Dan Harmon (Community) made his return to the Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour on July 24 to promote his newest series that he co-created with Justin Roiland (Adventure Time), an animated comedy titled Rick and Morty.
Rick and Morty tells the story of Morty, a subpar high school student, and his part sociopath, part brilliantly eccentric inventor Grandfather, Rick. And as Roiland describes, Rick and Morty will be like “Little mini movies” filled with “homage’s to various sci-fi tropes.”
It’s full of outlandish stuff such as galactic portals, aliens and time travel, and in the pilot episode we learn that Rick has been pulling Morty out of school and taking him on harvesting missions in the deep and vast recesses of the universe’s other dimensions.
If the concept of a dimension jumping, time travelling duo sounds familiar, Harmon can explain “For me, the influences are more in British sci-fi stuff that I grew up reading — like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy also there’s a heavy dose of Doctor Who in there,” and the similarities to the Back to the Future movie franchise haven’t gone unnoticed either.
(Author’s note: How Harmon didn’t cite Inspector Spacetime, or the journalists covering the panel didn’t make mention of it to him in their questioning, is baffling to me).
The characters of Rick and Morty will be voiced by Justin Roiland with additions voices by Dan Harmon, Chris Parnell (Archer), Sarah Chalke (Scrubs), Spencer Grammer (Greek), Brandon Johnson (Treme) and Kari Wahlgren (Gravity Falls).
Harmon also explained how hand-drawn animations had limitless possibilities, and when asked how live action television differed from animation Harmon replied, “You can make a banana purple. You can put three hats on a cowboy.”
Harmon was also quick to point out that there were some similarities in terms of their limitations “It actually is just as inconvenient, for instance, to blow something up in animation, because explosions, if you want to make them look good, they need more frames drawn. It’s just as inconvenient to fill a room with extras, because some artist has character-design each extra. You think, as I did going into animation from live-action, ‘Ah, everything costs the same. It’s all a bunch of drawings.’ But you very quickly learn that you do have to be strategic about your resources.”
Eventually questions from the critics at the panel turned to Community and Harmon was response ready. When asked why he decided to return after his forced year long hiatus he answered, “If I had not gone back, if I had been invited back and not gone back, the worse case scenario is 30 years of wondering what would have happened if I had gone back. If I go back, the worst case scenario is one shitty season. Who cares? I had to go back.”
However, when it was explained to Dan that the question was actually about why he’d subject himself to the constraints on network television, he replied “The constraints you’re describing are the same as iambic pentameter; they’re the same as a haiku. Those constraints come with a different way to reach an audience. Like I’ve said, I grew up on network sitcoms. If those are gone when I’m 65 years old, I would never forgive myself for not stepping up to that plate as often as possible.”
Dan described his previous experience working on Community as “You’re seeing a bunch of crazy stuff on screen at ‘Community’ because, in general, relative to other networks and studios, they were incredibly permissive. I think NBC knew it was in the business of critical darlings and was always encouraging me early on like, ‘Yeah, go crazy.’ And Sony has always been in the business of syndication. They want this show to succeed.”
Roiland then offered his opinion of working with Harmon, calling him “A talented, genius writer, who writes some of the best dialogue that I’ve ever read, and I think that’s more important to Hollywood than anything else.”
In the end, Harmon summed up by saying “I would rather die than make bad stuff for people, because I’m a terrible dishwasher, I’m a terrible lover, I’m a terrible pet owner and this is my only recourse to go to bed at night and feel like I did anything of merit, so that fills me with emotions that sometimes get express in ways that you might read about third-hand on blogs and stuff, but I also, I think, overall kind of allows me to fail upward.”
Rick and Morty will premiere in December on The Comedy Channels weird little brother network, Adult Swim and Community’s 5th season will return to the midseason line-up on NBC.
Check out the trailer for Rick and Morty and get ready to laugh!