×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Initial production hurdles were nothing to cluck at

'Robot Chicken' 100th Episode

The idea of “Robot Chicken” was to make original, off-the-shelf toys walk, talk and be funny. But right from the start, that was an idea that ran afoul of the realities of producing stop-motion animation on a TV budget.

“They don’t hold the poses that you want stop-motion figures to do,” says co-creator and exec producer Matthew Senreich. “So using these toys was a waste of time and energy because the arms just wouldn’t stay where you needed them to stay.”

On top of that, Senreich says the production early on had to come to grips with other limitations.

“Our animation directors at the time locked me in a room until about 4 in the morning, explaining to me everything that we were doing terribly wrong with the production and how we couldn’t have 210 unique shots in an 11-minute show because each one requires setup that I never even thought had to happen,” he says.

The show since has found its groove, both in writing and production, with each element finding its own unusual route to the finished product.

Writer and co-creative director Mike Fasolo says the writers defy the TV norm by usually writing in silence around a table. “People always ask us why don’t you pitch jokes to the room and pitch different stories,” he says. “We have so many skits in the episodes, that if we just focused on just one during the day, we’d only have that one skit done.”

The writers usually spend about three weeks brainstorming and two weeks writing scripts, before starting all over again until they have enough for a 20-episode season. Green, Senreich and exec producers and head writers Tom Root and Doug Goldstein are the arbiters of what goes into production, with a 3-1 vote required.

The process has become more efficient since the first season, with animators producing about 10 seconds of footage a day — a relatively large amount considering a similar output per week is common on stop-motion features. Among the oddball details is that the audio of each sketch is checked for syllables timed to specific frames, Goldstein says.

“Stop motion is a rigorous and time-consuming production process, but it also yields a very specific effect that everybody who works in it is in love with,” Green says.

‘Robot Chicken’ 100th Episode
A beak into the future | Team reps rapid rise of nerd processors | Fandom fodder for film-flam | Initial production hurdles were nothing to cluck at

More TV

  • Tammy Filler Nathan Najarian NBC

    E! Expands News Coverage, Brings 'Today' Vet Tammy Filler Aboard (EXCLUSIVE)

    E! is expanding its entertainment-news programming, with plans to add three more hours of coverage to its linear schedule in 2020, Variety has learned. To help spearhead the effort, the cable channel is bringing aboard Tammy Filler, a veteran producer on NBC’s “Today,” to lead creative and production for E! News. The expansion of news [...]

  • Armando Iannucci

    Armando Iannucci Space Comedy 'Avenue 5' Ordered to Series at HBO

    HBO has given a series order to the comedy “Avenue 5” from creator Armando Iannucci. The series is described as a space tourism comedy set forty years in the future when the solar system is everyone’s oyster. Hugh Laurie stars as Ryan Clark, the captain of the space cruise ship Avenue 5. The series also [...]

  • NCIS Los Angeles and NCIS New

    'NCIS: Los Angeles' and 'NCIS: New Orleans' Renewed at CBS

    CBS has renewed “NCIS: Los Angeles” for an 11th season, and “NCIS: New Orleans” for a sixth season. Both action drama are spinoffs of “NCIS,” which was renewed in early April. “NCIS: Los Angeles” follows a Naval Criminal Investigative Service division based in the City of Angels that is tasked with catching dangerous and elusive [...]

  • BRAZILIAN FLAGFRENCH OPEN TENNIS, PARIS, FRANCE

    Brazil’s Ancine Freezes Incentives, Threatening Film-TV Industry Paralysis

    Brazil’s Ancine agency, its foremost public-sector source of film funding, has frozen all of its incentive programs, potentially near paralyzing new production in Latin America’s biggest film-TV industry. The dramatic decision, which has left Brazil’s industry is a state of shock and intense fear for its future, comes as it has taken further hits. In [...]

  • TV Shows to Watch the Week

    TV Shows to Watch the Week of April 22, 2019: 'Gentleman Jack' and the NFL Draft

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, “Gentleman Jack” debuts on HBO, and “Kobra Kai” season two drops on YouTube [...]

  • Steve Golin The Revenant Spotlight Producer

    Steve Golin, Prolific Producer and Founder of Anonymous Content, Dies at 64

    Steve Golin, an Oscar-winning producer who was founder and CEO of Anonymous Content, died Sunday in Los Angeles of cancer. He was 64. Golin was a pioneer in blending the business of talent management with production. Anonymous Content, which Golin founded in 1999, worked with a stable of big name artists such as Steven Soderbergh, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content