Executives Loved Everything About Rick And Morty's Pilot Except Justin Roiland

The first episode of "Rick and Morty" is probably one of the most successful pilots of an animated sitcom ever made, at least from a creative standpoint. Whereas "The Simpsons" starts off with an episode that feels completely different from the version of the show we'd come to know and love, the first episode of "Rick and Morty" already feels like a regular episode. Whereas Dan Harmon's previous show "Community" took nearly half a season to really find its groove, "Rick and Morty" seemed to know exactly what it was from day one. 

According to co-creator Justin Roiland, the executives at Cartoon Network agreed that the pilot was great. They just had one complaint: they didn't like Roiland's voice work for Morty. Roiland recalls Dan Harmon saying to him after talking to the executives: 

"Okay, I'm just gonna rip the Band-Aid off here. They loved the pilot, they don't like the voices. I fought for Rick so you're gonna get to do Rick. But we gotta recast, we have to cast somebody for Morty."

This was pretty devastating news to Roiland, who was looking forward to getting to bounce off himself for the two main characters. As fans of the show can attest, one of its most charming aspects is just how well Rick and Morty interact with each other despite being the work of one performer. Saying you like everything about the show except this sounds pretty crazy, because it's the main appeal. Still, Roiland and Harmon went and found three other great voice actors to play the part, but the executives hated them too. "This isn't working," Roiland recalls being told.

Something a little more grounded

The reason it wasn't working was because of how Morty's voice originally sounded. As Roiland put it, "At the time, Morty was more like, 'Ah jeez, ah come on, what's going on man, like [groaning],' like really obnoxious and grating." Considering how warbly Morty's voice ended up in the final product, who knows how over-the-top it originally sounded.

When Roiland learned what the network's problem with Morty's voice was, he made it more grounded. He, Dan Harmon, and storyboard artist Bryan Newton worked on what would become the cold open to the released pilot episode, where Morty has to take care of a drunken Rick who's contemplating destroying the world. "I did Morty normal and made Morty pissed... I needed Morty to show some spine in him to fight back," Roiland said. "I knew that was super important to selling the character and the voice."

This time, the network like Roiland's voicework, and he got the job. The scene they sent in ended up as the audience's first introduction to the show's titular characters; it has little to do with the pilot's plot, but it tells us exactly what the dynamic between Rick and Morty will be and what the show's about. 

It's funny to think that there's an alternate universe where someone else is voicing Morty, especially considering that Morty's voice is the one Roiland's probably the most famous for. Whenever he's doing another character, be it Ice Cube Head on "Community" or one of the many eccentric characters on Interdimensional Cable, they all tend to sound much closer to Morty than they do to Rick. Letting Roiland voice both characters was clearly the right choice.