No matter what else they ever do, the folks at Stoopid Buddy Stoodios will likely always be known as "the 'Robot Chicken' people." But rather than rest on their laurels, they're launching "SuperMansion," a stop-motion animated series about a group of superheroes living together in a house, trying to get along between bouts of fighting crime.
Yet as SPINOFF saw during an event last week at Stoopid Buddy's offices in Burbank, California, they're not shying away from their cyborg-turkey roots.
Launching Oct. 8 on Crackle -- and with the first episode available to watch now on CBR -- "SuperMansion" stars "Breaking Bad's" Bryan Cranston as the voice of Titanium Rex, the past-his-prime leader of the League of Freedom who's forced to live in a house with such upstarts as Black Saturn (Tucker Gilmore), whom series co-creator and comics veteran Zeb Wells described as "Batman if his parents hadn't died" and "a massive tool."
In addition to playing Titanium Rex, Cranston also serves as executive producer, alongside the likes of "Robot Chicken" co-creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich. "He's been part of all aspects of this," Senreich explained. "He's even made fun of us when he thinks the scripts aren't good."
"When we wrote the first script," Senreich continued, "we had Seth do the voice of Rex, but he didn't sound old enough or like a fatherly figure. So, I fired him, which was awkward. We had always said we wanted a 'Bryan Cranston-type' for the role, so we figured, 'What's the worst that could happen?' and went out to him. Within 24 hours we heard back that he had been reading a bunch of scripts because 'Breaking Bad' was coming to an end, and that ours was the only one that made him laugh. But then he said, 'I don't want to just star in this, I want to make it with you.' Yes, please."
Stoopid Buddy then screened the series' second and third episodes. In the second, Titanium Rex learns an old friend has died and left Rex his talking pets, while the third has American Ranger -- picture Captain America if he still had his 1940s perspective on social issues -- reuniting with Bucky, er... Kid Victory, only to learn his former partner is openly gay. While both had plenty of the edgy humor fans expect from "Robot Chicken," the episodes were clearly more about developing the characters and using them to tell stories than just getting quick satirical laughs.
This, Senreich explained during a Q&A session after the screening, is one of the things that sets "SuperMansion" apart from you-know-what. "This has more of an overarching story arc," he noted. Wells added that "there is a bigger story going on that will wrap up at the end [of the season]."
As Wells admitted, this longer, more story-driven approach makes things more difficult sometimes. "With 'Robot Chicken,' if a sketch runs out of steam, you just have someone get kicked in the nuts. But here, there's nowhere to hide," Wells explained. "You have to make sure that every scene is funny but also moves the story along, and that every character pays off. It's definitely harder. Though it's also a lot more rewarding."
Another difference between "Robot Chicken" and "SuperMansion," Senreich noted, is that, "For 'Robot Chicken,' we always want it to look like a toy. But in this, we want them to look more human. It's why they have much bigger eyes."
One thing that helps when it comes to the puppets, Senreich and Wells explained, is that they now have 3D printers. "On 'Robot Chicken,' if we wanted to do a belt buckle with a symbol on it, it was a nightmare because they'd have to make a dozen of them," Senreich explained. "But now, you just throw it in the 3D printer and a couple hours later you've got a dozen of the belt buckles." Because of this, Senreich said, they're much more inclined to make those dozen belt buckles. "It means we can get a lot more detail into our puppets."
Wells said this is also helpful considering "SuperMansion" features the same characters over and over. "Because the puppets are being used all season, they're breaking all the time," said Wells. "We actually have a couple people who just do repairs all the time. It's something I didn't realize, how hard the animation process is on the puppets."
In the end, no matter what the creators do, the good people at Stoopid Buddy Stoodios can't totally get away from that other show -- nor do they want to. "We wanted to do a show with our own characters," said Wells, after years of working on "Robot Chicken."
"And hopefully we can then make fun of them on 'Robot Chicken,'" Senrieich added.
The first three episodes of "SuperMansion" officially debut Oct. 8 on Crackle, with new episodes streaming every Thursday through December 17. Be sure to check out the first episode now, exclusively on CBR.