Rick and Morty is an American adult animated science fiction adventure comedy series created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon for Cartoon Network's late-night programming block Adult Swim. The series follows the misadventures of cynical mad scientist Rick Sanchez and his good-hearted but fretful grandson Morty Smith, who split their time between domestic life and interdimensional adventures. The series premiered on December 2, 2013, and the third season concluded on October 1, 2017. In May 2018, the series was picked up for an additional 70 episodes over an unspecified number of seasons.
Roiland voices the eponymous characters, with Chris Parnell, Spencer Grammer and Sarah Chalke voicing the rest of the family. The series originated from an animated short parody film of Back to the Future, The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti, created by Roiland for Channel 101, a short film festival co-founded by Harmon. When Adult Swim approached Harmon for television show ideas, he and Roiland decided to develop a program based on the short. The series has received universal acclaim for its originality, creativity and humor.
|Rick and Morty|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||31 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||22 minutes|
|Original network||Adult Swim|
|Picture format||1080i (16:9 HDTV)|
|Original release||December 2, 2013 – present|
The show revolves around the adventures of the members of the Smith household, which consists of parents Jerry and Beth, their kids Summer and Morty, and Beth's father, Rick Sanchez, who lives with them as a guest. According to Justin Roiland, the family lives outside of Seattle in the U.S. state of Washington. The adventures of Rick and Morty, however, take place across an infinite number of realities, with the characters travelling to other planets and dimensions through portals and Rick's flying car.
Rick is an eccentric and alcoholic mad scientist, who eschews many ordinary conventions such as school, marriage, love, and family. He frequently goes on adventures with his 14-year-old grandson, Morty, a kind-hearted but easily distressed boy, whose naïve but grounded moral compass plays counterpoint to Rick's Machiavellian ego. Morty's 17-year-old sister, Summer, is a more conventional teenager, who worries about improving her status among her peers and sometimes follows Rick and Morty on their adventures. The kids' mother, Beth, is a generally level-headed person and assertive force in the household, though self-conscious about her professional role as a horse doctor. She is dissatisfied with her marriage with Jerry, a simple-minded and insecure person, who disapproves of Rick's influence over his family.
Different versions of the characters inhabit other dimensions throughout the multiverse and their personal characteristics can vary from one reality to another. The show's original Rick identifies himself as "Rick Sanchez of Earth Dimension C-137", in reference to his original universe, but this does not necessarily apply to every other member of the Smith household. For instance, in the first-season episode "Rick Potion #9", after turning the entire world population into monsters, Rick and Morty move to a different dimension, leaving Summer, Beth and Jerry behind.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||11||December 2, 2013||April 14, 2014|
|2||10||July 26, 2015||October 4, 2015|
|3||10||April 1, 2017||October 1, 2017|
Following the conclusion of the third season, future seasons of the show had remained in question, with no announcement of the show's renewal or status of production. In March 2018, Harmon tweeted that he had not begun writing new episodes for season four, in part because Adult Swim had not ordered any new episodes yet nor had they picked up the show for a fourth season. As a reason for the delay, Harmon explained that the contract negotiations were more complicated, as compared to the previous seasons. Harmon and Roiland later clarified that the contract negotiations were prolonged because they wanted to have assurance that there would be many more seasons of the show, so that Harmon could dedicate himself full time to it; this would thus prevent him from having to split his attention between Rick and Morty and other projects to maintain his career.
In May 2018, Adult Swim announced a long-term deal with the creators, ordering 70 new episodes of Rick and Morty. The episode count per season remains unknown, though Harmon had expressed his interest in creating more than ten episodes per season a few months earlier. Writer Ryan Ridley has said that he does not expect the fourth season to air any sooner than late 2019.
Creators Dan Harmon (left) and Justin Roiland
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 parodies of 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 and Cartoon Network's Adventure Time.
In 2012, Harmon was briefly 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 along 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. The series is inspired by British-style storytelling, as opposed to traditional American family TV stories. Roiland has stated his and Harmon's intentions for the series to lack traditional continuity, opting for discontinuous storylines "not bound by rules". 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.
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 the act break 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."
Harmon has 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". The first season writing staff consisted of Roiland, Harmon, Tom Kauffman, Ryan Ridley, Wade Randolph, and 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. Harmon has admitted that his perfectionism can some times be disruptive and cause writing schedule delays. For the most part, this was the reason why the third season of the show consisted of only ten episodes instead of fourteen, as was initially intended.
Animation for the show is done using Toon Boom Harmony, post-production work is done in Adobe After Effects, and background art is done in Adobe Photoshop. Production of animation is handled by Bardel Entertainment in Canada. 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." John Kricfalusi's The Ren & Stimpy Show was another strong influence for Rick and Morty, which is why, according to Roiland, the small "w-shaped mouths" that the characters occasionally make is a reference to a similar expression that Ren frequently makes. When recording dialogue, Roiland does a considerable amount of improvisation, in order to make the characters feel more natural.
Rick and Morty has been described as "a never-ending fart joke wrapped around a studied look into nihilism." The series addresses the insignificance of human existence as compared to the size of the universe, with no recognizable divine presence, as described by Lovecraft's philosophy of cosmicism. The characters of the show find ways to deal with cosmic horror and existential dread, either by asserting the utility of science over magic or by choosing a life in ignorant bliss.
Co-creator Dan Harmon, talking about the philosophy guiding the show and Rick's nihilistic apathy, stated that "the knowledge that nothing matters, while accurate, gets you nowhere." To find a sense of purpose and live a better life, one needs to focus on human relationships and experiences, and not preoccupy our minds with unanswerable questions. According to Harmon, this contrast is evident in the final scene of "Auto Erotic Assimilation", where Jerry is joyfully removing the weeds from his driveway, while Rick appears in the background passed out drunk, after a failed suicide attempt.
Occasionally, characters will acknowledge an episode's narrative or hint at the presence of a fourth wall, suggesting that they are aware of the fact that they are characters of a TV show. Thereunder, Troy Patterson of The New Yorker notes that Rick and Morty "supplies an artful answer to the question of what follows postmodernism: a decadent regurgitation of all its tropes, all at once, leavened by some humanistic wistfulness." Other philosophies that have been referenced in the characters' behavior and observations include: existentialism, anarchism, absurdism, and the work of Friedrich Nietzsche.
The 11-episode first season was released on DVD (2-disc set) and Blu-ray (single BD-50 disc) on October 7, 2014. Special features include commentary and animatics for every episode, deleted scenes, behind the scenes featurette and commentaries by special guests Matt Groening, Robert Kirkman, Pendleton Ward, Al Jean and others. The 10-episode second season was released on DVD (2-disc set) and Blu-ray (single BD-50 disc) on June 7, 2016. Special features include behind the scenes, commentary and animatics for every episode, deleted animatic sketches and a "Plumbus Owner's Manual" booklet. The 10-episode third season, was released on DVD (2-disc set) and Blu-ray (single BD-50 disc) on May 15, 2018. Special features include exclusive commentary and animatics for every episode, "inside the episode", the origins of Rick and Morty, and an exclusive "inside the recording booth" session.
Uncensored versions of the show are also available to purchase on various digital platforms, including iTunes and Amazon, with the digital releases of each season containing bonus material. The digital release of the first season includes the 2013 Rick and Morty Comic-Con panel, the digital release of the second season includes the 2015 ATX Television Festival panel, and the digital release of the third season includes commentary on every episode, as well as seven more short videos featuring co-creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland.
The show is available to watch on Netflix in a number of countries outside the United States, including the United Kingdom and Australia, while the first two seasons are available to stream on Hulu. Following the conclusion of the show's third season, Adult Swim made a livestream marathon of Rick and Morty available to watch on its official website in select regions, hoping to dissuade viewers from watching other illegal livestreams.
Rick and Morty has received universal critical acclaim, holding a 97% approval rating by critics on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. 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.
|2014||BTVA Voice Acting Awards||Best Male Vocal Performance in a Television Series in a Supporting Role — Comedy/Musical||Chris Parnell||Nominated|||
|Best Female Vocal Performance in a Television Series in a Supporting Role — Comedy/Musical||Sarah Chalke||Nominated|
|IGN Awards||Best TV Animated Series||Rick and Morty||Nominated|||
|IGN People's Choice Award||Best TV Animated Series||Rick and Morty||Nominated|
|2015||BTVA Voice Acting Awards||Best Male Lead Vocal Performance in a Television Series — Comedy/Musical||Justin Roiland||Won|||
|Annie Awards||Best General Audience Animated TV/Broadcast Production||Rick and Morty||Nominated|||
|IGN Awards||Best Animated Series||Rick and Morty||Won|||
|IGN People's Choice Award||Best Animated Series||Rick and Morty||Won|
|2016||BTVA Voice Acting Awards||Best Male Lead Vocal Performance in a Television Series||Justin Roiland||Nominated|||
|Best Vocal Ensemble in a Television Series||Rick and Morty||Nominated|
|Gold Derby Awards||Best Animated Series||Rick and Morty||Nominated|||
|2017||Teen Choice Awards||Choice Animated TV Show||Rick and Morty||Nominated|||
|IGN Awards||TV Series of the Year||Rick and Morty||Nominated|||
|Best TV Episode||"The Ricklantis Mixup"||Nominated|||
|Best Animated Series||Rick and Morty||Won|||
|Best Comedy Series||Rick and Morty||Nominated|||
|Best Comedic TV Performance||Justin Roiland||Won|||
|IGN People's Choice Award||TV Series of the Year||Rick and Morty||Won|||
|Best TV Episode||"The Ricklantis Mixup"||Nominated|||
|Best Animated Series||Rick and Morty||Won|||
|Best Comedy Series||Rick and Morty||Won|||
|Best Comedic TV Performance||Justin Roiland||Won|||
|2018||Critics' Choice Television Awards||Best Animated Series||Rick and Morty||Won|||
|Annie Awards||Best General Audience Animated Television/Broadcast Production||"Pickle Rick"||Won|||
|Outstanding Achievement for Writing in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production||Ryan Ridley, Dan Guterman (for "The Ricklantis Mixup")||Won|
|Golden Reel Awards||Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Animation Short Form||Hunter Curra, Kailand Reily, Andrew Twite, Joy Elett, Jeff Halbert, Konrad Pinon (for "Pickle Rick")||Nominated|||
|BTVA Voice Acting Awards||Best Male Vocal Performance in a Television Series in a Guest Role||Christian Slater||Nominated|||
|Saturn Awards||Best Animated Series or Film on Television||Rick and Morty||Pending|||
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Animated TV Show||Rick and Morty||Pending|||
On October 7, 2017, McDonald's served Szechuan sauce, months after it was referenced several times in the Season 3 premiere, "The Rickshank Redemption". The event was marked with criticism from fans when not enough of the sauces were provided. The sauce was announced to return to all McDonald's stores on February 26, 2018 due to popular demand.