Animation Nation

‘Out There’: Ryan Quincy’s Take on Those Awkward High School Years

Jean Trinh talks with Ryan Quincy, creator of animated show ‘Out There,’ premiering today on IFC.

Out There/IFC

“You never forget the first time you see your best friend.”

In the opening scene of Ryan Quincy’s new animated show, Out There—which begins tonight at 10:30 p.m. on IFC—socially awkward teen Chad (Quincy)—whose blonde, furry head is likened to the hairy monster Gossamer from Looney Tunes—finds his future best friend, Chris (Justin Roiland) tied to a tree and stripped down to his tighty whiteys. Chad unties Chris, and Chris gallops away without saying a word.

In other words, this isn’t your average South Park episode.

Quincy, the multiple Emmy award-winning animation director and producer of Comedy Central’s South Park, departed the subversive comedy last February, after a 14-year stint, to pursue Out There full-time.

“At first, I was hoping I could make both things work, but it didn’t work out,” Quincy told The Daily Beast. “The show consumed me completely.”

Unlike South Park, a fast-paced show that relies heavily on pop culture references, Out There has a timeless quality to it—viewers won’t be able to pinpoint the exact time period of the cartoon. Quincy described his show as a “slow burn” with a “nice, melancholy sweetness to it like Charlie Brown.”

It’s also reminiscent of Judd Apatow’s beloved sitcom Freaks and Geeks, but with a dry, off-beat, and humorous, original voice. Out There chronicles the life of melodramatic 15-year-old Chad and his hilarious and endearing exploration through the uncomfortable teen years of trying to fit in, pining over love interest Sharla—voiced by Linda Cardellini (Freaks and Geeks)—and getting into wacky adventures with his “out there” best friend. Within the first couple of episodes, Chris tries to escape his small town using a hot-air balloon, Chad’s father—played by veteran comedic voice actor John DiMaggio (Futurama, Adventure Time)—goes on a weed bender, and the boys chase down some bullies to get a pornographic magazine in what they call the “great boob race.”

The series boasts a list of heavy hitters in voice acting, with Fred Armisen (Portlandia, SNL) playing the new-agey deadbeat live-in boyfriend of Chris’s mom and Megan Mullally (Will & Grace) as Chad’s conservative churchgoing mother. Other notable guest appearances include Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), Jason Schwartzman (Moonrise Kingdom), Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), and Sarah Silverman (The Sarah Silverman Program).

Inspired by the drawings of Charles M. Schulz, Dr. Seuss, and Maurice Sendak, Quincy designed all the characters and background to possess a similar aesthetic quality. “Animation style–wise, I wanted the characters to walk,” said Quincy. “And that’s part of the charm of South Park, where the characters bob around. I wanted this to feel more real, and it’s very important with the facial expressions to make it feel more natural.”

In regard to the stylistic choices, it’s never acknowledged in the show why some characters are hairy beasts with tiny claws, while others look rather human; however, “how they look on the outside is how they feel on the inside,” said Quincy.

The humanistic quality to Out There is a direct outgrowth of the story’s semi-autobiographical aspects, which draw on Quincy’s own life. He grew up in Holdrege, a small Nebraskan town with a population of about 6,000 at the time he lived there. (Holdrege is thinly veiled as Holford, the fictional town in the show.) Although Chris’s personality is based on an amalgamation of a few of his different best friends’ traits, he especially modeled Chris after one specific friend.

In 2008 when Quincy was given the green light by 20th Century Fox to produce three shorts for his Out There idea, he was excited to tell his best friend about the project, but was met with a shocking and heartbreaking revelation. He discovered that his friend had just died from a brain aneurysm, and would never learn about the show. From that moment on, Quincy dedicated Out There as a “love letter” to his late friend and the time they spent growing up together—a childhood full of making movies and hanging out at the local 7-Eleven.

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“I wanted to do a show about first real best friends,” Quincy said. “The first best friend you meet in junior high or high school is the primer to all relationships here on out. It feels like friendships aren’t as strong and potent as that first one.”