The last time we chatted with J.G. Quintel, he was getting ready to launch his wonderful animated show Regular Show on Cartoon Network. Although the series has only been on the air since September of 2010, it has found a huge cult following nationwide. Cartoon Network has released the series’ first compilation DVD on April 3rd, and we just heard that Jazwares has signed on to become the master toy licensee for the show. That means fans will see pull-string Mordecai and Ribgy plush toys on the market in the fall of 2012! So we had to catch up with Mr. Quintel to get the skinny on the what’s on tap for this clever, quirky and totally awesome toon:
Animag: So, congrats on the phenomenal success of Mordecai, Rigby and the rest of the gang from Regular Show. Why don’t we start by you telling us what’s new and exciting in your world?
J.G. Quintel: Well, we are working hard on the fourth season of the show now, although the we’re in the middle of the third season on Cartoon Network. There will be 20 half hours in the fourth season. Of course, the first DVD of the series came out earlier this month and that was pretty exciting. The release features 12 episodes of the show, and we were asked to pick the ones that we liked the best. [ “The Slack Pack” includes “The Power,” “Grilled Cheese Deluxe,” “Mordecai and the Rigbys,’ “Brain Erase” and the short “Rah-Ha Ringtone.”] “The Power” is one of my favorite episodes. Each one of them brought back great memories of working on the show.
Animag: For those who don’t know the history, can you tell us how Cartoon Network picked up your toon?
J.G. Quintel: I’d been working as creative director on Cartoon Network’s The Marvelous Misaventures of Flapjack. And at the time, the started a development program at the studio called Cartoonstitute where you got to pitch your ideas to Craig McCracken and Rob Renzetti. I took some of the characters from my student films and came up with a short pitch, and they gave us the go-ahead.
You studied character animation at CalArts, right?
Quintel: Yes, I graduated from CalArts in 2006. I really wanted to be an animator originally. Then I saw how much work it involved, so I started to learn more about storyboarding. I really enjoyed making short films. That’s why I preferred to work in TV because you get to work on a lot of different ideas. It’s not like the movies where you work for four years on a two-hour movie. I learned a lot about the medium and technique both at CalArts and my years at Cartoon Network.
Your show follows the adventures of a a pair of slackers—a blue jay and a raccoon who love to have a good time. Why do you think it has been such a big hit?
Quintel: We are just really making the show that would make us laugh. These are the characters that we know from our own lives. They are our buddies, our friends…they’re pretty relatable. I mean it’s about not wanting to do chores, not wanting to work, playing video games, those things are all pretty relatable!
What were some of the influences behind the show?
Quintel: I grew up on The Simpsons. I also really liked Rocko’s Modern Life and I was lucky enough to work on Camp Lazlo as well. Some of the stylistic elements of those shows worked their way into my style. The round eyes, the Muppet-looking characters, these were elements that I grew up with and studied at school.
How did you come up with these specific characters?
Quintel: They all have different stories. I always thought raccoons and blue jays were pretty cool animals. I actually came up with Mordecai for a short that I was working on when I was at school, but I never got to complete it. It was about some animals that escaped from a zoo, and I really liked the character design I had done on a bluejay. I wanted to use him somewhere. I think he’s the character that is more like me. Of course, I voice him as well!
Rigby had been just a random doodle, a raccoon I had drawn on the side of my desk. He seemed perfect as a buddy for Mordercai. Benson was a gumball machine. He’s the boss, someone who needed to yell at the guys and to be the authority figure in the show. Pops was also from a student film I had done. I had drawn this random lollypop character with a top hat and a moustache, and I ended up using him because he was funny. We also wanted a guru character to help them out when they’re in trouble, and that was Skips. Yetis are always funny and great to draw!
Can you give us a few hints about what to expect in the fourth season?
Quintel: As you know, we’re still in the third season of the show. So it will be quite a few months until the fourth season air. I can tell you that there will be more development of the Mordecai Margaret relationship. We’re also excited about our first full half-our episode. It’s a pretty epic story and it will be very cool, but that’s all I am allowed to say about it. We’re also going to do another Halloween special, which allows us to do three short episodes, like we did before. There will also be a Christmas special in the next batch!
So now that you’re working on the fourth season, is it easier for you or harder to come up with fresh material?
Quintel: It’s a little bit of both. Right now, everyone understands the show, they get the style and sensibility, which was a bit hard to get in the beginning. They wanted to make it more cartoony at first, while ours had a more natural sitcom sound. We just turned in our 100th episode outline. Now w have to be aware of everything that we’ve done before, so we don’t repeat ourselves or anything else others have done. We have to keep up with the story arcs, move forward with certain ideas and see how they’re all evolving.
Are there plans to release the complete first season on DVD anytime soon?
Quintel: I would really like to see the complete first season out on DVD, but I think they are testing the waters with our hand-picked favorites release. We certainly have lots of great special feature ideas that would be fun to include on the DVD.
When was the first time you knew you wanted to work in animation?
Quintel: I liked drawing as far back as I can remember. My parents put me in art classes. I loved to watch The Simpsons and lots of other cartoons. I was also playing lots of video games (Streetfighter, The Simpsons arcade game, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, X-Men, ToeJam & Earl Sega Genesis, Shadowrun) As I got older, I started to make crude cut-out shorts. Then I applied to CalArts and was rejected a couple of times. I needed to learn more about the fundamentals of animation, drawing and perspective. I took classes all over the place. So I became super ready, and then I finally got into the program at CalArts. I really feel lucky to be making this show right now.
What kind of advice do you usually offer wanna-be animators?
Quintel: Start taking animation classes and carry a sketchbook with you. You need to be drawing all the time. Figure drawing is hugely important in getting into animation. Pay real close attention to how things move. If you still find that you like animating, then make things that you want to see, not things that you think others will want to see. This is going to take all your time and effort, so make sure you’re creating something that you feel passionate about. Hopefully, others will want to see it too!
What is your daily life like? What do you watch on TV?
Quintel: We’ve been watching a lot of Modern Family on TV. I also go back to Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. I really enjoyed that. My routine? I usually wake up at six every day, get into work by seven and leave somewhere between seven and nine every night. It’s all worthy it, because I want the show to be as good as it can be.
What’s next for you?
Quintel: I want to keep going with Regular Show. Then eventually, I’d like to make another show. I’ll probably take a big break, catch my breath, then start looking around and try to develop something new.
How is your life different now than when you started the show?
Quintel: We are only starting to notice that people actually know about the show. It used to be when I told people what I did, they hadn’t heard of the show, but it seems that more and more people have watched the show. They tell us about their favorite episode or actually quote the show. The other day, I was walking to lunch and someone actually stopped me and asked me, ‘Hey are you J.G. Quintel?’ The told me how much they loved the show and that they watch it with their brother all the time! That was kind of unusual for me!
Regular Show airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Cartoon Network. The first Regular Show DVD set, “The Slack Pack” ($14.97) is available now.