Photo credit: IFC
After knocking on many doors, Ryan Quincy landed jobs as animator, director, and producer on South Park. This year, he ventured into a more personal project, launching his own animated series on IFC. Out There follows two teenage friends, Chad and Chris, who endure heartbreak, mischiefs, bullies—basically every type of growing pain you can possibly think of.
In this exclusive interview, Quincy shares his thoughts on working in a competitive business, growing up in a small town, and ending the misconception of animation being for kids only. Watch Out There every Friday at 10 p.m. on IFC (Ch. 559).
Thank you for talking to us! Are you excited about the launch of Out There?
RQ: Yes. It’s a dream come true. It’s pretty crazy. Very exciting stuff right now. We’re hoping for Season 2 right now; otherwise, I have to look for a job.
What has been the feedback so far?
RQ: I think it has been very positive. I know this is a show that has been very different—a departure from Family Guy, South Park, Archer, and those types of shows. They were really fast-paced. Out There is more like a sober animated dramedy. The people who gravitate towards Out There will love it and love it dearly—almost obsessively. That’s what I want. I want to find those people who are passionate about it. And we are finding them. I think we’re going to be catching on. We’re finding our audience. It is an antithesis to those other shows, which are fine too. I worked on South Park for almost 14 years, so I can appreciate that kind of humor too.
You were an important part of the South Park operation. What was that like? Do you miss it?
RQ: It was an amazing time. I started way back with the South Park movie in 1998. I grew with them. I saw their process and how they evolved, how to make a 22-minute show in 5 or 6 days. It was just unprecedented and amazing to be part of that, to witness that. I miss a lot of aspects of it. I don’t miss that crazy schedule where we were staying up all night and working 100-plus hour workweeks. I do miss how they were able to streamline and be efficient with their animation pipeline, how they were able to be all about the creative side. They created an environment and a culture that allowed them to do that up to the last minute. I miss that aspect of it. Now I’m starting my own show. I’m now starting it from the ground up and figuring out how to do some things. I keep thinking, “This is how they did it in South Park” or “There are ways that we can do this,” and so forth. At times it has been frustrating but overall it’s been good.
It was more like a rite of passage to get to where you are now.
RQ: Exactly. I don’t have my safety net of South Park anymore. You have to answer the call and do your own thing. And I still have a lot of friends that worked there. I’m still in touch with them. It wasn’t a bitter breakup.
In terms of the world of animation, what advice would you give people who are trying to follow in your steps and break into this industry?
RQ: My advice would be to be persistent and to make stuff. Just make shorts, animated clips, whatever it is. Finish the project. Making stuff is so important. Putting it on your website, getting it out there. When I moved to L.A. in 97, I thought I would just show up and jobs would fall at my feet. That kind of thing, where you’re naive. It was five months of that whole cliché of pounding the pavement. And you get knocked down and knocked down. It was very much like that Ben Affleck speech at the Academy Awards. It was very true. He said you get knocked down but you have to get back up, you can’t hold grudges. As clichéd as that might sound, it’s very true. Yeah, just being very persistent. Especially if you’re passionate about it, you just have to keep knocking on doors. The biggest thing is to make stuff.
You were talking about the Oscars just now. Who were you rooting for in the categories of Short Animated Film and Animated Feature Film?
RQ: I always have that on my radar. I saw Brave, I thought that was great. I really loved Wreck-It Ralph, I thought that was wonderful. Sara Silverman was amazing. She actually does a voice on the season finale of Out There and she is a joy to work with. Then, Paperman, I had seen that. That was cool. Honestly, I’ve been so immersed in Out There that I haven’t seen a movie in so long, other than those. It’s hard to keep up on that stuff.
Speaking of the wonderful cast of Out There, you have a great team: Megan Mullally, Fred Armisen, Linda Cardellini, Justin Roiland. Do you guys throw crazy parties at the end of the day or everyone just goes home?
RQ: We’re always split up. It is rare to be all together at once during a recording. And we never did table reads, which is standard also. We’re just a lower-budget show, a little more do-it-yourself. So what we do on recording days, some of our cast members overlap sometimes, and that’s a lot of fun to have Pamela when Megan was there, because they go way back. It’s all sort of incestuous. There’s a little bit of overlap but there’s no real time to really hang out. Fred (Armisen), for example, is very busy. Every time we have to record him…I honestly think there are clones of Fred. He’s so busy. He was back and forth between Portland and New York for Portlandia and SNL. All of his records were done over the phone. I finally got to meet him a couple of times, including one time in San Francisco for a Macworld event. He’s the most genuine, sweetest guy, so supportive and so positive. He’s so cool. I can just say that about the whole cast and the guest stars too. These are fantastic people to work with and we’re really lucky in that regard.
What’s with the hairy creatures in Out There?
RQ: That’s my character design drawing style that I’ve been doing forever. I just found it more interesting looking. I drew these with animal noses and claws, some of them have fully hairy heads, like Chewbacca. It’s something very unique and appealing to me. Hopefully it will set this apart from other shows. It’s a very human-looking world dealing with human problems. I hope people don’t get hung up on what these characters look like. I hope that’s just an added bonus. I hope it adds some charm into the whole world. And also, I was influenced by Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, and characters that you never really know what they are. Is that a bird, a rabbit, or a dog? It’s all these strange creatures. It’s always interesting to me working with a cast with diverse-looking characters.
Out There tells the story of two best friends, Chad and Chris. You’ve mentioned before that Chad is your alter-ego. How so?
RQ: I guess a little bit. I play Chad’s voice. A lot of these stories were based on my adolescence and growing up in Nebraska. A lot of this stuff is actually autobiographical. I talk about passing out during a sex-ed class. Or being afraid of public speaking. I didn’t want to stand in front of everyone so instead I made a movie and showed it in class—that made it into Out There as well. Chad is very much like me, although it might be a little bit amplified. Chad is definitely the closest to me.
And I think anyone can relate to these stories. Whether you were a teenager in 1982 or you’re a teenager now. With technology, nowadays, your whole life is out there—no pun intended. Do you think it’s harder growing up these days or it’s just about the same?
RQ: I think that at that age you will always feel estranged from your parents and teachers. It’s just a natural feeling for the majority of kids. It’s part of leaving childhood and becoming a grownup. We never say what time period Out There is set in, but there aren’t computers and Facebook and cell phones. I think it’s tough to be a human in all ages! There’s always going to be something. I don’t think it’s tougher. It’s probably the same. You’re still dealing with crushes, heartbreak, bullies, rivals, crappy teachers. That’s universal. That will always be the case. I tend to think about my teenage days and there were some humiliating and horrifying moments. Hilarious stuff happened. It has been nice to use that for the show.
What was it like growing up in Nebraska?
RQ: It was one of those things where you didn’t know anything different. You could grow up in a nirvana or in a beautiful oasis and you probably, at some point, hated it and wanted to move. I definitely felt that. I mean, it’s the plains. It’s a really flat area. It feels like a wasteland. Especially at that age, when you’re 14 or 15. Not only geographically do you feel remote but also emotionally. After leaving, it’s the last place you want to be. And now, living in California, you miss that. You take it for granted and start cherishing a little more. Nebraska was the perfect place to grow up. Especially my hometown. It was very community-oriented, you could walk everywhere. It was great. When you’re living there, you never think about that. You keep thinking how you want to leave.
There’s a Gulp n’ Go in Out There, which is the town’s hangout spot. Paul, the guy who serves the burritos, is hilarious.
RQ: Yeah, when Seven Eleven showed up in my hometown it was like a spaceship landed. We are like, “Wow, look, we can now get this here!” and the arcade games, it was great. That’s the other thing too, just being able to walk anywhere. You didn’t have an iPhone screen, so you really had to walk around and face every situation.
What was your favorite cartoon growing up and how did that influence you as an animation artist?
RQ: Well, the first movie I ever saw was King Kong. It made a huge impression on me. It was amazing. The dinosaurs, the giant ape, it blew me away. I’ve always loved that stuff. I loved Charlie Brown and Peanuts, there’s a big influence of that on Out There. I ate all that stuff up. I still do. I still love old and new shows, like Adventure Time and Regular Show. I still watch South Park, Beavis and Butthead. I love the medium and the art form. I’m proud to be part of it.
There is one big misconception about animation, which is that it is made exclusively for children. How do you feel about this? And do you feel you’re helping bring down this myth?
RQ: It’s weird because they say that about comic books too. It has always been this common thing between comic books and animation. It’s really not for kids anymore. I feel it’s like a shortsighted, tired thing to say. There’s some really great stories to be told and to be able to tell the stories in that form is great. There’s some stuff in Out There that’s real heartfelt moments that I don’t think you really see in other animated shows. Like I said, it really feels like an animated dramedy. Honestly, people should get rid of that misconception. People need to break out of that. Animation should be for everybody.
We couldn’t agree more. Any final thoughts?
RQ: Just tune in! I just hope everyone can experience it. It’s a special project and I think people will really be into it. Come in with an open mind!
Don’t miss Out There, Fridays at 10 p.m. on IFC (Ch. 559).