Take an alcoholic scientist named Rick who shows up after a 20-year absence to move in with his daughter, converts her garage into his new lab and then goes on bizarre — really bizarre — adventures with Morty, his 14-year-old grandson, and you have a sense of what Adult Swim’s “Rick and Morty” is all about. Add in “Community” creator Dan Harmon and “Fish Hooks” writer/voice actor Justin Roiland, and you start to have an even better idea of what to expect from the acclaimed series that began its second bizarre season on July 26.
At Comic-Con International in San Diego, co-creators Roiland and Harmon were joined by co-producer Ryan Ridley for a journey like no other to the world famous CBR Yacht, sitting down with CBR TV’s Kevin Mahadeo for a raucous discussion about the series, what bizarre adventures the new season has in store and why time travel is nothing but trouble.
In the first part of their conversation, the trio discuss where the new season begins after Rick froze time in the Season One finale, Roiland’s inability to sing the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song, and how the show manages to strike a balance between the bizarre and the heartfelt in equal measures. Harmon credits Roiland’s ad libbing for what makes the show work, while Roiland counters that he just drinks and tries to say funny things while the animators and Harmon have to make sense of it all. Plus, Dan Harmon explains the fallacy of Dyson fans — but not before Roiland tries to get eight of them for free.
On how the show strikes a balance between wacky stories and genuine emotion and heart:
Justin Roiland: That’s the Dan Harmon-Justin Roiland balance. ‘Cause all the heart and warmth and–
Dan Harmon: It’s overcoming Ryan Ridley, really.
Roiland: We’ve got to keep this guy out.
Ryan Ridley: It’s like, “Why does this have to come together in such a beautiful way, guys?” [Laughter]
Harmon: Honestly, when I hear you talk about that I go, “Oh god, we’ll never be that good again.” We’re really proud of that episode because it really does represent the union of me and Justin because Justin, as you can see, is on full display in that episode. It’s inimitable. You cannot, when you hear Justin do the voices you wanna do an impression of him. It’s infectious, but you cannot think like him, his brand is truly warped and shaped differently. I think they call it a developmental disorder.
Roiland: That’s what my doctor says!
Harmon: And then on the other side, I’m obsessive about story and emotional arcs and stuff and was, you know, kind of given free reign over that story, which was just an expression of like the classic thing of finding out that you didn’t ask to be born and [your parents] didn’t ask for you to be born.
On how Roiland drinks and makes stuff up while the animators and Harmon turn it into a beautiful narrative:
Roiland: I go in and I get drunk and I say a bunch of stupid shit, and then our poor animators have to spend weeks animating it. What Dan does is he takes all that crap and then builds a beautiful A-story or B-story — whatever it is — this mesh that makes it all palatable because now there’s a narrative. Now we can cut to something else that’s happening that continues to happen and has a full resolution. And I do not think in Season Two we beat what we did in Season One. Noooo way, shape or form.
Harmon: Just to warn you, in Season Two I did not do what Justin just described. In Season Two, the “Rixty Minutes” sequel, the B-story is a dick joke. But, in my defense, Justin picked it.
Ridley: We had some amazing — like the James Cameron version of a sequel, and Justin went with like the new “Terminator” director version of a sequel.
In the second part of their conversation with CBR TV, Roiland, Ridley and Harmon discuss the season premiere, which features multiple parallel universes all happening at once via the magic of split-screen, and why they never wanted to let the proverbial cat out of the time travel bag. They also discuss at length whether or not Evil Morty will return, when, how — and most importantly for all three of them, why.
On why they wanted to avoid time travel:
Harmon: Time travel is a real shark-jumper. Once you introduce it to the canon of your show — it’s just a dangerous toy to pull out.
Roiland: Here’s what’s great about the first episode of Season Two is that it’s a cautionary tale of why you don’t fuck with time. And by the way, Rick never travelled — none of them travelled in time — all they did was pause time.
Harmon: It fractures time so they’re in a space where they have become theoretical instead of real.
Ridley: Although your keen-eyed viewer will notice that Rick, in his garage, has a box that’s labeled ‘time travel stuff.’
Harmon: That’s the joke is that it’s on the shelf.
On whether fans can expect to see Evil Morty in Season Two:
Roiland: We’ve got at least, what, five-six years until the comet hits earth? So I say we’ll give ’em evil Morty like…
Harmon: We’ve probably talked about Evil Morty in that writer’s room more than we actually spent working on actual episodes that aired. And I think the very wise decision that we made after talking that much about Evil Morty was that it all — none of it was coming from a place of joy. When things get academic, it starts to feel like the last few episodes of “Mork and Mindy.”
Roiland: We’ve left a lot of sweater threads — loose ends — that we’re gonna come back to. But we’re in no rush. And when you watch these in Season Two you’ll be like, “Oh my god! They can go anywhere, they can do anything. There’s an infinite amount of locations, characters and stories to tell, so we’ll be good to go for a while. I think when we want to come back to something really cool like Evil Morty, I want to make sure I know what’s his motivation, what’s his backstory, what’s going on. And it has to be inspired, and it can’t be forced, and it can’t be joyless.
Harmon: You want it to come from a place — you don’t want it to circumscribe your narrative. You don’t want to draw — pen in the whole show with an Evil Morty narrative.
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