There have been multiple reports of the producers of Solar Opposites, Justin Roiland and Mike McMahan, having upwards of four seasons worth of plans for the hit Hulu animated series, which, already has a second season in production. Whether it’s plans for the alien characters, the growing civilization living in the wall, or The Pupa, the fact that the producers have plans for this many seasons shouldn’t be all that surprising, and here’s why.
It’s customary that when producers go to pitch a television series, especially a serial one, that a “pitch bible” would include fully fleshed out descriptions of what will go down during the first two seasons with outlines of what will go down in additional seasons. What must be Mike’s skill is the fact that every show he’s been part of as of late gets multiple season orders up front, which, you don’t always hear about. For example, Mike was named showrunner of Rick and Morty for the show’s fourth season, the first ten of a backorder of 70 episodes. Mike would leave before the season commenced, getting two-season orders for both Solar Opposites and Star Trek: Lower Decks. Other producers like Olan Rogers of Final Space fame, has been getting one season of 13 episodes ordered a year, but has always teased in numerous AMA’s that he has always had plans of upwards of six total seasons of the sci-fi opera.
When a broadcast television network orders a series, it’s actually common for the network to order more episodes than it needs for any given season. For example, FOX newcomers Bless the Harts and Duncanville, were both ordered to 13-episode seasons, but usually only ten or so airing, leaving the balance to either premiere with the following season order, or in the case of not being picked up for additional seasons, just burned off on a random Saturday night in the summer (MTV Networks LOVES doing this). This is why a lot of outlets now are just reporting on animation being “pandemic proof” because established franchises like American Dad (which is expected to go on a Summer break starting in June), Family Guy, and/or The Simpsons already have a dozen or so episodes in the bank with only minor production elements like additional animation for special episodes (e.g. Treehouse of Horror) or sound mixing needing to be completed by the time the show airs.
This is a stark contrast to Japan productions which is why you’re hearing a lot about anime being delayed. Typically, anime production companies are very understaffed as it is, and you often hear about a lot of co-productions as a result. Also, internet latency is a big problem in Japan, so while North American production companies get to utilize Zoom, Dropbox, and other established platforms to crank out original series, Japanese productions are seeing delays in all facets of the production process like in dubbing or animating. Reports are even touting the fact that we haven’t even seen the “low” yet on anime being released which will leave streaming services like Funimation and Netflix having to do their best in English dubbing what they have for a while and hoping for the best. Fortunately, for Netflix, they are getting content from other parts of the world, there’s no saying what will happen with Funimation who has been touting more and more archival assets from the likes of Aniplex.
So, there you have it folks. If you’re an up-and-coming producer, here are some of the early phases of what happens when you pitch and, hopefully, eventually get picked up for original programming. So, when you hear about producers having “plans”, that’s just part of the job.