Robot Chicken: Star Wars (US - DVD R1)
Marcus Doidge enjoys the Galaxy far, far away with Robot Chicken: Star Wars...
In 2007 Star Wars celebrated its thirty year anniversary and despite Lucas opting out of the 3D cinematic release or even an HD release, he went to town on letting everyone else enjoy the celebration. There was the uber-popular Family Guy: Blue Harvest special which was a blast and got a lavish DVD release a few months back, and now finally hitting DVD after a long delay is Robot Chicken’s pop at the galaxy far, far away.
The Robot Chicken team take their frankly genius approach to pop culture and get to focus entirely on Star Wars. They'd done a few Star Wars sketches in the past, which are featured in this twenty three minute special (a normal episode runs around eleven minutes, so this is pushing the boat out) but here they really get to enjoy what is obviously a galaxy very close to their hearts.
Robot Chicken, for those who don't know, is a sketch based show that uses action figures and toys to produce stop motion genius to parody everything from classic TV, comics, celebrities and of course movies. Creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich somehow manage to draw out some insanely funny moments from classic characters and moments in pop-culture, and all the while celebrate the awesomeness of action figures and toys. I genuinely watch the show for the toys they use as much as I do for the giggles, though my general feeling on the show is that it can be very hit in miss. When it's weak, it can be very, very weak, but when it works, it’s no end of fun and produces some genuinely classic laughs. I'm glad to report the Star Wars Special delivers the goods in spades.
Some of the sketches here are awesome. The Admiral Ackbar cereal sketch is an all time classic Star Wars Parody, “Your tongues can't repel flavour of this magnitude”. Vader's phone call to Palpatine "What's an aluminium falcon?" and the ghost of Jar Jar hounding Vader, are all up there with some of the finest takes on Star Wars in what seems to be an unending well of parodies of the Star Wars Universe. The cleaner sorting out the bodies is a nice little touch and the ever-so-slightly perverted take on Boba Fett is so wrong that it's almost right. This list goes on and on and there are a surprising amount of sketches crammed into the short run time.
Now as if this wasn't enough, what makes this even better is the voice work here. There are some fine sound-a-likes for a lot of Star Wars characters and Seth Green, Brekin Meyer and Seth MacFarlane provide some great comedy voices to make it very Robot Chicken, but to make this even more special is the celebrities who lend their vocals. The fact that you get sketches from Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks) Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and even George Lucas himself for an amusing little sketch just makes this even more fun for a Star Wars fan.
That's not to say they are all golden. The George Bush vs. Lincoln sketch goes on too long for its own good and the Star Wars on Ice gag isn't quite the finale this special deserves. Generally though, this is full of great gags, some at alarmingly fast speeds that only work so damn well because Star Wars fans get the gag immediately. The vast amount of comedy that they get out of the shortest of scenes by giving it a slightly skewed angle, just goes to show how much every moment of the Star Wars franchise is woven into the minds of its fans (like me).
When I first saw Robot Chicken: Star Wars I caught it online, so of course this DVD looks far and away better than what I had previously seen. Presented in its original 4:3 ratio, the picture is sharp and clear and while the colours don't exactly pop, it's still impressive considering how low key this release is. I wasn't really expecting much from this but was pleasantly surprised.
This is far from other no-expense spared Star Wars releases and it honestly doesn't really demand it anyway. Only in Dolby 2.0 Stereo, this is actually quite a good audio presentation. The audio is clear and crisp and does all it needs to do for the Robot Chicken experience.
Now here’s the area I thought would be underwhelming. When this was announced I just assumed it would be brief, fluffy nonsense, using clips and a few little sound bites. This is a twenty-three minute special that costs less than £10; this couldn't give me a rewarding set of features, could it? I was wrong.
First up are the commentaries, of which there are seven. Yes, seven. As Seth Green and the Robot Chicken gang keep saying, “everyone had a lot to say” and with only twenty-three minutes to do it, they opted for lots of commentary tracks, rather than cramming everyone into one. There's a real mixture here, some with just the main writers and creators, others from the editors, model makers and the animators - all tons of fun. The ones with Seth Green, Breckin Meyer and Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane are informative, funny, personal and just a joy. Then throw in some more with guest stars that include Ahmed Best and George Lucas's kids and you get something a little special. The commentary with Lucas's kids, Jett and Katie, really caught my attention. After all, these kids have a unique point of view on Star Wars and while the commentary is brief you still get some insight. I don't know if it's just me, but Lucas's kids telling stories about their Star Wars experience and what movies and TV shows they like really sparked my interest and made for a cool alternative type of commentary.
Commentaries aside, there's plenty more to delve into and once again. None of it is particularly long but it's all good stuff. For a start you can watch the entire special with the ‘Chicken Nuggets’ mode on, which is essentially 'Follow the White Rabbit' with a chicken icon. Selecting these gains access to cut-away segments with the makers, most of which run for around two or so minutes in length.
Next up there's something called ‘Animation Meetings’ (6:27), which is a little misleading to be honest—it's not a meeting at all. It's Seth Green standing in front of a TV showing animatics and running through the idea of the scene, acting out key moments. I think I see what they were trying to get at, but it wasn’t exactly thrilling or insightful.
You also get all the trailers (6:50) and ‘Air Bumps: Aired and UnAired’ (21:53). The trailers are what you'd expect but still nice to have and the bumps are little spoken segments from the creators and writers that I think were used when the show was premiered on TV. They are basically laid-back little intros and mucking about for camera. Some are quite amusing but rarely show more than brief stories on the background of the project.
Now it starts to get a little meatier. There's a short and sweet ‘Behind the Scenes’ (6:40), which is once again a bit of history about how the show came to be, briefly flying through the voice actors and the model work and showing the cool looking screening at Lucasfilm with Lucas himself enjoying the show. It's a short feature, but it's lots of fun. This is expanded upon in the ‘Production Design’ feature (18:58) which was made for the Star Wars Celebration fan events, showing just how much work goes into making this show, the talented individuals that create the incredible sets and models for the show and just how detailed it all is. This is once again accompanied by a commentary-esque voice-over from Seth Green and all in all was pretty great.
It doesn’t end there. There really is more. There are highlights of a ‘Panel Presentation’ (5:45), which I think was from Star Wars Celebration (they don't confirm it, but I'm pretty sure it is). This really was a lot of fun and could have done with being much longer. The personal stories about Star Wars from Seth Green and co. were a blast and as this was recorded in a room full of fans who I imagine were asking the questions makes this a lot of fun to watch.
There are five deleted scenes (4:30), all in drawn-animatic form and explanations or excuses for why they were deleted, same goes for the alternative audio tracks (10:00). There's also a collection of photos (55 images) with informative text as well as the music from the show playing over the top and to round up there's also a Time Lapse Reel (3:04) of the making of the stop motion segments.
Robot Chicken: Star Wars is pretty damn impressive when it comes to features. None of them are excessive or highly detailed, but they give a great insight into the creation of this project and hold enough personal accounts of the makers' affection for Star Wars in general that make it well worth your time.
When I saw Robot Chicken: Star Wars last year I loved it and am glad to say my feelings for it haven't changed. Yes, it uses a good few Star Wars scenes from the regular show and some of you might be doubling up if you already have the boxed sets, but to have them all on one collection with the all new scenes and some fantastic little features backing up the project should certainly warrant considering the purchase (especially taking into account the very reasonable price you can get it for around the web). For Star Wars fans in general it's got to be a purchase, just for the fact that it's full of a lot of love for the Saga and the jokes are solid gags from obvious fans.
This is every bit as good and in my opinion better than Family Guy: Blue Harvest. For fans of Star Wars (or even the never ending sub genre of Star Wars Parodies) this is a great addition to the ever growing collection of Star Wars ties-ins. May they carry on being this good.
Review by Marcus Doidge
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 22nd July 2008
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dobly Digital 2.0 Stereo English
Subtitles: English, French , Spanish
Extras: Commentaries, Chicken Nuggets, Animation Meeting, On Air Bumps, Trailers, Behind the scenes, Deleted Scenes, Alternative Audio, Production Design, Time Lapse, Photo Gallery, Panel Presentation
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Seth Green. Breckin Meyer, Mark Hamill, George Lucas, Ahmed Best, Hulk Hogan
Genre: Animation and Comedy
Length: 23 minutes
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