Interview with Robot Chicken’s Matthew Senreich & Zeb Wells

Matthew Senreich & Zeb Wells are the co-creator and writers of “Robot Chicken” (respectively).  Matt created the show with Seth Green back in 2005 and has since been writing for the show.  Zeb joined the show for season three and since then has been writing for the show as well.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Matt & Zeb at the 2011 MegaCon in Orlando, FL and had a chance to chat about the show and get some cool stories from the guys.

Mike Gencarelli: Matt, in the beginning for the series you directed a bunch of episodes, why did you stop?
Matthew Senreich: [laughs] It was a lot of work.  We realized very quickly to write, direct and produce all aspects of the show was self-destructive. We ended up in our third season bringing Chris McKay on board to direct, so that way he could focus on making it look pretty on screen at all possible times.

MG: Zeb, you joined the show beginning in season three, how did you that come to be and what was your biggest challenge coming in?
Zeb Wells: Well it came to be because Matt used to work at Wizard magazine.  They used to have a video making contest there and I won that contest a bunch of times with making superhero parody videos.  So he brought me in to do a test drive on season three…
MS: To see if he was still funny [laughs].
ZW: [laughs] Yeah.  I think the biggest challenge was your first day you come in and have all these questions you used to have about your toys.  “What if G.I. Joe’s did this?” and so on… At the end of the first day you used up all of those and have to keep coming up with ideas every day one after another. It gets hard. After my first five week cycle, I realized these guys were going to go back and start again next week and I have no idea how anyone could do that.  There is always another idea.
MS: [laughs] There is always something.

MG: What is the timeline for an episode of “Robot Chicken” from idea to finished product?
MS: Oh my God, I always like to use “Star Wars” as an example because it is kind of self-contained. It is usually two to three weeks of writing for a half hour episode.  From start to finish it is like fourteen weeks.  You go from writing it…to doing the storyboards and voices at sametime…and then putting together what is called an animatic…from the animatic it is handed over to animation…through animation to post production…and then sound…and visual effects.  It is a wirlwind process.

MG: Is there an episode or skit that stands out as your favorite?
MS: Everyone always asks that question [laughs].  It is like choosing your baby. I mean it depends on the day and what your feeling on what sketch you like.  If someone says a sketch that you remember and your like “Oh yeah, I love that one”.
ZW: I do like Fumbles.  I think it is my favorite.
MS: [speaking to Zeb] Of all time?…All time?
ZW: I don’t know it has a lot of good lines in it [Laughs]. I might be but yeah on a different day it might be another one.
MS: It always shifts for me.

MG: Matt, how do you feel that the show has changed since it started over 5 years ago?
MS: I think it has gotten a lot better.  when we first started it was just us not knowing what we were doing.  As we got into this fifth season, the production value is really higher. The writing is as sharp as ever. For the first season, I don’t think we realized that it was going to go further that one season.  But now we look at it as we are a family that is just goofing around and having fun.

MG: Did you ever think you had an Emmy winning show on your hands?
MS: [laughs] Yeah it is crazy! It is still weird that we won an Emmy, it has been a crazy year!

MG: Do you have any notable rejected ideas that never made it?
MS: I think there is a lot of stuff that we reject. I always say 99% of what is pitched in the room probably falls by the waist side.  It is a brutal writers room.  People hate each other in that writers room [laughs].
ZW: My favorite sketch that didn’t get in is a Zune getting hit by the Allspark…realizing it is a Zune and then shooting itself in its head.  I tried to get in a few times.
MS: [speaking to Zeb] You are pitching that sketch left and right.
ZW: I got to get it in there [laughs].

MG: Zeb, besides Robot Chicken, you also work/have worked on various comic books, how do you find it differs for you?
ZW: Writing comics is such a soliterary experience, which has its pros and cons. You are more in control of what goes in, but you are also able to get hung up on certain things. But when you are in a room with a bunch of dudes, if you get stuck on something you can all just attack it together.

MG: Do you find that the writing for “Robot Chicken- Star Wars” differs from the TV series?
MS: It is a little more focused which I like better.  You can tell a little more of story and get more into character development. I always find that more interesting to do rather than just being more sketch based. As far as process goes it is just working with the people you like and that is what I love.
ZW: Everytime a “Star Wars” starts I think it is going to be easier. Then I think by the end of the “Star Wars” the regular “Robot Chicken” will be easier”.  It is all hard. [laughs]

MG: When can we expect the next installment of “Robot Chicken- Star Wars”?
MS: We are working on the DVD for “Star Wars: Epsiode III” right now and then after that still to be determined.

MG: What can you tell us about the new episodes set to air in October?
MS: Yes, it is the last ten episodes from season five.  We are going to go have episode 100, so it is going to be epic. So the chicken will be loose [laughs].

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One Reply to “Interview with Robot Chicken’s Matthew Senreich & Zeb Wells”

  1. I love Robot Chicken, the unique randomness is a breath of fresh air compare to the normal shows you find on TV. I found that you can watch full episodes of Robot Chicken on DISH Network’s new website. They have thousands of show and movie titles available; you can check it out at http://bit.ly/dJzWgo.

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