Earlier this month, animator J.G. Quintel's Emmy-winning The Regular Show returned for a fourth season on Cartoon Network. Among the new batch of episodes featuring slacker park employees Mordecai and Rigby, we got a brand-new Halloween episode with "Terror Tales of the Park Part II," a sequel to last year's half hour of horror.
Recently, I spoke to Quintel about the spookiest day of the year and romance, along with his thoughts on the upcoming release of the next DVD release Regular Show: The Best DVD in the World *At this Moment in Time next Tuesday, and his hopes for a full season release.
"I really like Halloween. I think that was one of my favorite holidays growing up," Quintel tells me. While he says the appeal of the night is all of the candy and dress-up, what I find most interesting about his pair of Halloween-themed specials is how they nail the anthology style of horror many of us grew up on. Things get kind of dark kind of fast.
"For the Halloween episodes, we try to push what we can do normally. And it's kind of hard, because normally, The Regular Show tends to go to a surreal anyway." He notes that in previous seasons, the show has gone dark without the benefit of Halloween, pitting Mordecai and Rigby against the living dead, Death himself, and a woodland stalker. With the Halloween episodes, Quintel says that he and the writing team wanted to play around with the idea that they couldn't get out of the story without one of the characters meeting their end.
He looks at the specials as his contribution to kids' Halloween memories before they grow too old to be scared of things in the way they are when they're young. "Cos I can remember growing up and watching horror films and things like that and being really afraid. But there comes a time when all of a sudden you're not afraid anymore and nothing really scares you. So it's kind of fun to do something that will hopefully give kids--maybe not nightmares, but something to be afraid of before they grow out of it."
The plot of most episodes revolve around the utter laziness and haplessness of Mordecai and Rigby, regularly resulting in something surreal or potentially fatal befalling them and the rest of the park crew. Quintel says that the show was born in part from his own late teen years, but that the idea of wanting to do anything besides your chores or work is universal. If you look at the show from that perspective, the show is indirectly a series of moral lessons about taking responsibility, what Quintel says is part of the overall theme of the series of growing up.
That's wholly in line with the last season, which saw some of the plots mature a bit (while still keeping their surreality). Among those events, we saw Muscle Man dealing with the death of his dad with a road trip and Mordecai making awkward steps towards getting close to his crush, Margaret. For Quintel, it's always appealing to give some heart to the episodes, while keeping the show's typical irreverence (in the episode about Muscle Man's dad, ghost truckers are among some of the odd things they encounter on their way to spread MM's father's ashes)."It's still the same show, but it's like we're starting to see these characters like real people and they have real feelings that they have to deal with and I think that makes them more relatable."
Muscle Man was one of those characters, emerging from beyond his busted "my mom" jokes and bluster to reveal that he has a girlfriend, a family, and actual, you know, feelings. Likewise, we got some insight into Mordecai and Rigby's boss Benson's inner life, learning exactly why you can't ask the rage-filled gumball machine to bottle up his anger. Quintel promises that in the coming season, we'll start learning more about him as well as some of the side characters from prior seasons that weren't killed off like Death or the giant space babies. If he did have to give a single character their own episode, Quintel says it would be High-Five Ghost: "So that we could let people see what he's really like. He's always so in the background, but so many people really like him."
I ask if there's any sense that the show has to mature as its audience grows up, Quintel tells me that this kind of comes up in the ever-developing complexity of the individual plots. He's quick to add that The Regular Show is still an episodic series and that they're not trying to create season-long arcs, but the writers are attempting to move the characters along incrementally. So we might not see Mordecai and Rigby out of the park anytime soon, but who knows what the future may hold?
When I asked if we'd be seeing some solo episodes featuring characters like Margaret or her best friend Eileen (both of whom got higher profiles in season three), Quintel says that for now, he wants to keep the show focused on its two leads.
As for the upcoming release of Regular Show: The Best DVD in the World *At this Moment in Time next week, we can expect to see some of Quintel's favorites from the second and third seasons with more episodes than on the first disc (16 vs. 12 on April's Slack Pack DVD). The new disc includes "Eggsellent," the season three episode for which the show picked up its first Emmy win. He's looking forward to fans seeing the special features on the new disc, but you might want to keep your eye out for better extras whenever Cartoon Network gets around to releasing the first complete season."We're definitely saving up some of the really cool [features] for whenever we release season one...We want to make sure it's really fun."
You can catch The Regular Show Monday nights at 8 on Cartoon Network. Regular Show: The Best DVD in the World *At this Moment in Time will be available on November 6th.