Comedy scribe Michael Price is a Jedi master of funny. A bulk of his resume comes loaded with more than 100 episodes of “The Simpsons,” a show that continues to tap him to write and co-executive produce. But he’s currently taking a vacation from Springfield to that galaxy far, far away.
“LEGO Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles – The Phantom Clone,” the third TV special of its kind, premieres tonight on Cartoon Network. These animated spoofs of the “Star Wars” universe features LEGO-style characters getting cheeky, and it all comes to life courtesy of Price’s pen.
While in New York for the recent unveiling of a life-size replica of an X-Wing Fighter built entirely out of LEGOs, Price talked about what it’s like putting jokes in the mouths of Jedis.
MTV Geek: I can only imagine it must be a blast to be able to put your own spin on the “Star Wars” universe and mess around with it.
Michael Price: It is an absolute joy and a thrill. I feel extremely fortunate and lucky to not only work in the “Star Wars” world, but to be able to work with it in another way, because it’s LEGO, because it’s an animation. It doesn’t follow any canon or continuity. We can sort of toss things in and out, and have fun with it. It’s just the best of both worlds, because I get to work with these incredible characters and incredible people. Anthony Daniels voices C-3PO in all of the shows. In one of our earlier shows we had some of the original people who played roles [in “Star Wars” films]. It’s kind of like we are all kids playing with our LEGO toys on the living room carpet and just making up scenarios that would be fun to see. What if Yoda met the Ewoks? Things like that. And we just have a great time with it. So it’s a huge thrill and a huge honor. I never dreamed of anything like this when I saw the movies all of those years ago. I couldn’t imagine that all these years later it would be this huge thing and that I would have anything to do with it. [Laughs]
Geek: Which character is the most fun to play with?
Price: We had a lot of fun with Darth Vader in the last show, “The Empire Strikes Out.” Yoda is a constant. I guess Yoda would have to be my favorite, because he was the star of the first one that I wrote, “The Padawan Menace,” and he’s the star of our new shows, “The Yoda Chronicles.” And he’s just a great, great character, because he’s 800 years old, he’s the greatest Jedi master of all time. But he has his flaws, he likes to have a little bit of fun. As a comedy writer, the way he talks is kind of comedy gold. [Laughs] I can’t resist the temptation of falling back on an easy joke and having him say something screwy in a backwards way. He’s so fun to work with, and we’ve had a lot of fun with him in these new shows, because these are set back in the prequel era Clone Wars times. He’s not just the old sage giving advice, he’s a full-on Jedi. So he has a lot of action in this; there’s lightsaber duels. At one point he has a blaster, and he’s shooting it. And he sort of has a big action hero moment when he says, “Blaster fire, eat” to someone. …So it’s always fun to have a good time with Yoda. He’s phenomenal. And he’s voiced by Tom Kane, who’s the only Yoda beside Frank Oz. He did a fantastic job.
Geek: It’s so cool Lucasfilm has gotten to the point where they continually allow so many different officially endorsed parodies.
Price: For my very first meeting on this project, they flew me out to the Presidio where their main Lucasfilm headquarters are out in San Francisco. I had a great meeting with the producer from LEGO and a great guy named Howard Roffman, who is the head of Lucas licensing. LEGO had already established a sort of whimsical attitude toward Star Wars through the video games and the mini movies. [Roffman] was the one, more than anyone else, throughout this entire project saying, “Go for it, have fun.” When I wrote the first show, I just took my shots. I [said to myself,] “If they tell me not to do something, I won’t do it. But I’ll never know how far we can go [without trying.]” There were all these scenes in that first episode about how boring the Senate is, and everyone is falling asleep, and things like that. [Lucasfilm] never told me not to do that stuff; they encouraged it. …They’ve been very supportive of us taking little satirical jabs here and there at things like that, especially with the show we aired last year, “The Empire Strikes Out.” There was a Han-shot-first moment, and they were totally cool with it.
“LEGO Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles – The Phantom Clone” premieres 8 p.m./7 p.m. C May 29 on Cartoon Network.