October 22, 2008 Leigh Singer

Robot Chicken

Cult stop-motion animated comedy Robot Chicken is the brainchild of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Austin Powers star Seth Green and colleague Matt Senreich. Their quick-fire toy figure sketches lovingly spoof pop culture from the biggest blockbusters to forgotten cartoon shows, often getting big stars from Burt Reynolds to Scarlet Johansson to take part. The first season recently hit DVD in the UK.
IGN: You’re now on season four of Robot Chicken – would you say the show has developed since season one?

Seth Green: Oh, definitely. When we first started making the show it was such an experiment, we were just kind of making jokes that made us laugh, we were unsure of what the format was and if the ‘channel flips’ worked. In later seasons the channel flips had become more self-contained jokes than just bizarre, irreverent moments.

IGN: Can you just confirm where the name Robot Chicken comes from – I understand it’s something to do with a Chinese restaurant?

Matt Senreich: That is correct. When we were making the first season, we didn’t even have an office so we were writing it from Seth’s place and we would always order in for lunch from this Chinese restaurant. And there was a dish on the menu called ‘Robot Chicken’. We had submitted, like, 60 titles to the network that were totally rejected. As a joke we submitted another handful of them and in there we had Robot Chicken and they thought that was brilliant. Then we had to figure out what that meant!

IGN: So what’s in the real dish?

Matt Senreich: It’s kind of like an orange chicken, wouldn’t you say, Seth?

Seth Green: It was more a Sweet and Sour.

Matt Senreich: I still order from them – and I do still eat Robot Chicken!

IGN: Stop-motion animation is a notoriously painstaking, laborious process, so what’s the appeal of it for you?

Seth Green: Stop-motion is just a visually tangible medium and it’s something that audiences, no matter what the content is, will have the same reaction because you’re experiencing it in the same way you experience film, with depth-of-field and real-life shadows and real clothing and things that are tactile. CG, if it isn’t flawless, you always recognise that it’s not human, whereas with stop-motion, because it’s something that is physically real, you’re automatically more connected to it than you would be if it were 2-D or CG.

Matt Senreich: And I think there’s also just a thing of playing with toys…

IGN: So presumably you’re both now big toy figure experts?

Matt Senreich: I will go on record and say that I think Seth knows more about toys than I do.

Seth Green: Well the difference between knowing a lot about them and having a lot – let me just say that I have an extensive and kind of bizarre knowledge of toys.

 IGN: Seth, you must have figures of yourself from Buffy or Family Guy or Austin Powers?

Seth Green: There are indeed figures from all of those series.

IGN: So which is your favourite or the most life-like?

Seth Green: I actually thought that the Claymore sculpted Buffy six-inch figure was one of the best likenesses of me.

IGN: Were you surprised at being able to get so many celebrities doing their voices for the show?

Seth Green: What we found is that people have a really good sense of humour about themselves. And our jokes are never slanderously making fun of people, it’s all with love and reverence.

IGN: Who was the first star you got where you thought, ‘Wow, we could be on to something here’?

Matt Senreich: I’m embarrassed to say this but the first person we got on that we couldn’t believe we got him was [American Idol host] Ryan Seacrest. Just because it was such a fluke, we didn’t know him at all, he didn’t know the show, it was one of our very first episodes.

Seth Green: We got him in about the second series of American Idol when his star was rising pretty fast. We were bringing him in to do an American Idol parody, doing something he was still famous for doing, so that was really surprising.

Matt Senreich: And then right after that we got Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise, back-to-back, so it was then we realised we can get anybody we wanted.

IGN: Who are the dream guests you’ve yet to have on the show?

Seth Green: We’ve got a wish-list, it’s kind of hard to name off the top of my head. It’s all people that you’d expect like George Clooney and Harrison Ford.

IGN: Robot Chicken seems to have developed some real star fans too, like Robin Williams?

Seth Green: Isn’t that crazy? We’ve met a couple of times over the years and I just did a film Old Dogs with him and that was the first thing he said to me on set, that he loved Robot Chicken.

IGN: Does that make him a future guest?

Seth Green: I hope so, I’d love to get him on the show.

IGN: Have you drawn any inspiration for future sketches from this season’s blockbusters?

Matt Senreich: We have an Iron Man sketch coming up that Jon Favreau took part in.

Seth Green: And we have a bunch of Dark Knight sketches.

IGN: Finally, the Star Wars special that you did – how did you get George Lucas, who’s notoriously protective of Star Wars, to agree to it?

Seth Green: I’ve got to be honest, I think that’s somewhat of a misrepresentation because as protective as they are about people misusing the Star Wars brand, Lucas himself is really enthusiastic about parodies and the types of things that the community has created around Star Wars. For us, as fans, it was the ultimate experience.

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The published article can be read on IGN – ‘Robot Chicken Interview’