Cartoon Network’s “Robot Chicken” has expertly mixed sarcastic comedy with stop-motion animation since it debuted in February 2005. And on Sunday, the Adult Swim staple takes on its biggest target yet — “Star Wars” — in a 30-minute episode based on the wildly popular movies.
For the full skinny on playing inside George Lucas’ sandbox, we spoke to series creator Seth Green about making the show, working with the “Star Wars” creator, pleasing the fans and more.
MTV: How fun was it to do “Robot Chicken: Star Wars” at the same time as “Family Guy: Star Wars” [which premieres in the fall]?
Seth Green: It was just a completely different experience and I didn’t really process the fact that we did it, you know? I get into a business mode where I focus on the work at hand, but there was a moment at [the Lucasfilm event] Star Wars Celebration where I saw [“Family Guy” creator Seth] MacFarlane onstage showing his thing up there — and we were showing our thing — and I texted him and I’m like, “How cool is it that this is our real lives?” Like, we actually get to do this. Both of us growing up dreamed of being in stores playing with “Star Wars” toys, and now we are literally directing George Lucas and doing our own “Star Wars” stuff. And it’s not like we did it in our garage … they actually let us do it with the real sound files and their music and effects teams. It’s mind-blowing.
MTV: How did you make sure “Family Guy” and “Robot Chicken” weren’t doing the same jokes?
Green: One of the best things about … what we do on “Robot Chicken” and what the guys do on “Family Guy” is that they are different enough, even though we cover the same topics, as far as pop culture and current events and things like that. It’s always just a slightly different thing. When we were doing “Star Wars,” Seth MacFarlane actually called me because we were both writing at around the same time. He said, “Hey, are you guys doing something about the 2-meter thermal-exhaust port as far as the aesthetic of the design of the port?” And I’m like, “We did have a joke where we had a designer and an architect come in and give them a rundown of the latest fashions and how everyone was doing this thermal-exhaust port and instant self-destruct system and it’s really, really cool, all the kids are doing it … but we cut it.” He’s like, “OK, good.”
Then I called him at one point and said, “Are you guys going [to do anything] about a reunion of when Jar Jar met Darth Vader?” And he’s like, “No, I don’t have it,” and I’m like, “Awesome, run with it.” So, you know, we share information to make sure that we don’t step on each other’s toes.
MTV: Did a lot get cut?
Green: We actually wrote a 60-page document that got cut down to 27 pages in execution. We just wanted to have stuff that covered a wide variety of topics without being unfunny.
MTV: Let’s talk about George Lucas. He’s doing a voice?
Green: He’s playing himself as George Lucas attending the “Star Wars” convention.
MTV: Did you go this year?
Green: Yeah, we went. We had two days of panels with, like, 2,500 people watching us talk about the show. It was a crazy experience, man. I’ve never seen more storm troopers in my life.
MTV: What was the craziest thing that happened?
Green: There was, like, a room full of R2-D2s that fans had made themselves. And I’m talking about actual functioning voice-chip, remote-controlled, smoke-coming-out-of-them R2-D2s. They’re like, “You remember that scene where R2-D2 did this? Watch, mine does this.” I was like [he whistles].
MTV: They have Princess Leia holograms shooting out of their costumes.
Green: For real. You’re joking, and yet it’s for real.
MTV: So back to Lucas. Is he able to laugh at himself?
Green: Lucas has a phenomenal sense of humor. That’s what really aided us in this. He kind of recognizes that the movies can be taken seriously and live really sincerely in the midst of people making jokes about them … and especially our jokes. Our jokes are all kind of loving and none of them are really critical and mean-spirited. It’s all just kind of pointing out inherent silliness within the design.
MTV: One of the things that people realize about “Robot Chicken” is that you’re doing this as huge fans of the franchises you cover. It’s not like outsiders making fun of something.
Green: Yeah, we really don’t make jokes that are mean-spirited. We always just make silly jokes about stuff that we think is funny.
MTV: And you’re obviously doing this “Star Wars” episode for fellow fans.
Green: Well, you know, we tried to make this as accessible to people who have never seen “Star Wars,” but for the people who do know “Star Wars,” there are just buried details in there. People who know the brand are going to pay close attention.
MTV: So is this episode covering the entire franchise?
Green: You know, oddly enough, the episode really just touches on what we found funniest. We realized kind of after the fact that Yoda’s not in it.
MTV: Is it just the films or will we see things like the holiday special pop up?
Green: Actually, online right now on AdultSwim.com there’s a clip where Lucas is sitting on a therapist’s couch confiding in him the trauma that the holiday special caused. It’s one of my favorite things that we recorded; he started screaming about the holiday special, “I hate it! I hate it! I hate it!” and you could just hear the passion and emotion in his voice. He distorted the microphone … we needed to have him scale it down and re-record.
MTV: It’s like the C-3PO cereal they sold.
Green: I’m sure there’s some merchandising that he supports and some that he regrets, but I know for a fact he hates that f—ing holiday special. [He laughs.]
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