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Seth Green

Seth Green - "Robot Chicken" Tv Series - Starwars.com Interview

Thursday 17 May 2007, by Webmaster

When Adult Swim’s "Robot Chicken" decides to jump to Hyperspace with the upcoming release of Robot Chicken: Star Wars fans can look forward to seeing their favorite characters and movie moments satirized and tweaked as the show’s creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich only know how.

The creative duo first met when Senreich, who was still an editor at ToyFare magazine, asked Green for an interview about his custom-made dolls he made for the cast of his show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." "The next thing you know we were buddy-buddy sending each other toys back and forth through the mail that we couldn’t find," Senreich says. "And it was right around the time all the Star Wars prequels were coming out. The toy market was hitting big and we were geeking out."

The two forged a strong friendship and ended up brainstorming the idea of creating a TV show that would feature various action figures in comedic situations. Soon after "Robot Chicken" was hatched. Satirizing everything from G.I. Joe to Stretch Armstrong, the show uses impressive custom-built sets and special toy sculpts. However, toys aren’t the only targets; celebs and political figures such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ryan Seacrest and Fidel Castro are often thrown in for a laugh. And while the show likes to parody popular franchises, both Senreich and Green have no intention of mocking any fan base. In fact, the two are avid movie and comic book fans, of Star Wars in particular.

Robot Chicken: Star Wars, which premieres on June 17, 2007 on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, combines action figures in humorous situations, which Green and Senreich hope the fans enjoy. "We wanted to turn the Star Wars universe on its side and try to figure out a new take on it." Senreich says. "But we also try to make jokes that would appeal to people even if they’d never seen Star Wars."

The duo has already previously demonstrated their flair for injecting humor into otherwise touchy situations in their first Star Wars skit —"Spoilers" where Darth Vader reveals every plot point of the saga to a rather peeved Luke Skywalker. "What made that scene a little extra special and fun for us was the fact that Mark Hamill came in and reprised his role as Luke Skywalker," Senreich says. "It was a shot in the dark but we wanted to get him anyway."

The second spoof, "Emperor’s Phone Call," depicts Darth Vader giving his boss some embarrassing news about the unexpected destruction of a high priority construction project. "Our head writer Doug Goldstein (with writer Breckin Meyer) came up with this idea of what happens when Darth Vader calls in and tells the Emperor, ’Hey, the Death Star kind of blew up,’" Senreich laughs.

"When you put it into any kind of real world terms, the Emperor is a guy who is governing over the entire Senate; he’s got all this construction underway; he’s got bottom lines to meet, he’s building a clone army, etc.," Green explains. "Who’s financing that? What kind of insurance does he have? The daily machinations of modern business and how they apply to the Star Wars chronology is really funny to us."

"That’s the bulk of our show — taking the inherent irony of things just under the surface that you wouldn’t think about, that’s going on behind the scenes of a lot of these classic moments," Senreich continues.

Because of the viral popularity of the two skits, the clips eventually made their way to the marketing team at Lucasfilm who saw an opportunity to work together on a fun project for fans to enjoy. "To be blatantly honest, we were scared we were going to get sued right after that skit," Senreich confesses.

Adds Green, "When you do a parody show, there’s always that chance that people are going to say, ’Hey, I don’t like the way you pointed the inherent ironies and parody of our property.’ And we know Lucasfilm is a big corporation and even though we love everything about Star Wars and the company, we didn’t know if they would think we were funny. We were really just waiting for the suits to come in, and none of them did."

When the initial phone call from Lucasfilm came, the duo weren’t exactly quick to pick up. "When the phone rang and it said ’Lucasfilm’ on the Caller ID, my heart stopped for a moment," Senreich laughs. "I stood there and paced myself then answered the call sounding all business like and pretending it wasn’t me at first. And they asked if there was any way to get a copy of the ’Emperor’s Phone Call’ skit for starwars.com? At that moment, we got excited."

"When we realized that Lucasfilm didn’t want to sue us, that instead they saw potential collaborative possibilities, we were very excited to get that opportunity," Green adds.

As soon as Lucasfilm greenlit the project, the team went to work on the Robot Chicken: Star Wars special. The entire process from writing to delivery of assets lasted 14 weeks. "The first three weeks was all writing where we had to finalize the script," Senreich says. "We had 60 pages of script; we recorded the voices and storyboarded it. From that we put together an animatic and then Seth and I cut 50 percent of what we had."

The entire team, which consisted of various writers, set builders, puppet designers, lighting specialists, and cinematographers, worked together to make the best final product worthy of their fellow Star Wars fans. "Each department had different skits that were more difficult than others," Senreich says.

"For puppets, just the sheer volume of characters associated with the special and the problems we had to solve working on all these different scales, trying to utilize 3 and 3 1/4-inch characters, heads from PEZ dispensers or plush toys — everyone had different challenges," Green adds. "As far as the set builders were concerned it’s hard to say which was the most challenging to design. We had skits that take place in the Death Star in the Emperor’s Throne Room, and that set was gorgeous. The thing is that everyone who worked on the show — building the sets, making puppets, working in the lighting department, cinematography, and so on — really loves Star Wars and they wanted to replicate it as identically as possible. So people put a ton of extra labor into it just to make sure it was picture perfect."

The company Plastic Earth was also contracted to create a rather startling likeness of filmmaker George Lucas, while the "Robot Chicken" puppet department clothed him in his classic outfit — right down to his famous flannel shirt. Lucas not only appears in the skit (in puppet form), but he’s also lending his voice. "He’s an artist who really appreciates the creative process," Green says. "He gave us an unbelievable freedom in playing with what is seemingly his most-prized possession."

In addition to having Lucas, other noteworthy voice actors participating in Robot Chicken: Star Wars include such celebrities as Conan O’Brien, Seth MacFarlane, Malcolm McDowell, Hulk Hogan, James Van Der Beek, Robert Smigel, Donald Faison, Abraham Benrubi, Breckin Meyer and Joey Fatone.

Robot Chicken: Star Wars is created and executive produced by Green and Senreich under their own Stoopid Monkey Productions, in conjunction with Alex Bulkley and Corey Campodonico’s ShadowMachine Films. The special is directed by Green. The duo also executive produce, write and direct the series, with Green providing many of the voices in the special and the series, which begins its third season later this year.

"We love to take the geeky discussions you’d have with your friends and demonstrate them in actuality," Senreich explains. "It’s one of those things where we are always celebrating the fandom of Star Wars as opposed to making fun of it."

You can learn all about the process behind making "Robot Chicken;" and meet Green, Senreich and the rest of their creative team at Celebration IV in Los Angeles, CA. Learn more about it here.