Final Space Creator Olan Rogers on Epic Sci-Fi Animation, Jeff Goldblum Woes, and More

Last week I wrote a piece on how Final Space is the best animated show no one's talking about. Now [...]

(Photo: Olan Rogers / Adult Swim)

Last week I wrote a piece on how Final Space is the best animated show no one's talking about. Now that the show's second season has debuted, my thoughts we reaffirmed — eleven episodes into the series and it's firing on all cylinders as best as it's ever been. The show is a perfect blend of comedy and drama, science-fiction and fantasy.

After the Season Two premiere, I spoke with Final Space creator Olan Rogers — who also voices the show's main character Gary Godspeed and the ever-adorable Mooncake — and here's what he had to say on the future of the show (and more). Let's talk about Final Space. What a nice little series. Let's take it back to the very beginning. There was this proof of concept or pilot that you circulated on social media, right? When did the idea of Final Space ever first pop up into your head?

Olan Rogers: Well, man, it was back in I want to say like 2011 when I started with Gary Space. It was like three of probably the worst animated videos probably ever. They were pretty awful. It was just like an After Effects project, it was just gliding across the screen. From there, I just shelved it because I didn't know anything about animation but I loved it. Around 2015, I was like, "Man, I really want to redo this again but like good." So, I got some concept art made and at the time, New Form had essentially been funding people's passion projects. I acted in a video of theirs called Oscar's Hotel for Fantastical Creatures. It was like Pee Wee's Playhouse on crack. Essentially I played a character, and one of the executives was there. I was like, "Man, I'm going to go pitch an executive before I leave this set."

I pitched Melissa Snyder a couple of ideas. One was a live action book that I was writing and the other was Final Space, and they went with Final Space just because they had never done an animation before. Next thing I knew, they gave me a little bit of a budget and we made a proof of concept and basically, Conoco shot me an email randomly to say they wanted to come on as a producer. Then we went on, pitched it, and got picked up by TBS. Now it's on Adult Swim or TBS, I don't really know. One or the other. [laughs]

Right, awesome. Moving to Adult Swim, that's a network choice? Is it just a move to try reaching a bigger demo or what was behind that?

Well, season one we actually had season one on Adult Swim while were airing on TBS. I think it just did better on Adult Swim because they're known for really cool animation. TBS at the time was trying to build this animation block. The only thing they really have is like American Dad, which is great, but they were trying to build this animation block and it just slowly fell apart just from bad luck, I guess. It was just Final Space. It never manifested. But yeah, pretty much a network choice I guess, short answer.

Final Space has a completely unique animation style. As I understand it, you use real photos then you add the 2-D aspect of it, but then the ship itself was 3-D. Was that all something you had envisioned during the creation of your proof of concept or was that something that came later when you started working with the studios and the like?

I always kind of, even in the proof of concepts, I wanted it to be something that was closer to maybe like an anime, you know? But almost that had, that space was treated as a real thing like almost a character. When you see it in the background, you're like, "Whoa, holy crap. This is beautiful." Because space itself is very beautiful, and I never really liked in kind of like Futurama, which is a fantastic show, but they always did space with just like little speckles. I'm like, "That's not space. That's just, I don't even know what that is." So, we really wanted to do something where space was kind of its own character. We looked into NASA photos and we used a lot of inspiration from that. Season One, we used a lot of that. Then in Season Two, we built it.

But yeah, that was a big aspect that I think even when I was meeting with the studios, I made sure I wanted to say like, "Space, let's make it a character." I think for the ships, just economical wise, it was just something that cut down costs but also allowed us to do some = really cool stuff with the ship. I think just that style has come a long way since the early 2000s, and you're able to make it look like it's a part of the show and really do some really cool stuff with it. It was really something from the get-go of like let's really push and try to make the most beautiful show we can make.

The second season of course just premiered. How much of the show do you have plotted out in that brain of yours? I think I read somewhere you said you had six seasons plotted out.

Yeah, I think it's around there. Like it's a solid six seasons of ideas. I know we have pretty much a solid Season Three thought out but whatever happens with that, I don't know. Hopefully, it manifests but I think it's really kind of around that sixth season mark where it's like this would be a good ending spot, but if we want to stretch it, we could.

Absolutely. And I mean, look at this voice cast, right? Unbelievable voice actors. We have like Dave Tennant and Steven Yeun involved.


Were you the one that pursued this talent or did you go through the normal audition process with the studio and network?

No, these are people I've always had my dream scenario to work with, and I was able to get my dream scenario. So, it's something that we actively tried to go after the people that we really thought could nail it and we are huge fans of. Fortunately, they pretty much all said yes.

Very nice. And who said no? Can you say?

Yes, there was one guy. There was one guy that said no. Goldblum. Jeff Goldblum said no to me.

Oh man.

Yeah. I wrote him this like heartfelt letter and I sent him cupcakes, just begging him to be a part of this thing. And it's like, I used all these references to Independence Day and Jurassic Park, and was like, "Please, please ..." But I get it, he was so busy at the time. He was doing some of [Thor:] Ragnarok and Independence Day, and it was just like my little show didn't blip on his radar. But it's all good, still love that guy.

The series has opened up this incredibly beautiful storyline and it's this huge epic world within the 11 episodes we've gotten. How much of this world do you plan to explore? Do you just have the series planned, or would you eventually like to explore a multi-platform universe? Comic books, maybe a feature film, maybe a video game?

Yeah, that would be awesome. I've definitely thought about that. I even wrote a spin-off script just for fun. I think it's something that it's such a good world that there's so much fun to be had in it, and I think yeah, I would love that. That would be awesome. Whether or not if it happens or not, I have no idea. I don't know if I'm the decision maker behind that, but that would be awesome.

We know Gary and his team of misfits are tracking down these mysterious objects. What can you reveal about the remaining 12 episodes? Where does the story go from here?

Yeah, I mean I don't want to give too much away but I think it gets pretty intense. It's something that, I think with Season One, we really wanted to spin the idea that this was just kind of like a Futurama on its head. Once you got to episode six, you're like, "Holy crap, what is this?" And it starts getting pretty intense and by 10, you're like, "I did not expect it going there." And that's something in the pitching process, where it said we want to defy expectations. So, I think you'll see a lot of episodes coming up where you're like, "Man, I did not expect the show to go there and really deal with that kind of stuff." I think you'll definitely see some very big mythology episodes just building up the world even more. You'll see some big high concept sci-fi ideas and then the next step is it will just be like a comedy romp with Conan as Clarence.

So, I think it's a big adventure, and that's what we want it to be is something that's really fun, it's going to make you feel along the way and you just got to be ready because it's about to get intense.

Another thing you guys really use well is the use of a soundtrack, right? When does that come into play? Are those songs something that is written into the script itself?

No, no, we just, we have a really good composing team. I think Season One, we had Jake Sidwell and Shelby Merry, and we have Shelby Merry this season with my good friend, Andrew Goodwin. The thing is, I come from Nashville, where there's just like some really talented independent artists there that just are making some awesome stuff. My friend Jake found her when she did like some songs for The Maze Runner and they didn't end up using it. But they're some of the most beautiful songs you would ever hear, and they're just epic. She has such a unique distinct voice, it's like, "Please, come score the thing." So, anywhere that we want a moment to really highlight, we're like, "Shelby, go to town. Just make a song. Whatever you want to do." And then, Andrew, he's basically had a band called Awake! Awake! and I've known him for about eight years now. I was like, "Dude, come score, help me score season two." They're just so talented. There's a song in episode four that you'll be like, "Gee, that's pretty impressive." But yeah, they're just so talented. It's really them. We didn't really write anything into the script of like we want a song to come into here. It was just kind of like this will make us feel something at this moment.


Have you been tuning into Final Space? Let us know what you think of the show in the comments below or by tweeting me at @AdamBarnhardt to chat all things Final Space!

Final Space airs Monday nights at 11:30/10:30 p.m. Central on Adult Swims.