Robot Chicken: Season OneSeth Green's stop motion opus to absurdity
By Adam Frazier
The brainchild of Seth Green (Buffy the Vampire Slayer
and Matthew Senreich, Robot Chicken is a sketch comedy series that
parodies pop culture conventions using stop motion animation of toys,
action figures, dolls, and claymation.
As part of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block, Robot Chicken
airs 15-minute episodes with sketches that range anywhere from three
minutes to five seconds, each interrupted by a change of channel to a
completely new and random skit already in progress.
shortest sketches are usually quick sight gags - a giraffe getting hit
by a train, for instance - the longer ones are amazing spoofs of pop
culture. Skeletor, Cobra Commander, Lex Luthor, and Mum-Ra stuck in
traffic on the way to work; Voltron has a dance-off with a space
monster; Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise organize another Cannonball Run,
with Vin Diesel racing against the Dukes of Hazzard, Knight Rider and
the Super Mario Brothers. Yes, it's truly that random and off-the-wall.
one sketch, Joey Fatone trains for a martial-arts tournament to get
back at the Yakuza squad who murdered his fellow N'sync bandmates. He
ends up squaring off against the combined forces of Britney Spears,
Ashley Simpson, Jessica Simpson, Avril Lavigne and Christina Aguilera -
who form a giant beast with five heads and a voracious appetite for
sketch is The Real World Metropolis, a spoof in which several
superheroes stop being nice and start getting real. Someone is stealing
Catwoman's Hello Kitty undies, and Superman refuses to do his chores
because he's too busy saving the world to be bothered with vacuuming.
You get the idea.
Perhaps my favorite skit from season one picks
up in the Autobots' locker room after a skirmish with the Decepticons.
A couple of the guys mention how they've noticed Optimus Prime's
frequent trips to the bathroom lately. Turns out he has prostate
cancer. Bumble Bee is crushed, and the team is at a loss when their
leader suddenly and shockingly dies. The whole parody is proceeded with
one of those classic ‘80s public service announcements where Optimus
Prime warns us humans about cancer and suggests we get our asses
Like other animated shows such as South Park
, Beavis & Butthead
and The Simpsons
, Robot Chicken
offers multiple layers of humor, from the juvenile to upper-brow
societal satire. The animation offers fond nostalgia for those who grew
up in the ‘80s and remember playing with He-Man, Thundercats and Star
Wars toys. The voice talent should be mentioned as well, as actors like
Breckin Myer and Donald Faison often lend their voices to the show.
There's also a seemingly never-ending list of guest stars that take
sketches to the next level. Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker himself, has
appeared in numerous skits to play his Jedi alter ego and Family Guy's
Seth McFarlane, Lance Bass, Conan O'Brien and even the cast of That
‘70s Show have all appeared at one time or another.
The only thing lacking in Robot Chicken
is the structure of the show itself. It's just too damn short. Minus
commercials, each episode runs a little over 10 minutes in length.
There's so much content packed into the episodes, however, the length
doesn't seem to matter in the end. In fact, it's probably just the
right length for what it is. It leaves you wanting more and lends
itself well to the DVD format.
Speaking of the DVD, season one
is filled with some pretty awesome bonus materials. Features on the
disc include commentaries on all episodes with Seth Green and writers.
There's also a photo Gallery, deleted animatics and scenes as well as a
behind the scenes featurette.
The commentaries are great. Seth
Green and a variety of writers and actors talk about the show really
explore all the interesting behind-the-scenes stories that inspired the
show. Robot Chicken
is a show
that has to fight low budgets, cautious censors, and the limitations of
stop motion animation and the writers and creators take every chance to
explore those obstacles.
Basically, if you're a fan of anarchic
obscure references to ‘80s cartoons and video games, you'll love this
show. If you're a frequent watcher of shows such as Family Guy
or anything on Adult Swim, you're probably already hooked on Seth Green and Matthew Senreich's opus to random absurdity.