Stoopid Buddy Stoodios gathers an all-star cast and barrels of stop-motion blood to skewer AMC’s hit series, ‘The Walking Dead.’
Who knew Michael Rooker could sing? We know he excels at playing hot-headed “good ol’ boys” whose gaze and fists are best averted. But misty-eyed crooner? Leave it to the folks at Stoopid Buddy Stoodios to find the softer, poetic side of Rooker’s Merle Dixon, one of many highlights from their 22-minute parody, The Robot Chicken Walking Dead Special: Look Who's Walking. Released today on Blu-ray and DVD, their latest special skewers AMC’s hit zombie apocalypse series The Walking Dead with their usual bag of stop-motion animated treats: blood, guts, painfully uncomfortable moments and snappy song and dance numbers.
Robot Chicken creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich have teamed with The Walking Dead creator and executive producer Robert Kirkman and showrunner and executive producer Scott M. Gimple -- they’ve somehow managed to secure the participation of an all-star lineup that includes The Walking Dead cast members Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, Lauren Cohan, Steven Yeun and Sarah Wayne Callies. Both Michael Rooker and Daniel Radcliffe bring their singing talents to the fray as well. Yes, that Daniel Radcliffe. Flipendo comes to Terminus. And Hagrid isn’t on the menu.
It’s difficult to convey my affection for the show’s inventive blend of 8th grade humor mixed with 9th grade humor. Knowing it offends certain friends only solidifies my so-called “mindless” tribal affiliation to the show. But, if you look past the non-stop gore…and focus on the non-stop carnage, Walking Dead and Robot Chicken fans will surely enjoy the parade of gags and stop-motion mayhem that faithfully bags on the show’s beloved characters during some of their most poignant and heart-breaking moments. Who knew the tragic loss of a child, spouse or sibling could be so…funny? Am I in trouble for even thinking this?
Our story unfolds inside the Walking Dead Museum, a tourist attraction that commemorates the now eradicated virus and resulting “Walkerpocolypse.” As our favorite Nerd listens raptly to his tour guide’s giddy and factually erroneous historical recitation, including the first instance of an ongoing Carl/Carla gag, an older, grizzled Carl mysteriously appears to set the record straight by giving the Nerd “the gift of the truth.” The “real” zombie walker story unfolds in a series of short flashbacks, riffing on seminal moments from the entire series run.
Avoiding spoilers as much as possible, here are some of the special’s finest moments:
- The won’t stop talking Eugene “Make a Bullet Machine” and toddler tapping on a walker head display case inside the museum lobby.
- Eugene bites Dwight in the crotch.
- The previously mentioned ongoing Carl/Carla gag focuses on the young boy’s flowing locks, culminating in an amusing “Hairway to Heaven” moment.
- Carl fashions a puppet contraption out of poles and two walkers so they all dance in unison.
- Negan uses Carl’s head, sans eyeball, in a number of demeaning ways.
- Carol takes her gut-wrenching “Look at the flowers” Lizzie mercy killing a bit too far.
- Rick tries to pass off a tree stump wrapped in a jacket as the missing Sophia, only to angrily accuse mom Carol of fat-shaming her daughter by questionning WTF he’s doing holding a log.
But things really kick into high comedic gear during three major song and dance pieces:
We join Merle, handcuffed to a rooftop pipe, reflecting on his fate and why the world has forsaken him. Amidst his touching existential crisis, he breaks into song -- he croons about his loneliness, serenading us with,
“Somewhere there’s a match for me,
A stupid brainless girl…
Who also doesn’t care for Jews
And shares all my small-minded views…”
Entering Terminus, Rick, Carl and Michonne are greeted with a lively song and dance number. Carl and Michonne appreciate the gesture -- Rick remains wary, fearing that the group of performers, though claiming otherwise, really want to eat them. Not just their asses. Them. And yes, that’s Daniel Radcliffe’s “jazz hands.”
The last and most elaborately choreographed dance number casts a musical spotlight on Negan’s signature move, the “dip,” which he performs each time he assaults someone with his barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat, Lucille.
But by far, the funniest moment of the special is a sketch featuring Rick, empty gas can in hand, and a Unicorn, who promises to deliver Rick the needed petrol…on one condition.
Rick offers to find a saddle, but the Unicorn suggests otherwise…he must ride “raw dog.” Rick pauses, his eyes blink twice, before he replies, “What?” We cut to the emotionless, blank stare on Rick’s face as the unicorn voices appreciation for his enthusiasm. It’s a brilliant moment. The Unicorn’s apology for messing Rick’s shirt is priceless. The Unicorn’s glee at hearing Rick has a 12-year old son is mere icing on the cake.
The special features are hit-and-miss:
- Inside Robot Chicken the Walking Dead: Looks Who’s Walking - the story behind the special includes interviews with the creators, behind the scenes looks at the writer’s room and sets, as well as an overview of the show’s genesis.
- Cut Sketches -- pretty brief set that show why they weren’t good enough to make the cut.
- Sketches to Die for -- the creators share their favorite sketches from the special.
- Bawkward -- a rather uninspired handful of zombie Robot Chicken impressions.
- Behind the Screams -- rather silly set of staff interviews where an unseen zombie jumps out to scare them.
- Audio commentaries -- often amusing, sometimes informative, the audio commentaries seem more fun to make than listen to.
Like all things Robot Chicken, the Walking Dead special is not for the humorless or faint of heart. Nor for those easily outraged by cartoony depictions of graphic and bloody violence. Unashamedly played for laughs. With puppets. Voiced by big-named actors. But after 13 years and five Emmy Awards, the show continues to deliver a brand of animated comedy that the 8th and 9th grader in all of us can appreciate, no matter how much grief our friends and family heap upon us.
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.