We could rant and rave about the work of director and animator Angela Stempel all day. So when we saw she had new work out – and part of it involved Rick and Morty combined with Master Chef – we got very excited. And, as it has been well over a year since we last spoke to her, we thought it was time to find out a bit about what she’s been up to.
Turns out it’s been a busy year for Angela, who’s still based in sunny Los Angeles, “and still very inspired by the city,” she tells us. Despite this, she’s been finding it more and more appealing to travel as her work continues to happen via email remotely. This recently led to a two-month stay in the French town of Bandol, where she worked on a film directed by Zachery Zezima, produced by Paris-based studio Sacrebleu Productions.
Our chat with Angela, however, mainly focused on three shorts recently produced for Adult Swim – two show IDs for Rick and Morty and one short film as part of Adult Swim’s Smalls programme titled Urges. All three commissions were, in fact, off the back of Angela’s previous film Heart Chakra she explained. For Rick and Morty, she was asked to pitch ideas which placed the show’s titular characters in bizarre and hilarious situations, but Urges, which tells the story of one woman and her fantasies, was the product of an ongoing conversation with producer Dave Hughes.
Angela explains how she developed the ideas for each piece: “The ideas for the show IDs came from just trying to distil the dynamic of the characters on the show, and to show them in kind of absurd situations. The Master Chef one was inspired by the craze for cooking shows that are all over Netflix and TV. It’s just such a familiar style of show, I thought it would be funny to insert Ricks and Mortys into the competition. There’s definitely a power dynamic in the show that felt like it could be translated into these cooking show models, that are very high pressure for the participants; we watch them stress out for our entertainment. In a similar sense, I wanted the Thumbelina ID to be a bit ridiculous – to show Morty as a little flower elf being stalked by a menacing Rick snake, especially because the tone is so pastoral and the opposite of the show.
“Urges came about completely differently. The brief was basically open-ended. Since I was limited by the two-minute duration, I wanted to make something completely indulgent. It didn’t feel long enough to explore narrative too much, so I just wanted it to be a really sensory experience. The short is about a woman who has these creatures that are born into the world from her fantasies, and who exist to help make her fantasies a reality. Basically, they fulfil all of her desires…the sound really adds a lot to this one, I feel. I was able to bring the super talented duo Skillbard onto the project and they really translated the feeling I was hoping for the film, with the ASMR sounds and the sultry singing voices.”
Despite their differing storylines and durations, what each of these pieces demonstrates is Angela’s innate ability to create fully-fabricated worlds which suck you in. While the Rick and Morty IDs don’t even last for 30 seconds, they are brimming with implied narrative and at only two minutes, Urges builds tension and atmosphere adeptly. Each film features Angela’s signature use of perspective – faces and scenes are cropped tightly, packing each frame with an ardour only furthered by her use of colour. If all this wasn’t enough, Angela concludes with a tip-off that there are more potential Adult Swim collaborations on the way, and plenty of ideas for more long-form work. Personally, we’re hoping for Ricky and Morty as the fab five from Queer Eye…
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