Hi Jeffrey, thanks for 'sitting down' with me today, it's not often I get to interview people who play such a big role in creating my new favourite animated series (sorry Futurama!). Did you know at a young age that you wanted to get into animated art direction? How did you get your start on this path? SHOW ME WHAT YOU GOT.
I knew from a very young age that Animation was a career I wanted to pursue. A career at Disney specifically. So for me to get that opportunity, and to be art directing there, meant a lot to me. I got my start by consuming mass amounts of animated movies in my childhood, and in later years discovering comics only fuelled that fire. Eventually I found out about Sheridan College's Animation program and that their animators typically went on to work at Disney, so that became my focus.
What projects have you worked on prior to Rick and Morty?
Some of my previous projects include the television series like Gravity Falls, feature films such as "Book of Life", and Blue Sky's upcoming release "Ferdinand" (Summer 2017). As well as some illustration work for Vice's online content.
How would you describe your art style?
My work in the past was not a far step from what I would typically do in my sketchbook, but these days I've embraced a more digital approach. Partially because of time restraints for personal art, but also because I think there is something visually interesting happening right now with digital tools, and I'm enjoying exploring that. I think the digital art world has spent the last 20 or so years doing everything we can to make digital tools look and feel like traditional ones, and now that we've achieved that it's time to start really embracing digital art in itself, without it having to replicate another look or feel. I think a lot of artists have began exploring this recently, and I can't wait to do more for myself.
You were born and raised in Toronto; did that impact your art in any way? Say, when you're thinking of cityscapes, do you ever throw a little bit of Toronto in your work?
I spent the early years of my childhood in Toronto, then moved out to the suburbs until I left for Sheridan College. I'm sure both places effect my work greatly, but I can't say it's on conscious level. If I make a point of working that part of my life into my work it's usually in the form of a street sign or a friend's graffiti art.
What's your favourite animated TV show?
Favorite animated show would have to be the Simpsons. followed closely by Futurama. I'm a huge fan of Matt Groening's creations, and eagerly anticipating his next project.
What difficulties do you face in art directing a show that exists in the real world, outer space and multiple dimensions and is generally regarded as brilliantly insane by fans?
The challenges of directing on Rick and Morty shifts daily. Every episode comes with a unique form of obstacles. So putting together a good team was my first big challenge on this show, as a majority of the past artists were unable to return due to the large hiatus between seasons. Thankfully, the crew came together great, I couldn't ask for better a team. Beyond that every episode asks a lot of our team creatively, as you will see when season 3 reaches the air, these episodes are the biggest and most ambitions to date.
I definitely feel the pressure when it comes to pleasing such a dedicated fan base, but most of that pressure is alleviated by the amazing scripts that the writing team turn in, then the pressure converts to excitement and motivation.
Who is your favourite character from the Rick and Morty universe?
Morty is my favorite character for sure. Having once been a 14 year old boy, a lot of his experiences and dilemmas are all too relatable.
Also, there's a Facebook group called Rick and Morty Schwiftposting that had *a lot* of questions for you. Here's the top 3:
Do you realise just how large of a cult following the show has, while still on air? Was such a large following always expected?
I think before a show hits the air it's impossible to gauge whether or not you have a hit or if you will ever amass a large audience. The best you can hope for is that you made something you are happy with, and hope others appreciate it just as much. But once you've put something out into the world, and with Rick and Morty now being in it's third season, social media has made it very easy for fans to let us know there are people out there who love the show.
Many other shows are doing crossover episodes these days, are there any plans for something like that in Rick and Morty's future? How would it work to share the universe with artists from another show for a week?
Well currently we share the universe with artists from other shows all the time. There are designers and color artists that work on season 3 that have worked on shows like Adventure time, Gravity Falls, and Family Guy. Previously we did a small crossover with the Simpsons when we contributed to the opening couch gag. Aside from that, there are no plans for a crossover in season 3 though. Keep your eyes peeled and you may see some easter eggs from other shows this season :)
Is there any stylistic meaning behind the way the pupils are drawn, or is it just stylistic in that people hate drawing pupils?
It's really just like that because it looks funnier. This style was carried over from Justin Roiland's earlier Channel 101 shorts. When the show got picked up he did redraw the characters to have a more polished finish, but decided everything was much funnier when it looked a little more shitty.
And last but not least, my buddy Jeph had one final question: BRING BIRDPERSON BACK!
Not sure thats a question. Just know he's in a better place now.
Thanks again to Jeffrey Thompson for taking the time to answer all these burning questions. You can learn more about his past, present and future projects at http://jeffreythompson.tumblr.com. Oh, and Jeffrey, if you ever need any real weird-looking background characters for season four, I'd be happy to pose for you and the team.