Futurama is celebrating it’s 20th Anniversary (March 28th, 1999) and we decided to give you guys a sneak peek of our upcoming untitled book about the history of adult animation. This is our chapter for Futurama which will be included in the hard copy release coming soon to a store near you!
From “30th Century FOX” comes a story about a punk kid stumbling into a hyperbaric chamber that then freezes him solid for a 1000 years and wake up in a time where we have spaceships,talking robots, and one surviving can of sardines.
This would set the course of what we now know as Futurama. From Matt Groening(The Simpsons) ,and a writers rooms that probably should have been tasked with getting us to Mars rather than write for an animated series given all the Ph.D’s and Harvard Masters’ Degrees that were gainfully employed by 20th Century FOX, we follow life in New New York City through the eyes of a man named Philip J. Fry (Billy West),a former NYC pizza delivery man who soon makes his way by working for the local Planet Express, an interplanetary UPS that provides for infinite possibilities on other worlds and hilarious encounters with numerous alien races that usually leads to some sort of a conflict. Typically driving the Planet Express spaceship was pilot Turanga Leela better known as “Leela”(Katey Sagal). Despite the fact that she has one big eye, she kicks major ass and takes no prisoners while doing so. As the show’s run would continue, Leela would come to Fry’s rescue quite a bit which would eventually lead the two to develop a budding romance that would become a captivating backdrop to what would eventually become one of the most existential animated series in modern history. And then there’s Bender, a walking talking tin can of a robot that usually wasn’t without his favorite cigar and some sort of poignant remark about whatever situation his fellow crew members were in. Usually dictating these assignments was the 160-year old Professor Farnsworth (West) who only runs an interstellar service so as to fund his ridiculous science experiments that often became focal points of whole episodes. Farnsworth’s science crew were just as nuts as he was and while Hermes Conrad (Phil LaMarr) and Amy Wong (Lauren Tom) were a tad more grounded, Dr. Zoidberg (Billy West) was probably the series’ most eclectic.
By far the most important character of Futurama, the setting. With New New York City being crudely built on the New York City of old, the producers unsurprisingly went bananas in developing the visual aesthetic and presentation of the series. The modern horrors of present would become everyday life in 3099. Global warming? Yea, it’s here, but the citizens acknowledge it like we would a new McDonald’s opening up downtown. Wanna die? New New York decided to replace the phone booths with suicide booths that would give paying customers a slew of options. The producers of Futurama had a field day with background gags that fans to this day are discovering.
Futurama was smart as hell too and nothing was off limits for the writers. They had no problems just developing a new language if they needed it and it wasn’t uncommon for Scientific theory to become a topic of conversation during table reads. When reading for the eventual crossover featuring The Simpsons and Futurama, producer Al Jean noted how surreal it was to be in a table read with the amount of talent on display from the different casts.
Yes, as I just alluded to, Futurama was eventually canceled because like diamonds this franchise beautiful look at and just as expensive to boot. That, and the networks that picked the series up weren’t much help neither. When FOX picked up the series, they kept screwing up when the show was going to air and did almost no marketing for it to the point where the series was eventually canceled. Like Family Guy, Futurama would find renewed success on Adult Swim which helped garner so much fan support that Matt Groening and company would reunite and produce four direct-to-DVD movies that would eventually become the catalyst for Comedy Central to eventually bring the series back for a few more seasons. Hell, the producers even wrote four, count-em, four series finale episodes that all aired, most notably “Meanwhile” which is largely considered one of the best-produced series finales of an animated series ever conceived.
And the fans still want more. Futurama would garner a social media fan base of over 30 million and would gain a second life on the new age mediums thanks to a slew of memes inspired by Fry, Farnsworth, Zoidberg, and others that would continue to make the franchise relevant for decades to comes. To this day, the ever assertive Matt Groening and the cast of Futurama swear that the show is going to make a comeback noting that there are many more stories to tell in the streets of New New York City. The trick is figuring out who the hell is going to air those stories?