Tonight, after WWE Payback, prepare to be body slammed by laughter as the creative team behind Adult Swim's Robot Chicken takes the superstars of the WWE into completely new territory with Camp WWE. Though WWE might be in the tailend of the PG era, this show is not made for younger viewers.
Originally announced in 2013, Camp WWE eventually found its way to Seth Green's Stoopid Buddy Stoodios with Aaron Blitzstein (Family Guy, Ugly Americans) as the head writer and show runner. We had the chance to preview the first episode and talk with Blitzstein about all things Camp WWE.
So, Aaron, you guys sent us the first episode and it caught me off guard on how funny it really was. Can you talk about how the project came to be?
Aaron Blitzstein: The idea of it was at least born before me, so I can talk about the actual execution of it. I think before I was there was just the title Camp WWE and the concept of WWE guys as kids in a camp run by Vince McMahon. Then when Seth [Green] brought me on board we kinda started getting into the nuts and bolts of the show and how we would take the superstars and their personas and evolve them into this setting.
When you were picking out which superstars to use, was there a mandate on which had to be featured or was the complete roster available for you to pick from?
Blitzstein: I'd say it was a little bit of both. I mean, WWE definitely had opinions on who they wanted to feature as the core, but there were plenty of times we went up to them and say like, wouldn't it be great if we had the Four Horsemen in an episode or Jake The Snake, or Godfather...but I can't remember a single pitch that we gave them and they went "well, we don't know...". They encouraged us from the get-go to just go for it and have fun.
Take us through the first episode. We have Vince playing a heightened version of the Mr. McMahon character and we get a small sense of what we're in store for already, just from that.
Blitzstein: Yes. What you just said kinda nailed it for all the characters across the board, for the pilot and the series. What we wanted to do was obviously respect the world of the WWE Universe including Mr. McMahon, to the counselors being Sgt. Slaughter and Ric Flair, and some other surprises down the road. Knowing what the starting point was for all of these people, for example, we knew John Cena was going to be some form of John Cena. We knew Mr. McMahon was going to be some form of Mr. McMahon, etc. From there, we put out our unique spin on it and just taking it to extremes. We wanted Mr. McMahon to be the character people knew, but we added some nuance and strange habits and likes and dislikes and really had fun with it.
You managed to get Sgt. Slaughter, Ric Flair, and Jake "the Snake" Roberts to record their own voices. How was it working with such legends of the industry?
Blitzstein: The greatest thing ever? [Laughs] It's incredible. I mean Seth and I will sit in the studio when we're recording with the legends here in LA, but for the most part they're in Sanford recording in their studio and we'll watch them and guide them and direct them and suggest things. I mean, for starters, they've been incredible with direction, but they're also just so great. You can't help but be reminded on how great they are every week. To be able to improvise like they have week after week and still not stray from their characters and be able to deliver their emotions and context for what they need to do is incredible.
So for us, we'll give them a script as we need to stick to the framework of a story, but at the same time we've always told them that if there's something you feel you would say differently, as long as we stay within the framework of the show and we're getting the information we need from dialog, we're great. All of them have contributed in that aspect and they're just awesome. If Seth and I are both laughing, we know we're doing something right.
Your Triple H looks like he did around 1998 with the longer hair and sideburns, but the Undertaker kid looks like he does currently. Can you talk about what went into the different designs?
Blitzstein: Yeah, it's probably going to be a simpler answer than what you would expect, but it comes off the heels of us laughing. We spent a lot of time looking at what these characters should look like. Looking at John Cena for instance, we knew what we wanted him to look like. In terms of some of the other characters like Undertaker, Triple H, and Big Show, it was a bit of a trial by fire in that we saw some designs and it was like, too easy, then we saw some other designs and they made us laugh. That kinda leads into the voice acting, like we had moments where we thought, well, I don't know if Triple H would sound like that. Eventually, we got to somebody else's idea of it and we just laughed out loud. So we're just following what's funny and that's across the board.
Yeah, speaking of Big Show's design, I didn't realize that was Big Show until I saw the opening credits because for some reason I thought he was King Kong Bundy.
Blitzstein: [Laughs] Yeah, that's definitely Big Show. I can see how Big Show in particular is not...on the nose, I guess, but that's definitely Big Show, but once you hear the voice, you're just in it.
Yeah, absolutely. I also loved whoever provided the voice of Triple H. I know this is going to sound weird, to say, but it's like somebody doing an impression of what we think Triple H sounds like. Especially how he ended it his words with the exaggerated "uhh" sound.
Blitzstein: It was pretty amazing. That was also a pretty interesting path to go down because we knew we had to find voices. We toyed with the idea of having the superstars doing it, but their schedules are so crazy with travel, so to get somebody in the studio would be impossible. We started taking people in and listening to different voices and we heard some that were not so good, and others that were interesting, but again, we just follow the laughs. When we were laughing, we knew we got the right one.
How does it feel to be the second WWE animated series? There's been animated movies featuring the WWE cast, but there hasn't been a series since Hulk Hogan's Rock n' Wrestling.
Blitzstein: I mean, it's an honor, obviously, to be working with the WWE and to have not only the freedom, but also the support to do this show in the voice we wanted to make it. And we're so grateful to be working on this show and to be able to pick up the phone and ask "hey, we were thinking about having the Bellas do something with the Horsemen" or so many other things. I sit next to Seth during these sessions and we'll be working with Vince or with Ric and there have been times where I have written on my script and slide it next to Seth that reads "I love you for hiring me for this job".
We have had so much fun and we hope that the WWE Universe enjoys it and that brings in new audiences.
Is there one particular WWE Legend that you would love to have on the show?
Blitzstein: Oh good lord. I mean, I have to say...okay, so being able to look across the table and see Vince McMahon and when Seth and I spent time with him, Stephanie [McMahon] and Triple H when Raw was here in LA and seeing them smile it just meant everything to me. I can certainly think back to legends as I watched as a kid from The Freebirds to Pat Patterson, any of them would be incredible. Honestly, seeing the Godfather show up and having him involved was just as exciting as having Ric Flair and Jake. It's all been so incredible, but we do have many, many ideas for down the road that we would love to get involved.
Who are you excited for fans to see on the show tonight and later down the road?
Blitzstein: It's hard to say because Seth and I are lifelong fans of the WWE and somebody asked me this yesterday about what I geeked out the most about. Honestly, there's so many Easter eggs applied throughout the breadth of the series. So, to be able to hide a Freebirds joke or being able to have Warrior appear in an episode...just little things. There's that kind of fun for people to see and hear this version of Mr. McMahon, who is sort of like the Peter Griffin of the series. In one sense can be the smartest and classic Mr. McMahon, but you know, in another scene later, he doesn't know how to tie his shoes. In one breath, he talks about being friends with Karl Rove and being the billionaire we love to hate, but right after he's afraid of his own shadow.
I think it's that kind of fun that people will enjoy
I saw Vince kind of like Mr. Burns but on steroids in a way.
Blitzstein: Oh for sure, for sure. Yeah, that's a great way at looking at it. You will see in the series though, that Mr. McMahon isn't as one-note as Mr. Burns and that's something we wanted to do across the board as well. Take Big Show for example, we didn't want him to do all the things people would come to expect. There's an episode where Big Show discusses death and he quotes this neurobiologist about 25 seconds straight. We're really taking these characters to places that the WWE Universe has always wanted to see, but have never had a chance, so that's probably the most exciting thing for us.
You can watch Camp WWE after WWE Payback, tonight Sunday May 1st only on the WWE Network.