Out There is a new animated series premiering on IFC on February 22, 2013. The show is created by Ryan Quincy, who also provides the voice of the lead character, Chad. Out There chronicles the day-to-day trials of being a teenager, living in the middle of nowhere, and navigating the tricky waters of high school relationships.
Ryan Quincy (a delight to talk to) previously was a producer for South Park. In this interview, Quincy talks about the journey from Nebraska, his home state, to South Park, and why he wanted to create a cartoon about furry-headed teenagers.
Is Out There partly biographical?
Yeah, definitely, a lot of it is mined from my adolescence and teenage years of growing up in Nebraska. So yeah, very autobiographical.
How did you get from Nebraska to South Park?
I went to college in Nebraska. My first year out of college I sort of floundered in Nebraska, and was very frustrated, because I wanted to do something in the entertainment industry, whether that was drawing or movie making or, you know, something in that realm. And I wanted to give animation a shot and it just wasn't happening in Nebraska so I moved out to L.A. in '97 and just coincidentally, I was sleeping on the couch of my friend's and right next door was the animation director of South Park. They had just started up their show on Comedy Central. Matt Stone and Trey Parker actually lived across the street so it was completely a coincidence. But they were fully staffed at the time so I didn't get a job, but it was a good contact to make and we kept each other on each other's radar.
So for the next four of five months I did that whole pounding the pavement. Go to The Simpsons, King of the Hill, do the layout tests and do that whole thing, do the merry-go-round to no avail. And I finally landed a job with this company that did interstitials for MADtv, called Space Bass Films, Corky Quakenbush's outfit, which I don't know if you've ever heard of him or his stuff. You probably have.
Did Space Bass do bumpers for Madtv?
They would do parodies of Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer meets Martin Scorcese. Parodies of that kind of thing. And they actually did a parody of South Park and Charlie Brown. We actually cut out construction paper and made our own South Park characters, very much like Matt and Trey did with their Spirit of Christmas short. So I had that on my reel and when that job ended, the South Park movie was hiring and I got the job on that movie, back in '98, and I got swept up in the whole South Park world and the family there. I moved my way up from animator to lead animator to animation director, then producer. I've been there almost 14 years. A good chunk of time.
When you got called in for the South Park movie, did they remember you?
Eric Stough, who was the animation director, definitely remembered me. It was pretty funny how that all worked out. It can be a kind of cliche thing to say it takes a lot of luck, but yeah, I was pretty lucky.
When did you get idea for Out There?
It was probably in 2006, something like that. As a kid, growing up in Nebraska, I had a video camera and my friends and I would make movies about just wandering around Nebraska when we were about 14 or 15, we didn't have a car, we didn't have money, so we would just wander around and make these movies at the 7-Eleven and just kind of ramble and wander.
That was something that was always intriguing to me that I wanted to do. Later on when I was thinking of doing my own show, I thought it'd be an interesting subject matter. Growing up in the Midwest, in the middle of nowhere, not just geographically, but emotionally, in your head, at that time period between adulthood and childhood, stuck in that limbo. I wanted it to be about two best friends and they kind of had each other's backs. These misanthropes, kind of outsider kids, with this tag-along little brother, Jay.
I also wanted to do something a little more melancholy, a little more of a slow burn than your typical animated adult show.
Chad and Chris are very different. Why are they best friends?
I think they sort of complete each other, in a way. I think Chad is a very introverted kid who's like a wallflower type kid and he sees Chris as this sort of firecracker of an energetic kid that has a spirit that is so attractive to him. And I think the same thing for Chris. I think Chad is a little more even keeled balance and they sort of complement each other very well. And they really don't have any friends outside of themselves.
That was the other thing, too, that I wanted to focus on was best friends. That's sort of your first relationship, your first, sort of, precursor to all the relationships you're going to have from there on out, you know, your best friend in high school. I wanted to explore that territory.
Are you the Chad or the Chris?
I'm the Chad.
Which is why you do his voice.
The Chris character is sort of an amalgamation of best friends I had and people I knew, growing up.
How is it going from writer/animator to actor?
I did three shorts for Out There for Twentieth Century Fox back in 2009 and it was real, sort of, low-fi, do-it-yourself, garage-style production. So we just asked for favors and friends to do things. And just out of necessity I did the voice for Chad. I never really intended to keep doing it if the show ever got picked up. But that was one of the first things IFC wanted was to talk about the cast and the only person they wanted to carry over was Chad. They wanted me to be the voice of Chad. I said, "Are you sure about that?" Because a lot of the stories come from personal experiences of mine, it just felt like it was fitting. So it was new territory for me to do that.
It was fun, though, and I was able to do a lot of voice directing for the other actors. Yeah, an all new experience for me. Again, it wasn't my choice to do it, but I was happy to do it.
Does the cast record as a group or individually?
We tried a few times to do three people at once, and it just worked out better to do one at a time. I would read with whoever, whether it was Megan Mulally or John DiMaggio, or whoever was there. I would be in the recording booth with them and I would read with them and direct. It just seemed better to do it that way than to have a big ensemble record than to try to track some of that stuff. Bob's Burgers, they do an ensemble record. It's a beautiful chaos.
With all those stand-up comedians in the cast, I can't imagine.
I've been there when they record. It's a beautiful mess. They have to sort through it. The reason I thought that was the way to go with this is because you can be a little more spontaneous. It can feel a little more naturalistic. But yeah, I'm glad we elected to do it individually or two at a time, instead of a whole group.
How did this stellar cast come together?
We had a great casting director at Twentieth Century Fox, Scott Muller. I put together a wish list, but we still went through the whole process of bringing people in and reading and going through a bunch of folks. Megan Mullally (Parks and Recreation) was the first one to sign on and when she did that really gave us a big short in the arm. It was like, that's awesome, she's attached to this. Fred Armisen was my first choice for Terry. When he agreed to do that, that was another huge goose to the project.
Having John DiMaggio, that was sort of a surprise. As much as I love his other voice work, my original intention wasn't John. But at his audition, he was so amazing and had so much charisma and brought so much to the character. That was a nice surprise, too. I think people will be surprised at his performance. It's got a good vulnerability. "Is that John DiMaggio?" It doesn't stick out as much as Bender or Jake.