Here's how one of the most popular animated shows on late-night TV gets made
16 years agoSeth Green decided to take his love of action figures and combine it with one of his major passions: stop-motion animation. The idea for Cartoon Network's late-night animated series “Robot Chicken” was born and the animation world suddenly changed.
The success of the show led to the creation of Stoopid Buddy Stoodios in 2012, which Green runs along with “Robot Chicken” co-creator Matthew Senreich and one-time animators on the show, John Harvatine IV and Eric Towner. The move has extended their brand of creative work to commercials, movies (they are responsible for the cool end-credits sequence in “The Lego Movie”) and they were even offered to put their own spin on the iconic opening of “The Simpsons."
But “Robot Chicken” is still the foundation of the company.
If you’ve never seen it, “Robot Chicken” is a stop-motion animated show that has aired on Cartoon Network’s late-night Adult Swim lineup since 2005 and is filled with short sketches featuring raunchy action figures in hilarious situations. Skits include a "Star Wars" Stormtrooper taking his daughter to work or the characters from “The Golden Girls” acting as if they were in an episode of “Sex and the City.”
You may have seen a few of their most popular sketches, like the giraffe stuck in quicksand who's going through the five stages of grief.
For years, Green and Senreich would put the sketches together with their writers and then hand over the creation of sets and action figures for the episodes in the hands of outside companies spanning from California to Florida. But after teaming with Harvatine and Towner to form Stoopid Buddies, they brought everything in-house. Now they work out of a facility in Burbank, California where they oversee close to 170 artists who mainly make up the team that spend close to a year to produce a season of “Robot Chicken.”
According to Green, the biggest revelation in doing the show for so many years is you have to multitask.
“It’s impossible to accomplish a sketch-based episodic show without shooting multiple episodes at the same time,” he told Business Insider. “When we are doing a ‘Robot’ season we’ll have as many as 20 stages operating different sketches from different episodes.”
And then there are the voices for each episode. Usually done by celebrities, though you’d hardly know it as they rarely use their normal speaking voices, the show has accumulated quite a roster. Regulars include Green, Seth MacFarlane, Donald Faison, and Mila Kunis. Guest voices range from Val Kilmer to Vanessa Hudgens.
Green and Senreich always head the voice recording sessions and often track the people down to do them.
“With the voices we have a long list of people we want to get,” Senreich explains. “They are people we’ve run into or we just know they want to do the show. And then there’s the list of people who we need.”
“Somebody who sounds like He-Man, somebody who sounds like Papa Smurf,” Green adds.
But the one person on that list they’ve tried for years to land for the show but with no success has been Harrison Ford.
“We came really close once,” said Senreich. “He was shooting ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ in New Mexico and we got the call a little too late that he might be able to do it if we got out to New Mexico. But we’ll keep trying.”
“Years ago Matt and I had this experience where we took this job because we thought it would be a good step [for the company],” Green recalls. “It was miserable, and we wound up never making those projects. After that we were like, Let’s not work with people who we wouldn’t work with for free. That’s the kind of stuff we want to be making.”
Reruns of "Robot Chicken" currently air at midnight on Cartoon Network.
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