This is a project I had wanted to do for some time. Rick and Morty’s Mr. Meseeks is (are?) a character whose mannerisms are so weirdly infectious: Manically cheerful, dutiful, and very tightly wound. Justin Roiland’s singular performance continues to make me chuckle, despite having seen the episode probably a dozen times by this point.
Of course, there’s also something wonderful about a box with a big, shiny button that seems to scream “PUSH ME”.
Step 1: Prep and Materials
There were a few goals I wanted out of this project:
- A nice, big, pushable button
- A random introduction every time the button was pressed
- A relatively sturdy box, but…
- Relatively affordable and easy to build
I knew that all of the electronics enthusiasts out there had likely provided me with an easy path forward. Rather, making a box that was the right size and was economical without being flimsy was going to be the challenge. Here’s what I decided to go with.
For the electronic components:
- 60mm Blue Arcade Button
A big, beautiful, blue, light-up button.
- Adafruit Audio FX Sound Board with 2x2W Amp
Adafruit saved me the trouble of doing any Arduino programming by coming up with this sound-board on-a-chip. You load samples onto via USB, which will play sequentially, randomly, or in a couple of other ways, depending on how the files are named. It has eleven button triggers, and this model includes two 2-Watt amplifiers.
- Salvaged Computer Speakers
A pair of speakers I salvaged from an old Logitech LS21 2.1 Stereo Speaker System I picked up for a couple of bucks from the local Salvation Army.
- 3 x AAA Battery Holder
Roughly enough power for the sound board and the button LED – this turned out perfect for me. Apparently more power can be applied for louder sound. Your mileage may vary.
- Small Prototyping Breadboard
Using a prototyping board instead of soldering will make it easer to salvage the components if I want to reuse them later.
- Small On/Off Rocker Switch
The smallest that still seemed reasonable.
- Various Length Jumper Wires
I keep them in a drawer.
- 20mm Blue Arcade Button
More on this later...
For the box:
- A Gift Box
From the local dollar-store. Not exactly cubical, but sturdy. All the gift boxes I could find were slightly squat.
- EVA Craft Foam
I went with this because its easy to work with, and because I wanted the box to have a touchable, 3D-effect.
- Other Supplies
Spray adhesive, superglue, foam board, and some sharp utility knives.
Step 2: Testing the Electronics
There’s not much to tell with this step. Adafruit documents their products very thoroughly and coherently. Still, I wanted to make sure the board worked with the speakers I had scrounged. After tearing apart the speakers’ cases and examining the actual speaker components, it seemed like they would be fine. The volume was just about perfect, so I didn’t need to fiddle with that.
Setup was so easy, in fact, that I wanted to add one extra feature. I decided that the bottom of the box would have a second, smaller button (the aforementioned 20mm button) for triggering one of Mr. Meseeks’ responses. That way, you could hit the main button, ask for something, and then surreptitiously tap the smaller button to get Mr. Meseeks’ charming acquiescence.
Step 3: Mounting Components
I marked the absolute center on the top of the box and cut out a hole for the large arcade button.
Now it was time to mount components. I wanted to make sure to distribute the weight on the sides as evenly as possible – avoiding a lopsided center-of-gravity that would make the box tippy.
The speakers are, somewhat obviously, the heaviest. The speakers had “elevated” mounting points (see photo from Step 2), so I needed to figure out a way to make those points level with the rest of the speaker’s body. I decided to cut up a synthetic cork into “bumpers”. I used short wood screws to secure each speaker to its bumpers, then used hot glue to attach them to opposite sides of the box’s interior. Hot glue cools and hardens fast so I had to work quickly, and I didn’t skimp on the glue. Overall, this worked way better than I expected. Those speakers aren’t going anywhere now.
Step 4: Exterior Covering
Somewhat annoyingly, it seemed impossible to find EVA foam that really matched the teal-ish colour of the Meseeks Box seen in the show. Nevertheless, I decided to just push through and go with a couple of shades of blue, which I think is fine because the lighter shade is the same colour as the Meseeks themselves.
I cut five faces of dark foam. Then in turn, I sprayed the back of each with adhesive spray and pressed them onto their respective box sides. This worked… okay. Adhesive spray is recommended for EVA foam, but I found that the edges wanted to peel back. I ended up finishing the edges with lines of superglue later.
The large arcade button has a plastic bolt which allows it to be secured easily. With the LED lit up, after dark, it’s a beautiful thing.
I left them free-floating for a while during assembly, but I would eventually secure the breadboard to the side of the box (using its adhesive backing) and the battery compartment to the bottom (using hot glue).
Step 5: Exterior Details
Next, I created a mockup of the box’s faces in Illustrator. The top face remained square, but the side face was resized to the slightly-rectangular aspect ratio of my gift box. I divided each face into four pieces with miter-joints (see photo). Then I printed the document and cut the pieces out to create paper templates. I used a utility knife for the long parallel lines, and scissors for short angled ones.
I cut these pieces extremely carefully – worried about them not quite lining up correctly. However, since the foam has a bit of give, this was mostly a non-issue. I superglued them all to their respective faces.
The last detail was the bright green octagons on each of the side faces. Once again, I created a paper template to guide my cutting. The hexagons on the box in the show have two dark parallel lines on them – these felt like an important detail. I pressed some indentations into the foam and then drew over them with a green sharpie. Finally, I attached them with superglue.
Step 6: The Sounds
By this point, I needed a break from construction (and to be completely honest, if I didn’t distract myself and let the glue dry, I would probably have ruined something with my lack of patience).
I had pulled some audio clips of Mr. Meseeks from the episode in question. First, I isolated a pure sample of the sound that the box makes when the button is pressed. There’s an ascending line of electronic blips, followed by the very magical-sounding “poof”, accompanied by a gentle jingle of chimes. It's very "technology meets genie".
Mr. Meseeks’ greeting was more difficult. The problem is that the only character who doesn’t interrupt Mr. Meseeks’ greeting is Rick. Every other character – including the Meseeks themselves – can barely let the summoned Meseeks say hello before their “wish” comes greedily tumbling out of their lips. Even Jerry, the calmest after Rick, starts clearing his throat before Meseeks has finished saying his name.
So, after isolating the greetings in Audacity, I usually had to crop the audio as close as possible to each “interruption”, and then used tricks such as slight looping and reverb to make it sound as if they hadn’t been cut off early. It isn’t perfect – too bad the Smith family is so impatient!
Step 7: The Bottom and Final Assembly
As aforementioned, I might want to repurpose the components at some point. Besides this, I also need access to the battery compartment. I decided that the bottom would need to be easily-removable.
I cut out a square of foam-core and glued some blue EVA foam to it. I also cut two small holes: one for the “response” button, and one for an on/off switch.
The bottom fits snugly and more or less “floats” in place. I made a simple hinge out of duct tape, as well as a pull-tab to remove the bottom for access.
I'm fairly happy with how this turned out. It won't last forever, and certainly isn't a rugged, studio-quality prop, but it's fun to have around. Special thanks go to Adafruit for making such great components, and to Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland for their hilarious show.