There was an off-hand joke in one of the Robot Chicken episodes where they be-moan the cost of animation. I’d always assumed all of Robot Chicken was stop motion photography (Barbie Dolls and claymation)… but that got me wondering. Are they actually using computer animation to do all that work?
As an alternate question… What’s more expensive? If they were to do it with stop motion, build the sets, the dolls and the painstaking time to move everything frame by frame… is that cheaper than hiring professional computer animators?
Robot Chicken is all done by hand, old-school. I wouldn’t know how to compare the expense of stop-motion vs. CGI, but stop motion animation can be pricey. Especially if they’re not farming it out to Korea (which they aren’t).
As an animator in a former life, my hunch is that given the short format that Robot Chicken works in that stop-motion is probably cheaper.
The upfront costs of CGI only make sense if you can amortize them over a series. If you just want to toss together a clay puppet and spend a couple days shooting it, why bother making the investment of creating it out of pixels?
That’s why Elastigirl in The Incredibles winds up flying the plane herself. It didn’t make economic sense to create a pilot character for that brief scene. (It also turned out to work better dramatically, but the original plan called for a pilot character.)
I have to agree with MrLipid. Robot Chicken is probably cheaper done the way it is as stop-motion claymation.
Building, designing, rigging, then animating all those characters for a 3 sec joke before having to do the entire sketch again seems far too costly for them to be doing it as 3D CGI. That being said, the claymation work for Robot Chicken is fantastic, though I heard that some of it is done by simpley adding bits of clay to existing action models.
Also, the post-production work done, like the lipsyncing or special effects would be cheaper in the long run if they were doing it based on claymation animation rather than a full 3d environment.
Even if there were no price difference, there is a wonderful “kids at play” quality to clay that helps put the jokes across. It’s the animation equivalent of a throwaway line. Just enough to set up and pay off the gag and no more.