15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Robot Chicken’
While many kids have taken playtime to weird places or staged awkward sex scenes with action figures (right??), not many people have considered filming it and broadcasting it on cable television. Fortunately, in 2005 Adult Swim gave us Robot Chicken, the beloved stop-motion smorgasbord of pop-culture references co-created by former Can't Hardly Wait star/Bill Murray nemesis Seth Green. To celebrate everyone’s favorite toy-based show, we’ve collected some trivia about Robot Chicken, such as…
It Began With a Short About Conan O’Brien and Britney Spears
Robot Chicken owes its existence to co-creator Seth Green’s discomfort with interviews. While promoting the second Austin Powers movie, Green decided to burn three minutes of his time on Late Night with Conan O'Brien by making a short film in which Conan (played by his official action figure) goes to a convention and meets Britney Spears. It has not aged well.
The Show Started at Sony’s Defunct Screenblast.com
The Conan sketch spawned a series of shorts that debuted on everyone’s favorite streaming service… Sony Screenblast, a thing that apparently existed at the time. Back then, the show was known as Sweet J Presents.
Before Adult Swim, the Show Was Pitched Everywhere from ‘Saturday Night Live’ to ‘MADtv’
Before it landed at Adult Swim, Green, along with show co-creator Matt Senreich, pitched a version of Robot Chicken to numerous outlets, including MTV, Saturday Night Live and MADtv, where the sketches would have aired as interstitial animated segments, like the Mr. Bill shorts.
It Was Almost a Comedy Central Show, Until 9/11 Happened
The team eventually came close to making a deal with Comedy Central, but according to Green: “Then, 9/11 happened and killed comedy across all of these platforms for over a year. So that deal fell apart.”
The Name Came from a Chinese Food Menu
The name Robot Chicken was originally intended as a temporary placeholder, as it was literally the name of a dish listed on the menu of a Chinese restaurant frequented by the writers. But Adult Swim thought that the “fake” title was a “brilliant name for a show about toys.”
It Takes About Six Months to Film One Season
According to director Tom Sheppard, it takes “about six months to shoot the whole season of 20 episodes.” And around “a week and a half per episode for animation.” Although sometimes it’s more if the scene involves, say, a mass suicide at a performance of Stomp.
One Animator Uses a Modded Nintendo Power Glove
Animator Dillon Markey reportedly works using a "modified Nintendo Power glove” complete with a Bluetooth keyboard and “a retractable set of tweezers and a sensor that causes it to speak when given a fist bump.”
Zack Snyder Inadvertently Pitched an Old Sketch as a Movie Idea
Director Zack Snyder once came up with the idea of making a movie “about George Washington in the style of 300,” not realizing that said premise was already a Robot Chicken sketch.
‘Robot Chicken’ Predicted Spike Jonze’s ‘Her’ (Sort Of)
Green got his friend Scarlett Johansson to guest on the show and lend her voice to several sketches, playing herself, a “drug-addled” sex worker, and a “GPS system that falls in love with her driver” — as Green described, it’s almost the same plot as Her, which came out 10 years later.
Green Shot a Rom-Com While Making the First Season
While producing the show’s first season, Green was simultaneously filming the movie The Best Man in England and Hungary. Because of the time difference, he was “able to work a 24-hour cycle.”
The Island of Recalled Toys Was Full of Real Recalled Playthings
While many sketches are original comic ideas interpreted through the medium of toy-based animation, “The Island of Recalled Toys” began with the idea of using real toys that were “pulled from the market” — including the Buzz Lightyear boner cup.
The Theme Is by Les Claypool of Primus Fame
Hence the distinct “haunted circus factory at midnight” vibe.
The Puppets Are a Combination of Original Creations and Existing Toys
The show has used real toys, but when “toys just won’t work” for a sketch, they can either repurpose elements from them (such as plopping the head on a new body) or create a new figure from scratch, built on a posable armature.
The ‘Star Wars’ Special Came from a Meeting With George Lucas
The series of half-hour Star Wars specials began with Lucas himself, who saw the sketch in which Emperor Palpatine learns about the destruction of the Death Star and thought it was funny enough to invite Green and company for a meeting. As Lucasfilm's senior director of marketing said at the time, “We thought what they did with the Emperor was quite funny and thought it would be a perfect fit if they wanted to do a parody of Star Wars.”
That meeting led to the Robot Chicken crew producing a 26-episode series for Lucasfilm that never aired.
The Mad Scientist Was Voiced by David Lynch
At the end of the 200th episode, the Mad Scientist character from the credit sequence speaks and is voiced by the legendary Lynch. The Mad Scientist declares that his nightmarish pop-culture experiment is finally over. It’s truly Lynch’s finest piece of work that doesn’t involve coffee and/or murder.
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