For some people, getting older means putting away childish things. For Seth Green, not only did he not put away his toys, he put them to work. The result became Robot Chicken, the stop motion sketch comedy show he created with Matthew Senreich.
Originating as Sweet J Presents on Sony’s Screenblast.com in 2001, Robot Chicken debuted on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim in February 2005, just weeks after Green’s 31st birthday. The show combined toys and claymation figures to comment on modern popular culture and nostalgically lampoon both the classics and the obscure. Now, 14 years later, the series is about to celebrate its 10th season, 200th episode, and make a triumphant return to SDCC.
Meanwhile, Green, known for his work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Family Guy, and his recent live-action feature directorial debut, Changeland, continues to executive produce, write, direct, and contribute his voice to the show.
“When we first started the show, it was based on private musings or water cooler conversations amongst my friends,” says Green. “We didn’t anticipate that millions of people experienced the same pop culture and asked the same deconstructed questions on it.”
It took a trip to SDCC for Green to realize the popularity of the show. He didn’t appreciate that people were paying close attention until there was a room of 3,000 people waiting for the Robot Chicken crew.
Throughout the run of the series, Green and Senreich enlisted famous friends to lend their voices, even getting George Lucas to appear as himself in a sketch that depicted him avoiding a mob of fans. The show has also oddly been prescient, casting Mark Hamill as the voice of killer doll Chucky in 2005 – long before he was cast in this year’s Child’s Play re-imagining.
Though the voices are a critical element of Robot Chicken, the stop motion animation is the signature of the sketch show, and over the last 15 years, Green says both the technology and the comedy has evolved. While the show still relies on stop motion animation to tell jokes within the parody space, the structure is constantly transforming to reflect the current “shape of comedy.”
“Comedy evolves every year, and especially every 10 years,” Green says. “So we just try to keep bringing in new voices and younger writers to give us that perspective.”
And Green teases that the 200th episode itself will have a different shape. While not wishing to reveal what the format is, he says, “we attempted something that we’ve never attempted.”
“We’ve consistently made a case for the show being canceled,” he says, referring to a running gag of an Adult Swim executive choosing to end the show, or offering them a chance at renewal during season finales. “[But] I was really excited about the 200th episode, and we went out of our way to write something that was different than any of the other season finales that we had written.”
Additionally, Green says to expect guest stars including Sam Elliott, Fabio, and David Lynch.
The upcoming tenth season will address Aquaman’s recent high profile success, thanks to last year’s Jason Momoa-starring movie. While Robot Chicken’s Aquaman (voiced by Green) is typically a silly punchline character from Super Friends, this will feature the new buff, badass King of Atlantis.
After 14 years, 10 seasons, 11 specials, and 200 episodes, one of Green’s favorite sketches involves, appropriately, chickens. But not the robot kind.
“We did this Law & Order parody with just a bunch of squawking chickens and the whole point was that Law & Order is such a tried and true format … that you could have characters speaking gibberish and it would still be as dramatically effective as a wholly produced episode of Law & Order.”
“I’ve always liked that sketch,” says Green. “It just cracks me up when I watch it.”