Robot Chicken: Star Wars DVD review

Toy-tastic spoof of the epic science-fiction saga

Last year marked the 20th anniversary of George Lucas' acclaimed sci-fi flick Star Wars. So it came as something of a surprise (to this writer, at least) that there was no sign of any cinema activity to celebrate this fact. There was no re-release of the film (not even in a 3D incarnation, something that has been rumoured as being in the works for several years now), and the all-new CG-animated Clone Wars movie is only getting its cinema release this summer.

On the small screen it was a different matter though. With no official Star Wars TV series ready, Lucas officially sanctioned a series of Star Wars spoofs. The most famous of these was the Family Guy special, Blue Harvest. However, the funniest was easily this superb offering from the brains behind the brilliant Robot Chicken.

If you’re unfamiliar with Robot Chicken, the concept is very simple. It’s a sketch show that takes aim at celebrities and popular culture, but it’s all played out with action figures and other toys. If any of you watched The Adam and Joe Show on Channel 4 back in the late ‘90s, you’ll have a fair idea what to expect. Given the amount of time involved in making the stop-motion sketches for the show, each episode of Robot Chicken runs for a scant 11mins (although they cram a boatload of gags into the short running time). However, this Star Wars special is double length, giving you even more Robot Chicken goodness to enjoy (although a handful of the featured sketches have previously appeared in the series proper).

It's a trap!
Like most sketch shows, not all of the gags in this special hit the mark. But the hit rate is still exceptionally high, and there’s no shortage of hilarious, laugh-out loud moments. Highlights include the advert for Admiral Ackbar Cereal (‘Your tongues can’t repel flavour of that magnitude!’), Jar-Jar haunting Darth Vader from beyond the grave, a pervy take Boba Fett, the truth about Walrus Man’s run-in with Luke Skywalker in the Cantina and the imperial briefing about dealing with Vader’s (non-existent) Force powers. Obviously, none of this will mean anything to the casual viewer. But if you’re a Star Wars fan (one with a sense of humour, that is), then you’re going to love Robot Chicken: Star Wars.

Technically, Revolver Entertainment’s R2 DVD release is solid, if not exactly spectacular. The show has always been made and broadcast in 4:3, and even though several of the sketches here are made to look more filmic by being presented in widescreen, the entire show has been encoded within a 4:3 frame. The image itself is fine. Colours are a little muted, but detailing is generally sharp and there are no obvious compression artefacts. The stereo audio is cleanly rendered, but don’t go expecting too much in the way of steerage across the speakers.

Feel the power of the Force
Of course, as good as the special is, it would be hard to justify £13 for 22mins of content. So it’s a good job that this DVD release is over-flowing with extras features. In the Set Up menu you’ll find no less than seven audio commentaries by various batches of voice actors, writers, technical crew and even George Lucas’ kids Katie and Jett.

Head over to the Extras menu and the first option to explore is Chicken Nuggets, Robot Chicken’s own version of The Matrix’s Follow the White Rabbit feature, allowing you to drop out of the feature to watch short behind-the-scenes vignettes. Animation Meeting allows series co-creator and voice actor Seth Green (Oz the werewolf from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) to talk us through some animatics. On Air Bumps are short intros by the creators. Promos houses nine TV spots. Behind the Scenes is a short featurette about how the Star Wars special came to be. Deleted Scenes houses five unfilmed sequences in animatic form. Alternate Audio is similar, but deals with unused line readings. Production Design is the longest featurette and takes a more in-depth look at the effort that goes into creating the special. Time Lapse presents another look at the making of the show. Finally there’s an extensive Photo Gallery and a Panel Presentation from what appears to be some kind of Star Wars convention.

Did I say ‘finally’ above? Well, that’s not quite true, as Revolver Entertainment is also using the disc to promote other Cartoon Network [Adult Swim] titles that it plans to bring to DVD in the UK. To this end there are three complete bonus episodes on the disc, namely Robot Chicken: The Deep End, Harvey Birdman: The Dabba Don and Frisky Dingo: Pimp My Revenue.

Revolver Entertainment, R2 DVD, £13, On sale now