This week, it’s time for another ROBOT CHICKEN Holiday Special, plus the wrap up of another season of the Cartoon Network hit series. Show runners John Harvavtine and Matt Senrich talk about how much fun it still is playing with toys, plus Brooke Burns has a new trivia challenge TV show and a new co-star known as The Beast and she explains it all here with us.
After nearly eight seasons, the guys at ROBOT CHICKEN area still having fun playing with toys. We sit down with creator Matt Senreich and actor Breckin Meyer to talk about what has (or hasn’t) changed over the years. Plus DC and Marvel are neck and neck another month in the comic stores, and can it really be true? A SANDMAN movie at last?!
Robot Chicken has had some fun with the DC Universe ever since the series premiered on the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. As a result, a DC-centric special was inevitable and it aired back in the winter. Now out on DVD from Warner Home Video, the Robot Chicken DC Comics Special is a fast-paced laugh riot for comic book fans.
The RC crew, headed by cocreators Seth Green and Brecken Mayer are on hand, aided, abetted, and egged on by DC’s Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. Interestingly, Zeb Wells, who normally writes for Marvel, never for DC, is ion hand to direct the special. On the surface, they cleverly make this appealing to mainstream viewers by basing the look, feel, and sound to mimic the Super Friends animated series, using sound effects from other animated projects. But once the special gets underway, you glimpse tons of characters only comic readers would know, and that’s fun, because you don’t need to know the arcane details. Still, one of the funniest bits involves the foe Mr. Banjo, voiced by Alfred Molina, who admits it was his favorite part on the special.
And the voices help sell this. Molina is joined by Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, Megan Fox, Abe Benrubi, Tara Strong, Clare Grant, and the hilarious, foul-mouthed Alex Borstein.
The 23 minutes zip by, tied together by the usual ribbing Aquaman gets but this time, he gets so frustrated he turns to the Legion of Doom and offers his help in taking down the JLA. Another running gag, that never gets old, is the sudden arrival of Bane, who picks up Batman, breaks his back and departs.
Given how short the running time, it’s pretty impressive the disc comes with two hours’ worth of extras, notably funny writer commentaries and slightly less funny actor commentaries. There’s also The Making of Robot Chicken DC Comics Special that runs nearly as long as the show itself and gives you a good idea of what goes into making one of these episodes. There are some outtakes as the actors flub lines and deleted sketches, that get introduced and you learn why they didn’t make the cut. These, at least, got turned into animatics before being cut and one, the heroes needing the bathroom after eating Green Arrow’s chili, was borderline offensive while Booster Gold debating time traveling to kill Hitler with the JSA felt inappropriate (I guess you still shouldn’t make fun of the Holocaust).
Another extra takes you on an incomplete, mildly incoherent tour of DC Entertainment’s new Burbank offices, which makes it look like a fun place to work. The disc is rounded out with Robot Chicken DC Comics Special’s Aquaman Origin Story, Chicken Nuggets, Stoopid Alter Egos, and 5.2 Questions.
Solidly castigated for being in bad taste, Seth MacFarlane announced he was not interested in hosting the Oscars again. Watching his reception in horror, Tina Fey said “Hell, no.” So producers announced next year’s host will be Gilbert Gottfried.
To be fair, when it comes to MacFarlane I’m not necessarily your go-to guy. I thought Ted was good fun, but I have a hard time watching an entire episode of Family Guy. If I surf past it ten minutes in, I’m fine. If I watch it from the beginning but the phone rings and I actually decide to take the call, I don’t hit the TiVo button. American Dad doesn’t work for me, but it’s better than The Cleveland Show. Robot Chicken might be the finest show in the history of the medium. I loved him on Star Trek: Enterprise.
But I really enjoy MacFarlane when he’s on a talk show like Craig Ferguson or Jimmy Kimmel. Humor is in the eye of the beholder and I never, ever use the phrase “that’s not funny” without the tag “to me.” I think he’s funny, I think he’s clever, I think he might be the closest thing we’ve got in America to Ricky Gervais – except, of course, for Ricky Gervais. Who I also like. Who also was chastised for bad taste humor while hosting an awards show.
But here’s the thing. If you don’t want some bad taste on your teevee plate, don’t hire Seth MacFarlane. He’s not going to bow before the great Oscar god. That’s not what he does. He’s not Bob Hope, he’s not Johnny Carson. He’s not Billy Crystal either, although his Oscar ratings last month were 10% higher than Crystal’s the year before.
I don’t always watch the Oscars. I enjoy watching the show with my daughter because she does a fashion commentary that would make MacFarlane sound like Loretta Young. Come to think of it, that’s true of every woman with whom I’ve watched the show. Adriane wasn’t around this year, but I watched it because I like MacFarlane and, mostly, because I was hoping Ben Affleck would knock it out of the park. I might have wandered away had Christoph Waltz not copped the first award and, no, don’t blame MacFarlane or the show’s producers for Waltz’s nomination in the supporting actor category. They didn’t have anything to do with it. Grow up.
Hmmm. “Grow up.” Isn’t that Joan Rivers’ catch-phrase? Maybe she can be Gottfried’s co-host next year.
Mad Magazine worked in the 1950s when it debuted because it was subversive in its own way. At a time when conformity was the ideal, Mad went out of its way to skewer that very conformity, poking at the pop culture icons of the day, from its comic book brethren to movies and the nascent field of television. But it was smart humor, written and illustrated by some of the greatest talents working in the field. Its shift to black and white magazine was a desperate move at the time, avoiding the coming of the Comics Code Authority, but it also let the magazine grow in scope and influence. Being skewered by Mad’s usual gang of idiots was a badge of honor, usually proudly worn.
With time, the magazine became stuck in a pattern while the world around it changed and only offers up occasional bursts of brilliance these days. Still, it remains a cultural touchstone and spawned a long-running late-night sketch show that bore little resemblance to the magazine. More successful was the animated version of Mad, produced by Warner Bros. Animation for its sister division, Cartoon Network. Made up of eleven minute shorts, it has relied heavily on only parody since its September 2010 debut. Other carryovers from the magazine have included Spy vs. Spy and some of Don Martin’s cartoon panels coming to life.
The pedigree here comes from executive producer Sam Register, who has normally handled the more action-oriented fare; and Kevin Shinick (Robot Chicken) and Mark Marek (KaBlam!), far more accustomed to comedic stuff.
Recently, Warner Home Video released Mad Season One, Part Two, containing thirteen episodes of the show, which ran between February and June 2011. The parodies range from kid-oriented shows like Pokemon to older-oriented offerings including The Social Network (The Social Netjerk). Sometimes, the titles are funnier than the episodes themselves, especially Smallville: Turn Off The Clark. You wonder if some of the audience watching gets that Law & Ogre is Law & Order?
While the parodies tend to be smirk inducing to laugh out loud funny, they are only a small piece of what Mad is all about and it’s a shame that some of the mainstream social mores the magazine was brilliant at puncturing is totally absent here. There was an edge and bite to the mag at its best but all a new generation is learning is that everything they watch, read, and hear is ripe for parody. I think they knew that.
The quality of the animation is fine but the eleven minute structure needs to be more flexible so the jokes are made and we move on. Interstitials, like the Sergio Aragones margin pieces, would have been nice to have to connect everything.
The only bonus you get on the disc is a Mad digital comic which proves to be funnier than some of the installments themselves.
As is the new habit in basic cable, the Cartoon Network split the current season of its hilarious Robot Chicken into two halves, airing the first part of the fifth season late last year and then, a few weeks ago kicking off the second season. Where they didn’t follow the script was releasing Robot Chicken Season 5 on DVD just days after the second half debuted October 23.
All 20 episodes are included and I am late in bringing this to your attention because I have been savoring the installments, catching up on what has aired, and working ahead. The show, from co-creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, available on Blu-ray and standard DVD in separate packages. And as has become their wont, there are hours of bonus features, some exclusive to the Blu-ray edition, which was not sent for review.
Last year, the show won a much-deserved Emmy Award for Outstanding Short-Format Animated Program and will likely be nominated again based on how much belly-laughing I did with the antics skewering pop culture celebrities, music, television and movies. You can watch mashups like Saving Private Gigli, Schindler’s Bucket List, and Casablankman (and its sequel, airing later this month), although my favorite title was Major League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Extras include seven deleted scenes, over 50 deleted animatics with video introductions (always worth watching), selected episode commentary with the celebrity guests, an assortment of Behind the scenes featurettes and the funny On-air promotions. The Blu-ray also offers alternate audio takes from various sketches throughout the fifth season. DVD purchasers get an exclusive of their own: the ability to download an exclusive, uncensored version of the “Blue Rabbits” song.
Among the more amusing segments: Skeletor watches in horror when Snake Mountain is foreclosed on; Gargamel disguises himself as a Smurf; Major Nelson has Jeannie exactly delicious revenge when NASA fires him, NASA’s Lego people have a very bad launch day. One of my favorites was the war between the Keebler Elves and the Cookie Monster. Given my own recent roast, I can also appreciate the GI Joes’ attempt to spoil one for Cobra Commander.
You want guest stars in on the fun? How about, to name only some: Mila Kunis, Macaulay Culkin, Seth MacFarlane, Clare Grant, Michael Ian Black, Katee Sackhoff, Christian Slater, Michelle Trachtenberg, Abraham Benrubi, Alyson Hannigan, Skeet Ulrich, Olivia Munn, Alan Tudyk, the great Frank Welker, Lea Thompson, Emma Stone, Diablo Cody, Josh Groban, Mark Hamill, Sean Astin, Donald Faison, Amy Smart, the wondrous Adrianne Palicki, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, Kevin Bacon, Naomi Watts, Andy Serkis, and, in his final role before an untimely death, Gary Coleman.
ComicMix readers will definitely want to see Geoff Johns’ take on the DC Universe in an extended segment that has yet to air. Additionally, there’s the issue of who’s faster: Superman or Santa Claus and more recently a pretty funny bit between Green Lantern and Sinestro.
While most of the Adult Swim is not aimed at me (or I find particularly entertaining or funny), this is brilliant, knowing humor that I adore and so should you.
BURBANK, CA, (February 8, 2011) – Primetime television stars Nathan Fillion (Castle) and Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men) lead a diverse array of performers as the voices behind Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, the next entry in the popular, ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original Movies. Building up to the release of the highly anticipated live action film, Green Lantern, in theatres June 17, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights arrives on Blu-Ray™, DVD, On Demand and for Download June 7 from Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation.
Fillion provides the voice of the animated film’s central character Hal Jordan, the human Green Lantern assigned to Sector 2814 (which includes Earth). Fillion has starred in several primetime television series including Desperate Housewives, Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He has also developed a popular cult following as a pair of Joss Whedon’s heroic captains: Capt. Mal Reynolds in the space-western series Firefly and follow-up film, Serenity; and Captain Hammer in Whedon’s internet sensation Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Fillion returns to the DC Universe after his successful turn as Steve Trevor in the animated film Wonder Woman, and has performed voice work on Justice League, Robot Chicken, The Venture Bros., and several Halo video games.
Moss gives voice to Arisia, a young recruit forced into her first mission on just her third day as a Green Lantern. Prior to starring as the ever-evolving Peggy Olson in AMC’s ground-breaking series Mad Men, Moss was featured on The West Wing, Invasion and Picket Fences. Moss has been active in voiceovers for animation with previous roles in Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs, Freakazoid! and It’s Spring Training, Charlie Brown!.
The voice cast for the animated Green Lantern: Emerald Knights also features actor/spoken word artist Henry Rollins (Sons of Anarchy, The Henry Rollins Show) as Kilowog, Jason Isaacs (the Harry Potter films) as Sinestro, legendary professional wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (They Live) as Bolphunga, Arnold Vosloo (The Mummy) as Abin Sur, Kelly Hu (The Vampire Diaries) as Laira and Wade Williams (Prison Break) as Deegan. Radio Hall of Fame commentator/talk show host Michael Jackson voices the esteemed Guardian, Ganthet.
Bruce Timm is executive producer of Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. Directors are Lauren Montgomery, Jay Oliva and Christopher Berkeley.The full-length animated Green Lantern: Emerald Knights complements the Warner Bros. theatrical release of the highly anticipated live-action major motion picture Green Lantern,Green Lantern: Emerald Knights will be distributed by Warner Home Video as a Blu-Ray™ Combo Pack and 2-Disc Special Edition DVD, as well as single disc DVD. The film will also be available On Demand and for Download.
For those who missed it (including us, to be honest), on Labor Day, a funny thing happened; at 8:30 PM, Cartoon Network aired a ‘MAD‘ cartoon. And guess what? It wasn’t a one-time fluke! Our friends over at HeroComplex snagged the new animated sketch show’s producers Mark Marek (of Crank Yankers fame) and ‘Emmy winner’ Kevin Shinick (of Robot Chicken) and sat them down for an interview. For those who are too lazy to click that link and read their awesome interview, allow us to give you the 411:
The show is a 15 minute sketch cartoon show meant to carry the programming of Cartoon Network’s normal schedule to it’s [ironically bumpered] Adult Swim block of shows. Taking a ‘film festival’ approach to presentation, the MAD cartoon show will feature short cartoon sketches in a variety of styles. Mimicking the work and look of long time MAD contributors like Sergio Aragonés, the late Don Martin, and Al Jaffee, as well as including anything animated ranging from photo montages, flash animation, to stop motion sketches all in a single episode. Crediting the writing to “the Usual Gang of Idiots” means the material featured will provide wonderfully skewed takes on current events… targeting an audience that’ll range from the ‘kiddies about to say goodnight’ crowd to the ‘college frat kids just waking up’ demographic.
The show comes as a welcome surprise, as the last “MAD” penned show, Fox’s MADtv did little to take the real MAD brand to the masses. For those who tried to forget, we implore you to recoil in horror as you remember that the show provided the world with a sub-SNL quality sketch show with even more annoying repetitive characters (The UPS guy! Ms. Swan!), and literally no material ever gleaned from the pages of the long-running magazine. OK, that’s a bit of a lie. The show did feature a ‘Spy vs. Spy” cartoon, but it was cut after the second season, we assume because the average Fox viewer at the time was too confused by the high brow humor and subtle racial undertones of ‘Spy vs. Spy’.
Well, let’s wash our minds of that dreck, and check out ‘MAD’ on Cartoon Network… Mondays at 8:30 CST. I mean, if the show is as good as we think it’ll be, dare we say it… “What, Me Worry?”
Emma Caulfield (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Robot Chicken), Mouse Guard creator David Petersen, comic
book artist/writer David W. Mack and others weigh in on comics with spandex. Ever wonder what
comics out there aren’t about super-heroes? Hosted by Alan Kistler and