The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Anatomy Park: A Rick and Morty Christmas Episode

“Not now, Jerry, I’ve got -uurp- much, much smaller fish to fry” —Rick to Jerry, Rick and Morty

On Christmas Day, Morty is sent inside the body of Rueben, a homeless man to locate one Dr. Bloom and save the homeless man’s life, in a parody of The Fantastic Voyage, and finds a Jurassic Park-style enclosure designed to prevent the escape of deadly pathogens. However, this operation soon fails, and Rick must extract Morty from Rueben: he uses a growth ray to increase Rueben’s size, leading to a nation-wide panic about a giant, naked Santa. Meanwhile, Jerry is trying to get his family to bond during Christmas without any electronic devices, eventually deciding that, after Rueben explodes and showers the nation with blood, his family may have their devices again to relax. When Rick and Morty arrive back home, Rick decides to build another Anatomy Park after Annie, one of Dr. Bloom’s team, reveals she studied under him. Rick returns to find the family engrossed in their devices and lectures them for not understanding the meaning of Christmas. This marks the first time I’ve presented a discussion of a non-anime animation on this blog; Rick and Morty’s “Anatomy Park” episode is a unique one in several respects, for combining Christmas with an aspect that figured centrally in my graduate thesis. Although inaccurate from a scientific perspective, “Anatomy Park” remains an absolute riot for anyone who’s seen The Fantastic Voyage, Jurassic Park or have a basic knowledge of biology.

Together with Futurama’s “Parasites Lost”, “Anatomy Park” is a comical but immensely visual representation of what journeying inside a biological space would be like. The vast differences scales from the world we are familiar with is mind-boggling, and one of the reasons why biology is continuously presented as a discipline demanding rote memorisation is partially because it is so difficult to visualise what is happening. Visualisations have the advantage of giving a user some idea of the spatial and temporal attributes of a biological process (such as the transport of mRNA from the nucleus) and consequently, would make it easier to recall the steps in how different reactions occur within an organism. This formed the basis for my thesis project, by making use of game engines and virtual reality equipment to bring cell spaces to life, telling stories about biological processes in the same manner as The Fantastic Voyage or even Rick and Morty. In the case of Rick and Morty, only a handful of spaces in the body are explored, but owing to Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon’s writing talents, each area of the body remains distinct and memorable. Its inappropriateness for education notwithstanding, “Anatomy Park” is a strong reminder that visualisations depend largely on offering something unique that the mind can recall, in turn prompting me to design my cell visualisations with a similar mindset so each area is easy to identify.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My defense was nearly a half year ago now, and even then, it still surprises me that time flows so quickly. In my thesis paper, my supervisor had suggested that I reference The Fantastic Voyage, along with The Magic School Bus, as a source, and back during 2014, when I was starting The Giant Walkthrough Brain project, I had been assigned to watch the movie. I failed and only had time to read the summary, but with some screenshots, I had the gist of what was going on.

  • In the motivation section, I would ultimately mention The Fantastic Voyage and The Magic School Bus, but in addition, also would state Futurama and Rick and Morty as inspiration for my thesis project. I was fully waiting for those works to be struck out: either they went unnoticed, or my supervisor didn’t mind, because in my thesis’ final form, references to Rick and Morty and Fututama persisted.

  • Here, Rick shrinks Morty down to microscopic size so that he may travel through Rueben’s body and reach Dr. Bloom. Shrinking and miniturisation technologies will probably remained confined to the realm of fiction, since the distances between electrons, protons and neurons making up atoms cannot be arbitrarily be altered. Moreover, biological systems cannot be scaled up and down, otherwise, certain metabolic reactions would cease to occur. For the purpose of science fiction, however, we set aside these realities and simply allow the journey to occur.

  • Anatomy Park is part amusement park, part repository for pathogens. Of the attractions in Anatomy Park, Rick is fiercely protective of the Pirates of the Pancreas, as it was his brainchild: despite resistance from the other folks who set up the park, Rick managed to succeed in incorporating Pirates of the Pancreas into the project, but remains somewhat defensive about its status.

  • Rick’s protectiveness of the Pirates of the Pancreas, coupled with the fact that I work in a health-related position, means that every time I see pancreas while working on my app, I say “Pirates of the Pancreas” out loud. Those wondering why my coworkers don’t mind is because each and every one of them is also familiar with Rick and Morty. I discovered that one day when I reclined in my chair and hummed “Baker Street” after a successful test of my algorithms.

  • From left to right (z-ordering independent), we have Annie, Roger, Dr. Xenon Bloom and Poncho. Annie is a young girl who works at a churro stand in Anatomy Park, while Roger is the “zookeeper” of the pathogens. Dr. Bloom is based off John Hammond of Jurassic Park, being Anatomy Park’s co-founder. Poncho is Bloom’s security detail. With this motley crew, Morty must move through Rueben’s body and learn why Anatomy Park’s systems are failing.

  • The Hepatitis A virus is a nonenveloped virus containing a single-stranded RNA packaged in a protein shell: it is unlikely to manifest as a monster from the movie Cloverfield, but having anthropomorphic versions of different pathogens would make them more memorable. When it is encountered, Poncho opens fire with his assault rifle, but at this scale, the bullets only enrage the beast.

  • Although I’ve not shown any moments here to keep the blog (mostly) family friendly, there are some moments of gratuitous violence in Rick and Morty, although like Family Guy, it is done for comedy’s sake, which removes the disturbing component. One of Anatomy Park’s staff is ripped apart from the air flow inside the respiratory system: the forces peel his skin off, then shreds his muscles and explodes his skull. Back at the macro scale, Rueben coughs on Rick, and only mucous is shown.

  • Today is Christmas Eve; after a day of gaming, I helped with the preparation of Christmas dinner; besides the large twenty-pound turkey as the centerpiece, we had ham with pineapple, garlic shrimp, triple-baked potatoes and mixed vegetables, followed by cheesecake for desert. The turkey was using the same techniques as we’d used last Thanksgiving (stuffing the interior with carrots, onions and parsley, then slowly backing it elevated over water): this method yielded very juicy white and dark meat, and tomorrow, we will be using the bones for a family special: turkey congee. It is a bit of a family tradition to have a more fancy dinner on Christmas Eve: on Christmas Day itself, we usually remain at home and relax.

  • When I left my old lab back in June following my defense, I archived my projects onto a USB thumbdrive. There are two versions of the project: the Unity variant was intended for use in Virtual Reality environments such as Oculus Rift and the CAVE, while the Unreal version was designed to be for constructing highly visual representations of cellular processes. Throughout my thesis, I was careful to never call my project a “simulation”, since I emphasised visualisations to a much greater extent than mathematical modelling techniques.

  • With that being said, I did make use of agent-based modelling to drive the behaviours of my visualisations: in conjunction with the physics engines offered in the game engine, systems could operate in a quasi-stochastic manner. In Anatomy Park, Annie became one of the more interesting characters: despite showing a bit of apathy towards Morty initially, his actions turn her views of him around, and late in the episode, she and Morty begin making out.

  • While my old projects are now finished, I’ve heard from my supervisor that there is renewed interest in the project: my thesis had been very much a breadth-drive project, where I strove to construct a variety of systems and the necessary infrastructure to explore them to demonstrate the efficacy of game engines in rendering complex biological environments. As a consequence, most systems were very simplistic, but in the upcoming summer, some undergraduate students will extent my project further.

  • While my models lack the same aspects as Anatomy Park, especially with respect to familiar structures like boat rides and concession stands, I did include labels to make it easier to identify objects, and also provided a simple ray-casting method that identified objects users were looking at. Rueben contracts tuberculosis mid-way into the operation, and succumbs: while Rick can cure tuberculosis, the power of resurrecting the dead is beyond even him, so the name of the game changes from a salvage operation to escaping.

  • Throughout the episode, an unknown saboteur has been suspected of compromising Anatomy Park’s security, and while Annie is initially a suspect, it turns out that Poncho has been responsible; his distain for Dr. Bloom’s treatment of the staff means that he’s willing to do anything to seek better employment, but before anything can happen, Morty kicks him, and botulism toxins attack him, knocking him off the platform into the depths below.

  • One of the more curious discontinuities is the clock in Rick’s workshop: in an earlier screenshot, it reads 3:00 PM, but here, it’s now an hour earlier. Rick is working to figure out how to exfil Morty before they return to normal size, and notes to Jerry that he’s got “much smaller fish to fry”, which forms the page quote. The expression “bigger fish to fry” refers to having more important things to direct one’s attention towards, but here, Rick is referring to the fact that his issues are very small in a literal sense.

  • There is a train that will take Dr. Bloom, Annie and Morty to Rueben’s left nipple, where Rick is set to pick them up. However, before they can board, E. coli attack. These E. coli resemble bacteriophage viruses, and Dr. Bloom remains to fight them in order to allow Annie and Morty to escape, being killed in the process.

  • Hepatitis C (HCV) shows up to stop Hepatitis A (HAV), giving Morty and Annie a thumbs-up before taking off with the subdued Hepatitis A. The Hepatitis viruses affect the liver and have a variety of unpleasant symptoms: the HAV and HBV have vaccinations, although there is no known vaccine for HCV. With the way clear, the pair reach Rick’s spacecraft and they escape moments before Rueben explodes, sending blood, guts and core splattering across the continental USA.

  • I’m glad that the weather in reality is more benign than the bloodfall that the Smith family experiences. We’ve had snow since yesterday — after a foggy commute to work, the snow began as I submitted my prototype build, falling heavily by the time I left. By now, least fifteen centimeters of snow has accumulated, and more is expected tomorrow, although the forecast projects that it will clear by tomorrow afternoon. Hence, I will spend the morning relaxing beside the Christmas tree, perhaps reading some books and gaming, and if weather permits, I will take a hike in the snow-covered parks nearby.

  • As it turns out, Annie has knowledge of how to reproduce another Anatomy Park, and Rick promptly sends her on her way to do so, leaving Morty disappointed that his relationship with her ended so promptly. The joke regarding Rick’s remark was noted by Justin Roilan to be added in to see if the network, Adult Swim, would let it pass. It did, forcing the creators to come up with a justification of how Rick knows.

  • Everyone’s glued to their screens again, leading Rick on a short rant, and with that, this post comes to a close. Regular progamming resumes on Wednesday with Brave Witches‘ finale, and before the year ends, a post on Hibike! Euphonium as a whole. It’s the Silent Night now, and with Santa inbound in under an hour, it’s high time I publish this post and get to sleep.

While secondary to the Anatomy Park itself, “Anatomy Park” has a subplot that deals with Jerry coming to terms with his parents’ relationship and his own desire for a more human holiday. The Christmas season is ordinarily a time of togetherness (as GochiUsa demonstrates): despite the whacky nature of the Rick and Morty universe and Jerry’s characterisation as someone insecure, he nonetheless can picks up on what helps those around him — when blood rains from the skies after Rueben explodes, Jerry yields and returns everyone’s electronics, ironically leading Rick to challenge whether or not anyone in the family actually believes in Christmas’ original message. The juxtaposition of Rick’s general apathy for Christmas and his reaction subsequently drives the humour in the episode’s final moments, and overall, “Anatomy Park” is an excellent example of the sort of comedy that defines Rick and Morty. At this point in time, I’ve finished the first season and will be looking to finish the second season before the third is released.

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