Interview: J.G. Quintel on “Regular Show”

J. G. Quintel is the creator of Cartoon Network’s new animated series Regular Show, which premiered on the network in September. Before that, he was the creative director for The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. Quintel got his start at Cartoon Network working as a storyboard artist for Camp Lazlo.

NICK AND MORE!:  How did you get your start in the animation industry?

J. G. QUINTEL:  I went to Cal Arts for animation and ended up getting an internship at Cartoon Network on Clone Wars. That was my first exposure to the industry. After the internship ended, I went back to school and a few months later I took a test for Camp Lazlo and got hired on as a revisionist.

N&M:  Did you ever expect you’d be making your own cartoon when you starting working in the industry?

J. G. QUINTEL:  I’ve always wanted to have my own show, so I think I did, I just wasn’t sure if it would ever happen.

N&M:  What were some inspirations for Regular Show?

J. G. QUINTEL:  I watch a lot of British stuff. The Mighty Boosh, League of Gentlemen, IT Crowd, The Office, stuff like that. I also grew up watching The Simpsons and Beavis and Butthead.

N&M:  It is a bit different for Cartoon Network to be airing a slacker comedy outside of Adult Swim, how did you go about pitching Regular Show to Cartoon Network? Were there many revisions to your initial pitch? If so could you elaborate on any of them?

J. G. QUINTEL:  I pitched Regular Show as an idea for the Cartoonstitute project that Cartoon Network was doing. They were looking for ideas for shorts that could be turned into shows. The Cartoonstitute was really cool because if you came in and pitched an idea that they liked, they would just let you make the pilot with no notes. I boarded the idea for the pilot and used that to pitch and luckily they liked it.  I don’t think me verbally pitching it would have made any sense to anyone.

Me: “Hey, I want to make a show about a blue jay and a raccoon that work at the city park with a gumball machine, a yeti, and a dude with a lollipop for a head.”

Cartoon Network: “Please leave.”

N&M:  Could you tell me a bit about the process of making an episode of Regular Show?

J. G. QUINTEL:  It’s a lot of work. It all starts in the writer’s room, where we play writers games to generate ideas, once we have one that we like, we write a premise, which is then given to a team of storyboard artists. The board artists come up with all the dialogue and draw all the drawings for the episode, and we give notes throughout the process. Then we turn that in to the network and they give us notes on the storyboard. Usually we have to tone down the language and make sure all the characters are wearing seatbelts and stuff. Then we record the board and make an animatic. All of our artists put together the assets to send to Korea, like drawing BGs, Painting BGs, designing characters and props and coloring all of that. Then the episode gets timed on sheets, and then sent to Korea. Three months later, the episode comes back. We give more notes to get everything how we want it. Music and SFX are created, and then we mix the final episode. It takes about nine months to make one episode, and at any given time, we’ll be working on dozens of episodes in different stages of production. It’s a lot to keep track of.

N&M:  Regular Show has a TV-PG rating and the stream of double entendres and impending death certainly seems to make regular use of that rating. Has there been anything you wanted to do but was even over that line? Do you ever feel compelled to push an episode to meet that standard?

J. G. QUINTEL:  Yeah, there have been plenty of things that we haven’t been allowed to do because of standards notes. Definitely a lot of language gets pulled back that we would like to use, mainly because it sounds more conversational, like what real people would say if they were as upset as the characters were. But even with all the editing, I think we put the PG rating to good use.

N&M:  What inspired the heavy use of 80’s references, music and montages? Was it difficult getting the rights to all those classic 80’s songs? Will other decades ever share the spotlight?

J. G. QUINTEL:  I’m a big fan of the 80’s. I was born in the 80’s. A lot of my favorite movies are from that time and I think their influence shows in Regular Show. The songs are something that I never thought we would get, we tend to put songs into the animatics to get the right feel for the moment, and those songs are almost always copy written. When the execs saw the animatics, they liked what we were doing with the music and wanted to try to get some of the songs for broadcast. Other songs might make it in, as long as they sound cool, and they aren’t too expensive. I don’t think we’ll ever get a Led Zeppelin song, but it would be rad if we could.

N&M:  The voice acting in Regular Show is relatively low key. Was it your intention to make the majority of the characters sound like people you might talk to in real life?

J. G. QUINTEL:  Yeah, it was. I like the voices to sound natural. I feel like so many cartoons go the zany route and it just makes it hard to sit and listen to for a long period of time. At least for adults anyway. I think it’s also important to give your characters somewhere to go. If they start out yelling, then they really have nowhere to go when things get intense. It’s important to have contrast.

N&M:  Do you have any hand in selecting the voices and directing? If so what is it like working with the cast?

J. G. QUINTEL:  Yeah, we pick all the voices for the show and help to direct along with our casting director. Our core cast, Sam Marin (Benson, Pops, Muscle Man), Bill Salyers (Rigby), and Mark Hamill (Skips) are all really talented and fun to work with.

N&M:  How do you like voicing a main character in your own show?

J. G. QUINTEL:  It’s fun. I react to things the way that I would if they were really happening and I think it works. It’s a little weird to yell though. I never yell in real life, but it seems like I’m screaming at the top of my lungs at least once in every episode.

N&M:  Do you have any amusing voice-over session stories you’d care to share? Have ad-libs made it into a final cut of an episode?

J. G. QUINTEL:  When we record, everything gets recorded. One time one of the actor’s mouths made a really funny fart sound on accident, and the recording engineer kept playing it randomly for the rest of the record. It was pretty funny.

N&M:  I noticed Sam Marin voiced characters for you in some of your shorts predating Regular Show. Are you friends that go way back?

J. G. QUINTEL:  We went to Cal Arts together, we were in the same year. He helped me out with a lot of the voices on my student films. He’s a great actor, and I still can’t understand how he can make it sound like Muscle Man, Pops, and Benson are having a conversation, and it’s just him in the record booth talking to himself.

N&M:  I absolutely love the dialogue exchanges between Mordecai and Rigby as well as the other characters. They feel so natural and believable to me and yet they are genuinely hilarious. Where do you and your crew come up with those witty every day conversations? Have any been inspired by actual conversations you’ve had with people?

J. G. QUINTEL:  We try to come up with dialogue that sounds conversational and not too cartoony so that the characters are more relatable. The Hmm, hmm, stuff that Mordecai and Rigby do to each other all the time was something that a roommate of mine from college would always do. He would kick my door open and be holding his Nintendo DS and say nothing more than “hmm, hmmm.”  Then we’d play Mario Kart. It’s just a way of saying I’m way better than you without saying words. And since he’s not here to defend himself, I feel pretty good about saying that I would always destroy him. “HMMM, HMMMM!!!”

N&M:  You voice Mordecai, but which character in Regular Show do you feel you relate to best?

J. G. QUINTEL:  I really am most like Mordecai. Whenever I write for him I just imagine what I would do in the same situation and it makes it really easy to come up with stuff. The other characters are a bit tougher.

N&M:  What advice do you have for aspiring cartoonists?

J. G. QUINTEL:  Make the things that you want to see, not what you think other people want to see. It’s way too much work to be making something that you’re not even into.

Nick and More! would like to thank J. G. Quintel for taking the time to speak with us, and Wendy Rutherford at Cartoon Network’s PR department for setting the interview up.  New episodes of Regular Show air Mondays at 8:15 p.m. ET/PT on Cartoon Network.  Check out Nick and More!’s review for the series premiere episode.

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