Robot Chicken: Season 6

(2012) *** Unrated
220 min. Cartoon Network. Director: Zeb Wells. Cast: Matthew Senreich, Seth Green, Breckin Meyer.

/content/films/4611/1.jpgSay what you will about stop-motion sketch-comedy show Robot Chicken, but there's nothing else like it on television. That's a win for creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, who are obviously in it to entertain themselves, the rest of their writing staff, and the Comic-Con crowd that are on their geek-giddy wavelength. Airing on Cartoon Network's late-night Adult Swim, Robot Chicken has amassed six seasons of bite-sized episodes parodying pop culture and, in particular, genre movies and TV.

Season six comprises twenty episodes, each running approximately eleven minutes in length. There's no question that this show isn't for everyone. Those rankled by pop-culture parody, for example, should run screaming, as that's pretty much the show's entire raison d'etre. And the writers love scatology and profanity to create an air of naughtiness that pervades the entire series. Despite all that, and the inherent hit-and-miss quality of sketch comedy, Robot Chicken is often funny and rarely less than amusing. Plus, it's interesting to look at (see above image) and a nostalgia trip for middle-aged and younger (rabid) consumers of TV and movies, especially of the animation, superhero, action, science-fiction, and fantasy varieties.

Sometimes Robot Chicken is at its best when stretching its own boundaries a little, as in an early sixth-season sketch that's as refreshingly left field as it is unapologetically juvenile: a high-concept bit explaining the secret origin of the Starbucks mermaid logo. Most of the show is blackout (or "channel-flip") comedy, usually with an extended parody sequence positioned as the show's big finish: Robot Chicken's takes on Cabin in the Woods, The Smurfs, Thomas the Tank Engine, Captain Planet, Scooby-Doo, Rescue Rangers, and so on. The approach of unearthing the secret sex lives of cute or innocent characters can get a bit repetitive, but there's a certain frisson to scenes like the one of Alvin and the Chipmunks' dressing room being like Justin Bieber's, complete with out-of-their-mind young groupies.

And then there's the random assemblage of guest stars, including Whoopi Goldberg, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Elliott, Jason Sudeikis, Krysten Ritter, Jon Stewart, Stanley Tucci, Daniel Radcliffe, Patrick Stewart,  Alex Borstein, Alan Tudyk, Tom Hiddleston, Ellie Kemper, Mark Hamill,  Breckin Meyer, John Moschitta Jr., Allison Janney, Kat Dennings, Liev Schreiber, Alex Winter, Olivia Wilde, William Zabka, Ralph Macchio, Rhea Perlman, Lacey Chabert, Brent Spiner, Zachary Levi, J.B. Smoove, Lake Bell, Jon Bernthal, Nicholas Hoult, Robert Kirkman, Megan Hilty, Maurice LaMarche, Lucas Grabeel, Ke$ha, Sarah Chalke, Billy Zane, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Linda Cardellini, Rachael Leigh Cook, David Hasselhoff, David Morse, Skeet Ulrich, Stan Lee, Melissa Joan Hart, Frank Welker, Freddie Prinze Jr., Seth MacFarlane, Lauren Ambrose, Delroy Lindo, Ben Schwartz, Kathryn Hahn, Abraham Benrubi, Michaela Watkins, Henry Winkler, Keith David, Neil Patrick Harris, Malin Åkerman, Eric McCormack, 50 Cent, Judy Greer, and Matthew Lillard, among many others. half the fun is squinting one's ears and saying, "Is that really Christopher Lloyd reprising his role as Doc Brown?" Yes, yes it is.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Street date: 10/8/2013

Distributor: Warner Home Video

Warner sends home Robot Chicken: Season 6 on one jampacked Blu-ray disc loaded with episodes and extras. Picture quality is top-notch: never once are compression artifacts evident, color is invariably bold, and detail and textures—especially important for this photographed stop-motion style—are delightful. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mixes likewise never disappoint, instead delivering crystal clear dialogue and surprisingly robust sound effects. The A/V here could be called overqualified for the material, which is just what one wants out of a Blu-ray.

And it's difficult to imagine a more impressive package of bonus features. The Featurettes section includes "Making of Season 6" (10:08, HD), a brisk behind-the-scenes glimpse at the process of voice-recording, puppet-constructing, and photographing for the show, along with talking-head clips.

"The Wilson Identity: From People to Puppets" (1:33, HD) observes director Zeb Wells getting real-life reference for an action sequence. "They Came to Play" (5:35, HD) is a swell montage of celebrity voice actors. "Our First Ladies" (6:15, HD) constitutes an interview with the show's first female writers Rachel Bloom and Jessica Gao, as well as comments from their colleagues. "Kirkman on Kirkman" (2:26, HD) finds The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman explaining his appearance on Robot Chicken.

We also get "Outtakes!" (3:53, HD), first-time guest stars going on record in "My First Time..." (1:43, HD), the anecdotal "The Dirt on Seth & Matt" (2:23, HD) and "The Inside Joke" (2:00, HD), crew-comment roundup "The Benefits of Robot Chicken" (3:31, HD), Zeb Wells-centric mini-doc "Who the F*** is Zeb?" (6:14, HD), behind-the-scenes look "Post-Apocalyptic Future of Holidays" (4:54) on the Mad Max parody, and "Deleted Channel Flips" (13:10, HD) in animatic form.

Three episodes get regular feature Chicken Nuggets, with an icon providing access during playback to video-commentary pods. Included are creators Seth Green and Matt Senreich on "Executed..."; Green, Senreich, and director Zeb Wells on "Immortal"; and Wells and head writer Doug Goldstein on "Christmas Special."

More bonus footage comes in the form of five fully-animated "Deleted Scenes" (2:40, HD) and thirty-seven "Deleted Animatics" (55:13, HD). There's also an easy-to-discover behind-the-scenes Easter egg about doll genitalia: "Bush Politics" (1:00, HD).

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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