As Family Guy’s Blue Harvest Star Wars parody noted, in a hilariously meta-textual conversation between the multi-talented showrunners/voice actors Seth MacFarlane and Seth Green – Robot Chicken did it first. It just took longer to make it onto DVD, is all.
Star Wars is a series ripe for comic potential, whether you’re lampooning the classic cinematic moments of the early trilogy, or the sheer horrendousness of the more recent prequels. The property is so ubiquitous that almost any reference to any of the films will be understood by the general public, and Robot Chicken knows this, positively revelling in even the most obscure character appearances while being safe in the knowledge that the target audience of geeks will understand it all. Family Guy’s Blue Harvest looks like a pathetically broad spoof by comparison, as Robot Chicken reaches the parts other parodies routinely miss. If you’ve even once found yourself laughing when Admiral Akbar proclaims “It’s a trap!” that’s one thing, but if you get the joke when he says “Your tongues can’t repel flavour of that magnitude!” then this is the DVD for you.
The main feature (to Lucasfilm’s credit, since they gave the special their blessing) gets away with some seriously close to the knuckle jokes at Star Wars’ expense, but it manages to do so simply because there’s so much affection on display for the material. It’s brilliantly put together, and the only sad part is that the main feature is incredibly short. It also doesn’t help that the special is mostly composed of material that appeared in other episodes, meaning that those who have already bought the previous seasons on DVD aren’t going to find themselves particularly thrilled to be re-watching scenes, but then this is clearly aimed at a far more general audience, and no fan can begrudge their favourite show a little crowd-pleasing now and then.
The extras on the disk are extensive, vastly exceeding the running time of the special itself. Completists will want to know just how essential these extras are, and the unfortunate truth is that, vast though they are, there’s nothing unmissable on the set. A pop-up commentary for the main feature is the disc’s highlight, wisely allowing viewers to get a sense of the commentator’s enthusiasm for the material as it runs. Green’s animated and energetic flailing in particular is the star of all the extras, whether it’s the now familiar animation meeting (seen on other Robot Chicken DVDs) where Green acts out all the sketches as he breaks them to the animators or the cast and crew horsing around with Star Wars toys in the ridiculously lengthy reel originally filmed as continuity links for a Robot Chicken evening on a US TV channel. The latter is like a never-ending freeform Star Wars/Robot Chicken improve, and while it’s often hilarious, it does get a little wearing by the end.
Some of the other extras are far more lacklustre – a brief panel discussion is disappointingly truncated, and the behind the scenes work fails to engage for the most part. The animatics of deleted scenes lack the flair of the actual filmed sketches for obvious reasons – crude thumbnails can’t compare with the brilliant stop-motion.
To the DVD’s credit, the running time of the extras utterly eclipses the main feature, and it is all justifiably Star Wars-related. It’s a solid package, and it’s worth mentioning that this is the first Robot Chicken release for Region 2 – if you’re in the UK, make sure you go and buy it, because while it’s a nice package by itself (even, and hey, especially if you don’t like Star Wars) good sales on this might see the rest of the DVDs coming to the UK!