ComingSoon.net got a chance to talk to “Robot Chicken” co-head writer Douglas Goldstein about the anticipated “Star Wars” special, premiering June 17 on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. “Robot Chicken: Star Wars” brazenly combines the satirical sensibilities of Seth Green and Matt Senreich’s “Robot Chicken” with the unforgettable moments and favorite characters of the “Star Wars” universe — among them, its creator himself, George Lucas.
Transformed into the stop-motion animated characters that are the hallmark of the show, the “Star Wars” galaxy takes on an entirely different attitude. In addition to the ultimate get of having Lucas himself voice his stop-motion animated likeness for the special, other noteworthy voice actors include Conan O’Brien, Seth MacFarlane, Malcolm McDowell, Hulk Hogan, James Van Der Beek, Robert Smigel, Donald Faison, Abraham Benrubi, Breckin Meyer and Joey Fatone.
ComingSoon.net: How would you describe “Robot Chicken” to anyone unfamiliar with the show?
Douglas Goldstein: It depends on their age. To older people I say “it’s like SNL with toys instead of people but you won’t get it.” And they always come back after they watched it and say “I didn’t get it.” To geeks like me I just say “we have Optimus Prime getting prostate cancer and Inspector Gadget becomes a Terminator,” and they go right to their TiVo’s.
CS: As we’ve heard, Lucasfilm helped on your “Star Wars” special. How did you go about getting them on board?
Goldstein: Matt and Seth really jumped on an opportunity when they saw it. It’s really a case of the stars aligning. After the “Emperor’s Phone Call” sketch aired in season 2, it became a huge hit and a massive viral video on YouTube and such. Eventually, someone put it on George Lucas’ desk and he thought it was hilarious. He showed it at a board meeting, and the room cracked up (so we heard). When Matt and Seth’s Lucasfilm contacts told them about it, they couldn’t resist making a pitch. I think this year being the 30th anniversary of “Star Wars” was a big reason why Lucasfilm said yes. But I wouldn’t say we “got them on board” to “help” on the special. This was all done with their approval and review. On a typical episode of “Robot Chicken” we can do a parody here and there without anyone’s say-so, but a whole special on just one property you need permission for.
CS: Was Hasbro or any of the other “Star Wars” toy makers involved in the making of the special?
Goldstein: Nope. It’s not like the toy companies ever send us anything for “Robot Chicken” sketches, which everyone always assumes they do. When we run into the toy companies at San Diego or whatever, we all love each other but that’s as far as it goes. Besides, if they did send us stuff we’d probably sneak it out for ourselves instead of giving it to the puppet people to tear apart. We’re sleazy, greedy bastards that way.
CS: We’ve heard that George Lucas took part in the making of the show. What was it like working with him? Did he make any diva-like demands?
Goldstein: As a writer I personally didn’t work with him, but Tom [Root] and I both wrote something that he personally recorded dialogue for. Tom wrote a sketch about him at a “Star Wars” convention, and I wrote a promo for the show where he’s talking about the special with a therapist. It’s amazing to hear him read lines you wrote. To the kid in me, it’s like hearing Moses read the birthday card I sent him.
CS: Was there anything that you weren’t allowed to do with this “Star Wars” special?
Goldstein: There weren’t any laws laid down, but we put ourselves in a different frame of mind when writing it. We weren’t going to settle for fart jokes or any of the lowest-common-denominator gags. I mean, here we were all working on a STAR WARS television show. So we gave it our creative all. Most of the show ended up being about the classic trilogy because that’s what we grew up with, but we got a little Jar Jar in there.
CS: You guys are obviously long time “Star Wars” fans. Just how big of a fellow “Star Wars” geek are you?
Goldstein: As a wedding present, my wife gave me a three-foot-tall Darth Vader whose light saber lights and respirator turns on if there’s a sudden loud noise in the room. She knows me very well.
CS: What’s your favorite scene in the new “Star Wars” special?
Goldstein: It’s a tie, but they’re both from “Sith”. First, the scene where Anakin, finally consumed by greed and desire, is on the floor at Palpatine’s feet. He’s just helped kill Mace Windu and he’s just lost in the dark side. The way Palpatine just savors the hell out of the moment is awesome, especially how he delivers the line “The force is stroooooooong with you” as if he just ate all the ice cream and wants you to know it. It gives me chills. Secondly, when Obi Wan and Anakin are fighting at the end, and Obi Wan admits “I have failed you, Anakin, I have failed you,” it breaks your heart. Nobody leaves the prequels unscathed.
CS: Gungans vs. Ewoks – who wins?
Goldstein: Short answer: Whoever wins, we lose. Long answer: The Ewok army defeated the Empire. The Gungan army couldn’t take down a bunch of those “Roger, Roger” droids. ’nuff said.
You can watch the trailer for “Robot Chicken: Star Wars” at StarWars.com!