The highly-anticipated Season 9 of “Robot Chicken” kicks-off Sunday night at 11:30pm with a brand new Holiday Special – Freshly Baked: The Robot Chicken Santa Claus Pot Cookie Freakout Special: Special Edition. Series co-creator Matthew Senreich and director Tom Sheppard give us a preview of Santa’s wild ride and other highlights of S9.
Jackson Murphy: I watched the trailer for the holiday special. What in the world is going on with Santa on Christmas Eve?
Tom Sheppard: Santa’s having a rough time in life, just like a lot of people right now, and he goes on a strange little trip.
Matt Senreich: He goes to his different families every night to leave presents. Kids leave out cookies and milk and he eats a cookie that’s laced with something.
JM: With a lot of shows you only get one, maybe two holiday specials in their entire run.
MS: We actually do a Christmas special pretty much every season. I think this is our eighth. Adult Swim probably hates us for it because they can only air them on Christmas. We like the holidays. I think it’s just that simple. It’s fun playing with Santa, especially in stop-motion.
JM: You include a parody of “A Christmas Story” in the trailer. Any other parodies in the special?
TS: The “Christmas Story” parody was really just for a promotional photo. There isn’t a lot of parody in this as much as it’s just a straight ahead story about Santa Claus.
MS: I’d say it’s a musical. We have a number of musical numbers in this, which I think they may even be releasing. We have a bunch of people who can sing – from Jemaine Clement to Jason Alexander to Patrick Stump to come in and sing songs with us. It really is a fun watch, and it plays really fast with all the songs that play through.
JM: What’s tougher for you guys on a regular basis with “Robot Chicken” – coming-up with the story ideas or is it choosing and getting the right celebrities for the voices?
MS: I would say it’s definitely the stories. You want to take your time with writing… make sure it all makes sense, makes you laugh and just makes you feel good. With casting, a lot of times it’s like “who do we like? Who do we thing we can get?” We like to geek-out over the casting of “Robot Chicken” because we’ve had so many amazing actors come into the voice booth over the years. When we started the show we never thought we could get the people that we’ve had on our show. Now we’re at a place where it doesn’t seem so far fetched to get the people we’re getting in.
JM: It’s that time of the year for the classic holiday specials on TV. What are the ones you guys grew-up with and your all-time favorites?
MS: For me it’s “Rudolph”, it always comes back to that, also because of the stop-motion aspect to it. It’s the one I still watch every year. Now I’m watching it with my kids, and it makes me smile. There’s something, emotionally, that will never go away when it comes to “Rudolph”.
TS: For me, the “Rudolph” specials are still like candy for me – I love them. But there’s a movie called “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” that I’ve been watching every year since I was a child. And, this is a later in life discovery, seeing the “Star Wars Holiday Special” is always a treat at Christmastime.
MS: Wow! Good call!
TS: And the “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Holiday Special” is pretty fantastic as well.
JM: Gotta get back to “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians”. For those of us who have never seen it, give us a little synopsis.
TS: It’s pretty much all in the title – though I guess that is misleading. The Martians don’t have Christmas, so the come to Earth and kidnap Santa Claus and force him to create a toy factory so they can give toys to the Martian children. That’s pretty much the story.
MS: They’re going to start playing it on NBC every year now.
JM: And in an updated version Matt Damon could just randomly show up, that would be funny, too. Season 9 of “Robot Chicken” – How do you guys keep it so fresh?
MS: I always say “Robot Chicken” is similar to “Saturday Night Live”. Sketch comedy will exist for as long as life exists. The only difference is that we play with nostalgia while they do more current events. But our audience is still in that same age range. We’re just the ones who are getting a little older, so we bring in younger writers to play with us and introduce us to some of these properties that we didn’t grow-up with.
TS: And pop culture is always evolving, so we try to evolve with it. And with YouTube having literally everything that’s ever been made on it, even some of the older properties aren’t old to younger people now. So we’ve kinda got a very wide gamut to play with.
MS: Where Tom and I are 80s kids, it’s fun to watch the 90s kids here right now talking to us about this Nickelodeon Era that has popped-up, which was right after our time. We do a lot of stuff with that in this new season.
JM: In your Season 9 trailer there are “Star Wars” clips and “Mad Max”, but you also go back to “The Flintstones”. Do you ever have to worry about a new, hot current event being a great idea for the show, but because you have to produce in stop-motion, maybe a year from now it won’t be relevant?
MS: All the time. I think whenever we’re playing with properties it’s got to be timeless. I use Presidents to give the example in this case. We couldn’t use something that Bill Clinton had just done, but we can say that Bill Clinton’s personality is like the college frat boy. We can say George Bush was like the giddy 8 year old kid. We can play off of personality traits and put them in situations, as opposed to saying exactly what they had just done that day.
JM: Besides this holiday special, what things should “Robot Chicken” fans be looking forward to in Season 9?
MS: For me it’s “Star Wars”. This is the first season we’re doing that’s after the new “Star Wars” movies have come out. “Star Wars” is life blood to me in a way, so to be able to go back to the well and look at these new properties and point-out the little details that we like to play with – which we do with love – just makes me very happy. There’s one “Rogue One” sketch that is my favorite sketch and it probably be the dumbest thing you will ever see. I’ve seen it about a thousand times and it makes me laugh every single time.
JM: Now that the new season is complete and the Christmas special is set to air, what are your holiday plans?
TS: I’m going to hibernate. That’s my plan. I’m going to eat a bunch of food and then go to sleep for about 12 days.
MS: I’m heading to NYC, the center of the universe. I look forward to ice skating in Rockefeller Center and just enjoying a nice, cold holiday season there.
JM: I was just there. The tree is great. Did some shopping. Do you guys ever give friends and family members “Robot Chicken” merchandise as gifts?
MS: “Hey, I didn’t want to go out and actually buy you something you care about, so here’s a free shirt we had in the office.” Yeah, I’ve done that!
TS: It’s great for the White Elephant exchange for sure.
MS: For people who are fans – 100%. My wife may not appreciate that so much.