Chickens clucking the doleful “Walking Dead” theme offer up an early hint that what’s ahead will be offbeat and funny.
“The Robot Chicken Walking Dead Special: Look Who’s Walking” (which airs Sunday at midnight Eastern time on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim) teams “Robot Chicken” masterminds Seth Green and Matthew Senreich with “The Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman and showrunner Scott M. Gimple along with “Walking Dead” stars voicing action-figure versions of their characters that, in classic “Robot Chicken” fashion, spoof the AMC zombie thriller.
“It’s a massive collaboration by AMC and (Adult Swim parent) Turner that typically isn’t possible,” Green said during a conversation alongside Senreich earlier this week. “It’s awesome they let us do it.”
Writing for the half-hour special began a year ago. First step: Charting out key “Walking Dead” plot twists, season by season.
“We put all that on a board,” Green said. “Then we thought, ‘OK, what are significant visual elements you can reference in a humorous way?'”
“Our writers are all diehard fanatics of the show,” Senreich said. “But our comic sense is to take the moment right before or right after a horrific scene, and find the silliness in how awkward or mundane that moment can be.
“Then, when we saw how all those little pieces were coming together, we needed a framework.”
The series premiered in 2005 as a joint venture of the multi-faceted Green (a producer-director-writer and actor who landed his first film role at age 10 in “The Hotel New Hampshire,” and voices slothful teen son Chris on the Fox cartoon series “Family Guy”) and Senreich (a kindred spirit who had been editorial director of Wizard, a magazine devoted to comics and pop culture).
Senreich defines “Robot Chicken” as “sketch comedy with toys, as ‘SNL’ with action figures.”
“Thanks to stop-motion animation, our toys come to life,” Green notes.
“One of my favorite things about stop-motion,” he goes on, “is how well it tricks the brain. If you’ve got an animator who can bring life to something inanimate, the audience not only sees the real shadows and the real lighting, but believes the illusion that this thing that’s not alive IS alive.
“And when you’re photographing a toy, you’re seeing it with the life you imagined it to have as a kid. That’s very powerful.
“And by the time you get the joke” — Green snaps his fingers — “it’s twice as effective.” (The Associated Press)