A Chat With Regular Show Creator (and Mordecai) J.G. Quintel
by Matt Cohen on July 16, 2013
Every few years, a new cartoon comes along that captures the imagination of a generation. Regular Show is one of these cartoons. Dude.
Since its debut on Cartoon Network, Mordecai, Rigby and the cast of “odd” friends and co-workers have been delighting audiences young and old with one of the most consistently entertaining shows on TV; With today’s Blu-ray release of the complete first two seasons, it’s a good time to be a Regular Show fan.
We recently got the chance to sit down with Regular Show creator and voice of Mordecai J.G. Quintel, for a chat about the show and the new Blu-Ray release.
Nerdist: People know you best from your work on Regular Show (which is about to get a sweet Blu-ray release), as both creator of the cartoon and the voice of Mordecai, but, some fans might not know that you got your start on shows like Camp Lazlo and The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack in a more behind-the-scenes capacity. How did your experiences on these shows shape what would become Regular Show?
J.G. Quintel: A lot. I got a job in the industry on Camp Lazlo and it was as a storyboard revisionist, so I learned a lot about storyboarding through that. I eventually moved up to storyboard artist on that show, and it was a premise-driven show, so I got used to writing and drawing the episodes with a partner; (that’s) how that process works. I learned a lot on that show.
When Thurop Van Orman got Flapjack picked up, he asked me to be his creative director, so I came on and got to deal more with coming up with premises, and doing notes, and working with executives, and kind of more broad aspects of producing a show. Once Regular Show started, I already knew part of the process that I really liked, and other parts that I kind of wanted to streamline. It definitely was really nice to have that experience, because I feel like it made making a show a smoother transition, had I not known anything.
N: You’ve said that you pitched Regular Show with storyboards as opposed to the traditional way because you thought it was “too odd a concept to understand visually”. Obviously this worked in your favor. What do you think it is about the current climate of animation that allows cartoons like Regular Show and some of its weirder brethren to shine, whereas they might not have even gotten onto the air 10 years ago?
JGQ: Originally when I pitched Regular Show, the initial meeting with Craig McKracken and Rob Renzetti at the Cartoonstitute, I had an idea for it, but I knew that If I explained it, “Oh, it’s a blue-jay and a raccoon, and a gumball machine, and they work at a park,” it would just sound crazy and it wouldn’t sound like it could work in any way. I actually only showed them one Post-it note, with a drawing of Mordecai, Rigby, and Pops running, and was like, “Trust me. This is gonna be funny. I don’t want to tell you what it’s about. Let me do a storyboard and just show you. Cause otherwise it’s not going to make sense,” and they were like, “Okay”. Then I did the storyboard and pitched that. I think when people can just see a storyboard, they can really get a sense of what the episodes are going to play like. It’s like watching a comic book unfold right in front of you, as opposed to bringing a bible or trying to pitch broad concepts.
I remember before Regular Show, watching a show like Spongebob and thinking it was hilarious; but then I thought to myself, “How did he pitch this?”, because it was so bizarre. A sponge that lives in a pineapple. I just feel like if you have something in mind that you feel like can work, as long as you can execute it and show people how it’s going to be funny, it doesn’t matter how weird an idea it is. As long as you can get people laughing, it has a chance of being made, especially if you can show them it.
N: Other then your animation influences, which you’ve spoken about before, you’ve mentioned being inspired by British shows like The Mighty Boosh and League of Gentleman. How did these definitely bizarre and pretty dark shows shape your comedic sensibilities on Regular Show?
JGQ: For sure, the dark humor definitely seeped into my brain. Back in college I had a roommate that was British, and he exposed me to all that stuff. League of Gentleman, Little Britain, Mighty Boosh especially; when I watched all that stuff, I just thought it was hilarious to do dark jokes about a character getting killed or people doing stuff that they shouldn’t be doing. I thought it was hilarious and I think kids think it’s hilarious. Cartoons are the perfect place for dark humor because it’s not real, so you can do anything; you can blow things out of proportion and get away with things I don’t think you can get away with in live-action, so I love that stuff and I love putting it into Regular Show.
N: For anyone who hasn’t seen the show (and seriously… it’s time), it’s about Mordecai and Rigby, two friends who work menial jobs at a public park. Do you think the show would have worked as well in a different setting, like a coffee shop or a video store or something like that?
JGQ: I think it could have. When I initially pitched it, I had them working at a Zoo where they were going to be taking care of people; but the executives’ one major thing was “No, we don’t want them working at a zoo, or at a specific job,” and I kind of realized “Oh, yeah, that would have limited it, if I always had to come up with stories where they take care of people or something that was too weird.” The job of working at a park, they do that job a lot, but most of the time it’s about what they’re doing to not work. It was a nice venue to have them around, and actually I’m really glad it takes places in a park because it’s really easy to draw that as a background. If it was always in a video store or something… that’s a lot of VHS tapes to draw.
N: Mordecai and Rigby are forever 23 years old. What do you think it is about that age that is so universally relatable?
JGQ: It was the age I was when I first got out of college and had to start dealing with the real world, but there’s so many things from childhood that were still lingering. I loved playing video games, I loved watching movies and TV, and your first job out of school isn’t always the best. I worked at a movie theater and I worked at a book store, and they are jobs that don’t take the most mental power, depending on which job you have. As soon as you’re done, you just sort of mess around, and there’s just so many things that can happen in that situation with people that age. It just felt like the perfect age for any kind of story you’d want to do. You’re not limited by being kids, so they don’t have money, so they can go to concerts, they can drive. They can do anything.
N: You’ve got an incredible voice cast, from yourself and William Salyers to such vets as Jeff Bennett and Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill. What’s it like to work with that high caliber of a cast, and is there much interaction between the actors during the recording process?
JGQ: All of the main characters are in-house, recording together, which is really fun. Like you were saying, Bill Salyers and Mark Hammill; Mark Hammill is amazing, to see the range that he has. We can come up with almost any character and you see him do voices that you can’t even tell are coming out of him. We’ve got Sam Marin, who does a lot of that as well; he voices Muscle Man, and Pops, and Benson, and it’s all the same person, so sometimes he’ll have a script page that has him talking to himself for a whole page, and we’re sitting back laughing and trying not to ruin his take. It’s a lot of fun.
N: How do you think the show has evolved in the four seasons it’s been on the air?
JGQ: It’s a stand-alone show. You can catch any episode out of order and it’s going to be fun to watch, but there are some arcs that we’re building in. In season 4, I really think you get to start to see it, for instance with Mordecai and Margaret. They are actually changing, like in the last episode we aired, Mordecai went to meet Margaret’s parents at a barbecue. We’re starting to be able to get into episodes like that. I know a lot of fans thought Mordecai’s relationship was the slowest thing on the planet, but we just want to make sure we don’t burn through it too quick and that we take advantage of every story we can. So even though our arcs go slow, we do have them. I hope if people are just getting into the show, take the time to go through all of them; it really does make it stronger.
N: The shows finally gotten some merchandise, from t-shirts to a really cool set of toys. What Regular Show product would you most like to see available?
JGQ: I’m very excited about a video game we having coming out for 3DS; that’s going to be awesome. I’ve been waiting for that, and it’s going to come out later this year and we’ve been working with those guys closely. Issue #1 of the Regular Show comic came out last month, and that’s really cool to see, Regular Show in print; and all the different artists’ styles and people writing it, it’s really cool to see that stuff. It’s kind of crazy, ’cause now, most of the stuff has been kind of covered, though what I would like is something like Regular Show pencils. I’d draw with some Regular Show pencils.
N: The complete 1st and 2nd season get released today on Blu-ray and DVD. Do you have any particular favorite episodes from this season, and what can fans expect from the set?
JGQ: Oh man, there’s a lot. “The Power” was one of the first episodes, and that was really cool. That was one of the episodes used to pitch the show, so it has a special place in my heart. “Mordecai and the Rigbys,” getting to hear them sing songs. Oh my gosh, there’s too many. “Karaoke Video,” seeing Pops sing “Footloose.” A bunch of baby ducks showing up for the first time; they show up in season 2. There’s just a ton of really good ones.
As far as special features go, we did commentary on every single episode, so that’s 40 episodes of commentary; plus, some of the episodes have multiple tracks of commentary because you had the art department do a track, and then some other guys do a track, so you can pick who you want to hear talk about the episode. They recorded me pitching the thumbnail version of the episode “The Power,” so you can see what it’s like to do a storyboard pitch; the really rough thumbnail drawings are blown up and they’re sequences, so you can see them play out as I’m pitching it, and so you can see how sloppy my drawings are. There is a lot of really cool stuff. We kind of blew it; we didn’t save anything for the next one. We were like “Just put everything on it”, so that people would want to get it.
N: Finally, and I have to ask; any thought of a High-Five Ghost and Muscle Man spinoff?
JGQ: I will say that in our upcoming season, we will have some High-Five-Centric episodes, so those are on the way, which we’re really excited about. That’s the best I can do for now.
The complete first two seasons is now available for purchase and the set is jam-packed with extra material and special goodies. Regular Show airs on Cartoon Network.