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Category: Sitcom/Cartoon Science Fiction
Created by: Matt Groening (also created The Simpsons)
Developed by: Matt Groening and David X. Cohen
Voices of: Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Phil LaMarr, Lauren Tom, Maurice LaMarche, Tress MacNeille, David Herman, Frank Welker, and Tom Kenny
Composer: Christopher Tyng
Number of Seasons: 5
Number of Episodes: 72
Executive Producers: Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, and Ken Keeler
Original Channel: FOX (1999-2003), Comedy Central (2008-present)
Original Run: March 28, 1999 to August 10, 2003 and March 23, 2008 to present
Main Characters: Fry · Leela · Bender · Professor Farnsworth · Zoidberg · Hermes · Amy
Cast: Billy West · John DiMaggio · Katey Sagal · Maurice LaMarche · Tress MacNeille · Phil LaMarr · Lauren Tom · David Herman · Frank Welker · List of guest stars on Futurama · List of Futurama crew
Recurring Characters: Zapp Brannigan · Kif · Nibbler · Cubert · Calculon · Mom ·
Recurring human characters · Recurring robot characters · Recurring alien characters
Technology: Planet Express Ship, Suicide Booth, Chroniton, Cryonics
Futurama is a cartoon sitcom about the adventures and misadventures of the employees of the Planet Express delivery company. The main characters are Fry, Leela, and Bender. Most of the storylines are about them. Other storylines do center on the other main characters.
Philip J. Fry (Billy West)
He was a pizza delivery boy who was frozen just after midnight on the early morning of New Year's Day, January 1, 2000. He wakes up on New Year's Eve, 2999. He ends up working for Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth, his closest living relative. He is a cargo delivery boy. After his actions in the episode "Roswell That Ends Well" he becomes his own grandfather.
Turanga Leela (Katey Sagal)
Leela is the competent, one-eyed captain of the Planet Express Ship. Abandoned at birth, she grew up in an Orphanarium believing herself to be an alien from an unknown race. She later learns that she is actually a mutant from the sewers.
Bender Bending Rodríguez (John DiMaggio)
Bender is a foul-mouthed, alcoholic, cigar-smoking, kleptomaniacal, misanthropic, egocentric, ill-tempered, pessimistic robot originally programmed to bend girders for suicide booths. He is Fry's best friend and roommate.
Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth, a.k.a. The Professor (Billy West)
Born April 9, 2841, Professor Hubert Farnsworth is Fry's distant nephew. Farnsworth founded Planet Express to fund his mad scientist-esque experiments and inventions. He clones himself to create a successor, Cubert Farnsworth.
Dr. John D. Zoidberg (Billy West)
Zoidberg is a lobster-like alien from the planet Decapod 10, and is the neurotic and self-conscious staff physician of Planet Express. His knowledge of human anatomy and physiology is woefully inadequate. Zoidberg is basically penniless, but constantly tries to portray himself as respected and rich.
Amy Wong (Lauren Tom)
Amy is an incredibly rich, spoiled, blunt-speaking and extremely accident-prone long-term intern at Planet Express. She is an engineering student at Mars University and heiress to the western hemisphere of Mars. Born on Mars, she is ethnically Chinese, prone to frequently cursing in Cantonese, and overuses 31st century slang. Her parents are Leo and Inez. Although initially portrayed as somewhat promiscuous, she eventually developed a relationship with Kif Kroker.
Hermes Conrad (Phil LaMarr)
Hermes is the Jamaican accountant of Planet Express. A bureaucrat and proud of it, he is a stickler for regulation. Hermes is also a former champion in Olympic Limbo, a sport derived from the popular dance and similar to the track event of hurdling. He has a wife, LaBarbara, and a 12-year-old son, Dwight.
The show is set at the beginning of the 31st century. Some of the topics covered by the show are Global warming, bureaucracy, and substance abuse. The topics are exaggerated to fit the 31st century. The characters live in the city of New New York, built over the ruins of present-day New York City, referred to as "Old New York".
The 31st century, as portrayed by the show, has many technological advances. Human heads are kept alive in jars. The inventor of this was Ron Popeil (on the show--would you really want to be alive as a head?). Richard Nixon is one of the best examples of this on the show. The internet can be accessed by using any and all senses. The internet has its own digital world (similar to Tron or The Matrix). It is slow and mostly contains pornography, pop-up ads, and "filthy" chat rooms. Television is still a primary form of entertainment. In this time there are self aware robots who are the main cause of global warming thanks to their alcohol-powered systems. The wheel is non existent. People travel by hover vehicles and transportation tubes.
Society and Culture
The Earth in the 31st century is shown as a multicultural society. There are a wide range of human, robot, and extraterrestrial beings. The main characters interact with many of them. The world is seen as more socially advanced that Fry's world. This world has similar problems to ours. Robots are the largest minority group and are treated as second-class citizens. There are a few exceptions. Robots have been granted freedom and free-will but in times of crisis robots have their free-will removed by having their "patriotism circuits" activated, forcing them to serve humans or to serve in the military in times of war. Many robots live in apartments specially constructed for robots, with rooms the size of a typical coat closet and closets the size of typical rooms. Sewer mutants are mutated humans who live in the sewers by law. They hold urban legend status and are regarded as fictional by some members of the public.
Religion is still a big part of society but in a modified way. The major religious groups merged to form the First Amalgamated Church. The new religions include Oprahism, Robotology, and Start Trek fandom. Prominent religious figures include Father Changstein-El-Gamal, the Robot Devil, Reverand Preacherbot and The Space Pope. Religious subjects dealt with are predestination prayer, the nature of salvation, and religious conversation.
Earth has a unified government, headed by the President of Earth (from season 2 onwards being Richard Nixon's head). Earth's capital is Washington, D.C., and the flag of Earth is similar in design to the flag of the United States, with planet Earth displayed in place of the fifty stars.
The Democratic Order Of Planets (D.O.O.P.) is the fictional organization in the Futurama universe which has been compared to both the United Nations and to the United Federation of Planets of the Star Trek universe. Numerous other galaxies have been colonized or have made contact by the year 3000. Mars has been terraformed and is home to Mars University.
The heads of the past presidents from George Washington to George Bush and many famous people and infamous people from our era are placed in jars. These heads are displayed in the National Head Museum. They are fed food in a similar way to fish.
Several English expressions have evolved since the present day. For example, the word Christmas has been replaced with Xmas and the word ask with aks (pronounced axe). According to David X. Cohen it is a running joke in the series that the French language is extinct in the Futurama universe, much like Latin is in the present. In the French dubbing of the show, German is used as the extinct language instead.
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The primary source of comedy for the show is satirical depiction of everyday life in the future and its parodical comparisons to the present. Matt Groening says his goal was to take what was on the surface a goofy comedy and show that underneath were "legitimate literary science fiction concepts. The series contrasted "low culture" and "high culture" comedy; for example, Bender's catchphrase is the insult "Bite my shiny metal ass", while his most terrifying nightmare is a vision of a number 2, a joke referencing the binary numeral system.
The series developed a cult following mostly because of inside jokes about "nerds".
Much like the opening sequence in The Simpsons with its chalkboard, sax solo and couch gags, Futurama has a distinctive opening sequence featuring minor gags. As the show begins, the word "Futurama" is displayed across the screen along with a joke disclaimer such as "Painstakingly drawn before a live studio audience", "Presented in Doublevision (Where Drunk)", "Condemned by the Space Pope", "Filmed on location", or "Dancing Space Potatoes? YOU BET!". After flying through downtown New New York and past various recurring characters, the Planet Express Ship crashes into a large screen showing a short clip from a classic cartoon. These have included clips from Looney Tunes shorts, cartoons produced by Max Fleischer, a short section of The Simpsons from a Tracy Ullman episode, and its own opening sequence in The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings. The Futurama theme song was written by Christopher Tyng, and is based on the song "Psyché Rock" by Pierre Henry. The theme is played on the tubular bells but is occasionally remixed for use in specific episodes including a version by The Beastie Boys used for the episode "Hell Is Other Robots" in which they guest starred.
Matt Groening began thinking of Futurama in the mid 1990s. In 1997 he asked (or is is aksed?) David X. Cohen to help him develop the show. They had many characters and story lines ready before they pitched the series to Fox in April 1998. There were arguments over whether the network would have any creative input into the show. With The Simpsons the network has no input. Futurama worked out the same way. The network had no input.
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It takes six to nine months to make an episode of Futurama. This long production time meant many episodes were worked on simultaneously.
Each episode began with the writers discussing the story in a group. Then a single staff writer wrote an outline and then a script. Once the first draft was finished, the writers and executive producers got together with the actors to do a table read. After this script reading, the writers rewrote the script as a group before eventually sending it to animation. At this point the voice recording was also started and the script is out of the writers' hands.
The animation in Futurama was done by Rough Draft Studios, which Groening insisted be used. Rough Draft receives the completed script of an episode and storyboards it into over 100 drawings. Then they create a pencil-drawn animatic with 1000 frames. From there, Rough Draft's sister studio in Korea puts together the 30,000-frame finished episode. The show was also sometimes animated overseas by Tokyo Movie Shinsha.
In addition to traditional cartoon drawing, Rough Draft Studios often uses CGI for the fast or complex shots such as during the movement of spaceships, explosions, nebulae, and snow scenes among others. Most of the opening credits are rendered in CGI.
The CGI is rendered at 24 fps (opposed to hand-drawn at 12 fps) and the lack of artifacts makes the animation appear very smooth and fluid. CGI characters look slightly different due to spatially "cheating" hand-drawn characters by drawing slightly out of proportion or off-perspective features to emphasize traits of the face or body, improving legibility of an expression. PowerAnimator is used to draw the comic-like CGI.
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On March 28, 1999 the debut show got 19 million viewers and rated 11th according to that week's Nielsen Ratings (FOX Sunday night 8:30pm). The next week Futurama go 14.2 million viewers in the same spot. The show was then moved to Tuesdays at 8:30pm. It's first Tuesday episode got 8.85 million viewers. Though its ratings were well below The Simpsons, the first season of Futurama rated higher than competing animated series: King of the Hill, Family Guy, Dilbert, South Park and The PJs.
By the fourth season, Futurama was being aired erratically. In the last episode of Season 4, it was parodied in the opening sequence with a picture of Fry, Leela, and Bender, captioned "See You On Some Other Channel." Its time slot was regularly pre-empted by sports events, making it difficult to predict when new episodes would air. FOX also had not aired several episodes that had been produced for seasons three and four. Although Futurama was never officially canceled, midway through the production of the fourth season, Fox decided to let it go out of production and told the writers and animators to look for new jobs.
Fox's decision to stop buying episodes of Futurama led Rough Draft Studios, the animation producers, to fire its animators. Futurama was not included in Fox's fall 2003 lineup.
In January 2003, Cartoon Network began airing Futurama episodes as the centerpiece to the expansion of their Adult Swim cartoon block. In October 2005, Comedy Central picked up the exclusive cable syndication rights to air Futurama's 72-episode run at the start of 2008, following the expiration of Cartoon Network's contract. It was cited as the largest and most expensive acquisition in the network's history. It is currently airing every night, followed by the hit show South Park. A recent Comedy Central teaser trailer announced the return of Futurama March 23, 2008. Which will be Bender's Big Score divided into four episodes followed by the other three movies.
References to Futurama in Popular Culture
Futurama is referenced numerous times in Groening's first series The Simpsons. Squeaky Voiced Teen is once seen attempting suicide, jumping off a cliff screaming "Why did they cancel Futurama?". Bender has also had numerous cameos, the most notable in an episode named in reference to Futurama. Fry has also appeared in The Simpsons, during a couch gag. In addition, when Matt Groening appeared on the episode of The Simpsons entitled "My Big Fat Geek Wedding," he was identified as the creator of Futurama, as The Simpsons does not exist as a television program in its own continuity.
There many other references to the show and clips from the show were also used in many situations. You can find out more from Wikipedia.
The show has won a lot of awards and been nominated for a lot of awards. See Wikipedia for a full listing. Futurama in Other Media
First started in November 2000, Futurama Comics is a comic book series published by Bongo Comics based in the Futurama universe. While originally published only in the US, a UK, German and Australian version of the series is also available. Other than a different running order and presentation, the stories are the same in all versions.
The Futurama comics may not be canonical per se, and while they do draw from the Futurama universe, the events portrayed within them do not necessarily have any effect upon the continuity of the show.
On September 15, 2000, Unique Development Studios acquired the license to develop a Futurama video game for the next generation consoles and handheld systems. Fox Interactive signed on to publish the game. Sierra Entertainment later became the game's publisher, and it was released on August 14, 2003. Versions are available for the PS2 and
Xbox, both of which use cel-shading technology, however, the game was subsequently canceled on the Nintendo GameCube and Game Boy Advance in North America and Europe.
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