Robot Chicken Star Wars Episode III was the most ambitious of Seth Green and Matt Senreich's Star Wars spoofs: a 45-minute spoof opera that narrated the rise and fall of Emperor Palpatine, plus the adventures of Boba Fett and Gary the Stormtrooper. Now Episode III comes out on DVD tomorrow, with three fricken hours of special features.
To celebrate, we've got an exclusive clip from the special features, in which Princess Leia tries on her slave outfit for the very first time. And an exclusive interview with Senreich, in which he explains just why there's no Robot Chicken Star Trek. May the yadda yadda.
First, here's that exclusive clip, which presents the deleted scene as recorded, with animatics in place of the action figures:
We were lucky enough to get 15 minutes on the phone with Senreich, geeking out about all things Star Wars. Here's what he told us:
The reason there'll never be a Robot Chicken Star Trek
You just don't see as much intensive spoofing of Star Trek. There aren't as many Trek in-jokes in popular culture, and you don't see it referenced as often as Star Wars. We asked Senreich why he thought that was. He responds:
It's not as deep and expansive of a universe, whereas Star Wars as a universe — there's so many worlds and planets and different creatures that are roaming around. You know, it's different species interacting with different species. Star Trek was the character of the week, if you will. It wasn't until later that you had them interacting in the political spectrum, with all the different races and beings at the same time. It's really just the crew that you're following, and those are the only ones you know the stories of. How much do you know about those other [characters] and races? Very little.
In Star Wars, you're passing an alien on the street, and you're like, "What's that guy's story? He looks really cool." You just wonder where they're all going and what's happening. And you walk into that Cantina, that bar, and they're all just hanging out and having their own stories. They go to some guy who's a giant, like, muppet, and he doesn't speak English but they understand him perfectly. It's just embedded And everybody just goes with it. You never just question that.
The process for creating Robot Chicken Star Wars
Senreich says the whole writing staff goes through all of the Star Wars films and looks for "random moments that beg the question." Like, "what was that other guy thinking?" Or, "What was that guy doing right before that moment?" But also, why are the minor characters wearing the silly things they're wearing? "It's exactly like [Tom Stoppard's] Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern," says Senreich.
So for Episode III, they decided to take "kind of a Wicked approach with the Emperor, to figure out why he went down the road that he went down," says Senreich. And they ended up thinking of him as kind of a "beleaguered CEO, who may or may not have wanted to do this, but he just fell into it. He probably wanted it for good intentions. We never really know his whole story. I can't believe someone's bad just for the sake of being bad."
The difference between Hardware Wars and Robot Chicken Star Wars
You may or may not remember the first ever full-fledged Star Wars parody, Ernie Fosselius' Hardware Wars, which came out right in 1977. We asked Senreich if he'd seen it, and he says he saw it on HBO. "I was always so excited when it came on between movies," he says. We had to ask him about the difference between being the first to spoof Star Wars, being one of the latest.
The best part about Star Wars is, it's so rich for parody, and I don't think it ever goes away, it's been so engrained into pop culture and into our lives. There's not a day goes by that someone doesn't make some kind of Star Wars reference without even realizing it The reason those toys sell like hotcakes still is because everybody is taking their childhood and projecting it onto their child. As far as being the first versus the last, I don't think any of us will ever be [the last]. George even said it himself, when the first movie came out, he knew right away it was ripe for parody.
And Senreich says that all of these parodies, over the years, build on each other. Like, some of the stuff that Robot Chicken spoofs comes from things that Kevin Smith was talking about in Clerks. "You just weren't able to visualize it. And we were able to take that next step." He imagines that someone else will take what Robot Chicken is doing a step further, in ways that he and the other creators can't even imagine. "I'm sure that when Hardware Wars came out, those weren't the obvious jokes at the time," says Senreich. Star Wars humor "just keeps getting more meta, at this point."
And meanwhile, Star Wars is no longer just a handful of movies — it's six movies, plus tons of books and video games and insane numbers of variant toys that all form part of the universe.
Why is maiming funny?
There's a lot of humor around maiming and maimed people in this new Robot Chicken Star Wars — including Darth Vader himself. We asked Senreich why he thinks maiming is good comedy material, and he says, "violence is funny when it comes to toys. And I think that's really what it boils down to for us, why we go in that direction. All of the writers know that the visualization of it will work." Some of the writers actually argue that the show goes too far sometimes, and it's a constant debate over whether this is an "easy out."
Given the amount of maiming humor, we were wondering if we could look forward to a Robot Chicken Game of Thrones — but Senreich thinks it wouldn't sustain its own special. "It hasn't been around that long. Its audience isn't as large as you'd want it to be... I could see us doing a Game of Thrones sketch in a heartbeat."
People often ask if they'd do an Indiana Jones special, but that's a series about just one guy. The closest they'd come to doing a whole special based on something else is one of the 1980s movie series, "but even those aren't just as far-reaching as Star Wars is."
Where Robot Chicken is at right now
They just finished the second half of season five, ten episodes which will air in September — including the show's 100th episode, which will be something special, finally exploring the show's chicken and scientist characters. But meanwhile, Senreich won't divulge anything about his and Seth Green's new Star Wars comedy show that they're reportedly working on.
Today's kids will think of Clone Wars as the real Star Wars
Star Wars will never go away, predicts Senreich — today's kids will grow up thinking of Clone Wars as the real Star Wars universe. "The kids growing up today will love it the way we love Transformers and G.I. Joe. People will be talking about that show like it's the coolest thing ever," 20 years from now, he predicts.
Robot Chicken Star Wars: Episode III comes out on DVD tomorrow.