When we first met the cooky cast of The Venture Bros. in 2003, we were immediately enamored by its animated leads Hank and Dean Venture. Their bumbling do-goodery was endearing, their adventures ridiculous, and their enemies incredibly ineffective. Part satire, part mind-melting comedy, The Venture Bros. have become Adult Swim’s longest running original series, and the show has continued to gain new fans even into its seventh season. With Season 8 already greenlit, there’s thankfully much more ridiculousness to come. We spoke to series co-creater and writer Jackson Publick about Season 7, his favorite characters, and the show’s unique soundtrack. Read our interview below, and catch new episodes of The Venture Bros., Mondays at 12AM on Cartoon Network.
Congrats on Season 7! When you first started the show, did you envision it through seven seasons?
Absolutely not! When we first started the show, we were contractually covered for the first four seasons, but that was it. At that time I thought, “That will be about enough, if we’re even lucky enough to get renewed for a second season!” I certainly didn’t imagine getting this far.
Let’s talk a little bit about the evolution of the show’s characters. Who’s your favorite character, and how do you feel they’ve evolved over the course of the show?
Well, The Monarch hasn’t changed that much! I guess we’ve seen his softer side. Things have happened to him, but he hasn’t necessarily emotionally evolved too much. Most of our adult characters haven’t! But I think the biggest evolution as far as main characters go, has happened for Hank and Dean. They’re getting older, and we knew probably two thirds of the way through Season 1 that they couldn’t be golly gee idiots forever.
I think it was one of [co-creator/writer] Doc Hammer’s scripts that first tapped into the idea that Hank’s a little crazy. That Hank just has weird little mental fits of—I like to think that they’re inspiration and enthusiasm. We started with the idea that Dean was supposed to be the “smarter one,” but they were both dumb. That somehow segued into him being the sensitive one. Those are some of the things we’ve explored. We’ve had them react to different stimuli in a variety of ways, and we’ve kind of pulled them apart over the years too. They’re not just this tag team of dopes who are always together, just goofing around.
I don’t really have a favorite character because I feel like it depends on my mood! The Monarch is always fun to write for. Personally, it’s always fun to write for Hank or the Monarch, partially because I voice them, although I’m often writing things that I know are going to make me exhausted. I truly love all of them! It’s a lot of fun coming up with a joke and just knowing in your heart which character is the only one who can say it.
Working on an animated show like this, your creative freedom must be unmatched.
Absolutely. And I get to make it for Adult Swim, who let me make it the way I want to! I’ve never had this much freedom in any job, or felt this must trust from the people paying me to do it. I love that. I love that the dumbest idea that two goofballs can have at 3am in a filthy studio can end up on TV.
Music has always been an important part of the series. You’ve worked with musician/composer JG Thirlwell since Season 1, and I read that his early work inspired you before you even kicked off this project! What has it been like working with him, and what role do you feel the score plays?
Yeah that’s true! One of JG’s early Steroid Maximus albums served as my soundtrack when I was initially turning notes and still drawings into something moving and animated in my head. At this point, the process of working with him is fairly organic. He doesn’t get involved until we’ve cut the animatic and are ready to ship it to Korea to be animated. He gets about three or four months to get a score done, because that’s about how long it’s being animated overseas.
We’ll get together, watch the season, and I’ll talk him through the moods that I’m looking for for each scene. A lot of times I’ll show up and he’ll already have put some stuff together. Things he’s been working on in the off seasons, and some pieces he’s just been putting together that he thinks could work for the upcoming season. We go back and forth like that, and a couple of months later we meet up again and he plays me everything he’s got!
His approach has evolved after working on the show for so many seasons. He’s also done incredible work for other shows, and of course our emotional palate has changed over the years too. I think we’ve explored a lot of different influences and styles, and I think the music has become more earnest. When we go dark, we really go dark. When we go sad, we really go sad. We don’t make a joke about it. We just go there.
What are you most excited about in terms of Season 7?
I’m really proud of all the episodes! It’s a very colorful season, and we got to do some really gorgeous visual stuff that I’m really proud of. Later in the season you’ll see we’ve got a blizzard, we’ve got some gorgeous aeronautic stuff, and some more obscure New York City locations. I just I love digging into the city, and finding cool spaces for these guys to run around in!