Story: Liz Ohanesian
Photos: Shannon Cottrell
The first thing you’ll see when you walk into the lobby of Stoopid Buddy Stoodios are the chickens. There are two fowl figures at the front desk, one large, one small, both with mechanical appendages. Just as Disney is forever associated with the Mouse, so will Stoopid Buddy have an eternal connection to the chicken, that is, the Robot Chicken.
Housed in two large buildings on the same Burbank block, Stoopid Buddy is an animation studio founded by Seth Green and Matt Senreich, creators of Robot Chicken and the production company Stoopid Monkey, along with John Harvatine IV and Eric Towner of the animation team, Buddy Systems. They opened last February, but are already making a lot of cartoons here, including some of the “Spy vs. Spy” bits for Cartoon Network’s animated MAD series, and the College Humor show Dinosaur Office.
Robot Chicken is the cornerstone of this company, occupying a good 16 or 17 of the 25 animation stages available in the building. Season six of the hit series, which premieres Sunday, is actually the first season of Robot Chicken to be made by Stoopid Buddy. However, many of the 9-to-5 inhabitants of this animation compound are familiar faces. It is, after all, owned by the show’s creators and two of its former animators. Many of the 70 people on staff here have been with the show for several seasons. Stoopid Buddy is ready for business and it’s all because of a few guys who are really into toys.
There are toys all over the office that Senreich and Green share. The infamous Robot Chicken pops up here and there, but is almost overshadowed by the glut of cool stuff in the room. There’s a bust of Chewbacca on a shelf above Senreich’s desk. It was a gift from Lucasfilm. There’s also an exclusive Boba Fett figure. It’s one of the few toys that Senreich still keeps in the box. “I think it looks cooler,” he says.
Senreich started out in journalism. He spent eight years with Wizard Entertainment– working on publications like Wizard Magazine and ToyFare— where he interviewed Green back in the actor’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer days. The two remained friends and at the tail end of the 1990s, Green was invited to be a guest on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. He wanted something to talk about on the show, so he asked Senreich if he would be interested in helping him make an animated short based on an action figure Green had made of his Austin Powers character. That led to a series of shorts that Sony Digital bought to air online, although they never did. Green, who wasn’t at the studio the day we visited, continued collaborating with Senreich and, eventually, Robot Chicken landed on Adult Swim.
Over the years, Robot Chicken has picked up a number of awards, including Annies for both the standard series and it’s landmark Star Wars specials and several Emmy awards. The show is nominated for an Emmy this year in the Outstanding Short-Format Animated Program. It’s also one of the top-rated original programs on the all-nighter network. But, Robot Chicken isn’t just a ratings hit or an award-winner. It’s a game changer. Consider Robot Chicken the Twitter of sketch comedy, packing as much parody as possible into a compact format. Regular episodes clock in at about 12 minutes. The long sketches are only two minutes. The shortest ones, called “channel flips” are only a handful of seconds. Anyone who works on this show has to master the art of brevity. There’s simply no time to gradually flesh out characters or let the jokes slowly unfold.
Step inside the writer’s room on the next page.