Adult Swim’s “China, IL” is getting bigger and better in Season 2. The show is being bumped up from 11-minute episodes to 22-minute ones, and is having more room to play around with its main cast of characters this time around.
The show focuses on characters who either work at or attend the worst college in America, located in the fictitious China, Il. Created by Brad Neely and executive produced by Daniel Weidenfeld, the show capitalizes on Adult Swim’s distinct brand of animated comedy. Zap2it was recently invited to visit “China, IL’s” animation studio, Titmouse, Inc., in Los Angeles to see where the series’ magic happens.
During the visit, which included some sneak peeks of Season 2 (including the ones in this article) and a look at the animators behind the show, Zap2it spoke with Neely and Weidenfeld about the upcoming season. They tackle many elements of pop culture in some controversial ways, including the Season 5 episode of “Mad Men” titled “The Other Woman.” In the episode, the secretary Joan infamously has sex with a man for the sake of business, and Neely decided to follow a similar storyline in “China, IL.” The only catch? He’s never actually seen the “Mad Men” episode.
“We do that often where we’ll just take my ignorance and run with it,” he admits. “We were just talking about inter-office types of stories. Everybody in the room being professional writers, unlike me, are aware of other television, so they’re all like, ‘Oh like that ‘Mad Men’ episode where they put the secretary in a bad position to do a sexual favor for a client for the good of the firm,’ so we’re like, ‘Okay, that’s good. Let’s do that with Pony.’ And then we were like, ‘Nah, that’s just so obvious. Oh, let’s switch it and do it for Steve,’ and that’s where we ended up.”
In the “China, IL” episode, the character Steve Smith is forced to take a woman on a date for the benefit of the college. He thinks they’ll have to have sex, but they actually live out her crazy cat lady fantasies. “Sex is a misunderstanding where he thinks it’s sex but it’s actually cat stuff,” Neely explains. “It wouldn’t be a big deal for him to just have sex with someone. What would be a big deal is dressing up like a cat.” Weidenfeld adds, “Not having it be sexual is so much funnier.”
Another Season 2 storyline revolves around Neely’s hatred of the movie “Toy Story.” According to Weidenfeld, the fact that Neely thinks it’s crazy that “people treat it like a serious movie” was too funny a concept to not play around with.
“We do a whole episode from the perspective of everyone in the world loving it and one of our characters just being like, ‘How the f*** does everyone like this?’ And then it sort of blows up at the end into something much bigger just because he can’t understand how anyone would like this movie,” Weidenfeld says.
The same goes for The Beach Boys, who play a central role in a different “China, IL” episode. Neely describes listening to The Beach Boys as it being like “yellow triangles just being shoved in my ears,” and was caught off guard when one of the “China, IL” writers admitted The Beach Boys was one of his favorite bands. According to Neely, his wife’s comment that “no one that clean hasn’t raped somebody” spawned a twisted episode involving The Beach Boys’ bad behavior and a surfer boy, Matthew McConaughey-version of God coming down to earth.
“Sometimes two ideas will meet in the middle, and we’re like, ‘Oh, these things go together.’ We wanted to do an idea where God comes down. Like, oh God really comes down, and he has a new set of laws and everybody has to do them. Okay, like a new set of 10 Commandments, that’s enticing. How do you make that interesting? Nothing about like God in this philosophical way, got to keep it stupid,” he says. “All of this kind of is an episode. I don’t know how yet.”
“China, IL” Season 2 will feature a wide array of voice actors who understand the type of comedy Neely and Weidenfeld excel at. Hulk Hogan, Brooke Hogan and Greta Gerwig all voice recurring characters, while Jeffrey Tambor, Hannibal Buress, Chelsea Peretti and James Hong have joined as well. But Neely and Weidenfeld say they don’t plan to go after many of the actors or celebrities they spoof. There was never any discussion of getting The Beach Boys involved — “We didn’t even want them around; it’s so much funnier,” Weidenfeld says — and the time they approached Kevin Costner about playing himself in a Season 2 episode blew up in their faces.
“He said, ‘Absolutely not. I don’t do material this blue,'” Weidenfeld recalls. Neely jokes about the fact that Costner is still a character in the episode, “You’re going to be in this episode whether you want it or not.”
Since Neely is also responsible for the web videos “Wizard People, Dear Reader,” Weidenfeld once hoped he could get Emma Watson on board “China, IL.” He even approached her about it at a restaurant, but she wanted nothing to do with him in addition to having never heard of “Wizard People.”
“Her friend told me to f*** off because I was interrupting her lunch, and then I just started sweating, and she started being really nice to me afterwards,” Weidenfeld says. “I think I’m not talking to her every again.
Neely quips, “We have a better chance of getting [Rupert] Grint.”
The pair’s dream guests would be anyone from “Seinfeld,” and they wanted to put an open invite to Jerry Seinfeld out into the world. “Seinfeld, we’ll do anything to get him on the show. Seinfeld, you can do any voice you want on the show,” Weidenfeld says.
Viewers who didn’t watch “China, IL” Season 1 can jump into Season 2 without feeling like they missed anything major. Weidenfeld calls every episode “a restart,” and says that Season 2’s extended episode length will allow for more time to get to know the show’s characters.
“It’s been so freeing to just not cram plot in,” he says. “Now we can allow the charm to come in. We can have a minute-long song and not just feel like we’re taking so much time away from the story. We’ve always felt, in retrospect now, but it always should have been a 22-minute show.”
“China, IL” Season 2 premieres on Adult Swim on Sept. 22 at 11:30 p.m.