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‘Rick and Morty’ Returns for Season 2

Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland brace for a second season of sci-fi insanity on the Adult Swim hit comedy.

'Rick and Morty' creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon. All images © Cartoon Network. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.

Don’t you just hate having to wait around for more of the good stuff? After months of anticipation, Rick and Morty are finally back for another round of testicular aliens, intergalactic chases and uncontrollable burping. And fans are so excited for the second season premiere that they’ve managed to get their hands on it ahead of its scheduled television broadcast. You’d think this might upset series creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, but they’re staying focused on managing computer crashes during the animation process and making the show accessible to new fans in high places. Read on to learn exactly which celebs they’re aiming for in this exclusive interview ahead of the big premiere.

James GartlerThe first two episodes of season two recently leaked online. How much do you think that will affect your ratings?

Dan Harmon:  Generally speaking it’s sort of a self-solving problem. I remember doing Community the first season and then finding out that they were going to put the Pilot on Facebook two days before it premiered on NBC. I panicked – this was a different world back then – and a PR person at NBC said, “Dude, in your wildest dreams so many people will want to see your Pilot that they’ll forget to watch it on television because they’ve all flocked to see it on Facebook.” So with Rick and Morty, it’s a very high-octane cult following that’s been waiting for this season for a very long time. I would compare it – at the risk of being presumptuous and just measuring the octane, not measuring whatever we’re doing on-screen – to True Detective in terms of anticipation. We have a very small audience that’s like, “We want this crack – bad.” So, that’s going to cause somebody to leak the stuff if you send it out to the Press. It’s going to incentivize that. If the incentive wasn’t there, that would be the bigger problem for us on our side. I don’t speak for Turner Broadcasting. I’m sure they have a different opinion about leaks and piracy and all that stuff, but for us it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other.

We wish that everyone could wait for us to finish working on it and watch it in the highest definition and highest audio quality possible on the day that everyone should watch it. That would be great for us and we’d feel better for the audience, but if you tell us that our product is so popular that our trucks got hijacked on the way to the factory, you know, there’s a silver lining there.

Siblings Summer and Morty prepare to unfreeze time after six months of partying.

JGDid you always intend for A Rickle in Time to essentially pick up right after the events of your first season finale?

Justin Roiland:  When we were finalizing the finale at some point I got excited about the idea of starting season two with time still being frozen. We talked a long time about whether it would just be a cold-open gag and the story would be something else self-contained, or whether we would try to do a whole episode where they’d have to suffer the consequences of fucking around with time. We challenged ourselves. We said, “Okay, let’s try to actually do that and try to tell a whole story that shows why time is sort of problematic.” It’s weird on a lot of levels. There’s this whole uncertainty thread in the episode and I think we were all very uncertain about that episode. There are always weird connections between us as writers and the actual stuff within the episodes. But to your point, there was a seed of the idea that it would be really cool if we started season two with time frozen…but I did say that if we couldn’t write a full episode, we could always pull back. We stuck it out.

JGIt think it works and I was impressed by the fact that you really pushed the envelope as far as how many different realities you can depict all at once. Thank goodness for digital animation! Who had the task of storyboarding those?

JR: Wes Archer directed that episode and it was brutal to board and animate just because of the multiple screens. They kept having Toon Boom crash on them constantly just because it had so many elements going on at once. Every season we’ve had an episode where we had to go and pop the hood on it in animatic. In season one, it was the Meeseeks episode. In season two, to a much greater degree we popped the hood open on 2.01 and this was after Wes had already boarded it with his team. They were able to reuse a lot, but they had to go in and re-board a bunch of stuff and they were troopers the whole way through. Never once did they complain.

Split-screen realities aren’t as easily accomplished in animation as they might seem.

There are shots in that episode where there were so many elements going on that they could no longer even manipulate it anymore. The final changes had to be animated on top of an output. They basically had to output it and then rotoscope over the top of it in order to get the final fixes in. It was insane. The system just couldn’t handle it.

JGDan, did you go into the second season with a mantra about what stories you wanted to tell based on the lessons you learned in the first season?

DH:  Because of my gun-shyness from Community and experiencing getting a show branded as “insular” and a “cult hit” and stuff that repels new viewers before you even had a chance to grow, I was definitely crying the loudest, “Let’s not start curling back in on ourselves – let’s go bigger and bigger and bigger!” For better or for worse, that was my instinct. Let’s learn more about the infinite universe out there. What about the fact that this guy has a spaceship and that we can go anywhere anytime we want? Let’s keep getting out there and meeting new species, new governments and new characters.

If we had known how popular Mr Meeseeks was going to be, I think at the right time we probably would have had the wisdom to do another Meeseeks-driven story, but at the time when you’re making those decisions it seems like there’s a choice between “Oh, are we going to be that kind of show? Are we going to do an Evil Morty episode? Are we going to keep calling back and calling back? And then are we going to feel like Mork and Mindy instead of Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?”

Rick and Morty attempt to help the president with a global crisis.

JGIt’s a tough challenge to not curl back in, especially when the fans will always want that. If you give it to them, they’ll bite.

DH:  Fans, in loving a show, can only love what they’ve already gotten, so they are the most encouraging of connections and callbacks. I learned from Joel Hodgson, who created Mystery Science Theatre 3000, that one of his biggest regrets is paying too much attention to that too early on. The callbacks always get this big response from fans but there’s also the silent majority out there and the silent majority inside each individual viewer that’s got one eye on, “But is this a good show or not?” and if there’s just secret codes and handshakes with the existing audience, even the existing audience can be your own worst enemy. They could be telling people at parties, “I love this show but that’s because it’s for me…and me alone!”

JGDoes this mean we’ll be seeing fewer testicles in the show? Because from what I can tell, the balls are back…

JR:  [Laughs] It got to the point on season two where it was out of control with the art team. In season one it was me, like, “Let’s make things testicle-like,” and then in season two I was having to pull it back a little bit in some cases. There were a few things that were like, “This is just a dick and balls. We can’t do this!” But the art team and everyone that works on the show has so much fun because the content is so varied. It’s not that often on an animated show that you work on such a wide palette of stuff across a season.

JGAre there any homages coming up in season two that you can tease?

DH:  At one point we explore the concept of ‘the purge’ – a society that willfully engages in a festival of violence so that they can have peace for the rest of the year. We touch on that and Rick keeps saying, “It’s like that movie The Purge, Morty!” But it’s not really an homage. It’s just that we recognize it’s a sci-fi trope that’s exciting and interesting.

JR:  We kind of marched to the beat of our own new weird stuff. I feel like [homages are] South Park territory. I thought we did great on season one, but I felt like our creative low point was the Titanic thing because it was like, “What are we doing? We’re doing Titanic jokes? What year is this?!” I guess we felt safe because we were like, “If anyone was going to do this, it would have been done. We’re in the clear!”

JG: Who have you been most surprised to discover is a Rick and Morty fan? Have people been coming up to you that wouldn’t have expected saying, “I love the show! When is it coming back?”

JR:  I’ve got a couple of interesting ones. Sheamus the wrestler is a huge fan. The Weekend, the music artist, he’s got a huge hit song right now called My Face Is Numb Right Now…or You Make My Face…um, I might be getting that wrong. But he’s a big fan. [Actual song title: Can’t Feel My Face]

DH:  My favorite is Nick Pizzolatto, the creator of True Detective, because he’s such a heady erudite writer. I would have killed to have a drink with him, which I eventually got to do, but the reason I got to do it is because I wrote a show about poop people from another planet. He loves the show and watches it with his brother and really digs it.

JR:  Darren Aronofsky is a fan too.


JR:  Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are fans.

DH:  That one…may be a joke.

JR: [Laughs] That’s just a joke. That’s not real. They’re not fans yet.

All that can change when season two debuts on Adult Swim Sunday July 26th at 11:30pm. For more information, visit


James Gartler is a Canadian writer with a serious passion for animation in all its forms. His work has appeared in the pages of Sci Fi Magazine and at the websites and