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DC Comics characters play ‘Chicken’ in new Adult Swim special

Burt 'Robin' Ward on legacy of 'Batman' TV show, genius of Adam West

Burt Ward, known forever as Robin from the "Batman" TV series of the 1960s, talks about why the show worked on many levels, and dishes on his co-star, Adam West. Ward and West are contributing their voices to a special episode of "Robot Chicken" o
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Burt Ward, known forever as Robin from the "Batman" TV series of the 1960s, talks about why the show worked on many levels, and dishes on his co-star, Adam West. Ward and West are contributing their voices to a special episode of "Robot Chicken" o

Seth Green wanted to do something different for an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s talk show. Along with his friend Matthew Senreich, Green created a rudimentary stop-motion video of him and O’Brien attending Comic-Con.

Fast forward 16 years and the pair are still making films under the banner of “Robot Chicken.” The eighth season of the animated show on Adult Swim kicks off at midnight Oct. 25. Before the launch, the special, “Robot Chicken DC Comics Special III: Magical Friendship,” will be broadcast on the cable channel at midnight, Oct. 18.

The show came about because Sony wanted to create content for the Web back in 1999.

“They financed 40 minutes of content from us that no one would ever see because no one had broadband back then,” Green says during an interview at the office of DC Comics.

Over the years, many of the stop-motion comedy bits on “Robot Chicken” have featured characters from both the DC and Marvel universes.

The special looks at what happens when the bromance between Batman and Superman sours and the fate of the universe depends on whether they can get past their petty squabble. Voice talents for this special, which is loaded with characters from the DC Comics universe, include Green, Senreich, Breckin Meyer, Alfred Molina, Nathan Fillion, Weird Al Yankovic, Alex Borstein, Giovanni Ribisi, Jonathan Banks, Mae Whitman, Adam West and Burt Ward.

“Robot Chicken” launched in February 2005 with a little help from producer Seth MacFarlane, who had just sold his “Family Guy” series to the Cartoon Network and introduced Green and Senreich to the network executives. Since then, the show has won three prime-time Emmys, including outstanding short-format animated program in 2011.

All of the “Robot Chicken” offerings feature animation that isn’t the highest quality. Senreich says the show is designed to make viewers think they could make the program themselves at home.

Green quickly adds, “Actually, the production of the show is very complicated. We do leave fingerprints all over things to make it look simple. We like that it feels handmade. The show is supposed to look like it’s the stories you are telling and the jokes you are making.”

It’s your toys coming to life.

Seth Green

It might be possible to match some of the looks of the stop-motion offerings, but very few people would be able to round up the voice talents on the show. Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mila Kunis, Rachael Leigh Cook, Skeet Ulrich, Mark Hamill, Macaulay Culkin and Scarlett Johansson are just part of the roster of actors who have worked on the show.

The first season, Green went to people he met through his 30 years of acting in TV shows such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and movies like the “Austin Powers” franchise. Landing voice talents got easier with each year and each Emmy nomination.

“We got Ryan Seacrest at the same time we landed Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise. Then Charlize Theron came in,” Senreich says. “Then we could go out to agents and say, ‘Look who’s doing our show.’ 

The pair knew that they had to land Adam West and Burt Ward for their “DC” special. The jokes about Batman and Robin wouldn’t work the same without the well-known voices of the actors.

All of the characters in the special are put in odd and weird situations, but that has garnered very little negative feedback from DC Comics.

“They told us that you can’t break these characters. These are characters who have co-existing versions in a Playskool child’s version and the darkest of the Dark Knight,” Green says. “It’s the same Batman at any one of those entry points. Whether you are a fan or not a fan of these characters, there’s an entry point for everyone.”

Everything went so well during the 22 weeks of producing the special, they ended up with 20 minutes of extra material. It won’t be lost: You can see it when the DVD is released.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1

Robot Chicken DC Comics Special III: Magical Friendship

  • Midnight, Oct. 18, Adult Swim

Robot Chicken: Season Eight

  • Midnight, Sunday, Oct. 25, Adult Swim
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