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The Stephen King References You Missed In Rick And Morty

"Rick and Morty" has endured a level of popularity and success that few shows ever reach. In fact, it proved to be such a hit early on, that in 2018, Adult Swim renewed the show with a staggering 70-episode order (per Deadline). "Rick and Morty" centers on the titular characters, both voiced by co-creator Justin Roiland, as they adventure through space and time. The series has leaned on its weird and often dark humor while balancing it with common science fiction tropes, though it often acknowledges and subverts these tropes.

"Rick and Morty" has also embraced the world of popular culture at large, often referencing relevant and highly successful films or franchises in general. This seems to especially be the case with well-known horror films and creators of famous horror staples. In fact, many fans might be surprised to learn just how many references "Rick and Morty" has packed into the show when it comes to the works of prolific horror author Stephen King.

The Shining and Lawnmower Man

In the Season 1 episode "Lawnmower Dog," there is one big visual reference to Stephen King from the classic Stanley Kubrick adaptation of "The Shining." But first, the title of the episode is itself a King reference, based on his 1975 short story "The Lawnmower Man," which centers around a murderous lawnmower man working for the god Pan. Of course, the events of the episode more closely follow "The Lawnmower Man" movie, which sees a scientist experiment on a man who eventually becomes so intelligent that he sheds his physical form and transforms into a fully digital being. This parallels one of the plot points of "Lawnmower Dog," which sees Morty's dog become extremely intelligent and attempt to take over the world.

"The Shining" visual gag comes into play when Morty's teacher, Mr. Goldenfold (Brandon Johnson), is on his couch. Above him is what appears to be a photo or a painting of a woman that's pulled directly out of Kubrick's "The Shining." Dick Hallorann's (Scatman Crothers) room contains a similar painting in the film. While this is more of a visual gag as opposed to something that inspires the story, it definitely fits into an episode that already pulls its name from yet another King story.

Needful Things and Pet Sematary

Once again, this double reference comes from Season 1 of "Rick and Morty," during the episode "Something Ricked This Way Comes." In fact, a large portion of the story's plot is very similar to the Stephen King book "Needful Things." Like that book, "Something Ricked This Way Comes" details a mysterious new shop appearing in town that's eventually revealed to be run by the Devil himself (Alfred Molina). While in the novel, the Devil uses these shops as a ruse to get unwitting people to sell away their souls, the Devil in "Rick and Morty" sells cursed items to people. There are a few key differences, but the fundamental plot remains largely the same.

One customer who comes to the shop is looking for a zombified version of his child and cat, and this seems to be a direct reference to another King novel, "Pet Sematary." In the novel, animals and humans that are buried in an old pet cemetery are brought back to life. Of course, being a King horror novel, there's a dark twist: everything that is resurrected is not the same ever again. In fact, they become murderous and violent when they return. This is just a small little reference in the episode, but it was clear that the writers wanted to pack in more than one King reference when they could.