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Scott D. Pierce: ‘Community’ creator cranks out a cartoon

By Scott D. Pierce

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Nov 29 2013 01:49 pm • Last Updated Dec 02 2013 10:59 am

Community" has sometimes seemed like a live-action cartoon, so maybe the show’s creator/executive producer isn’t making such a big leap with his new show. The animated "Rick and Morty" premieres Monday at 11:30 p.m. on Cartoon Network.

And Dan Harmon discovered that things aren’t so different working with actual animation.

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"The funny thing to me is where the similarities are — where it actually is just as inconvenient," Harmon said.

Like blowing something up "because explosions, if you want to make them look good, they need more frames drawn."

And filling the room with extras is "just as inconvenient ... because some artist has to character design each extra."

On the other hand, "You could make a banana purple," he said. "You can put three hats on a cowboy. That would require several days of stitching in live action that you wouldn’t be able to afford."

But animation has its advantages.

"We’re able to create any sort of the insane alternate dimension ," said Justin Roiland, co-creator and executive producer of "Rick and Morty" — a decidedly offbeat series.

Rick (voiced by Roiland) is a nerdy guy who’s none too adventurous. His grandfather, Morty (also voiced by Roiland), is a drunken mad scientist who drags Ricky into adventures he’s not prepared for.

In the premiere, Morty drags Rick into another dimension.

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It’s weird. It’s wacky. It’s meant for adults — it is part of Adult Swim, after all.

And "Rick and Morty" is often funny, sometimes hilarious.

Harmon is best known for "Community," a show with a small but rabid following. And he made headlines when Sony and NBC fired him from the show he created after the third season, then rehired him for the fifth season, which begins airing on Jan. 2. That is, well, sort of weird. Even for Hollywood.

"He’s a talented, genius writer, who writes some of the best dialogue that I’ve ever read," Roiland said. "And I think that’s more important to Hollywood than anything else."

Well, not necessarily.

But Harmon, who’s notoriously unhappy much of the time, seems happy working for Cartoon Network. He called Mike Lazzo, the executive vice president/creative director of Adult Swim, "a bona fide genius" who has "the mental power to actually take a script ... read it and then tell you what his reactions were."

"He never says, ‘I don’t think people are going to like this.’ He never branches out into the business of speculating about this biomass for which we are creating it," Harmon said. "And he also never confuses the script for the finished product."

You sort of get the idea Harmon doesn’t care for the execs at NBC and Sony, don’t you?

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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