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Interview with JG Quintel, creator of Regular Show

This past 2014, during the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, we were lucky enough to be able to interview brillant creator JG Quintel, who after a highly successful run as creative director on "The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack" went on to create his own Cartoon Network show, the hilarious "Regular Show".

This past 2014, during the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, we were lucky enough to be able to interview brillant creator JG Quintel, who after a highly successful run as creative director on "The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack" went on to create his own Cartoon Network show, the hilarious "Regular Show". During our talk, we discussed the production on Flapjack, the origins of Regular Show as an underground short, his animated alter ego, and the magic of explosions. Have fun!

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Animac Magazine: Thanks a lot for your time! First of all, we're really interested in your Flapjack era, because we think it’s a really underrated gem in the recent cartoon history. Its crew had lots of artists that later worked on Adventure Time, Gravity Falls creator Alex Hirsch, and you were one of the lead artists there as well! How did you feel during its production? It was a really special show for some of us, but SpongeBob was everywhere at that time. How was the work mood during those times?

JG Quintel: While we were making it we were having a great time. Thurop Van Orman created the show, we had gone to CalArts together, and we worked on Camp Lazlo together, so when he got that show, he asked me to be his creative director and we ended up… I learned a lot! 'Cause before then we had only done - well, I had only done storyboarding… So in this role, I got to be in the writers’ room and help come up with stories, animatics, mixes, everything! Part of the process was practice, essentially, and learning how all that stuff works, for two seasons. We were hiring all of our friends, like Pen [Ward], Kent [Osborne], Alex [Hirsch] and people from school, people we knew from the network. You know, the network kinda did a change and decided to do all these new cartoons when Adventure Time started coming out, and then Regular Show… And Flapjack was naturally coming to an end. And, really, we just kinda split down the middle. Pen got his show, took people from Flapjack, then I got mine and I took people. It was interesting, because at that time we had never been in those positions before, we were kinda experimenting and having fun.

Animac Magazine: That’s really cool, because you were not worried about ratings or anything like that, you were just…

JG Quintel: No, I mean, we wanted to do really well, but ultimately we were just making it for ourselves and I think it found an audience, there were a lot of people who knew about it and really liked it. You know, I always wondered why I didn’t have more legs, why it didn’t get further than it did, but…

Animac Magazine: It was a loyal audience, at least.

JG Quintel: Yeah, yeah, which is nice.

Animac Magazine: There’s a specific episode of Flapjack which you boarded with Kent Osborne called Panfake...

JG Quintel: Yeah, I remember Panfake.

Animac Magazine: It’s one of my favourites! I heard it was inspired by the rumor that they were preparing some kind of strange parallel Flapjack-like show in another network, and you guys decided to do a parody of that.

JG Quintel: I’m trying to remember exactly… It was long ago, man, that was a long time ago… Remind me what happened in the episode.

Animac Magazine: There was a puppet show...

JG Quintel: Oh, yeah, yeah!

Animac Magazine: There was a character similar to Flapjack on it and it got successful...

JG Quintel: I remember. I think what it was... there was something that was similar to Flapjack coming out in another studio, I can’t remember which one. And I remember we were like “aaargh, they’re copying what we’re doing!”, so that was like... kinda making fun of that situation. It was a very in-joke episode.

Animac Magazine: Regarding Regular Show, we'd like to ask about Mordecai. You’ve said in many interviews he's like an alter ego of yourself, and you also voice him! How much do you put from yourself into the character?

JG Quintel: A lot of it. The way he behaves and everything… I’m pretending - if I were in that situation, how would I react? All those little things, like the "Wooooh!", "Yeah-yuh!", and the "Hmm-hmm", that was all stuff we were doing in college, just me and my buddies, so a lot of it is all from real life and just… placed into a show.

Animac Magazine: So, are you comfortable with that idea? Have you ever worried sometimes that maybe Mordecai is a mirror of your soul? (laughter)

JG Quintel: I mean, I look back on it and I’m like “oh, that’s exactly something that I did!”. There’s tons of episodes like this and no one knows, but what’s cool is that you can take what was real and then make it into an 11-minute cartoon and people can sit down and watch it, it works, it’s funny... You know, sometimes, a story starts like “I tried to eat 12-egg omelet once, to win a hat or a shirt or whatever”, and that’s not really that great as an episode, but what we did with it to make it become a really cool thing is… we take something from life and then we build and work around it. We’re always looking for that nugget of real life, to relate to that, and then find how do you make it into a cartoon.

Animac Magazine: We’d like to ask about your original short film, “2 in the AM PM”. How was the creative process for that short initially and how did it lead to Regular Show and how it is today?

JG Quintel: That short… actually, it’s funny, because that short couldn’t have existed without me having a job at Cartoon Network. At that time I was a senior in CalArts –my last year– and normally your films are very important because they’re the ones that will get you a job in the industry. And I already had a job in the industry, I was working on Flapjack, so there was no pressure like “I need to make something the industry will respect!”. I didn’t worry about any of that so I just thought “I’m gonna make anything, whatever I want, because it doesn’t matter.” And we were making up games -much like we do on the show to come up with fun stuff- like draw one word out of a hat and whatever that word is, try to make up a film about it in two nights, like straight, so no sleeping. One weekend to try and make a whole film. I wrote that whole film in like 3 hours. The word was "candy" and all of that idea came up all of a sudden. I just started writing, trying to keep up, to not forget anything - and then, I spent the rest of the year trying to animate it, actually putting into film. But the characters that were there… for instance, Mordecai, his character design shows up in that film, and so does Benson’s character design. And Mordecai is a character that in my third year I storyboarded an entire film about, and it was gonna be about a bird in a zoo that was trying to escape, and these zoo keepers in golf carts are chasing him… It was too complicated, there was no way a studio could finish it, so I bailed on it, but I really liked the character design and I wanted to re-use him. He came up again in “2 in the AM PM” and I still liked him, and then I wanted to use him in Regular Show and it totally worked out. And actually, if you watch the pilot for Regular Show, some of that zoo concept was initially there. It was originally pitched as this concept of animals that take care of humans like they’re the animals…? But they were like: “Nah, it’s too weird.” And I was like: “Yeah, you’re right.” And then it’s just these dudes working at a park. But in the pilot there’s this one scene when they’re driving and there’s cages in the background, it was supposed to be like a zoo.

Animac Magazine: One final question. What’s happening in your minds…? I mean, there are lots of apocalyptical endings and climaxes! What’s happening in your screenwriting team that they’re all so obsessed with epic apocalyptical fights at the very end of each episode? It’s really fun and unique.

JG Quintel: Well, as a guy, and I’m sure that most boys will relate to this, explosions are just cool and funny and interesting no matter what. Fireworks are fun to blow up! Seeing explosions is fun! Anytime I see footage of tests for atomic bombs…

Animac Magazine: I love that.

JG Quintel: It looks so cool, so we put stuff like this in the show all the time, because it looks cool. And it reads like whatever started and went down… it was a big deal at the end. That’s why we put it in. I’m sure that in live action it would be prohibitedly expensive, but with animation you just draw it!

Animac Magazine: There’s a curious relationship between Cartoon Network artists and the Apocalypse as an inspiration.

JG Quintel: At a certain point, when you’ve done so many episodes, you’re like: “How can we top THAT?!” And things start going that way: let’s put explosions and crazy stuff. We have some episodes coming up that are going to be INSANE, more than anything that we’ve ever done. It’s going to be really cool!

Interview conducted by Adrian Carande and Xavier Manuel

Photos by Carolina López


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