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Robot Chicken: Fan Filmmaker and Co-Creation

Where is the line drawn between Fan Filmmaker and Co-Creation? That was something I questioned after hearing the presentation on Quentin Tarantino’s “Star Wars”. Throughout the presentation there were numerous mentions that a “Star Wars” fan film can only parody the universe and not expand on it. However, what happens when Lucasfilm gets involved? Is it no longer a fan film and when does a fan film become a co-creation? To clarify my point, let me use the example of “Robot Chicken Star Wars.”

“Robot Chicken” had been around for a number of years before the “Star Wars” specials started airing. It was created by renowned geek comedic actor Seth Green (Oz from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”) and his clever geek business partner Matthew Senreich (ex-editorial director of WIZARD magazine).  The show itself mocks pop culture, television, films, and popular fads with the use of stop motion action figures. The show is essentially a fan film with a slightly bigger budget.

Then in 2007, the creators of “Robot Chicken” not only received permission to do an entire episode dedicated to parodying “Star Wars”, but they got George Lucas, Mark Hamill, and even Billy Dee Williams to lend their voices to the episode. Lucasfilm became involved and began allowing Robot Chicken to create characters like “Gary the Stormtrooper” and expand the universe by showing what happened to Boba Fett after he was eaten by the Sarlacc. This leads me back to my initial question; does the inclusion of Lucasfilm in “Robot Chicken,” mean it has become a co-creation? What if Lucasfilm had done nothing to hinder the fans creativity? Where is the line directly drawn between a fan film and a co-creation? If someone can answer that question, I would truly like to know. Until then, I will leave you with two clips from “Robot Chicken Star Wars.” One featuring Admiral Ackbar using his famous catchphrase to sell cereal, the other is Boba Fett in the stomach of the Sarlacc after the opening scene in “Return of the Jedi”. Enjoy.

Admiral Ackbar Cereal

Boba Fett Volunteered

One comment

  1. I think that Lucasfilm allowed this in this situation simply because they could profit off of the portrayal and were clearly involved in the fan work, rather than giving full permission of fan content to the generator without them somehow including and referencing the industry. When the industry is recognized and approves of the Star Wars portrayal, it has no problem with the content. But when the content extends beyond its reach and the industry can no longer have any say (and when the generator profits solely off of it) , that is when it becomes an issue.

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