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Seth Greens Robot Chicken has spoofed Star Wars again. The new Robot Chicken Special aired on Cartoon Networks Adult Swim on Sunday the 16th December. The New York Times Arts Weblog has spoken to Robot chicken creator Seth Green about the special.
It’s that time of the year again, when there’s a planet Hoth-like chill in the air, visions of midi-chlorians and power converters dance in our heads, and joy is spread by a familiar bearded figure — namely, George Lucas — when his “Star Wars” movies take their lumps from “Robot Chicken,” the stop-motion animated comedy series created by Seth Green and Matthew Senreich. In “Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III,” which makes its debut Friday on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim channel, an all-star cast lends its voice to a third installment of knowing, willfully nerdy send-ups of the “Star Wars” saga, including Zac Efron (playing Anakin Skywalker); the “Star Wars” veterans Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams and Ahmed Best; Donald Glover of “Community”; Seth MacFarlane, Mr. Green’s boss at “Family Guy”; and of course Mr. Green himself.
ArtsBeat spoke recently to Mr. Green, in an interview that started out about “Robot Chicken” and jokes about Wookies and Wampas, but instead became a discussion about the endurance of “Star Wars” and the multiple incarnations of that long-lived space fantasy, between two grown men who still play with action figures. These are excerpts from that conversation.
Now that you’re up to your third all-“Star Wars” episode, are you finding it harder to come up with fodder for satire?
No, “Star Wars” is really pretty endless, that’s what’s so funny. There’s so many people in that universe that are dealing with the same situation, and it’s hilarious to imagine what they would be going through or how they would witness it. With this special, it really tells the story of all six of the movies, through the eyes of a couple of key characters.
So it’s not just sketches, but vignettes that tell a whole story?
Yeah. Similar to what we did in the second one, where we told a lot of sketches specific to the bounty hunters: How’d they get that job? What did they think when Han Solo got captured by Boba Fett, and what kind of traps did they try to set? Similar to that, Matt had an idea to go from before the prequels to after “Jedi,” through the eyes of the Emperor, Darth Vader, Boba Fett and a storm trooper. So you meet Vader when he’s a kid, you meet Boba Fett when he’s a kid. You meet the Emperor when he’s in his 20s. You see all their paths converge.
What’s the Emperor like as a 20-something?
He’s very ambitious and driven, and considering a career with politics. He’s just figuring out how to mess with people to get what he wants.
Since you’ve obviously given the subject a lot of thought, what’s a convincing defense I can give my wife that my obsession with “Star Wars” isn’t just about wallowing in childhood nostalgia?
The best thing I ever did was marry a girl who liked it the same way that I did, and I didn’t have to explain anything about it. Neither one of us are getting tattoos or obsessed in that capacity, but we have that shared interest. “Star Wars” set my own imagination off on different paths I didn’t anticipate. That’s a little bit more significant than just collecting and playing with toys. Even though that’s how I’ve made my living.
So you pre-empted that debate by marrying someone who was already into “Star Wars” to begin with.
Well, you fall in love with who you fall in love, and you hold tight to that. Part of being married is finding commonalities, and when there’s something that your wife is into that you don’t necessarily understand, make the same effort that you hope she will.
At least you’re not into Harry Potter.
Oh, my wife is bananas for Harry Potter. Bananas, bananas, drags me to everything. And I like Harry Potter, but I’m not as crazy for it as she is. But I do appreciate her enthusiasm for it. I think that’s the key, is always support.
There are those who say that Harry Potter or “Lord of the Rings” is this generation’s “Star Wars.”
But that’s kind of like saying that the New Kids on the Block are this generation’s Beatles. The thing that exists is the thing that exists, so it’s not that one needs to replace the other. You won’t know it until time tells. “Lord of the Rings” is pretty sustaining. Those books gave rise to all different kinds of media before the new movies, and they’re going to give rise to “The Hobbit” films. Let’s talk in 30 years and see where any of this stuff is.
But when you look at, say, the Beatles catalog on iTunes, it reminds you that even a franchise like “Star Wars” has to look for ways to reinvent itself for new audiences.
But it did. The prequels introduced an entire generation of kids to “Star Wars” in a way that most guys that I know can’t relate to, because it’s not for them. We spent so much time wanting those prequels to recapture our own childhood experiences, that we denied that experience to all the kids that were actually having it for the first time. My 19-year-old brother-in-law loves the prequels. He can’t get enough of “The Clone Wars.” And George has said he’s going to release all six of the movies in 3-D over the next 12 years. My partner, Matt, his son is 19 months old now – he’s going to be the age that Matt was when he and his dad first saw “Star Wars” together, when “Episode I” gets released in 3-D. How cool is that?
Now that the “Clone Wars” animated series has become a franchise in its own right, do you tweak it in any way on “Robot Chicken”?
I actually really love that show. It’s so dark and intense. It’s also a rousing story of military brotherhood – what it is to be literally born to be expendable. All our jokes are the discomfort of knowing that eventually someone’s going to have to kill Ahsoka. [The “Robot Chicken” producer] Tom Root says it best. He’s like: “You’ve got Order 66 on one train, you’ve got Ahsoka Tano on another. They’re speeding towards each other. At one point do they impact?”
I wonder how an audience of 9- and 10-year-olds will handle it when that day finally comes.
The only thing I can compare it to is “Robotech,” which took its material so seriously and had such gravity. When I was a little kid, like 9, I watched that cartoon and I understood it. I still remember when Roy Focker got killed and came home to his girlfriend because he had such vicious internal bleeding, and she was so excited to see him, horrified that he might not have made it through the battle. And then he died in her arms on the couch. And I went to school all messed up that day. I had such a close connection to this character after watching him for like 24 shows. I turned out all right – I turned into someone who makes these kinds of things.
In April, it was announced that you and Matt Senreich were helping Lucasfim Animation create a comedy series that’s set in the “Star Wars” universe. Can you say anything more about the project at this stage?
I cannot wait until we can actually tell you guys about it or show you anything from it. But no, we can’t. Every single thing we say gets turned into something entirely different. Somebody asked Matt what it was like getting to write with George, and he said ‘it’s a surreal experience because of everything that I know about him and everything I’ve been through to be in a working relationship with him.’ How that got translated was, this new comedy show will be a surreal experience for the audience. They were like, what is it going to be, bizarre Pufnstuf imagery? Is it supposed to be an M. C. Escher comedy program? Pretty soon – I say soon, it’ll probably be like two years – but eventually we’ll get to show everybody something.
You’re making fun of the “Star Wars” movies on one hand, but on the other you’re now working with Lucasfilm in a more concrete way — do they ever try to tell you what you can or can’t do on your “Robot Chicken” specials?
No, they’re really amazing about that. There’s such a fundamental distinction between our show and anything we do with them. I’ve always been very loyal to that company even before we worked together. I’m just as much of a fanboy, and I’ve had all the same conversations that all the nerds have had. You see it reflected in the biting aspect of our comedy, but all that’s just jokes. When push comes to shove, we really care about that company and everything they’ve made – we love these movies and all the stuff that’s involved in it.
When push comes to shove, do you have a favorite third-tier “Star Wars” character? Not the Luke Skywalkers and the Han Solos, and not even the Lando Calrissians and the Boba Fetts — someone who’s in a film for, like, a minute and then we never see them again.
I always like those poor guards — the skiff guards that were just trying to do their job, and it’s so hot out there and Luke Skywalker throws him in a pit. You get their action figure and you always imagine, what’s that guy’s life like? When did he first get this T-shirt and head armor? Was that a gift from his parents? Was this guy like, “Yeah, I bought my boots with my own money.” That poor dude. He didn’t even get out of graduate school. He had such better plans for himself.
Ed: College Humor have spoofed MTV program Jersey Shore into a RPG animation. This animation sketch has every character down to a tee. And the outcome is hilarious
Larry: If you don’t know what Jersey Shore is by now, then we recommend you climb out from your cave and watch some MTV and then come back to laugh your arse off at this sketch
Larry: The Guys from College Humor have done it again and made another top-notch Comedy Animation, check it out
Ed: Check out College Humor
Larry: Ed. Halo Reach is a fantastic game, it took a while for me to used to it but before you know it. I was firing from all cylinders.
Ed: Stop. This site is all about animated comedy why are you talking about the new Xbox 360 game released last month.
Larry: That’s why I got this short produced by Arin Hanson also known as Egograptor. The guy’s got like 6 million views on Newgrounds and he created this game- short with their help. Awesome Reach spoofs all the hype around Halo Reach. It’s got a some bad language and explicit shots, so it’s perfect.
Ed: Sometimes I wonder how I got partnered up with you.