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DVD REVIEW: Robot Chicken - DC Comics Special

Photo of Greg Ehrbar By Greg Ehrbar | Animation Scoop July 10, 2013 at 2:00PM

Adult Swim's bawdy puppet animation series takes on the DC Superheroes in this new DVD release. The show is not for everyone, but for those who know the comics this is a hilarious must-have.
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Robot Chicken - Superman, Batman, Flash

Co-Written, Co-Produced and Directed by Seth Green

With the Voices of: Abraham Benrubi, Alex Bornstein, Breckin Meyer, Nathan Fillion, Megan Fox, Clare Grant, Seth Green, Neil Patrick Harris, Alfred Molina, Aaron Paul, Tom Root, Kevin Shinick, Matthew Senreich, Tara Strong, Paul Reubens, Zeb Wells, Steven Tyler



Robot Chicken, like Saturday Night Live, Lipitor or Cymbalta, is not for everyone. But it’s enjoyed significant success. This particular entry in the stop-motion Adult Swim satire series provides quite a notable twist in the ongoing saga of super powers engaged in battle—not superheroes, but entertainment companies with growing portfolios of characters and franchises.

DC has had some bumps along the big-screen freeway to box office and critical success while Marvel is enjoying a measurable edge. However, Warner can spoof their characters to a searing degree. Disney probably would demur to do the same with its properties. It’s ironic that Robot Chicken, which hit big with its Star Wars sendup (before Disney bought Lucasfilm), has allowed satire within its own library, from Space Ghost: Coast to Coast to Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law.

Some may take umbrage at how Warner can produce satires of this kind with their classic characters, but the point is in the irony. Robot Chicken is an unapologetically crude, edgy puppet show that is now a six-season series with over 100 episodes. Big name stars do voices and awards have been won. I'm not making an evaluation here, just observing and tilting my head to the side in wonderment.

Members of Robot Chicken's team are also behind Cartoon Network's animated MAD series, which follows the same rhythm, transitional devices and hit-and-miss satire, albeit for a younger audience. MAD does not come near the expletive level of Robot Chicken.

But it's not the use of language that makes this particular entry in the series funny, it’s the silliness and the running gags. Aquaman's lack of respect is the show’s "through line," as the writers call it on their commentary. I got a kick out of the nod to Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In in the "That's Bane" gags. It's also nice to see Captain Carrot and His Zoo Crew mentioned - in a sketch reminiscent of the classic "Chuckles Bites the Dust" episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. And let’s face it, Mister Banjo steals the show. He should have his own big-budget tentpole CG feature film.

Robot Chicken moves at such a breakneck pace that a lesser gag is forgotten when a greater one follows it, also a "Laugh-In" technique and a luxury that the longer format SNL does not have. Having this episode on DVD bears repeat viewings in order to catch the gags - and of course, the more you know the comics, the funnier the jokes. Although it’s a half-hour special, there are a lot of bonus features.

As a special note, I have never read a funnier DVD box than the one in which this is packaged. Whoever wrote it deserves props, and those who shepherded it through what is likely a series of corporate approvals is also a superhero. It even has fake prices! I could just imagine someone saying, "If we put a price of 12 cents on the front cover, the public may expect to pay that..."

Robot Chicken package

BONUS FEATURES

1.     The Making of the RCDC Special 
Even though specific words are bleeped on the special, they are heard here in voice sessions. Apparently the stop motion animation is all done domestically, at least from the way it looks in this segment.

2.     Writers' Commentary

Nice explanations of the concepts behind the gags and how the show is structured.

3.     Actors' Commentary

4.     It's fun to hear Alfred Molina talk about the British comics he grew up with, as well as his take on doing this show. Guess who Banjo Man is?

5.     DC Entertainment: The Tour

Seth Green and other creatives tour the office lobby, research library, toy graveyard, things in storage, video game room, product room, archives and writers room.

PLUS:

6.     Aquaman: His DC Special Origin Story

7.     Chicken Nuggets (sketch-by-sketch commentary)

8.     Stoopid Alter Egos – costume wrap party

9.     Outtakes

10.  Cut sketches: voice sessions and storyboards

Robot Chicken logo


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