Ryan Quincy Talks Out There, debuting on IFC this Friday, February 22nd
Out There chronicles the misadventures of socially awkward Chad (Ryan Quincy), his little brother Jay (Kate Micucci) and his best friend, Chris (Justin Roiland). Living in the small town of Holford, the boys wander its surreal, bleak landscape waiting out their last few years of high school and discovering that growing up is weird to do. Puberty, first loves, social ostracism, conservative parents, single moms and their disastrous boyfriend choices, Out There confronts these perils of youth and explores that terrifying limbo between childhood and adulthood when fragile young personalities form and re-form. Relive the agony and ecstasy of those special times as Chad and Chris try to navigate life... out there.
Out There is created, written by and executive produced by Ryan Quincy, two-time Emmy-winning animation director and producer of South Park. We recently caught up with the man behind Chad for an insightful look at the making of this unique and very funny series.
Here is our conversation.
Where did the visual concept for Out There come for? This is quite unique. I don't think I've seen human characters that look like this, ever...
Ryan Quincy: Cool, yeah...It's a long evolution. I've been drawing ever since I was a kid. I love drawing characters. I talk about the early influences of Dr. Seuss, and Maurice Sendak, and Richard Scarry, a lot of those children's book authors. Also, the movies of the time, when I was a kid. You know, all the stuff that everyone saw. The Star Wars movies. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. All that stuff. I was a child of the 80s. All of that was dumped into my subconscious. My brain was a melting pot of all that stuff. Over time, I started to draw human looking characters, but they became more interesting with these animal noses, and claws...I still think of them as human, but it just seemed more interesting to look at, and more unique. The same thing with backgrounds. I like things with a more tactile texture, and more of an illustrated look, more so than your average fare of flat, shaded toons...The Cartoons that you would normally see.
So, there is definitely a Chewbacca vibe coming off these guys?
Ryan Quincy: Oh, yeah! Chewbacca, Big Foot. Any of that type of thing. A lot of that is in there, along with the weird Dr. Seuss...You never really know what kind of character The Grinch is. Or that type of thing. Same thing with the Muppets, and Jim Henson's type of stuff. You had monsters, and a talking frog. Whatever. It was very liberating, and very opening to populate a world this way, where they live in a very recognizable environment.
Maybe this is just what I took away from it, but I felt that these kids saw themselves in this way at this period in time. That when they looked in the mirror, they saw these weird, hairy monsters. Maybe I'm way off base...
Ryan Quincy: There is definitely something to be said for that. I don't think we ever need to explain the way they look, this is just how they are. But yeah, that is one of our foundation type statements that we'd always say. How they feel on the inside is how they look on the outside. That's the mark when it gets drawn up. When the question about how they look comes up, that is our go-to answer. That hopefully will satisfy everyone.
I wasn't watching it looking for an answer. That's just how I felt after watching that first preview episode. I think its because I felt like I looked like that at that age, when I was in high school. I found these characters more relatable than many of the other animated high school characters I've seen in recent years.
Ryan Quincy: Yeah, I agree with that. Today, if I see pictures of myself from high school, it's just this huge haystack head of hair. (Laughs) They do, the kids look like these little monsters. People in general look like that. I think you are right on with that.
Are you pulling from your own experiences in high school? I'm around your age, and also a kid of the 80s, and this seemed more in tune with today's teenagers than what my high school experience was like. It was nostalgic without being nostalgic in a way. It doesn't seem to cater to the past, but at the same time, I could identify with it...
Ryan Quincy: That's the thing. What resonates, and what is universal, is a lot of that stuff was pulled from my adolescence and growing up in Nebraska. Though, I think it applies to kids today. A lot of that is still very relevant. The nicknames. Social ostracism. All the nitty-gritty that comes with it.
Can you take me through the writing process? How did you guys decide which stories you wanted to break in this first batch of episodes?
Ryan Quincy: We wanted to make sure to establish this foundation of these two best friends. Everything kind of revolves around them. There was a little bit, at first, a want to go off and introduce a lot of new characters. I think that is just a natural thing. But, we learned right away that its good to have this core of Chad and Chris, these two guys that are best friends that have each other's backs. The peripheral characters, they will emerge. As time goes on, hopefully, with more seasons, we will get to play with more of the world. The main goal was to center everything around Chad and Chris. Everything is born from their experiences. Writing wise, it started with memories of growing up back in Nebraska. The mouse-eating episode, that writer, one of his things was, there was a kid that said he was going to eat a live mouse. So, that was mined from something that really happened. I had a kid in junior high, he was in gym class, and he broke his leg. He started crying out, "Mommy! Mommy, mommy!" And things fell silent. He got the nickname Mommy. It was devastating. There are these heaps and curls that you pull from, and you start building this story around them. You try to figure out the puzzle of the storyline, how to make it work. That is throughout the whole series. In every episode, there is some kernel of something that happened to me, or one of the writers.
Are you going to allow you characters to age? We hardly ever see that in animation, but this seems like a series that would benefit from that. Unless you are going for the idea that high school at this point in time, is endless.
Ryan Quincy: Originally, I wanted them to age. I was going to treat it like this was going to be a full four season show of them going to high school. This is Chad and Chris, and after high school they will go their separate ways, and they probably wouldn't see each other again until twenty or thirty years down the road. I was originally thinking that. But that time period of being fifteen, you don't have a job, you don't have a car, you are stuck in between childhood and adulthood. There is that groundhog day thing you can play with. They feel like they are stuck there for eternity. So, I am leaning more towards that right now. I think there are more stories to tell in this time period. But who knows? I have always been very intrigued by characters aging in cartoons. It doesn't happen very often.
I can't think of one animated series that has aging characters off the top of my head...Maybe King of the Hill a little bit, but Bobby doesn't ever stray that far from his young self over the course of that series' run...
Ryan Quincy: Yeah, yeah...I know we had the South Park kids go to the 4th Grade, but they stayed the same characters, going from 3rd to 4th...But yeah, there is something intriguing about that...
That was a big deal when that happened. I remember there was a lot of hoopla over that...
Ryan Quincy: Yeah. Who knows if they'll go to fifth grade. They've been in fourth grade for a while now.
You are at least letting these guys change their clothes. We hardly ever see that in animation. Right now, and I think its because of the way the economy reflects back on TV, but a lot of live action sitcom characters aren't changing their clothes. I think Jimmy on Raising Hope has been wearing that same Big Foot vs Abe Lincoln shirt since the show started, and the guys on Sunny, especially Charlie, hardly every buy a new shirt...
Ryan Quincy: (Laughs) Yeah, its more economical. Those costume changes cost money. You have to draw all of that stuff. But I want to do that as much as possible. I want to treat this as an animated dramedy more than what you'd normally expect from your average adult animated cartoon, like your Family Guy or The Simpsons. Any of that stuff.
What kind of freedom does being on IFC allow you? They seem like they are really going after stuff that you can't find anywhere else.
Ryan Quincy: Yeah. It's the perfect place for us. It is very liberating. It feels like the open prairie. You just go out, and go West. Its that kind of thing. Its all in front of you. They are very willing to take chances on things. But, they trust in everything they pick. Out There has been a custom fit for this channel, and this family of things. They are like curators. I feel like they do a good job of curating the stuff that they have. Some other channels, I feel like they just throw stuff at the wall, and see if it sticks. I think IFC is more in tune to their brand and tone.
The stuff on IFC always seems a step ahead of everything else.
Ryan Quincy: Yeah. There slogan is the best. Always on, slightly off. I think that, in a nutshell, sums it up.
I hope this doesn't sound stupid, but I'm not sure if you ever did any voices for South Park...What led you to voicing the main character of Chad?
Ryan Quincy: I never did any South Park voices. That wasn't something I wanted to do. With these original Out There shorts that I did for 20th way back in 2009, I just did it out of necessity as the main character. And because a lot of the stories were things that happened to me...But it was never my intention to make it this vanity project. "Oh, I'm going to do this voice! I'm going to write! I'm going to direct!" It just happened that way. I am a very Midwest humble guy. When it came time for IFC to talk about casting, they said the only voice they wanted to carry over from the shorts was mine. That seemed like a funny thing. I was like, "Really, are you serious?" They were very adamant about keeping me on as that voice. They felt it was very fitting for the character in the show. Its been working out I guess. What did you think of it?
I love it, and I'm not just saying that cause you are on the phone.
Ryan Quincy: Thank you! I'm glad to hear that. That was one of the things about the voices on the show. The cast is amazing, but it was important not to do booming, broad, cartoony voices. This was more of a naturalistic conversation, real life kind of vibe, but we still had good character voices, you know what I mean? So, yeah...
What about Fred Armisen? Was that an instance where they wanted to carry that over, so this show would lead viewers out of Portlandia?
Ryan Quincy: That was more natural...I know its probably...Its an assumption, "Oh, he can help carry over into this show." He really responded to the material, and he was my first choice to be Terry, even before Portlandia was what it became. I had the idea for these shorts way back in 2008. It was serendipitous, or coincidental that, "Oh, and Fred Armisen is on this show, and we follow his show!" I find that interesting. But I think its just really cool that he can be a part of it.
Did you get a chance to watch Unsupervised on FX? That was pulled pretty quick...
Ryan Quincy: Yeah, I did, and some of the animators that worked on that show are working on this one.
Fred was on that show. Did you look at that show to make sure you weren't headed in the same direction? Were you trying to avoid any similarities with that show?
Ryan Quincy: I remember when that came on, it felt very close to where we were. I think there show was a nicer Beavis and Butt-Head, but it still had some of that raunchy It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia vibe to it. I think its different enough. I think Out There stands alone. I know a lot of people out there will compare it too Napoleon Dynamite, and Freaks and Geeks. A lot of that stuff is easy to pull up and categorize it. I think because its animated, and the kids are the same age, that might be the only connective tissue between our show and that stuff. I knew that Fred Armisen had done a voice on Unsupervised. I was like, "I hope people don't think this is the same thing." That it was going to be a carbon copy of that. Again, it was one of those coincidences.
I know merchandising with South Park is its own cottage industry. This show seems like it could also turn into that, especially with all of the characters...
Ryan Quincy: Yeah, absolutely. I would love to see toys of these characters. I think if it is done right, if it is done correctly, they could be really cool. I hope it does come to that. I really do. They are made to be toys. You just look at them. It lends itself to that world. I hope we get to that stage. That usually happens, you know, there in the second or third season. Knock on wood. I love toys, too, so I would love to see these characters in that form.