Richard Epstein writes from New York Comic Con:
After a year hiatus spent working on a movie they refused to comment on, the Robot Chicken crew were at New York Comic Con this year to poke fun at each other and the crowd — and occasionally promote the new season and the Walking Dead special. On hand were Seth Green, Matthew Senreich, Tom Root, Breckin Meyer, Clare Grant, and Macaulay Culkin. Does Culkin's presence mean he's making a return to the series for the first time since 2010? Apparently not — they all just like to hang out together.
And that's the first thing you realize when you see these actors and creators together: they have fun together, and they have fun creating this show. The panel was basically a comedy show with a few clips of Robot Chicken thrown in. And that's probably how a show like this lasts nine seasons — everybody involved in it is having fun.
That said, the panelists did say that the 14 months it takes them to make a season can be grueling, but after a month or so, they are right back at it. As Green put it, they just think: "What did we love as kids, and how can we make people feel bad for loving it?"
As to what can be expected in Season 9, we were treated to a musical clip from the Walking Dead special featuring a duet between Michael Rooker's Merle Dixon and a walker. The song was funny — at least, what I could hear over the rest of the crowd's laughter.
So, how does a special like The Walking Dead come about? It was pretty easy this time. Senreich and Robert Kirkman are long-time friends, and Kirkman asked whether they were going to do a Walking Dead episode. From there, it was just a question of seeing who they could get to join in. And either there are a lot of Robot Chicken fans in the Walking Dead cast, or Kirkman pulled some strings — because almost everyone from the show stars in the special.
In addition to Rooker, Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Lauren Cohan, Steven Yeun, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Daniel Radcliffe all joined in the special. Why Daniel Radcliffe? Apparently, Gareth is not much of a singer and they needed so embody for the Terminus sketch. Andrew Lincoln's appearance was bittersweet for Green and Meyer — the two had been competing to see who could do the best Rick impersonation.
Apparently the creative team at The Walking Dead are good sports, as they really didn't push back on any of the ideas from the Robot Chicken crew, with one exception: a scene of Fonzie jumping his motorcycle over Lucille. Walking Dead showrunner Scott Gimple assured the Robot Chicken crew that they tested and a baseball bat can indeed stop a bullet. The panelists seemed unconvinced.
Aside from the special, Season 9 will feature a number of recurring characters, as well as many pop culture favorites from Star Wars to Scooby Doo to Peanuts and more. How do they get to use so many trademarked characters? Green has spent the past 15 years becoming an expert on the fair use and parody exceptions. If they are doing a standalone special, they need permission — otherwise they can use what they want.
The panel ended with Meyer's NYCC friend Emmett making another appearance. Emmett was a kid the first time he asked Meyer a question at the panel some five or six years ago and he has been back to ask another question every year since. After carrying the diminutive Meyer around the stage, the now grown-up Emmett joined the cast and crew for their annual sexy photo.
The Robot Chicken Walking Dead special airs this Sunday night at midnight ET on Adult Swim.