Rick and Morty
|Rick and Morty|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||21 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||22 minutes|
|Original network||Adult Swim|
|Picture format||16:9 HDTV|
|Original release||December 2, 2013 – present|
Rick and Morty is an American adult animated science fiction sitcom created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon for Adult Swim. The series follows the misadventures of mad scientist Rick and his fretful, easily influenced grandson Morty, who split their time between domestic family life and interdimensional adventures. Roiland voices the series' eponymous characters, with the voice talent of Chris Parnell, Spencer Grammer, and Sarah Chalke providing the rest of the family. The series has its origins in an animated parody of Back to the Future created by Roiland for film festival Channel 101. Adult Swim approached Harmon for television show ideas, and he and Roiland developed the program based on the short's two characters.
The series premiered on December 2, 2013, to critical acclaim. In January 2014, the series was renewed for a second season which premiered on July 26, 2015. In August 2015, Adult Swim renewed the series for a 14-episode third season.
Rick Sanchez is an alcoholic scientific genius who has moved in with the family of his daughter Beth, who is a veterinarian and equine cardiac surgeon. He splits his time between developing endless arcane projects and taking his teenage grandson Morty (and, with increasing occurrence, his older teenage granddaughter Summer) on dangerous and surreal adventures throughout the multiverse. Compounded with preexisting tensions within the family, these events cause the sensitive Morty much distress at home and school.
With the exception of the pilot episode, each episode ends with a post-credits scene. Rick and Morty can be considered a cosmic horror, given the callous and inhumane resolutions presented in most episodes.
- Rick Sanchez (voiced by Justin Roiland) – An eccentric and alcoholic mad scientist who is the father of Beth, the father-in-law of Jerry, and the maternal grandfather of Morty and Summer. His irresponsible tendencies lead Beth and Jerry to worry about the safety of their son Morty. The series is often retroscripted for Rick's ad-hoc lines, which frequently include 'burp-talking' in the middle of a sentence while speaking. He displays "diagnosable qualities of various mental illnesses." A maverick character that views his time as valuable, he eschews many ordinary conventions such as school, marriage, and even love. His disdainful or bored reaction to the mundane requests asked of him by Morty and his family suggests a sense of superiority, particularly towards Jerry; however, in several instances throughout the series Ricks shows a lonelier side. He is identified as being the Rick of Dimension C-137.
- Morty Smith (voiced by Justin Roiland) – Rick's good-hearted but easily distressed 14-year-old grandson who is frequently dragged into Rick's misadventures. His naive but grounded moral compass plays counterpoint to Rick's Machiavellian ego. He is typically reluctant to follow along with Rick's plans, and he often ends up traumatized by the unorthodox and morally questionable methods Rick uses to 'fix' situations. The Morty of C-137 is referred to as the "Mortiest Morty" by Rick. Some alternate Mortys refer to him as the "one true Morty". Though their relationship is frequently antagonistic, Morty's role as sidekick is necessary because his "Morty brainwaves" cancel out Rick's "genius brainwaves", preventing Rick's numerous inter-dimensional enemies from tracking him down. Rick displays occasional signs of genuine affection for Morty in spite of his disaffected demeanor, and similarly Morty can sometimes develop investment and enthusiasm for their adventures. He is identified as being the Morty of Dimension C-137.
- Beth Smith (née Sanchez) (voiced by Sarah Chalke) – Rick's daughter, Jerry's wife, and Summer and Morty's mother. She is a cardiac surgeon for horses. Generally level-headed, she struggles with her husband's ego, swelled from defiance of his obvious mediocrity. Several episodes deal with Beth's dissatisfaction with her life, stemming from a belief that she "settled" in her marriage, family, and job. She wanted to become a human cardiac surgeon but became pregnant with Summer at 17 years old. She is the most successfully assertive force in the household, and can at times be selfish. Beth is unperturbed by her father's destructive and reckless tendencies, as she has viewed Rick more favorably than her late mother since their separation in her childhood. Harmon expanded upon this origin in an interview: "Kids can sometimes idolize their worst parent and blame their supportive parent for chasing off the dad with the guts to leave. [...] She believes that Rick, as crazy as he is, is the better of her two parents even though she was raised by her mother and she blames her mother’s unremarkability on her father’s departure and will do anything to keep her father back in her life." Jerry sees Beth as overly controlling.
- Jerry Smith (voiced by Chris Parnell) – Summer and Morty's father, Beth's husband, and Rick's son-in-law, who strongly disapproves of Rick's influence over Morty. Generally insecure, Jerry is frequently led into conflicts stemming from opportunistic posturing. He is generally disapproving of Rick, and his marriage to Beth is often rocked by these upsets. Jerry worked at a low-level advertising agency until he was fired for incompetence. The episode "Mortynight Run" reveals that one of the Ricks, keenly aware that every Jerry is incapable of surviving off of Earth, created a daycare where Jerrys from various dimensions are dropped off by their Rick and Morty during adventures should he attempt to accompany them. It is revealed in the same episode that in some dimensions, Beth has left Jerry and remarried. Beth views Jerry as meek under his boasts, ultimately fearful of confrontation. At various points in the series, Beth and Jerry's marriage is said to be maintained for the sake of the kids. It is also strongly suggested that in spite of their problems with one another, Beth and Jerry are emotionally co-dependent.
- Summer Smith (voiced by Spencer Grammer) – Morty's 17-year-old older sister, a more conventional and often superficial teenager, is obsessed with improving her status with her peers. Summer is generally similar to her mother, but she has shown elements of both Jerry's approval-seeking and Rick's devil-may-care attitude. She occasionally expresses jealousy that Morty gets to accompany Rick on his inter-dimensional adventures. In the second season, she accompanies Rick and Morty on adventures more frequently.
Rick and Morty was created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon. The duo first met at Channel 101, a non-profit monthly short film festival in Los Angeles co-founded by Harmon. At Channel 101, participants submit a short film in the format of a pilot, and a live audience decides which pilots continue as a series. Roiland, then a producer on reality programming, began submitting content to the festival a year after its launch, in 2004. His pilots typically consisted of shock value—"sick and twisted" elements that received a confused reaction from the audience. Nevertheless, Harmon took a liking to his humor and the two began collaborating. In 2006, Roiland was fired from working on a television series he regarded as intensely creatively stifling, and funneled his creative energies into creating a webisode for Channel 101. The result was The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti, an animated short starring Doc Brown and Marty McFly, characters from the Back to the Future film trilogy. In the short, which Harmon would dub "a bastardization, a pornographic vandalization," Doc Smith urges Mharti that the solution to all of his problems is to give him oral sex. The audience reacted to it wildly, and Roiland began creating more shorts involving the characters, which soon evolved beyond his original intentions and their obvious origin within the film from which it was culled. Harmon would later create and produce Community, an NBC sitcom, while Roiland would work primarily in voice acting for Disney's Fish Hooks.
In 2012, Harmon was fired from Community. Adult Swim, searching for a more prime-time, "hit" show, approached Harmon shortly afterward, who initially viewed the channel as unfit for his style. He also was unfamiliar with animation, and his process for creating television focuses more heavily on dialogue, characters, and story. Instead, he phoned Roiland to inquire if he had any ideas for an animated series. Roiland immediately brought up the idea of using the Doc and Mharti characters, renamed Rick and Morty. Roiland initially wanted the show's run time to consist of one eleven-minute segment, but Adult Swim pushed for a half-hour program. Harmon felt the best way to extend the voices into a program would be to build a family around the characters, while Adult Swim development executive Nick Weidenfeld suggested that Rick be Morty's grandfather. Having pitched multiple television programs that did not get off the ground, Roiland was initially very unreceptive to others attempting to give notes on his pitch. Prior to developing Rick and Morty, he had created three failed animated pilots for Fox, and he had begun to feel "burned out" with developing television.
The first draft was completed in six hours on the Paramount Pictures lot in Dan Harmon's unfurnished Community office. The duo had broken the story that day, sold the pilot, and then sat down to write. Roiland, while acknowledging a tendency for procrastination, encouraged Harmon to stay and write the entire first draft. "We were sitting on the floor, cross-legged with laptops and I was about to get up and go home and he said, 'Wait, if you go home, it might take us three months to write this thing. Stay here right now and we can write it in six hours.' He just had a premonition about that," recalled Harmon. Adult Swim was initially unsure of Roiland doing both voices, partially due to the undeveloped nature of the character of Morty. Harmon wrote four short premises in which Morty took a more assertive role and sent it to Mike Lazzo. Adult Swim placed a tamer TV-14 rating on the program, which initially was met with reluctance from the show's staff. The network's reason behind the rating was that it would soon begin broadcasting in prime-time, competing with major programs.
The general formula of Rick and Morty consists of the juxtaposition of two conflicting scenarios: an extremely selfish, alcoholic grandfather dragging his grandson across space for intergalactic and/or interdimensional adventures, intercut with domestic family drama. This has led Harmon to describe the series as a cross between Matt Groening's two shows The Simpsons and Futurama, balancing family life with heavy science fiction. Roiland stated his and Harmon's intentions for the series to lack traditional continuity, opting for discontinuous storylines "not bound by rules". In a similar interview session at the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con International, he described each episode as being "[its] own point of entry."
The first season writing staff consisted of Roiland, Harmon, Tom Kauffman, Ryan Ridley, Wade Randolph, Eric Acosta, while writer's assistant Mike McMahan was also given writing credit. Described as a "very, very tiny little writers' room with a lot of heavy lifting from everybody," the show's writing staff, like many Adult Swim productions, is not unionized with the Writers' Guild of America. The writing staff first meets and discusses ideas, which evolve into a story. Discussions often include anecdotes from personal life as well as thoughts on the science fiction genre. After breaking the story—which consists of developing its consistency and logical beginning, middle, and conclusion—a writer is assigned to create an outline. Roiland and Harmon do a "pass" on the outline, and from there the episode undergoes several more drafts. The final draft of the script is last approved by either of the co-creators. In producing the series' first season, episodes were occasionally written out of order. For example, "Rick Potion #9" was the second episode written for the series, but was instructed to be animated as the fifth, as it would make more sense within the series' continuity. The series is inspired by British-style storytelling, as opposed to traditional American "family TV" stories. Harmon noted that the writers room at the show's studio bears a striking resemblance to the one used for Community. In comparing the two, he noted that the writing staff of Rick and Morty was significantly smaller, and more "rough and tumble verbally," commenting, "There's a lot more Legos and Nerf guns."
Many episodes are structured with use of a story circle, a Harmon creation based largely on Joseph Campbell's monomyth, or The Hero's Journey. Its two-act structure places it at an odd location in the stages of the monomyth, after The Meeting with the Goddess, instead of Atonement with the Father. Harmon has stated that his inspiration behind much of the concept and humor for the series comes from various British television series, such as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Doctor Who. He figures that the audience will only understand developments from Morty's point of view, but stated "we don't want to be the companions. We want to hang out with the Doctor, we idolize the Doctor, but we don't think like him, and that's really interesting, Rick is diseased, he's mentally ill, he's an absolute lunatic because he lives on this larger scale."
Roiland's cartooning style is heavily indebted to The Simpsons, a factor he acknowledged in a 2013 interview, while also comparing his style to that of Pendleton Ward (Adventure Time) and J.G. Quintel (Regular Show): "You'll notice mouths are kind of similar and teeth are similar, but I think that's also a stylistic thing that... all of us are kind of the same age, and we're all inspired by The Simpsons and all these other shows we're kind of subconsciously tapping into."
According to one of the technical directors, animation is done using Toon Boom Harmony with post production work done in Adobe After Effects. The background art for the show is done in Adobe Photoshop. Production of animation is handled by Bardel Entertainment in Canada.
There has been discussion among viewers about the philosophy of Rick and Morty. The show most frequently adopts an existentialist perspective, evident both in Rick's general behavior, and from numerous character observations of events. A frequently-cited example is a point Morty makes in the first season episode "Rixty Minutes", where he argues that Summer shouldn't leave home out of anger after learning of alternative realities where her parents were happier without her:
On one of our adventures, Rick and I basically destroyed the whole world, so we bailed on that reality and we came to this one, because in this one, the world wasn't destroyed and in this one, we were dead. So we came here, a- a- and we buried ourselves and we took their place. And every morning, Summer, I eat breakfast twenty yards away from my own rotting corpse. [...] Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody's gonna die. Come watch TV?
This statement heavily resembles a quote from French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre:
Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance.
Release and reception
The series was first announced during Adult Swim's 2012 Upfront presentation. Adult Swim ordered 10 half-hour episodes (not including the pilot) to comprise the first season. Matt Roller, a writer for the series, confirmed via Twitter that the network renewed Rick and Morty for a second season, which premiered on July 26, 2015.
As of August 2016 the series has received universal critical acclaim, holding a 100% approval rating by critics on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. Additionally, the first season of Rick and Morty holds a Metacritic score of 85 based on eight reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". David Weigand of San Francisco Chronicle described it as "offbeat and occasionally coarse... the take-away here is that it works." He praised the animation direction by James McDermott for being "fresh, colorful and as wacky as the script", and states that the series possesses "shades of Futurama, South Park and even Beetlejuice", ultimately opining that its humor felt "entirely original." Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times praised the series and stated that it was "Grandparenting at its unhinged finest." Todd Spangler of Variety gave the series a lukewarm review; while he found the series was passable, he contrasted it with other Adult Swim series as "often seems overly reliant on simply being frenetic at the expense of being witty" and enjoyed it as "a welcome attempt to dream just a little bigger." David Sims of The A.V. Club gave the series an "A-". In reviewing the first two episodes, he complimented the animation for its "clean, simple style." He stated that while the series has "a dark, sick sensibility," he praised its "effort to give each character a little bit of depth," further applauding Roiland's voice talent for the eponymous characters. IMDb gave the show a warm reception as it described it as "the best animation show that they've seen in a while on any network"
Adult Swim has made the pilot episode available on iTunes, bundled as part of the complete first season, as well as a 37-minute interview between creators Harmon and Roiland at the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con International. Eleven episodes have also been made available on the series' official website. The first six episodes were uploaded to YouTube for a short period. The episode "Rixty Minutes" was released early by the network via 109 15-second videos on Instagram. Some of the episodes are available for free streaming on Adult Swim's website; for the rest a U.S. cable subscription is required. Season one was made available for on-demand viewing on Hulu in June 2015. Season two is also available as of June 2016. Season one and two is available on Netflix in some countries (e.g. Germany, Austria, Ireland, Israel, Sweden, Spain, Japan and the U.K.) and season two is available on Netflix in some areas such Latin America, Ireland, Sweden, Spain and the U.K.
DVD and Blu-ray release
The complete first season was released on DVD (Region 1) and Blu-ray on October 7, 2014. Before its release, Roiland had confirmed that it would contain uncensored audio tracks. The complete second season was released on DVD (Region 1) and Blu-ray on June 7, 2016.
Awards and nominations
|2015||Annie Award||Best General Audience Animated TV/Broadcast Production||Rick and Morty||Nominated|
In other media
Film and television
The fast food restaurant chain Hardee's/Carl's Jr. released a television commercial in 2015 in which Rick brings several walking, sentient Hardee's/Carl's Jr. burgers into a sleeping Morty's room. The burgers run amok and steal objects.
A 2015 episode of The Simpsons, "Mathlete's Feat", opened with an elaborate couch gag featuring Rick and Morty, written by Harmon and Roiland. Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, described it as "probably the most ambitious and lengthy couch gag" on The Simpsons to date.
At New York Comic Con 2014, editor-in-chief of Oni Press, James Lucas Jones, announced that a Rick and Morty comic book adaptation would be released in early 2015. On April 1, 2015, the series debuted with its first monthly issue, entitled "BAM!" The series is written by Zac Gorman and illustrated by CJ Cannon. Artist Tom Fowler wrote a multi-issue story arc that began in March, 2016.
On August 10, 2015, a Rick and Morty-themed announcer pack was released for the competitive multiplayer video game Dota 2. The announcer pack can be purchased by players and replaces the Default announcer and Mega-Kills announcer with characters from Rick and Morty, voiced by Justin Roiland.
Pocket Mortys is a Pokémon parody game set in the "Rick and Morty Rickstaverse", released on iOS and Android as a free-to-play game from Adult Swim Games, released early on January 13, 2016. Coinciding with the many-worlds interpretation, the game follows versions of Rick and Morty that belong to an alternate timeline, rather than the duo followed in the show. The game uses a style and concept similar to the Pokémon games, with catching various "wild" Mortys, battling them with a variety of Aliens, Ricks, and Jerrys. The game features voice acting from Roiland and Harmon.
On August 4, 2016, Adult Swim released a video called "State of Georgia Vs. Denver Fenton Allen", featuring the characters reenacting an infamous preliminary hearing from Rome, Georgia. The segment was later animated by fan tiarawhy on October 5 using Toonboom Harmony 14 (the same animation software used by the show).
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