With Regular Show: The Movie set for DVD release on Tuesday, October 13th, series creator (and voice of Mordecai) JG Quintel, Supervising Producer Sean Szeles, Art Director Paula Spence, and voice actors William Salyers (Rigby) and Sam Marin (Pops, Benson, Muscle Man) had plenty to say about the film at the New York Comic-Con 2015 press interviews. They also told us a lot about the very beginning of the show, now in its seventh season, and the journey and formula that got it where it is today.
The movie origins were simple. “The network asked if we wanted to do a 40-minute special, and I was like, ‘Ah, that doesn’t sound very fun…why don’t we just try to make a movie?’” Quintel explained. “None of us had ever done it, and we’re like, we’re just going to make what we think would be cool, and two-and-a-half years later, and like two seasons later, we finally finished it. It was a lot of work, but I think it turned out really good, and I’m really proud of it, and I’m excited for people to see it.”
“We did it like a guerilla action team,” Spence said of the schedule. “They boarded it on off-hours, and then when it came and hit me with the art department, I was like, ‘Oh my god, we’re starting fresh,’ just trying to put so much extra into the artwork. It pays up on the big screen.”
And it’s different from watching the TV show. “It feels like a film. It doesn’t feel like an episode,” Salyers said. “It’s NOT a 70-minute episode of the show. And it’s epic. I know some of the episodes are, but I mean, it’s truly epic.”
As for how the film fits into the show, “The movie is canon, and it – in my mind – airs right after season six,” Quintel said. “And because it deals heavily with time travel, they get reset, but you feel like they’ve all gone through this collective experience where it’s very intense and they’re not going to forget, even though they avoided it, maybe. It’s interesting, time paradoxes. Don’t think about it too hard or it’ll hurt your brain,” he joked.
By that, he means it will delve into the pasts of the characters. “We’ve done a lot of things on the show that are movie-level epic in 11 minutes, and it was really hard once we decided we’re going to make a movie, what’s worth making a movie?” Quintel said. “And one concept that we’ve never explored was them not being friends. Their friendship is the core of the show, and so to break that up, that’s what the movie deals with: the danger that their friendship could dissolve.”
“And you understand more about the support between the other characters,” Spence added, ‘how they relate to [Mordecai and Rigby] in particular.”
It was quite the process coming up with the final product though. “It went through a lot of changes story-wise,” Spence said. “Every moment is valuable.”
“The first version of it that I got through the whole script of, I was like, ‘This is great, they can’t change anything. There’s no fat on this,’” Salyers added. “And yet they cut it and made it tighter and faster and it’s a real rollercoaster.”
The show’s rise to success has been quite a ride as well. It started as a show JG Quintel made about his childhood and college escapades with his friends, but has changed a bit over the years. “All that stuff was from college, all my buddies and I,” he said. (For instance, the Eggscellent challenge is actually based on a real omelet at a restaurant in San Diego, Quintel recalled: “I tried to eat that. To win a hat. And I failed.”) “So that’s directly from there, and it’s to the point now that I can’t even do [some things I used to do] in real life, because I feel like I’m doing the show.”
But his current self isn’t what the character is based on anyway. “I feel like that’s a snapshot of me from ten years ago now, because that was college days. I’ve changed a lot, but I wouldn’t put some of those responsible things in the show because it wouldn’t make sense for [Mordecai],” he said. Besides, “Now it becomes more about these characters that we’ve known for like five years now, six years,” he continued, “the characters are so solid now that they’re just their own way.”
Especially since, with more writers getting involved in the script, the characters’ experiences that draw from real life aren’t solely Quintel’s life, as Marin, a former roommate of the creator, pointed out. “It’s fun to see what JG does that I remember from school and stuff, like all the ‘hmm hmm’ was from us playing video games. Our friend, who’s a board artist at Cartoon Network, would do that all the time, like if he beat you at Street Fighter, he’d be like, ‘Hmm hmm.’ So that’s where that comes from.”
“I think it’s also an amalgamation of all the writers too,” Szeles said. “When I write Mordecai stuff, I think of myself in those situations also, so I feel like he’s kind of a piece of me as well. And everyone’s adding their own take to all the characters to flesh them out.”
Still, it’s JG’s vision that shows most of the time, even down to the smaller details. “My art team would be like, ‘Okay, we need a pickup truck,’” Spence said. “And then our prop designer drew it, and JG goes, ‘Oh no, it has to be a Ford F-150 [or whatever] because that’s what my dad had.’ And I was like, ‘Ugh, you have to tell me this stuff!’ So finally I decided we’ll just ask him every time.”
Spence isn’t a stranger to adding her own influence though. “Those are my cats on Pops’ wall! I drew them in one time,” Spence said, laughing. “And then the painter got them, and I’m the art director, and I’m like, ‘Oh, no, orange tabbies? No! Uh-uh, those are Siamese cats!’ So I repainted them.”
It doesn’t end there, as Quintel explained, saying it’s “even to the point of our board artists putting themselves in the background, and we’ll be like, ‘Wait a minute, that’s Toby and Owen!’”
And the influence goes the other way too, with elements from the show bleeding into real life. “My color stylist on the show is here in New York,” Spence began. “So we went to Top of the Rock last night … and I don’t know if this was a special elevator operator, but she put us in, and she said, ‘In 43 seconds, you’ll be on the 67th floor.’ And Jessica and I, didn’t even look at each other, and we both went, ‘OHHHHHHHHHHHH!’ And I thought, ‘What am I doing?!’ And then all of a sudden, the entire elevator was doing it, all the way up to the 67th floor. ‘OHHHHHHHHHH!’ for 43 seconds.”
But just because Quintel uses his past experiences as material, doesn’t mean he’ll run out of content for the show. “Definitely not. We have methods for coming up with stuff,” he said. “In our writers’ room, we play a game, it’s like a title game, where you put a title to an episode – everybody puts a couple – into a hat, and then you draw the title out and for two minutes type an episode. And then another one, another one, another one. And in an hour, you have like 150 episode ideas – which are all bad – but you find some gems in there. And you’ll talk about those gems and be like, ‘Oh, this could definitely be an episode with Mordecai and Rigby.’ Or ‘this could be a Skips episode.’”
That’s how season 3’s “Trash Boat” came about – straight from the hat. “There was a title that was ‘Trash Boat,’” Quintel explained. “And I typed, ‘Rigby changes his name to Trash Boat, but then everybody makes fun of him, so he wants to change it back.’ And then that turned into that episode. But that was what was written in like two minutes. And we just keep playing the game and finding those episodes that make us excited. And we definitely have to throw a lot more away now, because we already did that episode, so it’s harder the longer we go, but I don’t think we’ll ever run out of ideas.”
Currently 200 episodes deep, sometimes just remembering what they have and haven’t already done is a challenge. “It’s also weird to get this far into a show, and like, I can’t remember episodes now,” Quintel said. “There’s episodes I don’t remember what they’re about. I have a list in front of my desk of every episode, and the list is getting so big that I have to scan, like, ‘I think that one was the one where they do this…’ It’s weird, because at the beginning you have every episode in your head, and then eventually it’s too much and your brain just starts kicking them out.”
The ideas are endless though, as the characters in the series can really get involved in any situation. It may seem ironic given the colorful bunch of creatures that appear, but the show’s name isn’t that far off. “It’s tough because it’s a cartoon and it has this look, but when you get past that look, it is just a regular show,” Quintel said. “It’s like a sitcom. It’s about people. It’s not just a blue jay or a gumball machine.”
“It’s kind of so surreal that it comes back full circle, into just feeling normal,” Szeles added. “It’s just normal and fun, and there’s nothing really bizarre about it, no matter what kind of craziness happens.”
Besides, as we mentioned, it’s all based in reality. And you don’t have to be JG Quintel (or his friend or colleague) to relate to the subject matter. “A lot of the video game stuff, it’s like video games that I remember playing as a kid with my brother,” JG said, citing the appeal to video game-loving viewers. “Because we were super into Sega Master System, Genesis, we had friends who had Nintendo, so we were aware of all the games and super into it. And arcades. It’s just putting all that stuff in.”
Even something as simple as hooking a TV up can strike a chord with viewers. “There’s a part in one of the episodes where you see them putting a coaxial cable in the back of a TV, which doesn’t even exist anymore,” Quintel said of the annoying task.
Some of the content even predates the show’s creator. “I think that’s hilarious, because for him it’s nostalgia, for me it’s history,” Salyers joked of their age difference.
But as Quintel will point out, it’s not really about nostalgia or history, but really just a fun show that they started for themselves. Contrary to what some may think, the producers weren’t trying to appeal specifically to younger viewers. “I’m glad kids like it, but we’re just trying to make each other laugh and it just happens to work,” Quintel said. “The only time we that we ever really think about it is when is when we get S&P notes, and then we find ways to make it appropriate for everyone.”
JG clarified that it’s “never about trying to get away with something. It’s always about making the most fun thing and what makes us laugh.” He then cited an example of in an upcoming episode where a machine gun had to be replaced with a “nonlethal beanbag gun” in order to get it past the censors. A clip of this was shown at the panel on Saturday. “I think having to come up with something clever, instead of just doing what you would automatically think of, actually pushed it into a better place.”
As a witness, I agree. It absolutely was funnier with the beanbag gun.
Besides, the show can stand to be vague about possibly inappropriate details. It’s so relatable that people tend to see themselves in the show regardless. That might turn the soda they drink into beer. And the partying into really partying. And whatever else people do or did with their friends as youngsters. Therein lies the real key: anyone who has ever been young (so, everyone) can relate.
“I’ve seen people online say, ‘I walked in on my dad laughing really hard, and he was just watching Regular Show by himself,’” Quintel said. “And then another time, a really good one was somebody who works on the show, and they have a son, and he’s so young that he was watching an episode where they were talking on a telephone, and he’s like, ‘What is that?’ And he’s like, ‘It’s a phone!’ And he’s like, ‘No, it’s not!’ So it’s funny to see the old technology that kids have no idea about, like laserdiscs … and VHS tapes. They just think it’s funny, because it is funny.
One of the things that separate this series from others, is that unlike a lot of shows, the Regular Show cast records as a group. “JG feels that that’s an important part of the energy between us,” Salyers said. “Sure, you could act that, but it’s always better to be in the room together if you could possibly pull it off.”
Even if sometimes it’s just one person talking to himself, like Sam Marin recording his multiple roles. “It’s funny sometimes, especially when it’s a couple pages of dialogue that’s going back and forth,” he said. “Usually, I’ll do it once back-and-forth, talking to myself, but then we’ll pick up lines. Sometimes it’s tricky to stay in one character’s head, and then switching, so it’s nice to be able to pick them up one at a time so I can just focus on one.”
“The rest of us have a word for those parts of the script,” Salyers said with a smirk. “We call them ‘breaks.’”
When Salyers isn’t on break, he’s recording the next popular quotable line. “I never in my life thought I would say the word ‘hamboning’ so much,” Salyers said. “And you know, when we did that … I did the pilot, and as often happens, they had me come back in and reread for the series if it got picked up, and the hamboning bit was what I got to read for my callback. And I was so excited, that I actually [beats his chest], and you never do that on a mic, they always add that afterwards. And I was having so much fun that I actually did the thing, and JG was cracking up, and the casting director was cracking up, and they’re like, ‘That’s great, but do it again, and don’t hit yourself.’ But yeah, when I recorded that episode, I didn’t think that that was going to become such a thing, but all the fans want to hear it. You know, it’s the go-to for people. You don’t know what’s going to be a catchphrase.”
Speaking of the future, JG gave us a sample of what’s on deck for the show. “We should be airing – quite soon – another Halloween special,” he said. “It’ll be Terror Tales Volume 5. We also have another Christmas-themed episode coming up – not so much Christmas, but wintery, which is kind of fun, because we don’t usually do wintery-themed episodes. And then the season seven finale is going to be really big – that’s going to be a big, half-hour special, and a really big deal for fans that have been watching the show from the beginning. I know they don’t think we can do anything bigger than what we’ve already done, but this blows it all away. So it will be really cool to see everyone react to it. I don’t think anyone realizes what’s going to happen.”
In the meantime, be sure to grab a copy of the Regular Show movie on DVD on Tuesday, and look out for a new episode on Wednesday, October 28th on Cartoon Network. Read our review for Regular Show The Movie here.
[Photos by Becca Green]