SDCC | The Hilarity of ‘Robot Chicken’
The big news from the Robot Chicken creative team at Comic-Con International in San Diego was the Robot Chicken Bitch Pudding Special, which premiered Sunday on Adult Swim.
Now in its seventh season, the stop-motion animated series presents warped renditions of childhood favorites and pop-culture icons alike; Robot Chicken‘s characters are both memorable and questionable, with one of the worst most likely being Bitch Pudding — the group’s cantankerous, murderous take on Strawberry Shortcake. So unsurprisingly, her general maleficent demeanor has earned her a show of her own.
At the Robot Chicken panel on Friday, co-creator/executive producer Matthew Senreich, co-head writer Tom Root, writer/director Zeb Wells and actor/writer Breckin Meyer joined co-creator Seth Green to discuss the show. Green began the session by teasing the unveiling of the special’s trailer ahead the episode’s television premiere, and then screened the entire special for the grateful crowd.
The depravity began with Bitch Pudding interrupting Granny Graham Crackers’ funeral. Cast out of Pastryville, Bitch Pudding finds herself in the midst of a conflict between the friendly Shlorps (think pink Smurfs in blue pants) and the Evil Squirrel Magician. Papa Shlorp explains that their supply of Shlorpnuts has run low as a result of pilfering by the Evil Squirrel Wizard on One Tree Hill. He cuts a deal with Bitch Pudding — she gets the Shlorpnuts back and the Shlorps get her home. If only it could be that easy because when Bitch Puddin’ gets involved, the ordeal escalates uncontrollably.
Of course, Bitch Pudding eventually makes it back to Pastryville where she finds out exactly who was behind the banishment. And then, she exacts her revenge. Just be on the lookout for Bitch Pudding invoking fan-favorite scenes from two Arnold Schwarzenegger favorites: Predator and Commando.
After the screening, Meyer began to complain because he wasn’t in the special at all — “I could’ve done a crow’s voice or something” — to which Green replied, “How many shows can you be on at one time?” The bickering delighted the crowd throughout the panel.
Prior to the panel, Spinoff Online was lucky enough to attend a sit-down interview with Root, Wells, Meyer and Senreich who gave even more insight into the show’s workings.
“The only issue is scaling back our ideas,” Root said. “The thought was ‘Oh, we can finally pick a character for one complete story’ and there were limitless possibilities. And then we were like ‘If we just wanted to cause mayhem, we need to make it as simple as possible.’ We would like her to go off and have an epic adventure — although this might not be it!’”
However, there are also challenges beyond scaling back on ideas. “One season we were writing and I had just hit a wall. I just hit a block wall,” Meyer recalled. “I was like, ‘I can’t do another Britney Spears fucking this person sketch’ or whatever it was. One of the writers gave me a topic — the doorway.”
Senreich indicated the story has actually become somewhat of a legend amongst the staff, saying, “It’s been like five years and he still brings it up.”
“It never got on because I have this one letter from the censors,” Meyer said. “‘We cannot approve this sketch because the rabbit defecates in the boy’s mouth and then sexually assaults him in his sleep.’ Which did not make it to air.
“By the way, my goal [was] to write a children’s story,” he continued. “I really wanted to make it a children’s story. It’s about adjusting to a new home and all this stuff. And actually Malcolm McDowell was going to do the voiceover. I love this sketch so much!’” Meyer promised the sketch would come out soon — “It’s going to be like The Fountainhead!”
When Wells was asked about favorite characters, he said G.I. Joe was his preference. “I think G.I. Joe is a big favorite for everybody,” he said. “I still get a kick out of seeing the toys I played with when I was a kid. You leave the stage and come back and they’re moving. It sounds cheesy but I still really get excited by that!”
“I really like when we do superheroes,” Root continued. “When we do Marvel and we do DC just because those things are designed to be toys in the first place. They’re so colorful and look so good on camera. Everyone understands their powers and you can jump into any story with them. Specifically, when I was a kid I liked the Teen Titans when George Perez and Marv Wolfman were doing them. So I’d love to sneak Kid Flash into an episode.”
He also recalled a sketch about Teen Titans prom, appropriately with Terra as a Carrie-like character. “I’ve written a lot of Teen Titans sketches that almost go the distance and die at the last second,” he said. “Yes, I will write it. No, you will not see it.”
Robot Chicken has had a veritable whos-who of guest stars, and Senreich was hard-pressed to pick only one favorite. “It’s like picking your children,” he said. “We were talking about Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise; for me, that was one of the more surreal ones. George Lucas doing the show was preposterous — he should not be acting, let alone on our show — and he’s just way too good but he just does it.”
“We have personal reasons, like I have the biggest crush on Katee Sackhoff, so the fact that we can get her in there is always fun,” Meyer said. “But also like JK Simmons who I wrote an Oz sketch about praying we’d get him. And then he came on and has come back and likes the show and legitimately digs the show. When you run into someone and you’re like ‘Hey, would you do the show?’ you don’t know if they’re like ‘Yeah, sure’ but [Josh] Groban was like ‘I’d love to!’ and he legitimately likes the show.”
But as Meyer recalled, they don’t always get their favorites. “The best thing is there was a document sent out because it had to be official ‘We want to offer the role of Han Solo to Harrison Ford.’ And he passed.”
Later, during the panel, Meyer indicated there’s an actress who has expressed interest in guest-starring but hasn’t made it quite yet. “There’s one girl who’s said to me three different times ‘I want to do the show’ and every time we call her to do it, she won’t,” Meyer said. “I’m not going to name who she is but her name rhymes with ‘Bennifer Flove Do It’ … She’s rebuffed us three times and I’ve done two fucking talking cat films with her. … So, maybe the ghosts can whisper to you they don’t want you [in Robot Chicken].”
During the audience Q&A for the panel, the subject of getting Mike Tyson to guest-star on the show came up — and while Green said he’s an unabashed fan, Meyer had a specific anecdote about Iron Mike.
“Mike Tyson is on Franklin and Bash this year — I’m not joking, by the way — and I had to do an impression of him to his face and punch him on the show,” Meyer said. “And the scariest two things I’ve ever had to do in my life is do an impression of Mike Tyson to his face and punch him because he’s not really known for not punching people.”
“Wow, Breckin is talking about Franklin and Bash again,” Wells said sarcastically. “It must be a day that ends in Y.”
When another audience member asked whether any episode has resulted in hate mail, the group recollected a story about Stevie Wonder. Joking that he had never actually even “seen” the episode, they recalled receiving a letter from his representatives about Wonder playing Double Dare — the old Nickelodeon game show with lots of slime.
The group is currently talking to DC Entertainment right now about a third DC Comics-themed special. While everyone wants to do it, it’s currently down to “semantics.”
Going back to the subject of guest stars, there are some people that really want to be on the show.
“Malcolm McDowell asks every week to be on the show,” Meyer said. “Every. Week. He’s like, [in a grainy McDowell impression] ‘When are you going to have me on?’ And I reply, ‘You’ve already fucking done it!’ ‘Bring me back. I can do different characters.’ My reply is: ‘You do one voice and it’s Malcolm McDowell.’”
The subject of Meyer’s show Franklin and Bash came up again, with the actor saying it’s pretty unlikely that they’d ever do a parody. “I don’t think we ever did [try one],” Meyer said. “On Mad Kevin [Shinick], who used to write for Robot Chicken, they did one; they did Franklin and Crash Bandicoot. And what was great is legally I had to say no. There’s a non-parody clause in certain contracts so I couldn’t do Franklin. I was like ‘Can I do Bash?’ because I still don’t know which one I play. But I couldn’t.”
Senreich told a story about Cee-Lo Green and his campaign to do an episode of Robot Chicken. “Cee-Lo reached out to Seth [Green] and asked, ‘When am I going to do Robot Chicken?’” When asked whether Cee-Lo and Green were friends, Meyer immediately responded with a resounding “Yep!” (“They saw each down the hallway in some random location and he screamed,” Senreich said.) Meyer chimed in with a spot-on Cee-Lo imitation saying, “Hey, Seth Green! Seth Green! I want to come do Robot Chicken! Can I do it?’”
Prior to finishing the panel, Green announced their collaboration with Team Unicorn as a “throwback Saturday morning show with live action wraparounds and cartoons in the middle — sort of like the ‘Mr. T Show’” and is “the amalgamation of all we love.”
In the closing moments, a teaser for the August 17th Robot Chicken season finale was previewed. In it, the eponymous robot chicken and his evil scientist creator find themselves allied with one another against a single, evil force.