Titan Maximum Interview with Tom Root and Matt Senreich
Tom Root and Matt Senreich Titan Maximum

Matt Senreich and Tom Root are fanboys. Their Robot Chicken offices are covered with nerd holy grails, from rare Mola Ram action figures to signed photos of Phyllis Diller. They are using their collective geek knowledge to create the Giant Robot show that they would want to see. That show is Titan Maximum. And it is pretty epic.

What is Titan Maximum about?

Tom: I guess about 15 minutes.

Matt: Wakka wakka. It simply showcases our love affair with giant robots and then turning that on its side.

You guys have a lot of love for 80's properties. Were there any shows that you were specifically looking at when you were creating Titan Maximum?

Tom: Not specifically. I think those of us who grew up in the 1980s internalized all those boys' action shows that were based on toy lines, or were imported from Japan. They're part of our souls now. Cool robots, cool spaceships, cool spaceships turning into cool robots -- I think that stuff will get us excited forever. Plus all those '80s cartoons -- even the ones without robots -- always had young people who were way too inexperienced to battle evil being put in harm's way. Even "Mr. T" had kids barely out of grade school fighting crocodiles and stuff like that. So we're doing that too.

Matt: If you look at Robot Chicken, you can tell we watched way too many boys 80s TV shows growing up. Now we get to take all that material and create our own universe that's inspired by a lot of these shows. We will tell linear stories.

Is there a certain visual style you're going for on the show?

Tom: Since we're stop-motion and three-dimensional, we're not trying to ape any cel animation look or style. It would look wonky. Our director, Chris McKay, has been designing shots as if they're from the world's coolest action movie. If a shot looks like it's straight out of a Tony Scott movie, we're happy.

Matt: Our characters are more defined and can get more personality out of their facial features and fingered hands than just toys used on Robot Chicken. Our sets are bigger to accomodate the larger puppets we'll use for this series, so you'll get a ton more detail. We'll play more with lighting to enhance what's there. And then there will be a fair amount of CG work that will add to the stop motion we're doing.

How is this show going to be different than Robot Chicken visually?

Matt: Crap. I think I just accidentally answered that. Tom, you want to just reiterate? hahahaha.

Tom: Now that our puppet, scenic and lighting departments don't have to deal with 500 sets and 5,000 characters per episode, like on Robot Chicken, everyone's getting a chance to take a little more time to create better-looking stuff. We'll have some sets that will stay up for months at a time, and that means they can be designed and lit with a lot more care than we could afford on Robot Chicken. Plus we're not re-using existing action figures, we're creating brand new puppets, so the characters look stellar.

Matt: Yeah.

Is there a big difference in directing Breckin Meyer and Seth Green for this show rather than Robot Chicken?

Tom: Seth and Breckin are like the Wonder Twins, and their super powers are "form of: completely ignoring our tightly planned schedule." They get so outrageous trying to make each other laugh that at some point Breckin always ends up stripped down to his underwear, hanging upside down in the sound booth. I think they'd be exactly the same on the set of "The Reader." So no, there's no difference directing them.

Matt: They are always just f-ing crazy and we love them for it.

Do you have a giant story planned or is the show going to have a more episodic feel?

Tom: The first season does have an overall story, but the idea is that every episode is fun on its own merits. If we ever have to start using "previously on..." bumpers before the episodes, I think we're missing the point of what the show's about. The show's about our team of misfits flying around in a giant robot and fighting evil in the stupidest way possible.

Matt: We like exploring a world in which this robot can exist and not necessarily always focusing on the main characters. We like the ability, even for a second, to jump to a passer-by and see what they are doing or thinking in the midst of a great battle.

Do you have a giant uber story planned for the whole series?

Tom: Yes. But we could abandon it at any time. If we think the surly security guard from episode 57 is more fun to play with than, say, our season 4 villain, we'll change plans mid-stream. I hope I didn't just jinx any chance we have for more episodes. Knock on wood.

Matt: Knocking.

Are there any easter eggs you have planned out for fans of some of the old shows you are referencing?

Tom: Not really. As fans of Robot Chicken know, we're more apt to reference things like "Midnight Madness" than we are anything relevant.

Matt: I love Midnight Madness! But for the most part, we are character focused on this show and pay attention to how characters like these would interact in situations they get put in.

Why build five ships that form one giant robot instead of building one giant robot to begin with?

Tom: Originally we were going to have twenty-five small robots that formed into five ships that formed into one giant robot.

Matt: I just want to see 5 people come to a convention in these ships and then position themselves in a way that would actually form the giant robot.

Are there any guest stars you have planned for the series?

Tom: "Home Movies" fans can look forward to H. Jon Benjamin appearing in a pivotal role. Frank Welker, who voiced just about every '80s cartoon character that mattered, also shows up, which was a thrill for us. Lots of our Robot Chicken favorites return. Tahmoh Penikett. Kurtwood Smith. Adrianne Palicki. Abe Benrubi.

Matt: We have such a great working relationship with these people from Robot Chicken that this show gives us an excuse to work with them more. Add in Donald Faison. To our regulars of Rachael Leigh Cook, Dan Milano and Eden Espinosa.

I thought I heard Billy Dee Williams in one of the animatics? Is he going to be a recurring character?

Tom: He's not in the pilot, but from the second episode onward he's pretty much a regular cast member. He plays an authority figure who gets to roar orders at our heroes, and he's exactly as awesome as you'd imagine.

Matt: We fell in love with him when we brought him in for our Star Wars Special. He has the best sense of humor and there is nothing funnier in the world than watching him curse. It made us want to write more for his character, so look for that in a second season.

Are there any other big sci-fi actors that you are trying to get for the show or that you would like to get on the show?

Tom: Does Harrison Ford count as a big sci-fi actor? I still live under the delusion that we will get him, either for Titan Maximum or Robot Chicken, one day. If his children or grandchildren are fans, maybe they can work on him for us.

Matt: I'd be game for Harrison Ford. Anyone who sees him, please say that we would love to write him into Titan Maximum.

What's it like to be directing a sci-fi icon in your own original science fiction story?

Tom: I have lots of experiences I wish the 10-year-old me could see, but directing -- hell, just shaking the hand of -- Lando Calrissian himself, that would be at the top of the list.

Matt: It's too surreal to even think about.

Is there more pressure coming into this series after such a giant hit like Robot Chicken, or does that ease things off of you a bit?

Tom: American Idol is a giant hit. I still think of Robot Chicken as our homemade puppet show that the public access TV station airs when everyone's asleep. Even though it gets millions of eyeballs, it never FEELS that way. So while we're working really hard to make Titan Maximum great, if it fails, it's not like Entertainment Weekly will slap us on the cover with a headline that says "FAILURE!" Instead, Mike Lazzo and Keith Crofford will write "FAILURE" on the front of our Christmas cards.

Matt: Oof. Part of me wants that Christmas card to frame. But I agree with Tom. We are in such a vacuum at the office working 12-16 hour days that we don't have time to really reflect and wonder if we'll be successful or fail. We're just making something that we enjoy and hope that others can enjoy it with us. With Robot Chicken, we're playing with toys. With Titan, we're playing with giant f-ing robots.

What is the safest part of a robot body to pilot?

Tom: The nuts. People think robots don't have them, so they're rarely targeted by missiles.

Matt: Uh...sure.

How many more shows can you do with a robot in the title?

Tom: Our next show is called "Robot Robot." It's about a robot that turns into a robot. It's piloted by a robot. Set your TiVos.

Matt: We start that in Spring 2010.