Cartoons

Comic-Con Interview Twofer: Regular Show and Uncle Grandpa

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Once again, these were in the roundtable format with multiple blogs participating. First, from Regular Show: JG Quintel, William Salyers, Sam Marin and supervising producer Sean Szeles.

William Salyers: I’m Bill, and I play Rigby.

Q: In the voice?

WS: Oh, in the voice? “Hey, I’m Rigby!”

J.G. Quintel: I’m J.G., and I play Mordecai and Hi Five Ghost.

Sam Marin: I’m Sam, and I am Pops, Benson and Muscle Man.

Sean Szeles: I’m Sean Szeles. I’m supervising producer. I also play Andy, long-lost brother of the Baby Ducks. [laughter]

WS: Well, thanks for coming.

Q: First question I have: J.G., do you spend a lot of time looking at the fan fiction and conspiracies about the whole thing being like an acid trip, and Rigby is like Mordecai’s dead best friend from childhood? There’s all sorts of crazy stuff out there.

WS: Where do I go to see this?

SS: This is news to me, by the way.

WS: Rigby holds Mordecai back from achieving his potential.

JGQ: No, I haven’t read a ton, but what you just said sounds amazing. [laughter]I’ll have to look it up to see what people think. I always wonder what people think about Hi Five Ghost, because he is a little confusing. Is he dead? Is he a ghost? Is he just around?

Q: Is he dead? Is he a ghost? Or is he just around?

JGQ: He’s just a dude. He’s a cool dude.

Q: I’m a big fan of the show. I remember watching the Thomas arc. I was wondering – was it always planned that he was going to be a double agent? Was that from the beginning? Or was that worked in there later?

JGQ: Well, originally he was an intern who – we have interns every year, and we’ve all been interns, and so we know what it’s like to be an intern, and how you get treated when you’re an intern. So we wanted to have a character like that at the park. And then, I remember online seeing fans being like “What does Thomas even do? He doesn’t do anything.” Because once he kind of settled in, he was just like a real intern. He just kind of was in the background.

SS: Not saying anything.

JGQ: But then, it started – this idea started to kind of come up in the writer’s meetings, that he was more than that. And then we went back through and we made that episode, and every episode, it totally made sense. It was like he was not doing anything, but no, he was doing something – you just didn’t know it.

Q: Because first he made a call to mom, and that’s how it ended, and then, like,?looking back it was like, “Oh my god, he’s a double agent!” [laughter]But that was just worked in after.

JGQ: A little bit, yeah. It worked out well.

Q: So do you guys have any pre-recording rituals for when you go in to work on your lines?

JGQ: We usually go – well, it’s every Monday, and usually we all get there, and we do levels, and kind of read lines, and then we just go into it. I mean, it’s to a point now where we know the characters really well. It’s pretty cool, because in the record we have the story boards up on the wall, up on a big monitor, and so if there’s ever anything that you’re not sure about, like “How hard are they yelling?” you can see the picture and be like, “Oh yeah – match that.” So it’s pretty fun.

WS: I like to take a shower just because it’s a small room. That’s something I do every Monday.

JGQ: There’s a shower in there.

WS: Yeah! Nice.

Q: How awesome is it working with Mark Hamill, and do you guys try to sneak Star Wars stuff out of him?

SS: It’s really cool. He’s amazing. He’s super versatile, and his voice acting range – it’s crazy to watch him. I think there’s been like one line in the Skip story episode, where at the beginning of them talking about what happened in his past, he says “A long time ago, in a high school far, far away.” [laughs]But I think that’s it.

WS: What’s cool about Mark, I mean one of the great things with regards to Star Wars – I think we’re all pretty respectful not to, like, grill him. But he’ll just start talking sometimes about it. And then the record comes to a halt, and we all just sit there and listen.

SM: Yeah, everyone is trying not to look like they’re listening.[laughter]

WS: Yeah, right. “You know, back when I was working….” Yeah, it’s great.

Q: Benson is a crazy-awesome drummer. Do you actually play drums??

SM: No, no. I play the saxophone. I played the saxophone in high school. I’m not really much of a musician.

Q: So you mean you didn’t really play that drum solo?

SM: I did not, no. They set me up…

JGQ: It was all mo-cap.?

SM: All one take.

Q: What would you guys say Mordecai and Rigby’s favorite video games would be?

JGQ: From the show, or in real life, if they were really here?

Q: Either one.

JGQ: Oh, man.

WS: I like Dig Champs.

JGQ: Dig Champs – good game.

WS: Yeah.

JGQ: ToeJam and Earl, probably. They’d play ToeJam and Earl together. Or Kid Chameleon would be awesome. Oh my gosh, there are so many games! That’s a really hard question.

Q: With episodes like Format Wars and its follow up – I have a laser disc?player, I’m all about this – you guys are speaking my language. I love episodes like that, that get really niche, really specific, and beautiful tributes to elements of nostalgia that just don’t see the light of day. So when you guys are mining ideas for the show, what’s the process? What are we going to nerd out about in this episode? What are we going to give the special treatment to that we love?

JGQ: Well, those specific ones, like the Last Laser Disc Player, and Format Wars – that was specifically – all the old technology, and how fast it gets replaced and everything. And also – we were talking about this before in another interview, about how it is for the adults who remember that stuff, because kids don’t know what any of it is. They’re like, “Wait – what is a laser disc? It looks fake.” But it was real.

SS: But then they get to learn about this old stuff.

JGQ: Yeah, we’re forming history lessons.

WS: We teach history.

JGQ: Yeah. But it’s really fun to think about – “Oh, we should do an episode about that stuff,” or anything that’s old that isn’t around anymore, it’s just kind of fun to keep it kind of in that 80’s realm.

Q: Sam, you play?a lot of the cute characters. Who is your favorite one to do? Not necessarily voice, but who is your favorite character?

SM: I don’t know. Maybe – I guess if I had to pick, maybe Benson, because I can relate to him the most. [laughter]

JGQ: He gets real angry.

SM: Yes.

JGQ: We’re working with him.

SM: He has fun scenes to do.

Q: I noticed that a lot of the montage scenes have early ’90s rock music, and the video games, 8-bit, 16-bit. What years would you say this show takes place, and why those years, in particular?

JGQ: OK, so in the writer’s room, we’re very careful about not ever dating the show specifically, so we always keep it very vague. I would say that it’s within the decade of the ’80s/maybe early ’90s, somewhere in there. But there’s no specific year, and we’re really careful about any time they mention something that it’s really hard. Like we were talking about when did they go to high school, and if they’re 23 years old, that means that that’s happening here, but if they always perpetually stay 23 years old, is that slowly up-ticking where they were born? I don’t know. It’s weird. But we don’t want to ever date it. We want to keep it kind of general.

Q: You guys have worked with Donald Glover and a lot of awesome – Paul F. Tompkins – great comedians and stuff. Is there any plan for maybe bringing that character back for Childish Gambino?

SS: We’ve talked about it, but they blew up at the end of that episode. They lost the rap battle to Pops and then they blew up. But we thought “Oh, could we bring them back somehow?”

JGQ: Maybe as ghosts.

SS: They could come back as ghosts or something. It would be fun, but we’ve never – we haven’t figured it out if that’s plausible in our universe.

JGQ: I’m sure we could figure it out.

Q: Longer format story arcs, relationship arc is of course very spread out, and you’ve got this movie coming up – how has it changed your process for writing your show with these – you’re clearly angling toward longer-format story telling at this point?

JGQ: Well, half-hour episodes are always a lot of fun to do. I mean, they’re harder, so we don’t do them as much, obviously, but we know that the fans react to them more positively. And it’s just fun to be able to sit for, like, half an hour, and watch a whole story.?

And then when we – when they wanted to do the movie, originally, they were like “Why don’t we do a 44 minute special?” And it was like, “Why? Let’s do a real movie!” And they let us go for it. And so we, for the past two years, have been working on the movie.?

That was like a completely different process, because normally we do?premise-based storyboarding – that means that the board artists write all the dialogue, and we just kind of write out the plot. But that ended up being this crazy thing. it’s a beast to do a movie, and so it was really interesting. We would cut stuff out and re-board stuff and redo things.?

And then we wrote a script, and we really tried to wrap our heads around how to make something that you wouldn’t get bored of, that’s over an hour long. That’s a long time to sit down and – yeah, I think we finally did it. But it took over two years, and we were making the show at the same time, so it was a lot of work. I’m really excited for people to see it. We’re going to show the trailer in the panel today, so that will be really cool.

Uncle Grandpa – Pete Browngardt, Eric Bauza and Kevin Michael Richardson.

Q: So I really like when you did the shorts, and you did the cool and dumb turtles. I was wondering if they’re going to come back?

PB: We don’t have plans, but that’s my supervising producer – Audie Harrison and I were college roommates. I’ve known him for a long time. We met the first day at Cal Arts, and he always has these brilliant little shorts in his head, and he totally did that. He came up with that whole thing. I was the voice of one of the turtles. “Oh, is it cool or is it dumb?” That one.?

But yeah, we don’t have plans, but we have other shorts like that that are just totally random – they have nothing to do sort of with the Uncle Grandpa universe that we do. It’s kind of just an experiment – an experiment with humor and design and ideas. Just do weird stuff, because you know what? Let’s do it, which is kind of unheard of at most places, so it’s pretty cool that they just – especially with the little shorts that we do. They really leave us alone to just sort of do what we want with them. We don’t even – we outline them a little bit, but in the story board and writing phase, we just sort of riff on stuff.

Q: Who was the inspiration of Uncle Grandpa? Did you guys draw inspiration from past cartoons?

PB: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

Q: What were some major ones?

PB: Pee-wee’s Playhouse. It’s not a cartoon, but it’s kind of a cartoon world.

EB: It’s not a cartoon?

PB: Yeah. That was a huge thing. I saw Pee-wee’s Big Adventure as a kid, and then Pee-wee’s Playhouse show. Old Warner Brother’s cartoons. Fleischer. Underground comics were a big thing for me – R. Crumb and even the 90’s stuff. Far Side was a really big thing – Gary Larson. I loved Gary Larson. I used to read it religiously.?

But yeah, it was that. It was also trying to design a show where I could do anything. I didn’t want to be – I didn’t want to do a big story-arc thing. I didn’t want to do that. I want to do one-offs. I want to experiment. I want to make some things that are really cartoony – I want to play with surrealism. That’s what I love about animation, is that it’s the art form where you can do the impossible, and it’s OK, because it’s this language that was created that allows you to do it. It makes it OK in the world to do surreal and strange things with humor.

Q: What did you guys do when you first heard of Uncle Grandpa?

PB: They ran away, and I had to chase after them. “Please – please!” [laughter]

KMR: I did. I ran away. No, Eric Bauza was trying to tell me about this show, and I was like, “Uncle Grandpa?” And I said “What’s it about?” I don’t think you were even able to describe it to me, either.

EB: I just said, “You’re the only person that can do Mr. Gus.”



PB:
We struggled to find Mr. Gus for a while, and I always – the funny thing is that he auditioned for Belly Bag, and then we tried to get him back, and he said “I already auditioned,” and I was like “No, no! For a different character!” And when he finally came in, he looked at the character, sat down, and probably three seconds into his first few words, I was like, “Oh, we finally found Mr. Gus.”

KMR: Really?

PB: Oh, yeah! We knew it. We knew it right away. It was like – it just matched perfectly, and Kevin’s humor chops and everything. It was cool.

EB: My first exposure to the show – I used to be an animator, or a character layout artist – before I became a voice over artist. So when you’re sitting at your desk for eight hours drawing and using your mind, your friends will send you stuff via Messenger. So this cartoon pops up on my chat window, and I’m like drawing, and then I hear Uncle Grandpa’s voice, and I’m like “I’m just going to draw this later.” And I was just taken by the original short. I was like “I’ve got to work with this guy!” That was the main motivation for me was the inspiration from the original short, so that’s it for me.

Q: Do you guys have to stick to the script normally, or do you guys get a chance to play with each other?

PB: Mostly the script, just because we only have a certain amount of time to record. We don’t want to go off. But these guys will riff on stuff, for sure. Me – I stick to the script, because I’m not as talented as these guys.

KMR: Yeah, right! That’s not true! Thank god he has an open mind, because at least that leaves us free to play, and if they like what we come up with, then they’ll keep it. If not, then they ask you to leave. [laughter]

Q: So why does Gus put up with Pizza Steve, and why does he stick around? It seems like he gets so frustrated with him.

KMR: I know – that’s a good question actually. I guess because he loves Uncle Grandpa so much, and he knows that he’s smitten with Pizza Steve, and he knows if he does anything to him, like eat him, then he’d be very sad.

EB: It’s also in Adam Devine’s contract that he torment Kevin.

About Author

Luke Y. Thompson has been writing professionally about movies and pop-culture since 1999, and has also been an actor in some extremely cheap culty and horror movies you will probably never hear much about (he is nonetheless mostly proud of them, as he met his wife on one). As editor of The Robot's Voice since 2012, he can take the blame for the majority of the site's content, all of which he creates because he loves you very, very much. (Although he loves nachos more. Sorry.) Prior to TRV, Luke wrote for publications that include the New Times LA, Los Angeles CityBeat, E! Online, OC Weekly, Geekweek, GeekChicDaily, The L.A. Times, The Village Voice, LA Weekly, and Nerdist