If you own a television, stream content from a computer, a smartphone or a tablet, or watch movies on the big screen, chances are you’ve seen something made by Stoopid Buddy Stoodios. Known mostly for “Robot Chicken,” its award-winning stop-motion sketch comedy series that mocks popular culture often using twisted versions of well known toys on Adult Swim, the artists at Stoopid Buddy have had their talented hands in many more projects across all sorts of media and art forms.
Seth Green, John Harvatine IV, Matthew Senreich and Eric Towner are the co-founders of the busy state-of-the-art stop-motion studio in Burbank. It’s one-stop shopping for all kinds of animation, and it’s all created at their eclectic two-building campus by their team of about 200 artists.
Their latest project — the stop-motion superhero sendup “SuperMansion” – debuted Thursday on Crackle. The series, created by Senreich and Zeb Wells, is a departure for Stoopid Buddy because it features recurring characters and an ongoing storyline. The episodes are also 22 minutes long, as opposed to the 11-minute “Robot Chicken” episodes.
“We felt we were ready to make our own property instead of just playing with other people’s properties,” says Wells. “This gives us a chance to stretch those longer story muscles.”
Even before the premiere of the first three episodes on Oct. 8, an early preview of “SuperMansion” garnered more than 1 million views on Facebook, and that’s not counting views on YouTube or on the Crackle network itself, according to Crackle.
Part of that success might be attributed to the involvement of Bryan Cranston as the voice of lead character Titanium Rex, and also as a producer.
“He’s brought so many layers and ideas to not just his character but to the other characters,” says Towner. “It’s really elevated the entire project to another level just because he’s such a talented dude.”
When Wells and Senreich were developing “SuperMansion,” they’d envisioned Titanium Rex as a “Bryan Cranston type,” Wells explains. “Bryan was super big from ‘Breaking Bad’ at the time and we didn’t think we would ever get him.” But, as it turned out, Cranston had done some voice work for “Robot Chicken,” so the creators decided to try to get him the script. “He called us and said he’d read a stack of scripts and this one made him laugh a lot,” says Wells. “So he wanted to come on board not only as an actor but to actually make the show with us.”
Stoopid Buddy is no stranger to high-level talent. In addition to Cranston, many top actors have done voice work for “Robot Chicken” and other projects, including such stars as Gillian Anderson, Kevin Bacon, Chris Evans, Jon Hamm, Neil Patrick Harris, Scarlett Johansson, David Oyelowo, Chris Pine, Emma Stone, among others, and even George Lucas.
What’s Stoopid Buddy’s secret? “For them, it’s fun. It’s a short time commitment,” says Harvatine.
And having actor Green as one of the studio’s partners doesn’t hurt. “Having Seth as part of the company helps,” adds Harvatine. “It gives them kind of a comfort knowing that we’re not going to freak them out. Seth loves voice acting and I think it shows in the work he does. I think they feel really comfortable coming here.”
Green voices regular villain Groaner in the series and Keegan-Michael Key plays Captain America-like hero American Ranger. Other actors providing voices throughout the series’ run include Famke Janssen, Nick Kroll, Breckin Meyer, Ron Perlman, Chris Pine and Anton Yelchin.
Production on the series has taken about 14 months, with episodes being shot concurrently on several of the studio’s 26 stages.
“We have multiple stages with multiple animators, and at any time we could have multiple episodes shot at the same time,” explains Towner. “It makes sense for us to set up and light a location, like the ‘SuperMansion’ kitchen where we have reoccurring scenes throughout the entire series. We just light it and keep it up.”
The Stoopid Buddy team is excited about working with free streaming service Crackle on the project. “Crackle loved the show and that was the biggest thing for us,” says Wells. “The creative interactions with them have been great. They instantly said ‘We think this is a 22-minute show. We want to give you guys 13 episodes to let it breathe.’ It just felt like the right home for this thing.”
“We love being on the ground floor of new networks as well,” adds Towner. “Like when ‘Robot Chicken’ first came out, that was just as Adult Swim was getting up. We hope this show can help put Crackle on the map and lead to a lot more exciting projects with them.”
It’s too soon to know if there will be a second season, but they are bouncing around ideas for scripts. In the meantime, Stoopid Buddy Stoodios has plenty to keep its artists busy, including an eighth season of “Robot Chicken” premiering later this month.
“A lot of different projects are happening right now,” says Towner. “We just did a Web series with Bratz, which was really cool. We’re doing a 2D animated show with WWE’s Camp WWE and that’s a new horizon for us. And then there are a bunch of projects we can’t talk about yet. We’re really lucky.”