Robot Chicken Season 4 (US - DVD R1)
Gabe enjoys more dirty minded action figure antics from Seth Green and co.
I have this bad habit of accepting almost everything the Adult Swim people offer for the simple fun of watching it. I keep forgetting I have to write up a review after watching it. In the case of Robot Chicken this part of the task is especially difficult because it’s a script show, and not plot or character based (unless you count the Humping Robot). Almost everything I said the first time I talked about the show still applies. Stuff like ‘ This series runs on the ingenious idea of animated action figures with dirty mouths. What better way to reach deep down into the nostalgic recesses of Generation X and Y than to enact pop-culture memories with their favourite toys? Content is almost an afterthought, because concept alone makes the show worth a glance. Genius. Honestly, the creators might want to look into a child friendly version.’
And like every other season: ‘the content can be a problem. Robot Chicken is a sketch show, and I normally I make it a rule to not like sketch shows, because they’re often frustratingly hit and miss. Adult Swim on the whole is pretty hit and miss, but Robot Chicken is slightly more hit than miss, and the hits are hard as frozen mud-balls with rocks in the middle. Sometimes it’s just ball kicking and fart jokes, but other times something as golden as Emperor Palpatine getting a collect call from Darth Vader slips out. The show’s channel flipping motif (which itself is probably some kind of comment on my generation’s attention span), and 11 minute runtime makes for some fast-paced sketching. You’re more likely to stick spaghetti to the wall if you toss it in torrents instead of handfuls.’
In praising this particular season I’ll make mention of a few of the more successful skits. As a horror fan I find myself particularly fond of two slasher skits, including one featuring a homebody Jason Voorhees (with the classic Final Chapter mongoloid face) getting ready for a busy Friday the 13th, and another that retells Freddy Kruger’s history as a series of misunderstandings. As a fan of all things Bruce Timm I also recommend a Justice League sidekick day celebration (like ‘bring your kids to work day’), and a Shawshank Redemption spoof staring the Joker, voiced by none other than Mark Hamill. Other wonderful oddities include Wrath of Khan presented as an opera, Harry Potter vs. Chris Angel: Mind Freak, Billy Dee Williams defending Lando on the grocery store line, the ballad of Fumbles the GI Joe (where a new Joe recruit joins Cobra over his nickname), a father (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) becoming obsessed with Inuyasha, a song explaining the futility of M.A.S.K., a Smurfs vs. Snorks war, and an incredible hip-hop retelling of The Dark Crystal. The only elements I haven’t really praised enough in my previous reviews are the technical achievements of the animation itself, and technically the show has gotten better over the last four seasons. Along with a generally cleaner look to the models, and a crisper frame to frame, the animators have developed more dynamic camera movement, including a way of creating a hand held camera look.
Robot Chicken is shot with actual cameras on little tiny states, instead of being animated on computers, or frame by frame by traditional animated means, like many of Adult Swim’s shows. I don’t believe the show is shot with hi-def in mind, so DVD definition is enough in this case. This 1.33:1 transfer is presented interlaced rather than progressive (like so many Adult Swim releases), but doesn’t feature very many obvious combing or interlacing effects. The show has bolstered its technical achievements over the years, and this pertains to both the lighting schemes, which are now bolder than early seasons, and the look of the puppets, which are cleaner. The clay cover-up used regularly in earlier episodes is now mostly gone, and imperfections in the general construction are minimized. The occasional over-sharpening found on earlier releases is mostly corrected here as well, which in all makes for a smoother and more colourful experience. A Blu-ray release might have been fun, but likely unneeded.
Robot Chicken is presented in a limited Dolby Surround 2.0 track, which is livelier and busier than many similar tracks thanks to the efforts of the series’ sound designers, who perfectly prepped the Star Wars special for a 5.1 representation. The rapid fire action, and use of referential audio leads us to plenty of audio dynamics and stereo effects throughout, and the track’s most obvious selling point is the solid musical representation, which features plenty of punchy bass, and a wide, crisp stereo spread. The ghost center channel is occasionally an issue in these cases, as sometimes the musical track cuts awkwardly from the stereo to center when there’s no more dialogue left in a given sketch.
Though Adult Swim discs aren’t known for being too light on extras ( Frisky Dingo aside, grumble grumble) Robot Chicken discs surely stand out as the most comprehensive discs in the studio’s collection. Season four is no exception. Things start with creator commentary, tracks that are once again brimming with a fun collection of special guests, including celebrities like Nathan Fillion, Tela Tequila, and Monica Keena. The tracks are incredibly fact filled considering how quickly each sketch skips by, and the experience is entertaining enough to basically double the value of each episode’s rewatchability.
Disc one’s other extras begin with a collection of four ‘Chicken Nuggets’ (episodes ‘Help Me’, ‘I’m Trapped’, ‘In a DVD Factory’ and ‘They Took My Thumbs’), behind the scenes discussion with the creators (speaking directly to camera), which can be accessed via branching technology from various episodes, which can be directly accessed via the extras menu. Think of them as additional commentary tracks. Next is footage from the 2008 San Diego Comic Con panel (10:40), which sees the cast and crew teasing the fourth season. This is followed by a look at a New York Comic Con panel from 2009 (7:30), which refers more to the post-release of the season. The fist disc ends with a collection of six ‘Day in the Life’ featurettes (10:30), which delve briefly into the insane detail and process of the series.
Disc two features footage from the crew’s Australia visit, including Press Tour footage (3:20) and ‘Comedy Channel’ promos (2:00). The behind the scenes stuff continues and ends with five Video Blogs (22:00). The celebrity behind the mic montage is certainly a highlight. The disc is completed with its bulkiest bits, including 38 deleted animatics (65:00), nine deleted scenes (7:10), all with writer introductions, a collection of four alternate audio takes (3:30).
It’s still hit and miss, but this fourth (final?) season of Robot Chicken is one of the show’s best, and there is a surefire ‘rewatchability’ to the whole thing. Sure, most of it is available for free on adultswim.com (visit today for all the latest Venture Bros and Metalocalypse, watch them now), but not with all these fantabulous extras, including commentary on every single episode. The DVD’s A/V qualities aren’t spectacular, but only the interlacing creates any noticeable problems.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 15th December 2009
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Surround 2.0 English
Subtitles: English, French Spanish
Extras: Audio Commentaries, Chicken Nuggets, 2008 San Diego Comic Con Panel, 2009 New York Comic Con Panal, Day in the Life, Australia Visit, Video Blogs, Deleted Animatics, Deleted Scenes, Alternate Audio Takes
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Seth Green, Breckin Meyer, Seth MacFarlane, Nathan Fillion, Tela Tequila, and Monica Keena
Genre: Animation and Comedy
Length: 220 minutes
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