The first scene from Rick and Morty Season 5 is already here, revealing Rick's true nemesis and introducing major developments in Morty's love life, but it's also an exciting hint that the new season's release date might be sooner than we thought.
The digital Adult Swim Con ran from July 23 to 25, and a new animatic from Rick and Morty Season 5 aired during Friday night's "How They Do It: Rick and Morty Live" panel, which featured series co-creator Dan Harmon alongside voice actors Chris Parnell, Sarah Chalke, and Spencer Grammer. Hosted by moderator Terri Schwartz and live-streamed over Twitch, the panel mostly focused on behind-the-scenes details about various Season 4 episodes, but there were plenty of Season 5 hints, including this new animatic.
Described as a cold open from a Season 5 episode (Harmon said he "can't remember" which one), the clip opens on Morty carrying a mortally wounded Rick on what appears to be some kind of asteroid. Watch it below.
Wherever this location is, it seems vaguely similar to Forbodulon Prime, the barren planet from the Season 4 premiere where the duo harvested Death Crystals. But Death Crystals show whoever touches them the different ways they might die, whereas the crystals in this scene instead reflect alt-reality versions of Rick and Morty (including one where they are vampire-fighting "Blades"). Morty flies through a closing portal back towards Earth, narrowly escaping a massive, tentacled monster while totally wrecking Rick's ship in the process. Moments before they're about to die by crashing into Earth, Morty calls Jessica to confess his love. She suggests they hang out, which inspires Morty to make a successful crash-landing in the ocean. That's where things get weird.
Mr. Nimbus, Rick's "once and eternal foe," appears out of a giant magical clamshell like some kind of knockoff Aquaman. Even Rick refers to Mr. Nimbus as his "nemesis." We can't help but think of that time Rick and Morty went to Atlantis off-camera during "Tales From the Citadel" — are they related somehow? Either way, something tells us Morty won't be making that date.
What this means for the Rick and Morty Season 5 release date
Based on the pace of Rick and Morty production in the past, what could this new animatic mean for Season 5?
For starters, Harmon teased during this same panel that the team was "basically done writing" Season 5. They're in the process of finalizing the last episode of the season, and many of the writers have already moved on to Season 6. Rick and Morty director Erica Hayes previously told Inverse that most episodes take anywhere from 9 to 12 months to go all the way from ideation to finished animation. But animatics like this can also offer some specific clues.
The Rick and Morty team often develops animatics using black-and-white storyboard art and crude animation to conceptualize how final animation might look. They're used internally as part of the production process to draft the episodes, but showing off animatics to tease new seasons has become something of a Comic-Con tradition.
An early animatic focused on Pickle Rick was shown during San Diego Comic-Con 2016, more than a full year before "Pickle Rick" aired on August 6, 2017. That means it was almost 13 full months between the initial animatic reveal and the episode's airdate. There was another Season 3 "sneak peak" that Adult Swim published on YouTube January 3, 2017 from the episode "Rest and Ricklaxation," which didn't air until August 27. In that case, we're looking at almost nine months of lead time.
The most recent point of comparison, however, was an animatic that aired exclusively during the Rick and Morty panel at SDCC 2019 in which Jerry tries to hang Christmas lights. He falls, and then Rick makes him buoyant. Most fans will recognize that as the opening to "Rattlestar Ricklactica," the mid-season finale of Season 4 that aired December 15, 2019. That's only about five months. Could the same happen for 2020? Maybe!
Because Rick and Morty was renewed in May 2018 with a 70-episode order, there were no between Season 4 and 5 for contractural reasons, so it's possible that Season 5 could begin very late this year. The one major caveat here is that at SDCC 2019, Adult Swim released a fully animated scene featuring Glootie, the aforementioned animatic, and confirmed a release window of November 2019. The actual premiere date wasn't confirmed until early October, just a month before the premiere itself.
All things considered, it sure seems like Rick and Morty is on track for an early 2021 Season 5 premiere, at the very earliest.