Emmy-winning animator Ryan Quincy has always dreamed of having his own show. During the decade and a half he spent working his way up to animation director for South Park, he spent his hiatuses creating a world entirely his own, inhabited by hairy but harmless creatures just trying to sort out the difficulties of adolescence.
Now, following in the footsteps of primetime animators like Mike Judge and Seth MacFarlane, Quincy is having that dream fulfilled. Out There, which Quincy created, wrote, directed and produced, premiered on IFC last Friday. He spoke to us by phone to explain how a relative unknown lands his own animated TV show and manages to secure voice talent like Megan Mulally, Kate Micucci and Fred Armisen to help make it come to life.
How did you end up making a living through animation?
I was always sort of aimless in school. I liked to make movies. I liked to draw. The college I went to in Nebraska had an art program only offered one animation class. I took it and I really enjoyed it. I never had any formal animation training prior to that.
After I graduated from college I floundered in Lincoln, Nebraska for a year. There wasn't going to be anything too fulfilling there so I moved to L.A. to sleep on a friend's couch and pursue animation. When I first moved to L.A. I moved right next door to the animation director of South Park. [South Park creators] Trey Parker and Matt Stone lived across the street. It was a total coincidence. They had just started the TV show that year.
The stars were aligned there but they were fully staffed then so I didn't get a job. I kept stumbling along and dumb luck got me to this job doing the interstitials on Mad TV, parodies of Rankin/Bass stuff like a Rudolph meets Scorsese. We did a South Park parody where we actually did cut-out construction paper stuff. When the job was done, I had that on my demo reel and saw that the South Park movie was hiring. I got the job with the South Park movie and ended up staying with them for 14 years, but in between seasons I was working on my animated shorts.
Your shorts eventually led to you getting a TV deal. How was the process of producing your own show?
It was a lot more challenging than I thought. A lot more daunting. Once I got the call from IFC that they'd picked up ten episodes, you'd think I would be elated but I was white as a ghost. I was thinking, “What lies ahead here?” I was coming from a show that was pretty streamlined and had the system down and I had to start from scratch. There were huge challenges like expanding the world, the casting, figuring out full stories.
Who were your influences in creating Out There?
Definitely all the Charles Schulz material, the comic strips and the animated stuff. I think there is a kindred spirit with that stuff. People have asked me if this is the South Park kids in high school but I feel it's more in the Peanuts universe. Artistically, a lot of children's book authors like Dr. Seuss, Richard Scary, Maurice Sendak and William Steig. Those were big influences on my style. I like stuff where there are is frog and a monster and just weird looking characters and you don't really question it. They just are who they are.
And now you've got actors like Jason Schwartzman, Sarah Silverman and Nick Offerman guesting?
Twentieth Century Fox is the production company. They have a partnership with IFC so I had access to one of their casting directors, who had cast Futurama and King of the Hill. He already knew a lot of these folks and that was huge to have access to people like Pamela Adlon and John Dimaggio. I was amazed when they said give us your wish list and they were like, “Yeah, this person is in.” Everyone was really cool to work with.
Yet you are voicing the main character.
When I did the shorts, that was very low-budget, do it yourself, get favors from your friends. I just did it out of necessity, the voice of the main character. A lot of things were autobiographical like passing out in sex ed class and working at Dairy Queen. When the show got picked up, we were talking about casting and IFC said the only voice they wanted to bring over was the main character, Chad. I was like, “You gotta be shitting me.”
I'm not really doing a voice. It's just my own voice. They were very adamant. That was something that took me by surprise and I thought, “Oh man everyone is going to think this is some kind of vanity project.” I was resistant and nervous at first but I got over being annoyed at how bad my voice sounds.