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Justin Roiland 2022 interview – High On Life and more

Justin Roiland

At PAX West 2022, we met with Justin Roiland and Squanch Games to preview their upcoming game High on Life. After a high-intensity demo, we had the opportunity to sit down with Justin Roiland.

We discussed Rick and Morty, Wormaggedon Promotion,High on Life, Cartoon Network, The Warner Bros – Discovery Merger, and getting into the industry. If you’d like to read more about our High on Life preview, click here.

Otherwise, learn more about the topics listed above in our Justin Roiland interview:

Justin Roiland PAX West Interview

Introductions

Matt K: Hi my name is Matthew Kowalski

Justin Roiland: Hi Matt, My name is Justin Roiland co-creator of Rick and Morty and founder of Squanch Games.

Crossovers

Matt K: Jack asks, “Is there a possibility of a Rick and Morty and Solar Opposites Cross Over?”

Justin Roiland:  I can never say never. The possibility is still there since most of my creations exist in the same universe.

Justin Roiland Solar Opposites Rick and Morty

A Future R&M Movie

Matt K: Joey Baranowski and David England ask, “Is there a possibility of a Rick and Morty movie eventually or has one already been discussed? Is there ever going to be a Rick and Morty movie sort of like how Bob’s Burgers or the Simpsons? 

Justin Roiland: “Never Say, Never, I know, I know that we’re still hustling on the show. Obviously, season six premieres, what this week? This coming Sunday.

Matt K: Yeah, you guys are doing the Wormageddon thing right now.

Justin Roiland: Yeah, which is incredible. And yeah a movie has not been internally discussed yet, but, I should say not beyond the concept of a movie right there; hasn’t been any pitches or scripts, but we have binders upon binders of some really crazy, big picture, like canonical, crazy ideas and maybe one or two of those would be more movie appropriate than episode appropriate. We’ll just have to see when/if we get, we get to that.

Wormageddon Scavenger Hunt

Matt K: What inspired the Wormageddon campaign? Like, is it just like a promo for the upcoming season?

Justin Roiland: Definitely, that is the driving factor behind it but… (Gets asked a question)

Back to Wormaggedon

Justin Roiland: So ya no, so that was definitely for marketing season 6 but it’s a testament to how creative and talented the Adult Swim marketing team is. Those guys are like brand marketing. They do shit that nobody else ever would do like, or at least on a level. I’ve seen, like, installations, but I’ve never seen anything like this scavenger hunt. Like yeah, dude, this is really insane.

Matt K: Were they behind the location picking?

Justin Roiland: Yeah. No, they filled me in on it. They wanted my input and I was just like, my jaw was on the floor. I really was like, I don’t think there’s anything I could contribute to this to make it better, you guys. This is fucking amazing. And then, they kept coming back and showing me.

You know, I text with them a lot, so they’’ll send me images, you know, obviously top-secret, don’t show anyone. Like, yes, of course. He sends me images of like the 3D models and then like the 3D images rendered and like, you know, leading up to the full crazy things being built and then, but yeah, it is, it is pretty damn insane to see what they’re doing.

Matt K: I was actually sad because I left right before the Pittsburgh one was revealed.

Justin Roiland: That’s the Mr. Poopy Butthole one. I really wanted to see that one in person.

Matt K: It closes before I get back so I was like Fuck.

Justin Roiland: Yeah they’re like little 8-day to 10-day things and then they’re gone.

How to Get Into Animated Production

Matt K: Kelly asks, “How did you get into animated production and any recommendations for those looking to get into it?”

Justin Roiland: How did I? Yeah, well I can tell you, for me, I feel like, I’ve always felt like I snuck in the back door. Because I was just making my own stuff in my apartment with my buddy, so it was me and my buddy Sivan and my buddy Abed Gheith and we were just making cartoons. I was writing them.

You know me, Abed were voicing them, Sivan was, and then I was drawing everything and then Sivan was scanning shit in, coloring, and then Sivan would keyframe it all in After Effects. So we were kind of like this perfect complementary team and then later I started bringing in, my buddy Mike Chilean and my buddy Steve Chun to help with art, backgrounds, and like, to help me with these shows.

But anyway, that was how we were doing it and I would have cast other people for voice work because I never considered myself like a voice actor. I just did it because that’s all we had was me and Abit. So we were just doing all the voices. And then, you know, this is before YouTube and so this is like there was no plea.

Yeah, my first viral thing was pre-youtube. It was House of Cosbys and it was like on eBaum’s World and all these places we just rip it and post it everywhere.

Matt K: It’s been so long.

Justin Roiland:  So that’s crazy to get a viral thing, pre-YouTube but anyway, that is how I broke in. It was because then people knew House of Cosbys and then I got signed to UTA because of it. And then I was taking meetings and people were curious. They were like, you know what else you got?  But then also getting cast to do voice work. You know, one of my first, before anything. I had sold shows that didn’t go anywhere, but before I had anything real, I got cast to do a voice in a show called Fish Hooks.

Matt K: I remember Fish Hooks.

Justin Roiland: Yeah. Anyway, yeah, so my advice would be with whatever means you possibly have around you, make stuff. Make stuff and cast yourself in it.

Matt K: You’ll never know where it goes.

Justin Roiland: You’ll never know. And if honestly, if you’re having fun doing it, then that’s the most like being Eckhart Tolle like Powers now, kind of thinking, like, if you’re having fun while you’re doing it, then that’s all that really matters because all that really exists is this moment right now. Technically, I mean well not technically, I guess metaphorically.

Matt K: The life that you live.

Thoughts Over WB-Discovery Layoffs

Matt K: Were there concerns over the Warner Bros-Discovery merger?

Justin Roiland: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of people got fired or what do you want to call it? Laid off?

Matt K: Basically the same thing.

Justin Roiland: Yeah, it was, it was rough and it’s happening all over again. Now with. Oh no. Sorry, oh you said Discovery. It happened twice. Twice in the last like, how many? Like two or three. Two and a half years? Yeah, it’s just it’s crazy. It’s like you know it happened with AT&T. Now it’s happening again with Discovery. You know.

Actually, I haven’t seen that many people getting laid off at Adult Swim this time around. Last time. It was fucking nuts. Everybody, not everybody, but a lot of people; it’s happening in other places. There’s another round, a lot. More so, what I’m seeing is a lot of shows are just getting delisted. 

Yeah, which, I have a handful of friends whose shows are just gone. And I’m like, man, I feel so bad for them. I would just be so bummed if something I worked on, you know, for like four years just got deleted from the Internet. It’s like, no, but, thus far I haven’t seen anybody get, that I know of and I could just be oblivious. I haven’t seen anybody get fired.

Matt K: Learn about it after PAX.

Justin Roiland: Yeah. Maybe and I hope I hope not. I mean, I don’t know. I’m being optimistic in that, you know, I’m hoping that everything kind of goes well, with all that. It’s my, my fingers crossed. I hope.

Is Summer Rick’s Favorite?

Matt K: So, the next question. Jordan asks, “Is Summer actually Rick’s Favorite?”

Justin Roiland: You know what? I’ve always felt like, yes, because she’s more competent. You know, she’s able to. Like, he’ll give her stuff that he would never give Morty because he knows that she can like deliver it, and then sometimes she doesn’t, and it’s like. I feel like Rick is really disassociated from anyone in particular, just because if they die, there’s just another one.

Matt K: Yeah, They’re replaceable.

Justin Roiland: Very, yeah. Which makes you know that he’s just, he’s dark. He’s got a darkness inside of him. That’s why he’s such a, he’s always on something. Otherwise,

Animation Influences

Matt K: Who were your animation influences?

Justin Roiland: Obviously, The Simpsons was a huge one for me, growing up, and probably the biggest because it was my youngest one of those. I was like, holy shit. I love cartoons in general. But then Beavis and Butt-Head was massive. Ren. Stimpy was massive for me, growing up. Those are my biggest probably I’m yeah. Oh yeah, yeah Dr. Katz, I was always really fascinated with it just because it looked so rough, but if the content was so good. I just loved it because it was a great way to package stand up.

But, anyway, yeah, not what I’m trying to do but something I really think it was inspiring just because I was like, oh yeah your show doesn’t have to look like The Simpsons for it to be. Like you can make something that’s a little rougher looking and it’s perfectly fine, you know?

Why Only Two Voices?

Matt K: Jonathan asks, “Why can’t you do any voices that aren’t either Rick or Morty?” 

Justin Roiland: Hey dude, I know. Listen I’m with them, I’m with them. I’m with everybody that has that complaint. I get it. I wanted to actually cast somebody else’s as Kenny in this game, but my team was like, no, we’re not doing that, which is fine.

But yeah, I’m working on new voices. I’ve got a few up my sleeve but, yeah, I don’t know what my deal is with that. It’s like, I’ve been, I think the problem is I’ve gone back to that Morty voice just maybe one time too many and I think I need to like. I need, it’s time to just let it be, let it just rest. Let it be the characters it is and no more.

Then any new voices have to be something else. But yeah it’s funny. Look I’m the first one to admit it, and I’ve been saying it for years in interviews.  I’m the man of two voices or I’m the man of like three voices or whatever. Yeah it’s like, but I don’t know as I figure as long as the reads are funny and the performances are good and the characters feel good. I don’t lose too much sleep over it, but I definitely was wanting to not do this particular voice for this game. I wanted to cast somebody who I won’t say.

But the team was like, not because of the person, we all love the person I wanted to cast, but it was more. No, it’s your studio; it’s your game. You have to do the voice because people want that. and I’m like okay. We won’t say which of us that voice is.

Other Squanch Team members: No, It has to be you.

Justin Roiland: Yeah, well, I know, one of them who was really passionate about it but anyway, yeah, that is the honest to God truth. I was like, I was definitely, wanting to not do it but it turned out fine; it’s actually pretty good. I think after you get over it a little bit and you get a little deeper into the game, you kind of don’t even notice it.

Matt K: It just blends.

Justin Roiland: Yeah, and Kenny really does feel like his own, his own. He’s so different than Morty and like personality-wise and stuff that you kind of forget about it. Yeah.

Last Question

Matt K: Alright so just one last question, from Chris and Dan. So the last question is actually what got you into game development? Much more lately now? I know you did Multiverses for voice lines and then this for development.

Justin Roiland: Sure, so, what’s funny about Multiverses is that they actually just use clips from the show. Believe It or Not? There’s a whole long story there, but for another time. Game Dev stuff… what got me into it was VR.

So I was like one of the first you know backers of the Oculus on Kickstarter and then I had a trip to Seattle to go hang out to go to Bellvue to hang out at Valve offices, and this was a long time ago and I just gonna hang out with/was going to meet Jay Pinkerton and Chet Faliszek.

Yeah, well kyle and those guys are big Rick and Morty fans. And I somehow got in touch with them. I don’t even know how he got in touch, but we were talking and I was like, can I come to fucking Valve? And They were like, yeah. So I planned this trip, the weekend before I’m going they announced the Vive. And I’m just, like, are you fucking kidding me?

So I go there and a dev puts me in it. And coming out of that, I was like, I was literally a full-blown, nothing’s going to stop me. I’m going to make a fucking VR game. Nothing will stop me. and I told Chet, get me a dev kit. I have no experience making games. I had no Studio I had nothing but I promised him. I said, I promise you if you give me a dev kit. I swear to God. I will make you happy that you did. And I’ve heard him tell this story. He cites me as someone that he. He literally cites me in like a short list of people that he was so happy he gave a dev kit.

But anyway, yeah.  I went and pitched. I had a pitch deck, I ran around E3 with it and Sony was the ones that were interested, but it was clearly a room-scale game actually with talking guns in it. It’s crazy the talking gun thing predated Trover.

But then I had very strong interest, Adam Boyes and John Drake and that whole team and I think they’re all gone now, but anyway, very interested. I was just like, this is crazy and then I went and met with Ophir Lupu at UTA, who headed up the UTA animation division.

I spoke with him and he really was like, I think you actually could do this. Because I meet with directors all the time, I meet with actors, they don’t, they just want to make a game, they don’t know anything about games, and you seem to really know your shit. That’s just because I’m a hardcore gamer and I would read.

I was l glued to whatever, name the blog like, you know, and not so much anymore, but you know for a long time I was.  So he said we need to get you a producer. We’ve got to get you partner and get you started and that then took, partnered with Tanya Watson and she was integral to me building a studio and she partnered and that’s when Sony gave us.

They said all right, boom, we’re going to give you a budget to make a game. But I didn’t have, I was like, it can’t be the game I pitched you. Because your Hardware is more. I was like, this is 180-seeded Gamepad VR, which is fine. I had ideas, I had so many ideas, but they were cool with that. It was almost an unheard-of blind deal in the gaming space. Like blind deals happen all the time in TV, I don’t think they ever, or they very rarely happen in video games, especially with someone who doesn’t even have a freaking Tech engineer. I didn’t have a design lead.

All I had was Tanya and like Tanya was quite a bit. She was awesome. She had, she was going to help me build and she did help me build a team who many of which are still like with us in director positions to this day. But anyway, yeah. And then I’ve been, it’s been a passion project ever since, and I’m like, just as grateful and tripped out, but I’m just super grateful, you know? Like I think gratitude is a huge thing.

Yeah, I’m crazy grateful for the team. I’m crazy grateful for the opportunity to do this, and it’s like, you know, like it’s like being a kid whose parents have a candy store, you get to run around and just eat candy. It’s like, I have a fucking game Studio. I’m a hardcore gamer, and I have a game Studio. I can make games that I’m like, what about this idea? You know, we have so many ideas, we want to do. But anyway, that’s like one at a time. Got to make sure this game does really well.

Matty Studivan: Soon maybe two at a time.

Justin Roiland: Yeah. Yeah a big one and a little one

High On Life is set to launch on October 25th for Windows PC (via the Epic Games Store), Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. The game will also be on Xbox Game Pass on day one.

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About

Hardcore gaming enthusiast, cosplayer, streamer, Tall Anime lover (6ft 9), and a die-hard competitor. I have been a Pop-Culture Journalist since 2011 specializing in shooters, Pokemon, and RPGs.