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DVD Review: Adult Swim Double Feature: ‘Robot Chicken’ S3 & ‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force’ S6
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Robot Chicken, Vol. 3 and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Vol. 6Robot Chicken: Season 3
Release Date: October 7, 2008
Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Vol. 6
Release Date: December 16, 2008
Warner Home Entertainment

I love watching Adult Swim, the Cartoon Network’s brilliantly unhinged block of late night animation programming. It’s the greatest experiment in popular animation: the block functions practically like a laboratory where a multiplying group of mad scientists armed with art supplies, computer software, and a collective absurdist sense of humor are given free reign to let their deranged imaginations run riot. Sometimes this results in a messy explosion, but most of the time the results are wonders to behold. If that wasn’t enough the Adult Swim block has also served as a pet cemetery for resurrecting under-appreciated shows like Family Guy and Futurama and a prime hangout spot for shows that never had a chance in this life or the next, like The Oblongs and Clerks. Then there are shows like Sealab 2021 and Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law that took characters and concepts from the vintage Hanna-Barbera heyday of the 1960’s and 1970’s and completely turned them on their heads, which may seem like an act of blasphemy in the eyes of animation traditionalists but I dare you to question the genius of taking those boring and stolid superheroes and transforming them into mental patients and sexual deviants. That’s golden.

What’s more important is that they never fail to entertain you. The go-for-broke attitude that spread to everyone involved with the production of these shows after a while begins to get to you. If getting each episode produced is an extremely arduous task, it never seems that way because while you’re watching you’re laughing so hard or at least thinking to yourself several times during the show what the fuck was going on in their heads while they were putting this together, and you can’t imagine any member of the cast and crew getting through a writing or voiceover session without cracking up in laughter. It’s a joyous kind of lunacy that proves to be infectious time and again.

Now Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has issued the latest full season DVD sets for two of Adult Swim’s best shows.

Having made their debut on a episode of Space Ghost: Coast to Coast the cornerstone of Adult Swim’s original programming is the Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The creation of Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis, the ATHF consists of three members who despite their team name do not fight crime, are not aquatic, and are not even teens: there’s Frylock (voiced by Carey Means), a floating box of takeout french fries with an Evil Spock goatee who’s the unofficial leader of the team because he’s the only one with any intelligence; Meatwad (voiced by Dave Willis), a sweet and child-like hunk of shapeshifting raw meat; and finally there’s Master Shake (voiced by Dana Snyder), a giant arrogant milkshake who thinks even less than Meatwad. Together they split a rundown house in New Jersey rented to them by an ancient vampire named Markula. Their next-door neighbor is Carl Brutananadilewski (voiced by Willis), a slovenly wannabe ladies’ man who lives alone and has way too much money to spend. They talk, they fight, they tear each other up, and sometimes they inadvertently destroy the universe.

As mentioned before, the ATHF don’t fight crime but they often get into adventures as weird and pointless as their existence is. Their most constant archnemesis is their creator Dr. Weird (voiced by C. Martin Croker) who lives in a castle fortress where an atmospheric bolt of lightning is never far away. The Aqua Teen’s adventures rarely involve them leaving their house, and if they do leave they will likely end up at Carl’s house. By the end of each episode everyone is usually dead, trapped in another dimension, or maimed beyond recognition but you’ll always take comfort knowing they’ll be back in their house good as new at the beginning of the next episode.

The Aqua Teens start off their sixth season trapped in the clutches of Markula for failing to pay their rent for October (which Frylock won’t do until Markula fixes the gas leak, which he won’t). As they are held captive by military spiders in a cave in the Mojave Desert, Carl spends the first three episodes renting their house out to a family of robots who get sexually excited by gas leaks, two beautiful sirens and former Philadelphia Phillies first baseman John Kruk (who provides his own voice), and a giant multi-tentacled monster named Paul who’s a bit irate because he’s going through a bitter custody battle. Eventually the ATHF return after escaping Markula’s 4040th birthday party (just before couples skate) and the regular madness resumes.

Over the course of the thirteen episodes presented in the Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Season 6 DVD set you will bear witness to some of the strangest things ever seen in animation: Meatwad enlists himself and Shake in the Marines so he can get some free gum; Frylock finally gets to meet some of his MySpace friends and they turn out to be a group of Jesus freak talking fruit (one of whom is voiced by comedian David Cross) who are predisposed to drinking heavily and bouts of violence; Carl gets a machine called Reedickyoulus that fully pleasures your crotch and turns your bowel movements into radioactive waste that re-animate the dead; Shake puts every kitten he can get his hands on in the microwave just to watch them explode; Carl will cut out his nipples thinking it’ll get him some sexy time with the nipples (but it’s really just Kruk messing with his head); and Shake will steal Frylock’s laser-firing contact lenses and then go mad with power. And’s that only half the season.

Yeah it’s even more crudely animated than South Park, each episode only runs about twelve minutes, and you would have to be very open-minded to understand its humor, but those all work in Aqua Teen Hunger Force‘s favor. This show is probably the single most demented cartoon on the air.

Now bring me a Broodwich with the works and let’s get to those special features!

Each episode is presented with Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 audio tracks. So if you have a home theater set-up, then Aqua Teen Hunger Force will have never sounded better.

The majority of the special features are on Disc Two.

“I’m Pissed” (34 minutes) is a collection of short sports-themed rants from Carl. They’re amusing if you want to watch Carl bitch and boast about New York baseball and football teams.

“More Funny Pete Stuff” (3 minutes) is a reel of original series promos that aired on the Cartoon Network. They’re nothing innovative but a lot of fun to watch, and the spots beat the hell out of the unoriginal “Monday on….” ads the networks drudge up to shill their pathetic programming line-up.

“Terrorphone” (14 minutes) is a very strange, gruesome, and quite amusing short film from the creators of Aqua Teen Hunger Force with an agonizingly long end credits sequence.

“ATHF Zombie Ninja Pro-Am Minus the Explosions” (25 minutes) brings together all the cut scenes from the Playstation 2 game Aqua Teen Hunger Force Zombie Ninja Pro-Am. Like the show a lot of it doesn’t make much sense but they’re still worth a one time watch.

Closing out the set is “Radical Axis Presents Radical Axis Presents” (4 minutes), an unusual short film about the animation studio responsible for Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

It’s fearless imagination, deranged sense of comedy, and the priceless vocal work by a finely assembled cast combine to make a classic of animated craziness that 99% of Adult Swim’s line-up couldn’t top on it’s best day.

“Number one in the hood, G!” You’re damn right.

Robot Chicken Season 3 assembles all twenty episodes from the latest season of Seth Green and Matthew Senreich‘s joyfully off-its-rocker sketch comedy series on a nice and tidy two-disc set overflowing with bonuses. The ingenious hook of Robot Chicken is that the comedic sketches are performed by action figures and other toys brought to life through the old school magic of stop-motion animation. The idea was spawned from a regular feature in Wizard and ToyFare magazines, the latter of which Senreich was once the editor, called “Twisted Toyfare Theater.”

There’s a wild assortment of film and television parodies here along with hilarious skits usually wondering out loud how superheroes, supervillains, and comic book and cartoon characters would deal with the problems of living a day-to-day life. There’s a great deal of sex, foul language, and gratuitous violence involved…. just the way I like it. Plus there are a lot of famous or at least recognizable names occasionally popping up in the voice cast including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Scarlett Johansson, Macaulay Culkin, Ashton Kutcher, Donald Faison (as Thundercats foe Mumm-Ra), Mark Hamill, Phyllis Diller, Christian Slater, and Green and Senreich themselves. Even Ethan Hawke turns up to provide the voice of Godzilla’s son in a spot-on spoof of Training Day.

Green and Senreich often manage to cram about ten or more of these mini-sketches into each episode’s twelve-minute running time so even if one idea doesn’t always fly, and there are plenty, they’ll be on to another in a matter of seconds. The long-form sketches are usually more hit than miss, the writing at its best is sharp and hilarious and laced with precise social and political commentary. Clearly this a show designed to appeal equally to nostalgia freaks and fans of rapid-fire comedy on the level of the Zucker Brothers. If you enjoy watching the prize toys of your childhood swear, screw, disembowel each other, and every so often learn an important life lesson then Robot Chicken is the show for you. It’s an infectious blast of laughing gas fused with low-tech animation and game celebrity voices that may never run out of ideas and humor, at least for a few more years.

The DVD features call to me. Let’s check them out shall we?

As always the very generous people at Robot Chicken have loaded up this latest set with a healthy selection of extras. All twenty episodes of the season are spread across two discs and each episode comes complete with an audio commentary from Green and Senreich along with special guests including members of the production staff and several voice actors.

On Disc 1 there are four “Chicken Nuggets,” episodes that come with video commentary that can be activated at the prompting of an on-screen icon.

Don’t be fooled by the feature named “Gag Reel” because you won’t find the action figure actors goofing and flubbing their lines. No instead this particular gag reel is forty-seven relentless seconds of the goriest moments from this season. It’ll hardly make you gag unless you’re not used to this sort of this thing.

Closing out the extras on the first disc is a minute-long “VFX Comparison” which shows scenes from the show before and after they’re digitally altered. This is an interesting feature that’s worth maybe one watch.

The majority of the remaining features can be found on Disc 2.

There are two aired sketches each presented with an alternate audio track. You’ll find a Thundercats sketch with actor Donald Faison providing the voice of Mumm-Ra and the “Law & Order: KFC” sketch with Green providing the voices for all the characters. (12 minutes)

Next up are the animatics for 22 deleted sketches with intros by Green and Senreich along with various guests. (41 minutes)

Complimenting those deleted scenes are 8 additional cut scenes that unlike the previous footage at least made it to the animation stage. (8 minutes)

From the cutting room floor scraps we move on to a tour of the Robot Chicken studio. (11 minutes)

Last but not least we have 11 video blogs that take us behind the scenes of the show’s production. (19 minutes)

Among Adult Swim’s ever-growing original programming Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Robot Chicken stand out as my favorites. The episodes provided in these latest season sets warrant repeat viewings and yield many rewards for the open-minded comedy fan. Don’t turn your brain off when you’re watching these shows or you won’t have a solitary clue what the hell is going on. Plus it may cause agonizing headaches. Otherwise sit back and be prepared to laugh your balls off. I highly recommend these DVD sets.

BAADASSSSS will return.

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