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NYCC | Senreich, Meyer & Harvatine Talk ‘Robot Chicken’ & Holiday Toys

by  in Comic News, TV News Comment
NYCC | Senreich, Meyer & Harvatine Talk ‘Robot Chicken’ & Holiday Toys

Robot Chicken plans to ring in the holidays with a new special called Robot Chicken Lots of Holidays But Don’t Worry Christmas is Still in There Too So Pull the Stick Out of Your Ass Fox News Special. As a way to embrace the special, co-creator Matt Senreich, star and writer Breckin Meyer and executive producer John Harvatine appeared at New York Comic Con to talk to reporters in a roundtable format about the new special and the process of putting the show together.

“We have our holiday special that’s actually coming out in December which is the last episode of Season Seven,” Senreich said. “And then we start writing Season Eight in December, so this is our small hiatus where we can actually breath for a brief moment before we kickstart our next season.”

Before that, fans can also pick up the recently released Robot Chicken DC Comics Special II, which includes a fun special feature. “The DVD has a whole behind the scenes of us getting Q&Aed, testing our DC knowledge,” Senreich said. “I don’t know if you know how deep that lore goes, but those questions get progressively harder. It is very uncomfortable to watch all of us try to answer those. It’s all fun, we always have a really good time on stuff like that.”

“We’ve got some really good stuff,” Harvatine said regarding the eventual Season 7 DVD bonus features. The producer shaved his beard for a bet after having it for 18 years, which might make it onto the set as well.

Senreich also addressed the idea of a Robot Chicken movie and video game. “[A movie is] tricky because if we’re going to do long-form it’s got to be something specific.” He mentioned that they have ideas, but that there wasn’t a huge rush because animated series’ like Family Guy don’t have films just yet. Harvatine suggested a Humping Robot game in the vein of Super Mario Bros. while Senreich said he’d like to see a series of mini-games along the lines of WarioWare.

Speaking of the eighth season, there is one character who recently burst onto the larger pop culture scene that Meyer would love to take a crack at. “If we do some Guardians of the Galaxy, I’d love to plant my flag in Rocket [Raccoon],” he said. “Unless we get Bradley. If we get Bradley Cooper, I’ll step aside.”

From there, the conversation quickly turned to the process of making the series and what goes into developing a sketch for the 11-minute episodes.

“It’s whatever makes you laugh,” Senreich explained. “It’s like your conversations with your friends at home where you’re just laughing about something you saw or just some random conversation. It’s having a moment, talking about the situation and then finding that one odd moment in it and it just spirals into something funny. That’s really what sparks it. Our writer’s room is just a bunch of friends who have known each other for almost twenty years.”

While sme fans think the process for coming up with sketches comes from playing with toys — and both Senreich and Meyer said that is sometimes the case — there is also a more traditional creation period involved in most cases.

“I compare it to SNL,” Senreich said. “It’s a sketch comedy show. People write sketches, you submit them and we vote on them. Everybody sits at their computers typing stuff up from like 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, at 4:00 everyone gets distributed packets, you read through the packets, you see what you like, we vote on them, if they’re voted it goes into the next round where it gets scripted or we give notes that say ‘Punch it up like this’ or ‘This is terrible, don’t ever think about it again.'”

Meyer noted that, no matter who an idea comes from, “Funny wins out.” He added that he does not actually have a vote at this point. “I’ve thrown many, many hissy fits about sketches in the room and then they get on and they tank,” Meyer said. He also admitted to sending his friend and Robot Chicken co-creator Seth Green texts at night, giving him trouble for not backing one of his ideas.

One reason for the show’s continued success is a replenishing pool of talent and a dedication to the series itself. Senreich credits bringing younger writers in to the room helps keep things fresh. They can also rely on alums to return and help out on occasion.

“Everybody who has worked on our show has gone on to do their own stuff,” Senreich said. “I always like to point to Kevin Shinick who did MAD, Hugh Davidson’s about to do Mike Tyson Mysteries and Rachel Bloom is about to do Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on Showtime. These are all their shows and they all started working on Robot Chicken. We’re all still friends and we lure them back when we do specials. I’m hoping we continue to create a roster of new talent.”

Even Meyer, who has other shows in the works including Franklin & Bash on TNT, continues to work on the series even when he’s not at Robot Chicken headquarters.

“I write them from wherever I am,” he said. “If I’m on Franklin & Bash I just e-mail them in. It’s the one job I just don’t stop doing. And every job I do, they know that if there’s something going on at Robot Chicken, I’m going to do that too.”

Another big part of the show is the voice talent, both regulars like Meyer and Green, and the big time celebrity guest stars who were not so easy to convince as Robot Chicken was getting started.

“We got lucky and called out a lot of favors from Seth and people Seth had worked with,” Senreich said. “We got the whole cast of Scooby-Doo to do it. Then Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise came in because Seth had just done a movie with them. And Charlize Theron came in because they had just done The Italian Job. Once we had that roster, people were like, ‘Oh, we should be a part of that.’ By the time it actually came out, people started following us. Christian Slater stalked one of our writers at a party saying how much he loved the show and we were like, ‘All right, you’re going to be on the show, this is great.’ You just never who who you’re going to run into.” He also noted that Tim Roth and his son walked around and had a great time hanging out all day.

There is one major geek icon that Senreich wants to get on the show that hasn’t yet. “Harrison Ford,” he said of his white whale. “Although I have a small chance window that I might be able to get to him, so we’ll see. I know Calista Flockhart had a really good time on our show. I’m hoping she speaks very highly of us because she was awesome. But, he chooses what he does.”

Meyer and Green handle many of the other voices on the show, with the former handling some pretty heavy hitters including Jesus, Boba Fett, Superman and Lindsay Lohan.

“The skits we’ve done about Lindsay Lohan all came from my experiences working with Lindsay Lohan,” he said. “I came to the writer’s room, exhausted, with a lot of tales of working with Lindsay and I would do the voice — or my interpretation of it — and that became the beginning of our skits.”

But, Meyer said, he hasn’t received much in the way of blowback because of the way the credits run, but also because of the show’s tone.

“First of all, you don’t really know who does the voices,” he said. “I mean, it’s Seth or me, but you don’t really know who does what. I found out that Lohan’s voice on our show, which I had done, was actually credited to Michelle Trachtenberg. Which is great, because if Lohan’s going to kill anyone, it’s going to be Trach and not me.”

Meyer went on to say that one of the reasons he expects people haven’t gotten more upset is that the show is done in good spirits. “No matter what our skits are, it’s done out of fun,” he said. “There is a general fan vibe to what we do.”

As far as the humor goes, Harvatine said that they tend to know where the line is. “We know what’s not really appropriate or what is,” he said. “Pretty much anything goes.”

“Our show is TV MA, so it’s uncomfortable sometimes to watch,” Senreich added.

For his part, Meyer only mentioned one uncomfortable situation on the show and, as you might expect, it revolved around a toy. “One of the hardest to find toys for a skit we had was the Knightrider KITT car with David Hasselhoff,” Meyer said. “Hugh Sterbakov, our toy wrangler, was trying to find this thing everywhere. And the entire time he was looking for it, I had one, but I also know what we do to our toys so I was like, ‘You ain’t fucking touching mine.'”

At the end of the day, though, everyone involved in Robot Chicken seems to really love what they do and wants to keep doing it for as along as possible.

“We thought we were going to get cancelled after the first few episodes,” Senreich said. “For Seth and I the first season was a second job. We had other jobs. Seth was an actor and I worked in comic books. We never thought it would be a full-time scenario.”

“It was crazy to think back then, a stop-motion show that would have longevity was pretty rare and unique,” Harvatine added. “Right now it’s the longest running stop-motion show on TV. That’s pretty crazy and was pretty hard to imagine way back then.”

To see what else ‘Robot Chicken’ has in store as it rolls right along, keep your eyes peeled for the ‘Robot Chicken Lots of Holidays But Don’t Worry Christmas is Still in There Too So Pull the Stick Out of Your Ass Fox News Special’ this December.

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