Cartoon Network’s ‘Regular Show’ Step Up

Animation channel steps up Annecy presence, courts foreign talent

ANNECY — J.G. Quintel’s Emmy-winning “Regular Show,” one of the jewels in Cartoon Network’s ratings crown, in and outside the U.S., looks set to become more regularly bigger.

“Regular Show’s” regular segs clock in at a quarter of an hour, including commercials.

At Annecy as part of a strong presence from Cartoon Network, Quintel, the series creator, said he hoped to increase the number of “Regular Show” half-hour specials.

Quintel already puts out a Thanksgiving and Christmas Special. There will be “three-or-four more” Christmas-themed Specials within one season, which haven’t aired yet, and at least one Halloween-themed half-hour every season, he announced.

Reasons to multiply the half-hours abound. One is Quintel’s creative-roots.

“I was very influenced as a kid by ‘The Simpsons,’ who did the ‘Treehouse of Horror’ episodes which pushed the show further than they normally would.

Half-hours ease innovation: Quintel has overseen 190 11-minute episodes “which is a lot. At a certain point you start running into: ‘Oh, we’ve done that before.’ We’re always trying to come up at new fresh ways of telling the stories.

‘Regular Show’ is already very surreal and get’s pushed to the fantastical a lot but to do a Halloween episode where you can go even further is fun for us.”

Also, there’s the ratings issue. “Regular Show” already has 109 million viewers globally. That’s a huge number. But half-hour can raise the ratings ante even more.

“We’ve done multiple [Halloween] Specials but we are doing even more because they do really well in the ratings,” Quintel told Variety.

Quintel is also developing broader narrative arcs. “Regular Show” turns on Mordecai, a blue jay, and Rigby, an excitable raccoon. They are groundskeepers at a park and are constantly messing around. Benson, their boss, a gumball machine, tries to get them to work.

Mordecai carried a candle for Margaret, a red-breasted robin who works at a local coffee house. “We’re going to evolve with Mordecai and see how his love life goes which is always rocky and difficult, in a kids show kind of way, per Quintel .

Cartoon Network’s ratings mainstays are on a roll. “Regular Show” premiered in 2010, sci-fi comedy-drama “Adventure Time” first aired as a series in 2010; “Gumball” dates back to 2011.

But they’re certainly not done yet. “Regular Show’s” sixth season premieres January. “Gumball” was renewed last week for a fourth and fifth season and now airs on Turner channels in 126 countries.

Why “Regular Show” rates so highly is another question.

“It works really well for kids but even their parents can enjoy it,” Quintel argued.

The series turns on “friendship,” Quintel said. “Having a best friend and what you would do for your best friend is universal,” Quintel argued.

In a wacky kind of way, it also explores and rejoices in the domestic dynamics of childhood. Mordecai and Rigby and their co-workers are so close they’re like a family.

“People watch the show and they get that and start to understand what the show is really about,” Quintel said.

“That could be why adults like the show as well because we understand wanting to have fun even though we need to be responsible.”

The unassuming “Regular Show” series creator took part in a presentation Thursday at the Annecy Festival, the Cartoon Networks’ Studios Panel, along with three other Cartoon Network top talent: Adam Muto, co-exec producer of “Adventure Time” Ben Boquelet, creator of “The Amazing World of Gumball”) and Rebecca Sugar, creator of “Steven Universe,” which was re-upped in November for a second season.

The panel aimed to explain how the network is cultivating new voices, and the ways in which their artist program allows talent to experiment in development with new ideas.

Comedy, it used to be said, doesn’t travel. That seems less and less true. Cartoon Network’s top trio – “Regular Show,” “Gumball,” and “Adventure Time” – have been pretty in line and outside the U.S. in terms of ratings performances.

“In general, we just try to make the best shows we can and hope that they work,” said Curtis Leilash, Cartoon Netwoerk VP, comedy animation and original series development.

One reason, he suggested: “The talent on the shows have worked on younger things and really learnt physical comedy.”

Cartoon Network’s biggest objective at Annecy, however, was not to platform its shows but reach out to foreign talent, especially for its shorts program.

“Gumball” was the first series to be greenlit by Cartoon Network Development Studio Europe.

“I think ‘Gumball’ made a big difference for us in that it was a show which did travel, from here in Europe to the U.S., Brian Miller, SVP, general manager, Cartoon Network Studios, said at Annecy, where Cartoon Movie also hosted a picnic in glorious sunshine.

“There’s talent all over the world and we want to find more of that and cultivate it,” he added.

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