Sunday, October 26, 2008

Q&A with Matt Senreich, co-creator of Robot Chicken

Squid Pro Quo: How did you and Seth Green meet up?

Matt Senreich: "We met on J-Date, and it was love at first sight. That’s what Seth always says and for some reason people laugh at that. Um, gosh how did we meet? I was working at Wizard Magazine, which is a magazine about comic book and toys and video games and the like and gosh, this was back in like 1996 or 7 and uh, I called his publicist to interview him and within 3 minutes he called me back saying he was a big fan of the magazine and I interviewed him and we just became friends after that."

SPQ: How do you get all those toys to make the episodes?

MS: ”We build a lot of them in house now, but we have a guy who is our toy wrangler and he goes out and checks eBay and goes to all the toy stores and calls all the people and its his job to get toys. Ever since we’ve been up and running, we’re now in this great scenario where a bunch of toy companies actually send us stuff when we need it, which has been really nice but the older stuff you have to go out and hunt, which is the best job ever."

SPQ: Has there ever been times with old toys - where you don’t want to play with them, but you have to?

MS: “We got a vintage Batmobile and it was like pristine condition and it was heartbreaking because we bought it for our first season and we had to destroy it for animation - it gets blown up - and I remember Seth was actually filming a movie in Hungary and I called him up at the wee hours saying, ‘Hey, our animators need to destroy this’ and he’s like, is there any way we can do, you know and he tried throwing out like eight different methods to try to save it and I was like no, can’t have that, no, can’t have that, we’re gonna have to destroy it. And he’s like, ‘I guess we’ve got to destroy it’ and it was just heartbreaking for both of us because we always wanted that for ourselves. And we were hoping to keep it in our office as soon as we were done filming it, but no, it got destroyed."

SPQ: Oh man, at least you got the pieces, no?

MS: "Those pieces had been used in many different other segments, but they are shattered into crumbs by now."

SPQ: Man.

MS: “Yeah, heartbreaking.”

SPQ: That is heartbreaking. I saw your Star Wars special, I thought it was very clever, very hilarious. I read another interview with you guys that says you’re working on another one, right?

MS: “We are! We actually are just finishing it up and it’s going to air, I think it’s November 16, so yeah, it’s right around the corner.”

SPQ: Are you guys big Star Wars fans, or geeks, I should say, as well?

MS: “You know, Star Wars is a movie I’ve seen more than any other. It was on HBO when I was growing up every day. I probably watched it on video tape three times more than I’ve watched it on television. But yeah, it’s the movie that got me into this business.”

SPQ: That being said, who shot first, Han or Greedo?

MS: “Oh, Han."

SPQ: OK, awesome. I was gonna say, if you say Greedo, I don’t know if I can go on with this interview.

MS: “That’s the version I saw. Just to show you, I still have the HBO video tape that I have from watching it over and over as a kid on VHS, so that’s the version I like to watch whenever possible."

SPQ: So Seth Green is also involved in Family Guy, but he’s doing Robot Chicken with you. So what’s it like with him doing both those shows, is there competition, how does that work?

MS: "You know, it’s actually really friendly between the two shows. I mean, Seth pretty much just acts on that show, so it’s always a nice surprise for him to go in there like when they gave us that nod on the 'Family Guy' Star Wars special. It was a really nice nod and in the writing process, we have a good relationship with them where we’ll call each other up and be like ‘Hey, we’re doing a thermal exhaust port joke, are you doing anything like that?’ and they’ll be like, ‘Yeah, we have something like it and we’ll compare notes and be like, 'OK, ours is totally different.' Um, but it’s been a lot of fun, because Seth McFarlane comes on our show and does the emperor voice and he’s redefined that character for us and its just been really nice. We take some creative trips together as well."

SPQ: Cool. I was looking at the Star Wars special, and did you say it premiered at Skywalker Ranch?

MS: “It premiered at Skywalker Ranch. Yeah, we took our cast and crew up to the ranch and screened it at their theater there, which has the most amazing sound system ever and it was just a nice little ‘thank you’ that they provided for working with them. I can’t speak highly enough of those guys."

SPQ: So George Lucas was there then, in attendance?

MS: “George was the surprise that we snuck in after we started airing, and our cast and crew didn’t know he was going to be there and we snuck him in and he watched it and Seth and I actually stood in the very back watching him watch it for the first time, really nervous to see what he was going to say and we just kept seeing his body shaking cause he was laughing and we’re like ‘OK, good, we’re doing something right.’ And afterwards he came up and spoke to our crew and I think everybody got a huge kick out of it and we just developed a nice, fun relationship with them.”

SPQ: Are you guys going to do the same thing with the second Star Wars installment then?

MS: “We were just up visiting and showed him the second Star Wars special beforehand. I don’t know if time will permit him to make our second screening or not. We don’t know what we’re doing for the screening of this one quite yet, we’re still worrying about finishing it. But he saw a rough cut, which he seemed to like a lot and he ever quoted it to us, which was quite flattering.”

SPQ: Is there a plot for the second one, kind of like how the first one was running on a lot of the Death Star stuff?

MS: “We kind of follow the storyline of the bounty hunters a little bit in this one. We still skip around the universe a lot and you’ll have a lot of random stuff in it, but we really do follow the sequence of who these bounty hunters are, how they were hired, what their storyline ends up being, and what ends up happening. You could say there’s a good Boba Fett mark in it.”

SPQ: Cool. I was looking at that, and you said you don’t know who he should sound like.

MS: “We just boiled it down to, he just sounds like Breckin Meyer now. He’s redefined that character the same way Seth MacFarlane has redefined the emperor.”

SPQ: I never remember Boba Fett ever saying anything in the movies.

MS: “He had a couple things. Then in the prequels, his character is there, he’s still a kid. And there’s Jengo that he’s kind of playing off of, and he is a clone technically of Jengo Fett. But yeah, it’s one of those things where we just try to make it so it can exist at the same time as all the stuff that they’re doing in the regular Star Wars universe. Ours is kind of like an Earth-Two, to make a DC Comics reference, of the Star Wars universe. This is an alternate view of what the Star Wars universe could be like in the comedy world."

SPQ: I thought it was hilarious when you had the random scene with Leia and Luke in bed saying, ‘Oh, that was wrong.’

MS: “We were shocked that they let us do that. It was very flattering."

SPQ: Final question, the production. Is it all in one place, how do you do the production?

MS: “Everything is done - we have a studio here in Hollywood and we have about 80 to 100 people working here. Everything from animators to a set department, puppet department, lighting, tech., editing - everything is done in-house. All our voice records are done here, we have a voice booth. It’s pretty much self-sufficient now."

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