Any TV network understands the anxiety of creating a pilot for a new show. But when you combine that with the stress of creating a new festival, Adult Swim definitely had a grown-up task in front of them when it launched the Adult Swim Festival in 2018.
Setting up shop at the ROW DTLA in Los Angeles, over 2,000 miles from Atlanta’s William Street Studios where the programming block is produced, was a big risk despite starting relatively small for the festival’s debut. In its first year, most of Adult Swim Festival’s early imperfections stemmed from the fact that the popularity of the brand’s late-night programming felt too constricted in a pop-up parking lot venue in the middle of downtown L.A. Lines were long for various side attractions and overall there were lots of potentially great aspects of the fest that needed the right amount of space to be fleshed out.
“It was a smaller space so we could really start to establish it and pilot the festival and try some new things,” Jill King, senior vice president of marketing and partnerships for Adult Swim, said.
Fans of “Rick and Morty,” “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” “The Eric Andre Show” and “Robot Chicken” would agree that an event dedicated to Adult Swim’s off-beat brand of humor and musical taste is more deserving of an arena these days — which is what the festival did this time around. Upgrading to its new venue at the Banc of California Stadium just down Figueroa St., Adult Swim Fest is ready to roll out its second installment, featuring an array of immersive festival attractions, special screenings and comedy, along with music performers like Dethklok, Jamie xx, Vince Staples, 2 Chainz and many more. The goal is to thread the culture of Adult Swim through every aspect of the event while creating a mixture of high-tech and analog experiences for the fans.
“We’re only adding from here to create really cool opportunities for fans and that’s a must,” Ashely Wagner, the network’s senior director of marketing, said. “They’re very visual, interactive and engaging and that helps drive the direction of everything we build out as far as experiences.”
One of the most attractive things about moving to Banc of California Stadium is its massive 22,000 capacity along with plenty of jumbo video screens, faster WiFi and modern, high-tech amenities that will be used to present new and exclusive Adult Swim content and special screenings of shows throughout the stadium prior to public viewing.
“We wanted to find the right space this year where we could pop up all of our experiences,” King said.
In addition to musical and comedy acts on the bill, the second Adult Swim Fest will feature one-of-a-kind attractions with new on-site activations, including The Rickflector, a machine that transports the melted minds of fans directly into the animated world of “Rick and Morty.” The festival will also debut the Morty Slide, which will launch fans into their own “Goodbye, Moonman” daydream, and Cat Joust, where they will mount valiant feline steeds to compete for honor and adoration against friend or foe. Try your best to stay on the bucking-bronco-style Mechanical Hot Dog Ride or escape the sun by ducking into newly revamped Meatwad Dome to catch 360 degrees of Adult Swim premieres and favorites.
The fest is also unveiling its official app, which includes the full schedule of events and a new RSVP feature for admission into limited capacity events and exclusive screenings within the festival.
“We’re hoping with our RSVP system this year we’ll alleviate some of those longer wait times we saw in 2018,” Wagner said.
One thing Adult Swim has in common with most festivals is that the music is what holds it all together. Jason DeMarco, the network’s senior vice president and creative director of on-air, curated the lineup which runs the gamut of everything (including those mentioned above) from masked hip-hop maven Leikeli47 to crossover thrash metal band Iron Reagan. DeMarco’s choices for this year’s talent aligned with the channel’s tastemaking Singles Program, featuring many artists who’ve gone on to break big with exclusive songs for Adult Swim.
“Jason has definitely created a music ID for Adult Swim and we’re going for it because of him,” King said. “He’s always been at the forefront of A&R and discover and last year Jason was very intentional about trying to work with as many Adult Swim artists as possible.”
As the fest continues to develop, King says it’s also giving bigger artists outside the Adult Swim universe to a chance to develop a relationship with the brand when they sign on to play the fest.
There are also plenty of fan favorites on the bill. This year, Wagner says organizers were able to satisfy the biggest artist request from die-hard Adult Swim heads: the return of Dethklok, the death metal devils behind the show “Metalocalypse” for their first performance in seven years.
“We’re really excited to have them headlining on Friday and that also came from fan feedback,” Wagner said. “When we launched the Adult Swim Festival last year so many people were like ‘Bring back Dethklok!’ So this year we were able to make it happen.”
Listening to fan requests is a big part of what could make Adult Swim Fest a viable competitor in not just the Southern California festival scene but anywhere else they decide to go. Both King and Wagner said that the network has plans to expand to other cities and possibly other countries as well. Adult Swim fans probably shouldn’t be surprised that there have been talks about adding an installment in Atlanta in the future.
“Atlanta is home-court advantage, we love Atlanta that’s been one of the markets that’s popped on social for us…it’s a destination city and we feel we could serve a lot of East Coast markets,” King said. “We haven’t settled yet, there’s a couple other cities that we are looking at but we definitely are looking to do that to another city.”
Depending on how well the festival does this year, the weekend of cartoons and cool vibes could become an even larger hit than people expect. But, for a brand that prides itself on starting small, it’s all a part of building a big festival that’s growth is reminiscent of its roots on the small screen.
“It’s all about getting better every year and dialing it in,” King says.
Adult Swim Festival at Banc of California Stadium kicks off Nov. 15-16. For full schedule and tickets, click here.