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Rick and Morty is an American adult animated science fiction sitcom created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon for Cartoon Network's late-night programming block Adult Swim. The series follows the misadventures of cynical mad scientist Rick Sanchez and his good-hearted but fretful grandson Morty Smith, who split their time between domestic life and interdimensional adventures. The series premiered on December 2, 2013, and the third season concluded on October 1, 2017. In May 2018, the series was picked up for an additional 70 episodes over an unspecified number of seasons.

Rick and Morty
Title card of the show
Created by
Voices of
Composer(s)Ryan Elder
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes31 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
  • Dan Harmon
  • Justin Roiland
  • James A. Fino (seasons 1–2)
  • Joe Russo II (seasons 1–2)
  • J. Michael Mendel
  • Kenny Micka (pilot)
Running time22 minutes
Production company(s)
Original networkAdult Swim
Picture format1080i (HDTV)
Original releaseDecember 2, 2013 (2013-12-02) –
External links

Roiland voices the eponymous characters, with Chris Parnell, Spencer Grammer and Sarah Chalke voicing the rest of the family. The series originated from an animated short parody film of Back to the Future, The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti, created by Roiland for Channel 101, a short film festival co-founded by Harmon. When Adult Swim approached Harmon for television show ideas, he and Roiland decided to develop a program based on the short. The series has been acclaimed by critics for its originality, creativity, and humor.



The members of the Smith household. From the left: Jerry Smith, Beth Smith, Summer Smith, Morty Smith, and Rick Sanchez

The show revolves around the adventures of the members of the Smith household, which consists of parents Jerry and Beth, their children Summer and Morty, and Beth's father, Rick Sanchez, who lives with them as a guest. According to Justin Roiland, the family lives outside of Seattle in the U.S. state of Washington.[2] The adventures of Rick and Morty, however, take place across an infinite number of realities, with the characters travelling to other planets and dimensions through portals and Rick's flying car.

Rick is an eccentric and alcoholic mad scientist, who eschews many ordinary conventions such as school, marriage, love, and family. He frequently goes on adventures with his 14-year-old grandson, Morty, a kind-hearted but easily distressed boy, whose naïve but grounded moral compass plays counterpoint to Rick's Machiavellian ego. Morty's 17-year-old sister, Summer, is a more conventional teenager, who worries about improving her status among her peers and sometimes follows Rick and Morty on their adventures. The kids' mother, Beth, is a generally level-headed person and assertive force in the household, though self-conscious about her professional role as a horse surgeon. She is dissatisfied with her marriage to Jerry, a simple-minded and insecure person, who disapproves of Rick's influence over his family.

Different versions of the characters inhabit other dimensions throughout the multiverse and their personal characteristics can vary from one reality to another. The show's original Rick identifies himself as "Rick Sanchez of Earth Dimension C-137", in reference to his original universe, but this does not necessarily apply to every other member of the Smith household. For instance, in the first-season episode "Rick Potion #9", after turning the entire world population into monsters, Rick and Morty move to a different dimension, leaving Summer, Beth and Jerry behind.


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
111December 2, 2013 (2013-12-02)April 14, 2014 (2014-04-14)
210July 26, 2015 (2015-07-26)October 4, 2015 (2015-10-04)
310April 1, 2017 (2017-04-01)October 1, 2017 (2017-10-01)

Following the conclusion of the third season, co-creators Harmon and Roiland wanted to have assurance that there would be many more seasons of Rick and Morty in the future, so that they would be able to focus on the show and minimize their involvement in other projects. After prolonged contract negotiations, Adult Swim announced a long-term deal with the creators in May 2018, ordering 70 new episodes over an unspecified number of seasons.[3] Talking about the upcoming fourth season a few months earlier, Harmon had said that he wishes for it to consist of more than ten episodes,[4] and writer Ryan Ridley had said that he did not expect it to air any sooner than late 2019.[5]



Creators Dan Harmon (left) and Justin Roiland

Rick and Morty was created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon. The duo first met at Channel 101, a non-profit monthly short film festival in Los Angeles co-founded by Harmon.[6] At Channel 101, participants submit a short film in the format of a pilot, and a live audience decides which pilots continue as a series. Roiland, then a producer on reality programming, began submitting content to the festival a year after its launch, in 2004. His pilots typically consisted of shock value—"sick and twisted" elements that received a confused reaction from the audience.[6] Nevertheless, Harmon took a liking to his humor and the two began collaborating. In 2006, Roiland was fired from working on a television series he regarded as intensely creatively stifling, and funneled his creative energies into creating a webisode for Channel 101. The result was The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti, an animated short starring parodies of Doc Brown and Marty McFly, characters from the Back to the Future film trilogy.[7] In the short, which Harmon would dub "a bastardization, a pornographic vandalization", Doc Smith urges Mharti that the solution to all of his problems is to give him oral sex.[8] The audience reacted to it wildly, and Roiland began creating more shorts involving the characters, which soon evolved beyond his original intentions and their obvious origin within the film from which it was culled.[8][9] Harmon would later create and produce Community, an NBC sitcom, while Roiland would work primarily in voice acting for Disney's Fish Hooks and Cartoon Network's Adventure Time.

In 2012, Harmon was briefly fired from Community. Adult Swim, searching for a more prime-time, "hit" show,[10] approached Harmon shortly afterward, who initially viewed the channel as unfit for his style. He also was unfamiliar with animation, and his process for creating television focuses more heavily on dialogue, characters, and story.[9] Instead, he phoned Roiland to inquire if he had any ideas for an animated series. Roiland immediately brought up the idea of using the Doc and Mharti characters, renamed Rick and Morty.[8] Roiland initially wanted the show's run time to consist of one eleven-minute segment, but Adult Swim pushed for a half-hour program.[10] Harmon felt the best way to extend the voices into a program would be to build a family around the characters, while Adult Swim development executive Nick Weidenfeld suggested that Rick be Morty's grandfather. Having pitched multiple television programs that did not get off the ground, Roiland was initially very unreceptive to others attempting to give notes on his pitch.[8] Prior to developing Rick and Morty, he had created three failed animated pilots for Fox, and he had begun to feel "burned out" with developing television.[9]

The first draft was completed in six hours on the Paramount Pictures lot in Dan Harmon's unfurnished Community office.[11] The duo had broken the story that day, sold the pilot, and then sat down to write.[9][12] Roiland, while acknowledging a tendency for procrastination, encouraged Harmon to stay and write the entire first draft.[11] "We were sitting on the floor, cross-legged with laptops and I was about to get up and go home and he said, 'Wait, if you go home, it might take us three months to write this thing. Stay here right now and we can write it in six hours.' He just had a premonition about that," recalled Harmon.[9] Adult Swim was initially unsure of Roiland doing both voices, partially due to the undeveloped nature of the character of Morty. Harmon wrote four short premises in which Morty took a more assertive role and sent it to Mike Lazzo.[11] Adult Swim placed a tamer TV-14 rating on the program, which initially was met with reluctance from the show's staff. The network's reason behind the rating was that it would soon begin broadcasting in prime-time, competing with major programs.[9]

The main theme for Rick and Morty by Ryan Elder was originally used in a rejected Cartoon Network pilot Roiland made called "Dog World", which was referenced in the episode "Lawnmower Dog".[13]


Harmon has noted that the writers' room at the show's studio bears a striking resemblance to the one used for Community.[9] In comparing the two, he noted that the writing staff of Rick and Morty was significantly smaller, and more "rough and tumble verbally".[9] The first season writing staff consisted of Roiland, Harmon, Tom Kauffman, Ryan Ridley, Wade Randolph, and Eric Acosta, while writer's assistant Mike McMahan was also given writing credit. Described as a "very, very tiny little writers' room with a lot of heavy lifting from everybody," the show's writing staff, like many Adult Swim productions, is not unionized with the Writers' Guild of America.[14] The writing staff first meets and discusses ideas, which evolve into a story.[6] Discussions often include anecdotes from personal life as well as thoughts on the science fiction genre.[9] After breaking the story—which consists of developing its consistency and logical beginning, middle, and conclusion—a writer is assigned to create an outline. Roiland and Harmon do a "pass" on the outline, and from there the episode undergoes several more drafts. The final draft of the script is last approved by either of the co-creators.[6] Harmon has admitted that his perfectionism can sometimes be disruptive and cause writing schedule delays. For the most part, this was the reason why the third season of the show consisted of only 10 episodes instead of 14, as was initially intended.[15][16]

Many episodes are structured with use of a story circle, a Harmon creation based largely on Joseph Campbell's monomyth, or The Hero's Journey. Its two-act structure places the act break at an odd location in the stages of the monomyth: after The Meeting with the Goddess, instead of Atonement with the Father.[11] Roiland has stated his and Harmon's intentions for the series to lack traditional continuity, opting for discontinuous storylines "not bound by rules".[17] In producing the series' first season, episodes were occasionally written out of order. For example, "Rick Potion #9" was the second episode written for the series, but was instructed to be animated as the fifth, as it would make more sense within the series' continuity.[6]

Animation and voice recording

Animation for the show is done using Toon Boom Harmony, post-production work is done in Adobe After Effects, and background art is done in Adobe Photoshop.[18] Production of animation is handled by Bardel Entertainment in Vancouver, Canada.[19]

Roiland's cartooning style is heavily indebted to The Simpsons, a factor he acknowledged in a 2013 interview, while also comparing his style to that of Pendleton Ward (Adventure Time) and J. G. Quintel (Regular Show): "You'll notice mouths are kind of similar and teeth are similar, but I think that's also a stylistic thing that... all of us are kind of the same age, and we're all inspired by The Simpsons and all these other shows we're kind of subconsciously tapping into."[14] John Kricfalusi's The Ren & Stimpy Show was another strong influence for Rick and Morty, which is why, according to Roiland, the small "w-shaped mouths" that the characters occasionally make is a reference to a similar expression that Ren frequently makes.[20] Talking about the style guide the animators of the show have to follow, season three art director Jeffrey Thompson explained that the characters are often drawn with odd or asymmetrical features, in order to avoid looking "too normal to live in the Rick and Morty universe."[21]

When recording dialogue, Roiland does a considerable amount of improvisation, in order to make the characters feel more natural.[22]

Themes and analysis

Comedic style

The general formula of Rick and Morty consists of the juxtaposition of two conflicting scenarios: an extremely selfish, alcoholic grandfather dragging his grandson along for interdimensional adventures, intercut with domestic family drama.[8][10] Co-creator Dan Harmon has described the series as a cross between Matt Groening's two shows The Simpsons and Futurama, balancing family life with heavy science fiction.[14] The series is inspired by British-style storytelling, as opposed to traditional American family TV stories.[6] Harmon has stated that his inspiration behind much of the concept and humor for the series comes from various British television series, such as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Doctor Who. He figures that the audience will only understand developments from Morty's point of view, but stated "we don't want to be the companions. We want to hang out with the Doctor, we idolize the Doctor, but we don't think like him, and that's really interesting."[23]

Occasionally, characters will acknowledge an episode's narrative or hint at the presence of a fourth wall, suggesting that they are aware of the fact that they are characters of a TV show. Thereunder, Troy Patterson of The New Yorker notes that Rick and Morty "supplies an artful answer to the question of what follows postmodernism: a decadent regurgitation of all its tropes, all at once, leavened by some humanistic wistfulness."[24] Sean Sebastian of Junkee says that the show can be both hilarious and deeply disturbing at the same time as it excels at the "intersection between big ideas, flippancy and wit."[25]


Rick and Morty has been described as "a never-ending fart joke wrapped around a studied look into nihilism."[26] The series addresses the insignificance of human existence as compared to the size of the universe, with no recognizable divine presence, as described by Lovecraft's philosophy of cosmicism. The characters of the show deal with cosmic horror and existential dread, either by asserting the utility of science over magic or by choosing a life in ignorant bliss.[27] However, as Joachim Heijndermans of Geeks notes, none of them appear able to handle the absurd and chaotic nature of the universe, as Jerry gets by through denial, and Rick is a "depressed, substance addicted, suicidal mess."[28]

Harmon describes Rick as a self-interested anarchist, who doesn't like being told what to do.[29] He believes that the character's life on a larger scale has caused him mental illness,[23] and opines that "the knowledge that nothing matters—while accurate—gets you nowhere."[30] Matthew Bulger of The Humanist notes that the creators of the series are trying to communicate the message that we need to focus on human relationships and not preoccupy our minds with unanswerable questions, in order to find a sense of purpose and live a better life.[31] Eric Armstrong of The New Republic notes that Morty represents the audience, as he is "mostly there to react to Rick’s deranged schemes." The character is transformed by the truths he discovers during his interdimensional adventures with his grandfather. However, instead of sinking into depression, Morty accepts these truths that empower him to value his own life.[32]

Home media

The 11-episode first season was released on DVD (2-disc set) and Blu-ray (single BD-50 disc) on October 7, 2014. Special features include commentary and animatics for every episode, deleted scenes, behind the scenes featurette and commentaries by special guests Matt Groening, Robert Kirkman, Pendleton Ward, Al Jean and others.[33][34] The 10-episode second season was released on DVD (2-disc set) and Blu-ray (single BD-50 disc) on June 7, 2016. Special features include behind the scenes, commentary and animatics for every episode, deleted animatic sketches and a "Plumbus Owner's Manual" booklet.[35][36] The 10-episode third season, was released on DVD (2-disc set) and Blu-ray (single BD-50 disc) on May 15, 2018. Special features include exclusive commentary and animatics for every episode, "inside the episode", the origins of Rick and Morty, and an exclusive "inside the recording booth" session.[37] On February 12, 2019, Rick and Morty: Seasons 1-3 was released on DVD and Blu-ray containing all of the previously released seasons now packaged into one set.[38]

Uncensored versions of the show are also available to purchase on various digital platforms, including iTunes and Amazon, with the digital releases of each season containing bonus material.[39] The digital release of the first season includes the 2013 Rick and Morty Comic-Con panel,[40] the digital release of the second season includes the 2015 ATX Television Festival panel,[41] and the digital release of the third season includes commentary on every episode, as well as seven more short videos featuring co-creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland.[42]

The show is available to watch on Netflix in a number of countries outside the United States, including Australia, while the first three seasons are available to stream domestically on Hulu.[39] Following the conclusion of the show's third season, Adult Swim made a livestream marathon of Rick and Morty available to watch on its official website in select regions,[43] hoping to dissuade viewers from watching other illegal livestreams.[44]

In the United Kingdom, public-service broadcaster Channel 4 outbid Netflix and will air the series beginning with season 4, which represents its first pickup by an international television channel.[45]


Critical reception

Rick and Morty has received universal critical acclaim, holding a 97% approval rating by critics on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes.[46] David Weigand of San Francisco Chronicle described it as "offbeat and occasionally coarse... the take-away here is that it works". He praised the animation direction by James McDermott for being "fresh, colorful and as wacky as the script", and states that the series possesses "shades of Futurama, South Park and even Beetlejuice", ultimately opining that its humor felt "entirely original".[47] Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times praised the series and stated that it was "Grandparenting at its unhinged finest."[48] In a review shortly after the second-season premiere, Sean Sebastian of Junkee said that although the crude animation and over-the-top voice acting might have discouraged some viewers to continue watching, Rick and Morty is "exceptionally well-made" and that "the more you dissect it, the more you find it has to say."[25]

Todd Spangler of Variety gave the series a lukewarm review; while he found the series was passable, he contrasted it with other Adult Swim series as "often seems overly reliant on simply being frenetic at the expense of being witty" and enjoyed it as "a welcome attempt to dream just a little bigger".[49] David Sims of The A.V. Club gave the series an "A−". In reviewing the first two episodes, he complimented the animation for its "clean, simple style". He stated that while the series has "a dark, sick sensibility", he praised its "effort to give each character a little bit of depth", further applauding Roiland's voice talent for the eponymous characters.[50]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2014 BTVA Voice Acting Awards Best Male Vocal Performance in a Television Series in a Supporting Role — Comedy/Musical Chris Parnell Nominated [51]
Best Female Vocal Performance in a Television Series in a Supporting Role — Comedy/Musical Sarah Chalke Nominated
IGN Awards Best TV Animated Series Rick and Morty Nominated [52]
2015 BTVA Voice Acting Awards Best Male Lead Vocal Performance in a Television Series — Comedy/Musical Justin Roiland Won [53]
Annie Awards Best General Audience Animated TV/Broadcast Production Rick and Morty Nominated [54]
IGN Awards Best Animated Series Rick and Morty Won [55]
2016 BTVA Voice Acting Awards Best Male Lead Vocal Performance in a Television Series Justin Roiland Nominated [56]
Best Vocal Ensemble in a Television Series Rick and Morty Nominated
Gold Derby Awards Best Animated Series Rick and Morty Nominated [57]
2017 Teen Choice Awards Choice Animated TV Show Rick and Morty Nominated [58]
IGN Awards TV Series of the Year Rick and Morty Nominated [59]
Best TV Episode "The Ricklantis Mixup" Nominated [60]
Best Animated Series Rick and Morty Won [61]
Best Comedy Series Rick and Morty Nominated [62]
Best Comedic TV Performance Justin Roiland Won [63]
2018 Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Animated Series Rick and Morty Won [64]
Annie Awards Best General Audience Animated Television/Broadcast Production "Pickle Rick" Won [65]
Outstanding Achievement for Writing in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production Ryan Ridley, Dan Guterman (for "The Ricklantis Mixup") Won
Golden Reel Awards Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Animation Short Form Hunter Curra, Kailand Reily, Andrew Twite, Joy Elett, Jeff Halbert, Konrad Pinon (for "Pickle Rick") Nominated [66]
BTVA Voice Acting Awards Best Male Vocal Performance in a Television Series in a Guest Role Christian Slater Nominated [67]
Saturn Awards Best Animated Series or Film on Television Rick and Morty Nominated [68]
Teen Choice Awards Choice Animated TV Show Rick and Morty Nominated [69]
Gold Derby Awards Best Animated Program Rick and Morty Nominated [70]
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Animated Program Dan Harmon, Justin Roiland, Delna Bhesania, Barry Ward, Keith Crofford, Mike Lazzo, Ryan Ridley, Dan Guterman, Mike McMahan, Tom Kauffman, Ollie Green, J. Michael Mendel, Jessica Gao, Wes Archer, Anthony Chun, Nathan Litz (for "Pickle Rick") Won [71]
Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media within a Scripted Program "Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality" Nominated

Other media and products


  • On April 1, 2015, a Rick and Morty comic book adaptation debuted with its first monthly issue, entitled "BAM!"[72] The series is written by Zac Gorman and illustrated by CJ Cannon.[73] Artist Tom Fowler wrote a multi-issue story arc that began in March 2016.[74] Using the television series' established premise of alternate timelines, the first two volumes of the comic book expressly features the Rick and Morty (and supporting cast) of a different timeline, allowing the comics to tell stories without conflicting with the canon of the show. From the third volume onwards, the series switched focus to display the off-screen adventures of the Rick and Morty of the television series, keeping in the canon of the show, with the Ricks and Mortys of different timelines forming the basis for backup stories.
  • On August 29, 2018, a crossover comic with the fantasy tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons was released. The series titled Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons is co-written by Jim Zub and Patrick Rothfuss, and drawn by Troy Little.[75]

Video games

  • In 2014, Rick and Morty's Rushed Licensed Adventure, a Flash point-and-click adventure game, was released on the Adult Swim website.[76]
  • In December 2014, Rick and Morty: Jerry's Game was released for iOS and Android. The game consists of the player popping balloons and air filled condoms endlessly. Characters show up from time to time. The number of balloons popped is counted and used as currency for unlocking special balloons, backdrops, and features. The game is based on a game Jerry was seen playing in an episode. The game includes micro-transactions.[77]
  • On August 10, 2015, a Rick and Morty-themed announcer pack was released for the competitive multiplayer video game Dota 2.[78] The announcer pack can be purchased by players and replaces the Default announcer and Mega-Kills announcer with characters from Rick and Morty, voiced by Justin Roiland.
  • Pocket Mortys is a Pokémon parody game set in the "Rick and Morty Rickstaverse",[79] released on iOS and Android as a free-to-play game from Adult Swim Games, released early on January 13, 2016.[80] Coinciding with the many-worlds interpretation, the game follows versions of Rick and Morty that belong to an alternate timeline, rather than the duo followed in the show. The game uses a style and concept similar to the Pokémon games, with catching various "wild" Mortys, battling them with a variety of Aliens, Ricks, and Jerrys. The game features voice acting from Roiland and Harmon.
  • Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality, announced on July 15, 2016, and released on April 20, 2017, for Microsoft Windows and on April 10, 2018, for PlayStation 4,[81] is a VR game for HTC Vive VR and Oculus Rift developed by Owlchemy Labs, the developers of Job Simulator.[82][83]

Tabletop games

  • On June 22, 2016, Cryptozoic Entertainment released Total Rickall, a co-operative strategy card game based on the plot of the second-season episode of the same name, where players must determine which characters are real and which ones are parasites.[84]
  • On August 3, 2016, Cryptozoic Entertainment released Mr. Meeseeks' Box o' Fun, a game combining elements of dice games and truth or dare featuring the popular Mr. Meeseeks character from the first-season episode "Meeseeks and Destroy".[85]
  • On July 12, 2017, Cryptozoic Entertainment released Anatomy Park — The Game,[86] a co-operative tile-placing strategy game based on the plot of the first-season episode of the same name, where players score points by placing park tiles into the best spots within the body.[87]


  • On August 27, 2017, the song "Terryfold", recorded by the American indie pop band Chaos Chaos and featuring Justin Roiland on vocals, was released onto music streaming platforms and made available for digital download. The song was created for the third-season episode "Rest and Ricklaxation".[88]
  • On March 16, 2018, Adult Swim released a music video directed by Juan Meza-León in which the series' eponymous characters embark on an adventure, while the song "Oh Mama" from the American hip hop duo Run the Jewels plays in the background. The video promoted the duo's appearance in the 2018 Adult Swim Festival.[89]


  • On May 11, 2017, the Rickmobile, a traveling shop with exclusive merchandise, made its first stop in Atlanta for the Rick and Morty Don't Even Trip Road Trip.[90][91]


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External links