January 31, 2014 12:06pm PT by Carolyn Giardina
Stoopid Buddy Stoodios' 'Robot Chicken' Plans 'Lawrence of Arabia,' 'Alien' Sketches
The colorful creative culture at Stoopid Buddy Stoodios includes a room filled with classic arcade games, an office housed in an Airstream that was rolled into its production space, and lots of toys.
Best known as the studio behind Robot Chicken, the stop-motion sketch comedy series that airs as part of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, the unconventional Burbank-based animation studio was founded by the close-knit team of Seth Green, Matthew Senreich, Eric Towner and John Harvatine IV.
On a recent tour of the studio, the team provided a sneak peak at some of their plans for the upcoming season, including a sketch that will bring together WWF’s The Iron Sheik with the storyline of David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, "which involves him giving lots of Camel Clutches, his famous wrestling maneuver."
Another story involves Alf as a stowaway on the spaceship in Alien. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver’s character in the film) is voiced by Sarah Michelle Geller.
Robot Chicken -- whose seventh season starts in April -- has already won an Annie Award and three Emmys. Two additional Stoopid Buddy productions are nominated for this year’s Annie Awards, which will be handed out on Saturday. The company’s Brad Schaffer (for web series Friendship All-Stars of Friendship: Wrong Number) and Eric Urban (Ubermansion pilot) are both nominated in the category for character animation in an animated television/broadcast production.
In this category, the Stoopid Buddy animators find themselves in the company of three nominees from Pixar (all three for Toy Story of Terror) and one from Lucasfilm (Star Wars: The Clone Wars).
Stoopid Buddy is a one-stop creative hub that does everything from writing to various styles of animation, but Towner emphasized, “it always starts with creating funny, memorable characters and creating a performance. You actually cast a part twice, one with the voice actor; and once with the animator, who is creating the physical performance.”
The animation technique for Robot Chicken -- which involved toys and puppets -- is the painstaking process of stop motion, though produced at a rapid pace for the discipline. “We shoot an episode of Robot Chicken in six days," said Harvatine. "To make it easier, we write four episodes in four week cycles, and then animate them at the same time, so that the change over on set can be done more efficiently. That means there’s up to eight episodes (in production) at once. The artists might start creating the puppets four weeks before production begins.”
“You never know who’s going to come in,” Senreich said of the eclectic voice cast, that includes himself, Green, and countless guests including Seth MacFarlane, Mila Kunis and Mark Hamill. Pictures of the guests hang outside the voice-recording booth at the studio. “Everyone who comes in has a great sense of humor,” he said. “The great thing about Robot Chicken is we are never making fun of them with hatred. It’s with love.”
The company is also working on a new series, Ubermansion, which is being co-produced with Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston. Green initially did the voice acting for the lead character, “a sort of retired Superman,” but the team wanted to try a different approach and sent Cranston the script. “He called and asked if he could also get on board and produce,” related Senreich. “It’s been a great working relationship, and Adult Swim has been really supportive.”
Stoopid Buddy opened in February 2012 at its current location, where all the animation is created -- you won’t hear about the guys chasing tax incentives. Previously, Green and Senreich were producing Robot Chicken under the moniker Stoopid Monkey, and then reteamed with Towner and Harvatine, who had worked on early episodes of the series and were operating under Buddy Systems. The combination resulted in the name Stoopid Buddy.