Robot Chicken Creators On The Pain Of Stop Motion, Superheroes And New Webseries ‘Von Dingles’

Robot Chicken Creators On The Pain Of Stop Motion, Superheroes And New Webseries ‘Von Dingles’

Robot Chicken is one of those shows that normalised what we’ve come to know as classic “nerd media”. The show started with using classic action figures from Star Wars, Transformers, The Smurfs, and even celebrities like Paris Hilton and Michael Jackson. The show wrapped its eleventh season last year, parodying Kingdom Hearts, Naruto, and Peppa Pig, and featured a heap of famous voice talent including Sydney Sweeney, Seth McFarlane, Matthew Lillard and even David Lynch.

Helmed by Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, the two came up with the series after Seth sent in a parody stop motion interview for press, using a doll of himself and Conan O’Brien. The two quickly shopped this idea around, capturing the eyes of Adult Swim. The show would eventually develop eleven seasons, earn three Emmy’s, and become one of the network’s flagship shows.

Through the pair’s studio Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, they would go on to create shows like Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K, Dominion with Steve Aoki, Crossing Swords and more, all retaining their distinct and iconic style of stop-motion animation.

Following the success of Robot Chicken, the group would create Supermansion, which would star Bryan Cranston, Keegan Michael-Key, Heidi Gardner, and Chris Pine in lead roles. It was also one of the studio’s first long running narrative driven shows, proving the group could work beyond short skits and could write and animate original characters.

The show featured fully original characters, with comedic meta-parodies of famous superheroes. Think of recent shows like Invincible or The Boys, but with that classic Robot Chicken comedic style. If that sounds like you’re thing, you can catch Supermansion for free on PEDESTRIAN TELEVISION, Mondays at 7:30pm AEDT or stream on demand.

Image Credit: Stoopid Buddy Stoodios

We spoke to the creators of Robot Chicken, Matthew Senreich, Seth Green and John “Harv’ Harvatine about the success of Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, the history of Robot Chicken, if they’d ever revisit Supermansion and their new web series The Von Dingles.

Kotaku Australia: Hey guys, starting off easy, I wanted to ask you all about your relationship with modern pop culture today and where you see nerd culture moving next?

Matthew: That’s an interesting and tough question. I had a phone call with Adult Swim recently, and they used this term with us, I think they called us a “nostalgia brand with relevance”. We’re still into all things nerdy.

Seth: What made Robot Chicken work, and still work, was that we parodied the pop culture we loved while growing up. And while a lot of it was mostly stuff from the 80s and 90s, we’ve been hiring new writers to write about the pop culture they connect with and what they love.

Image Credit: Adult Swim

Kotaku AU: I was watching the behind the scenes of the first season of Robot Chicken, and it was so impressive what you were managing to do with the tech at that time. How has the process for creating stop motion changed throughout the years?

Matthew: It hasn’t haha.

Harv: We tried to use actual action figures for a period of time there, but they just would not move the way we wanted them to, or stand the way we wanted them to stand. So we quickly had to figure out how to wire these models to manipulate them how we wanted to, and I think we’re pretty good at it now.

Matthew: The tech has also just gotten so much better. We couldn’t do onion layering back in the day, so we had to match stuff frame by frame. There was no Dragonframe at the time. We also couldn’t animate water in the first season of Robot Chicken because we just didn’t know how to do it.

Kotaku AU: What was the weirdest request for a figurine you’ve had to ask someone to make for a show?

Matthew: God, I can’t remember. I’m going to have to say all of them?

Harv: There was a booger monster at some point, that was pretty gnarly.

Kotaku AU: Why do you think that stop motion has endured so long despite being such a niche and difficult form of animation?

Harv: It’s just such a human art form. You can tell that there’s pain, sweat, joy and tears put into it, and that brings it a sense of realism as well. You know a human has worked on it. All that work for just four to eight seconds of animation for a day.

Kotaku AU: You’ve always had these big ensemble casts with a mix of dramatic actors and comedians coming through like Bryan Cranston, Jon Hamm, Phyllis Diller, Chris Pine, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and more. Has there ever been a celebrity that’s come into the recording booth that left a surprising impression on you?

Seth: Chris Pine. He came through when we were working on this Star Trek short, and he just blew us away — he totally got it. In the middle of recording, he just looked over at us and was like, “I love this stuff, if you want, I’m always down to do this”. So when Supermansion came around, we had this idea for this character and we thought it’d be fun to get Chris Pine to do it. And that voice, he just figured out he could do it while riffing with us for the day. It isn’t fair. It used to be that the short weirdos got to be funny, good at improv and do weird voices. He has it all. It’s not fair.

Image Caption: Chris Pine and Bryan Cranston’s characters from Supermansion / Adult Swim

Kotaku AU: If you had the chance to make a fourth season of Supermansion, what would you like to do with it?

Matthew: Gosh, I haven’t thought about it. I wanna be careful because I don’t want to say something that Seth and I don’t align with. We ended it on a pretty downer note, so we’d love to come back and have a chance to wrap things up. But I’m still proud of where we left it off, and for the opportunity to get to do a show like that.

Kotaku AU: You guys have a surprising penchant for including super emotional and depressing moments in your shows. What about those kinds of moments are important for you to include?

Seth: Those are the moments that make us human, but they’re also just really funny for us. As creators, one of our favourite things to do is to combine fantasy with reality, and take those mundane and human moments, and make them fantastic and relatable.

Kotaku AU: Can you tell me about the new show you’re working on called ‘The Von Dingles’?

Harv: This idea came from my head. Ever since I was a kid I wondered what happened to Easter eggs that were left behind and never found, and thought it’d be funny if they grew arms, legs, faces, hid from humans, made little villages, had sex and had little egg babies. But the series isn’t about sex!

We’re also making this into a comic book alongside this artist Patrick Williams and it’s been great!

Kotaku AU: Matt, you got your start in comic books right?

[Seth rushes in from off-screen behind Matt]

Seth: Not just comic books. This man that you’re speaking to was the editor-in-chief of Wizard magazine, the leader of pop culture and entertainment back in the day before social media existed. He’s a genius!

Matt: We didn’t have eBay back then. But I’m really excited about this step we’re taking the company in – graphic novels, which is a new area of storytelling for us.

Image Credit: BTS of ‘The Von Dingles’ / Stoopid Buddie Studios

Kotaku AU: You mentioned the show has some similarities to The Smurfs. Were there any other shows or stories that inspired the tone and setting of the series?

Harv: There were a few shows that inspired The Von Dingles. First off was The Smurfs — as a kid, I really loved the idea of a lil’ community of things that you could run out and discover. I also feel like the spirit of Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, the cartoon from the 80s, also helped shape the look and feel of it. And lastly, I would add the last show I made, Crossing Swords to the mix.

If you add those three in a blender out comes The Von Dingles! Oh! I should add Crossing Swords inspired some of the visual style, too. The texture, low angles, and world-building on a miniature scale is also very much what I loved doing on that show, and what I’ll continue on Dingles.

Image Credit: BTS of ‘The Von Dingles’ / Stoopid Buddie Studios

Kotaku AU: You’re gathering funding for this series through Kickstarter — how has that been?

Matthew: It’s been great! We’re used to going out to networks and shopping an idea around. It’s been great to just bring this to friends, family and fans and creating something for them. We’ve got tons of great gifts for people who donate to the Kickstarter, so check it out and follow the Von Dingles Instagram as well!

Catch Supermansion for free on PEDESTRIAN TELEVISION, Mondays at 7:30pm AEDT or stream on demand.

Image Credit: Adult Swim

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