, trendy areas and high traffic/high visibility areas.
On the morning of January 31st, someone spotted one on an overpass from their seat in a bus.
Said passenger raised the alarm, not knowing what it was. This was a post-911 America, so the cavalry immediately descended upon the scene, including the Boston Police Department bomb squad, police cruisers, fire trucks, ambulances, and helicopters. Soon a large number of calls were coming in claiming to spot more Mooninites all over the city. Roads and rivers were closed; buses were taken out of service. Havoc ensued.
The chaos arose from the fact that these magnetic devices somewhat resembled IED’s.
Meanwhile, Zebbler who was witnessing the madness he caused, contacted his co-conspirator Interference, Inc. The company then reached out to Cartoon Network who broadcast ATHF. They released a statement after Boston police had been informed that it was all a publicity stunt.
“We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger. The packages in question are magnetic lights that pose no danger. They are part of an outdoor marketing campaign in 10 cities in support of Adult Swim’s animated television show Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” they said.
“They have been in place for two to three weeks in Boston, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. Parent company Turner Broadcasting is in contact with local and federal law enforcement on the exact locations of the billboards. We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger.”
Turner Broadcasting, along with Interference, Inc., paid $2 million to the city of Boston for costs incurred.
Many criticized the “overreaction’ by authorities, claiming a generational gap. “Repeat after me, authorities. L-E-D. Not I-E-D. Get it?” wrote one blogger.
Either way, it’s always good to give the police a heads-up if you’re going to try some weird shit on their turf.
Loaded staff writer Danielle De La Bastide has lived all over the planet and written for BuzzFeed, Thought Catalog as well as print publications throughout the Caribbean.