Imagine if, instead of a small army of six-foot-tall Meeseeks storming into a restaurant to kill Jerry Smith on Rick and Morty, it was a bunch of tiny creatures that had to stand on each other’s heads just to get high enough to hold regular humans at gunpoint.
That was the vision that Rick and Morty writer Ryan Ridley originally had for the Meeseeks, the bizarre and seemingly magical beings brought to life by a box from Rick’s garage (the Mr. Meeseeks Box) for the sole purpose of accomplishing single tasks before vanishing in a puff of smoke.
In a recent interview on the Y Combinator podcast, Ridley explained the genesis of the character.
In addition to delivering the devastating news that the Meeseeks won’t be in Season 3, Ridley also revealed the intense debate over Meeseeks’ size that went on in the writers’ room.
Ridley was the credited writer for the only Meeseeks episode, “Meeseeks and Destroy,” in which Rick gives Summer, Beth, and Jerry the Mr. Meeseeks Box to distract them while he and Morty go on an adventure. One Meeseeks successfully makes Summer more popular at school and another helps make Beth a more complete woman.
“I wrote that episode,” Ridley explained. “So the Meeseeks start as … this voice, this concept that Justin pitched, and then I wrote the episode. I still, in my head, picture them as tiny, little … creatures like the size of Smurfs or something.” But the most important scene where this key difference would have changed things would have been the episode’s climactic final confrontation.
When a Mr. Meeseeks fails at improving Jerry’s golf game, that Meeseeks summons another Meeseeks to help, and before you know it there’s a small army of deeply anguished Meeseeks who eventually decide the best way to end their misery is to kill Jerry.
“So there’s a scene where Jerry and Beth are in a restaurant, and they all bust in, and I remember thinking, like, ‘Oh, that it’d be funny if they’re like, on the table!’ — like, you know, three apples high, in Jerry’s face with a gun.” Debate erupted over how the writers saw the characters.
“It was — I’m not kidding — it was the blue dress-gold dress of the writers’ room,” Ridley explained, “because half the people reading the same script and crew imagined them life-sized, and half imagined them as tiny, little gremlin things, or smaller than gremlins. I guess the script was written in a way that we had never really thought about their scale, you know?”
The majority in the writers’ room obviously won out in the end, and the Meeseeks were designed to be androgynous blue humanoids, roughly as big as men.
But just try to picture this climactic scene with a bunch of Smurf-sized Meeseeks standing on top of one another with guns:
“Anyway,” Ridley conceded. “It’s those conversations that are important, because it’s a very different concept if they were Smurfs versus what they ended up being, you know? And then on top of that, you have, just, what do they look like?” Hairless, fingerless, with an impossibly large mouth and little tufts of orange hair … apparently.
As is the case with scripting most of the Rick and Morty episodes, there’s “lots of debate.” When it came to Meeseeks’ size, “it was so evenly divided,” but “eventually [the team] figures out what’s the best way.” For “Meeseeks and Destroy,” that meant making the smiley blue servants as tall as your average human.