On The Line with Sean Szeles

Sean Szeles is the supervising producer for Regular Show, the best cartoon on television today. He also composed many of the original songs from the series that fans know and love. I had an incredibly engaging and fun interview with Sean as we discussed the music on Regular Show, the new season, his favorite episodes and more. A must read for all fans of Regular Show!

Alex Obert: With the new season of Regular Show currently airing, what are your thoughts on it so far?

Sean Szeles: It’s been pretty cool so far. I think that with this season, there’s a lot of emotional parts that we play with. I’m excited about that. There’s a lot more episodes with feelings and stuff going on, whether it’s between friends or other people. Something pretty exciting, we’ve got a lot of cool specials coming out. We just had a Halloween special, which was awesome. We always get to do something crazier for the Halloween specials, that’s always fun. I’m looking forward to the specials coming out soon. The Real Thomas half hour special is coming out in a week. And then we have a bunch of Christmas themed episodes. It should be a good season! (laughs)

Alex Obert: You mention the emotional connection between characters, what do you feel was the influence behind introducing CJ onto the show?

Sean Szeles: We had this will they/won’t they thing going with Margaret and Mordecai for a long time and I think we just wanted to add some new flavor to the show. We wanted to inject some more drama and tell a story from a natural point of view, something that has happened to us whenever. It’s a natural thing for you to meet new people and you get interested in them and you don’t know what to do. I think we just threw her in there because he was pining for Margaret, but the relationship never really clicked full throttle. It was a good time to maybe find somebody else that he has more in common with. We decided to go that route to see what would happen with that. She’s going to stick around for a while, she’s a cool character.

Alex Obert: And what do you think of Linda Cardellini voicing her?

Sean Szeles: She’s great. We love having her be a part of the show. Her voice is just so cool, such a natural sounding voice. She’s such a good actress and she nailed all the lines the first time. And she’s really good with the emotional stuff that we throw at her, it adds a realness to the character for sure.

Alex Obert: You’re behind a lot of the music on the show, but what is your favorite usage of licensed music in an episode?

Sean Szeles: It’s hard to remember all the ones after all the episodes we’ve done so far. (laughs) It was an early one, but I really liked Lies from the Thompson Twins in Grilled Cheese Deluxe. It was one of the episodes that I wrote and storyboarded on. That was a cool eighties song. I don’t know, dude, do you have any ones that you like? (laughs)

Alex Obert: I enjoyed hearing We Are the Champions play after the scene where Mordecai and Margaret finally kiss.

Sean Szeles: That was something we suggested because we thought it would be a really cool moment. I’m glad we got that. Sometimes it’s really hard to get these songs, you have to go through a lot of different channels to see if we’re even allowed to use the song or if the band will even let us use it. And you only get a certain number of songs per season because of the budget we have. But that was definitely super cool to have.

Alex Obert: Do you have any songs on your wish list for the show?

Sean Szeles: I know we’ve tried before and we want to keep trying to get the Ramones. Something happened the first time where we couldn’t get it for some reason or another. I love the Ramones, so it’d be awesome to use one of their songs. I know that JG loves Rush a lot, so we always try to figure out a way to get a Rush song or something.

Alex Obert: What was the influence behind Party Tonight?

Sean Szeles: I guess I was trying to make it sound like a seventies ballad, that’s what JG’s really into. I think I was listening to a lot of Journey and stuff at the time. (laughs) I was trying to get a feel for stuff like that and that’s just how it came out. I’m always really surprised after writing a song and how it even happened, how you figure out a melody or something.

Alex Obert: What were your thoughts on JG’s vocal performance of that song?

Sean Szeles: Well… (laughs) Mordecai’s not supposed to be a professional singer or anything, no, he did good with it. He did the best he could have probably done! (laughs)

Alex Obert: I thought it was charming. Imperfection can sometimes be perfection depending on how you look at it. What was the influence behind Summertime Loving, Loving in the Summer (Time)?

Sean Szeles: That was kind of a crazy undertaking because the task was to come up with a song that was super catchy and repetitive and something that’s gonna get stuck in your head. It was referencing songs that you might have been into in junior high or high school that were maybe not good songs, but they played on the radio nonstop. Songs from bands like Sugar Ray or Smash Mouth, not the best pieces of music, songs you might be embarrassed looking back on because you were really into them. (laughs)

Alex Obert: As a musician, what are your thoughts on the character Death resembling Lemmy?

Sean Szeles: I think it’s awesome. Just the idea of him is really cool, this biker dude as a version of Death. I hadn’t really seen that before. Having him look like that was a cool touch for sure.

Alex Obert: What are your thoughts on continuation episodes such as the baby ducks or Mordecai and the Rigbys?

Sean Szeles: We throw out ideas in the writers’ room, but we’re not really trying to look back at what we could repeat. If the right idea comes along where we want to see some cool characters and it’s a new twist on them and we’re not doing exactly the same thing, but we’re pushing the story forward, we’ll tend to gravitate towards those. Our show is so episodic, besides the Mordecai and Margaret stuff, there isn’t really an arching story like other TV shows would have. Every episode is supposed to be like a standalone episode. So to be able to do sequel-type episodes, it’s a cool way to bridge time and revisit where they were at a certain point and where they are now. We don’t want to overdo them a lot and do them just to do them, so we sprinkle them throughout.

Alex Obert: With all of the episodes and characters, who are some of your favorite characters that have only made one or a couple of appearances?

Sean Szeles: I really like Gut Model where Muscle Man is scouted to be a gut model for a pregnancy magazine. (laughs) And I really liked the agents. I wrote on that episode and helped to come up with those characters. Speaking of trying to bring characters back, we liked them so much that we’re trying to figure out how to bring them back. We wrote a bunch of different story ideas, but nothing ever stuck with them. We’re still trying to see if we can bring them back somehow. I thought they were cool, the fact that they’re fast-talking agent characters.

Alex Obert: Do you have any favorite pop-culture references that immediately stuck with you?

Sean Szeles: I like the ones that are more subtle. We had that Christmas special and they’re going on a journey, the whole thing was kind of like Lord of the Rings. They got this gift to throw down in a lava pit. (laughs) There were also Goonies references in that episode where they’re sliding down these caverns and trying to do these booby trap tasks to get through to the next level. That was pretty cool to do that stuff.

Alex Obert: Do you have any favorite pieces of art that fans have made?

Sean Szeles: It was cool going to Comic Con and seeing people dressed up. I took a photo with this girl, she made a full costume of the cassette tape from the Summertime song. The costume had speakers in it and it it was playing the song over and over. I thought that was just awesome seeing someone go through the trouble to make that. Our fans are pretty awesome, we’re always looking at different kinds of fan art and costumes online.

Alex Obert: What would you say is your favorite episode of all time?

Sean Szeles: I really like The Last Laserdisc Player. I thought it was super cool because it had its own mythology. It’s a weird episode, the guys don’t do much in it, they’re just trying to watch this Laserdisc. They’re just caught up in this crazy story, it was kind of different. But I think that’s what makes it funny, this whole format war going on. They’re just caught in the middle of it. And Skips’ Story where you see Skips when he was in high school in the 1800s and he meets Desdemona there and has to fight. I thought that was a pretty cool story, pretty epic.

Alex Obert: If Regular Show ever had a full-on movie, whether it’s on the big screen or a Cartoon Network special, what is your ideal plot?

Sean Szeles: That would be quite an undertaking to do a movie. It would be cool to do some really low-key type of movie. I really like low-key movies, one of my favorite movies is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and it all happens in one day. It would be hard because we jam-pack our episodes and to try and outdo that would be hard. (laughs) But it could be cool.

Alex Obert: I always had this vision of a plot similar to Wayne’s World 2 where they put together a concert to save the park.

Sean Szeles: Oh yeah. For sure!

Alex Obert: So in closing, how would you describe the current season in a couple words?

Sean Szeles: It’s gonna be badass. It’s gonna knock everybody’s socks off! (laughs) I think it’s one of our better seasons to date, there’s so many good episodes that are coming out. I think people are gonna freak out! (laughs)

Alex Obert: I would love to thank you so much for your time and a great interview. I look forward to the rest of the season and to the future of Regular Show.

Sean Szeles: No problem! Thanks so much!

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