Robot Chicken is an American stop motion animated comedy television series, created and executive produced by Seth Green and Matthew Senreich along with co-head writers Douglas Goldstein and Tom Root. The writers, especially Green, also provide many of the voices. Senreich, Goldstein, and Root were formerly writers for the popular action figure hobbyist magazine ToyFare. Robot Chicken has won an Annie Award and three Emmy Awards.
Robot Chicken is based on "Twisted ToyFare Theater", a humorous photo comic-strip appearing in ToyFare: The Toy Magazine. It is a sketch comedy that parodies a number of pop culture conventions using stop motion animation of toys, action figures, claymation, and various other objects, such as tongue depressors, The Game of Life pegs, and popsicle sticks during a joke about a loss of budget. The show's name was inspired by a dish on the menu at a West Hollywood Chinese restaurant, Kung Pao Bistro, where Green and Senreich had dined, although the series originally was intended to be called "Junk in the Trunk". The series first appeared as Sweet J Presents, produced for the Sony website Screenblast.com in 2001. The show was created, written, and produced by Green and Senreich. The show ended after 12 episodes and returned to Cartoon Network's Adult Swim in 2005 as Robot Chicken. In the first episode ("Conan's Big Fun"), Conan O'Brien was featured, but it was instead voiced by Seth MacFarlane (2005-2013).
The show premiered on Sunday, February 20, 2005, as a part of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block. It is produced by Stoopid Buddy Stoodios (ShadowMachine Films Seasons 1-5) in association with Stoop!d Monkey, Williams Street, Sony Pictures Digital, and Sony Pictures Television. It currently airs in the U.S. on Adult Swim, in the United Kingdom and Ireland as part of FX's Adult Swim block, in Canada on Teletoon's TELETOON at Night block, in Australia on The Comedy Channel's Adult Swim block, in Russia on 2x2's Adult Swim block, in Germany on TNT Series' Adult Swim block, and in Latin America on the I.Sat Adult Swim block (after being cancelled from Latin Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block in 2008 for unknown reasons). The show is rated TV-MA, and many of the sketches from Sweet J were redone for Robot Chicken.
The series was renewed for a 20-episode third season, which ran from August 1, 2007, to September 28, 2008. After an eight month hiatus during the third season, the show returned on August 31, 2008, to air the remaining 5 episodes. The series was renewed for a fourth season which premiered on December 7, 2008, and ended September 20, 2009. In early 2010, the show was renewed for a fifth and sixth season (40 more episodes total). Season 5 premiered on December 12, 2010. The second group of episodes began broadcasting on October 23, 2011. The 100th episode aired on January 15, 2012. In May 2012, Adult Swim announced they were picking up a sixth season of Robot Chicken, which began airing in September 2012. The seventh season premiered on April 13, 2014.
On a stormy night, a mad scientist finds a road-killed chicken, which he takes back to his laboratory to re-fashion into a cyborg. Midway through the opening sequence, the titular chicken turns his laser eye towards the camera, and the title appears amidst the "laser effects" as Les Claypool of Primus can be heard screaming "It's alive!" a-la Frankenstein. Claypool also composed and performed the show's theme song. The mad scientist then straps the re-animated Robot Chicken into a chair, uses calipers to hold his eyes open, and forces him to watch a bank of television monitors (an allusion to A Clockwork Orange); this scene segues into the body of the show, which resembles someone frequently changing TV channels.
In the episode "1987", Michael Ian Black claims that this sequence tells the viewer that they (the audience) are the robot chicken(s), being forced to watch the skits. As a result, the show does not actually focus on the robot chicken until the 100th episode when he finally makes his escape and later kills the mad scientist when he kidnaps a hen who is the chicken's girlfriend. Beginning in the sixth season, the role of chicken and mad scientist are reversed in this opening sequence: The chicken turns the mad scientist into a cyborg and then subjects him to watch the television sets. However, the eye color is changed in the sixth season intro, with it being changed from red to blue.
The show focuses on mocking pop culture, referencing toys, movies, television, and popular fads, as well as more obscure references like anime cartoons and older television programs, much in the same vein as comedy sketch shows like Saturday Night Live. One particular motif involves the idea of fantastical characters being placed in a more realistic world or situation (such as Stretch Armstrong requiring a corn syrup transplant after losing his abilities because of aging, Optimus Prime performing a prostate cancer PSA for the humans, and Godzilla having problems in the bedroom). The program even had a 30-minute episode dedicated to Star Wars which premiered June 17, 2007, in the US featuring the voices of Star Wars notables George Lucas, Mark Hamill (from a previous episode), Billy Dee Williams, and Ahmed Best. The Star Wars episode was nominated for a 2008 Emmy Award as Outstanding Animated Program (for Programming Less Than One Hour).
Four of the six season finales of Robot Chicken to date have ended with Mike Lazzo, the head of Adult Swim, saying that "Robot Chicken is canceled", although thus far it has still returned for an additional season following each joke proclamation.