Over the summer, SpongeBob SquarePants voice actor Tom Kenny told SYFY WIRE that "cartoons seem to be the only pandemic-proof area of the entertainment industry." That's certainly proving true for Adult Swim's Rick and Morty, which has suffered from production delays and large gaps between seasons in the past. But not to worry — during a virtual conversation for PaleyFest NY 2020, series co-creator Dan Harmon assured fans that Season 5 (and beyond) is on track to be released in a timely fashion.
"We’re more on schedule than we’ve ever been," he said, admitting that the unprecedented digital workflow caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has actually been extremely beneficial to the show's creation, while live-action projects have stopped and started. "It kind of makes you have to focus on the whole process when you don't have this office environment anymore. Everyone has to run this bee colony remotely, so the honey just gets made more consistently. It's working for us."
In the spring of 2018, Harmon and his co-creator Justin Roiland closed a deal with Adult Swim to produce 70 additional episodes of the show. Including Season 4, that means a minimum of seven seasons, but if you think the crew has the entire thing planned out, you're crazier than Krombopulos Michael trying to swear off a life of murder.
"We don't map it out," Harmon said. "If we simply just keep writing in real time as fast as we can write...by now, that puts us years ahead of the air date of the most recent episode. The last thing we'd want to do in an environment like that is have a plan. We are the plan because we are the future. We're the guys who wrote the stuff that they're now drawing, so we make a tremendous effort to stay in the moment and never box ourselves in."
There is no premiere date or window for Season 5 just yet, but when asked for teasers Harmon said that "there's an episode in Season 5 where Morty has a relationship with another female character that's not Jessica. It's just a great little story and my very, very longtime friend and collaborator Rob Schrab wrote it ... He's also a very tender writer; a juvenile, John Hughes, he really feels heartache on a level a man his age shouldn't. There's an episode coming up in Season 5, my Emmy is going to that one."
In addition, Harmon's excited to flesh out the relationship between Jerry (Chris Parnell) and Rick (Roiland), so as not to pigeonhole either of them into predictable traits and behaviors. "I think that if Grandpa Munster continues to just sh** on Herman Munster, that's a Flanderization of the father and son-in-law relationship ... These guys are obviously not murdering each for a reason. Rick can't be that empowered a character and constantly say that Jerry is completely dismissible and should be erased without us eventually going, 'There's something wrong him because he hasn't 'solved' that problem yet. I like the milestones like 'The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy' [because] as with any son-in-law relationship, it's gonna be rooted in alienation and then all the more profound as some version of a friendship is formed."
The creator added that he often gets confused between Seasons 5 and 6 because they're both being produced at the same time.
"Immediately after this panel, I'll be going and reviewing an animatic for a late Season 5 episode," he said. "And yet, we are very late [in the process of] writing Season 6. I'm looking at finales for both seasons and then also refining the finale of one and then the premiere of the other. So I can't remember the differences."
Seasons 1-3 are currently available to stream on HBO Max. Season 4 debuts on the platform Sunday, Nov. 1.
All PaleyFest NY 2020 panels will be available to the public tonight at 8:00 p.m. ET.