Transcript:Commentary:Space Pilot 3000

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Transcript of commentary for
"Space Pilot 3000"
Transcribed bySvip
Commentary participants

Matt Groening: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the audio commentary for the pilot episode of Futurama. This is Matt Groening.

Gregg Vanzo: Gregg Vanzo, co-supervising animator, director.

John DiMaggio: John DiMaggio, voice of Bender and other characters.

David X. Cohen: David Cohen, executive producer, head writer.

Rich Moore: And Rich Moore, co-supervising director and co-director of this episode... with Gregg.

GV: Oh yeah, I forgot about that.

DXC: Oh, and Matt and I wrote this episode, also.

MG: This is a tough thing, to get the show off the ground. And pilots in general probably are pretty tough for everybody. But to do a show where you're setting up a story that takes place a thousand years in the future, and what we tried to do, we tried to lay in a lot of little secrets in this episode that we would pay off later. [pause] Should we tell some of them or just leave them?

DXC: Maybe we'll just point them out and let people figure them out for themselves.

RM: Just say "secret!".

DXC: There's a cool one coming up in a— just a few minutes.

MG: What's great about this, and I – tip of the hat to Rough Draft, is how good this looks. The first episode is – the show have evolved a little bit, but it doesn't – you know – it doesn't look like a different show.

DXC: Rough Draft are our animation studio, by the way.

GV: Right, that's us.

DXC: [I.C. Weiner note is shown.] That's my parents' home address; 405. Different street, but that's where the number comes from.

MG: Wow! Everything is of significance!

JD: [Fry is opening his beer and making his mockery toast; so along with Fry] ... millennium.

DXC: [Over the countdown montage] This idea came to me in the shower. I remember thinking about it in the shower one morning.

MG: The fact that they are during the countdown for New Year's, all around the world, is a bit of a stretch, but—

DXC: The idea that they are in different timezones—

[Nibbler's shadow appears.]

MG & DXC: Secret!

[Laughter erupts.]

DXC: That's gonna pay off in a few years from now. [Fry has fallen into the tube, and the days are starting to spin away.] Matt, I remember an early drawing you did that looked just like this. Your conception for this scene was in your mind early on.

RM: And I have that drawing.

MG: This is inspired by the – you know – The Time Machine. This is great...

JD: Is that another secret? Why that building didn't get destroyed?

DXC: Err... sure.

JD: A secret that you don't know!

DXC: It is so secret, that there is not one person on Earth that knows the answer. The script changed a lot – really a lot – from early versions of this, but we finally decided that it was kinda thematically important to end this. We want to end this cold opening at the moment Fry was in the future. It seemed like, that was the big change in his life. We decided that was the place to start the main title.

JD: That's the first shot of New New York, correct?

RM: Yeah and that was the first 3D shot that we animated.

[Opening theme begins.]

DXC: Oh really? So that was sort of an experiment whether you could do that or not.

JD: Here is... the introduction of the theme song. I think, the funkiest, by far, on the air of any other show. Period.

GV: It's good.

MG: This opening sequence; when we saw it for the first time – fully animated – we thought; "oh, this is too fast, you can't see what's going on, that's too crazy".

DXC: Now it's like; bring it on.

RM: Directed by Mike Smith, a great animator.

GV: Fantastic job. Great.

DXC: In one of the early drafts, when Fry was first woke up, he was immediately dragged to an auction, where he was bought by the Professor for spare organs. [JD laughs]

[Fry is hit by a sliding door.]

DXC: Another kind of goal that Matt and I had early on was were were going to have all this cool technology, like they have on Star Trek and Star Wars, but it was gonna malfunction like technology always does. So, you know, we show those sliding doors, but they're gonna hit you in the head.

[Fry is talking to Leela.]

RM: I think this is the first time we see Leela.

JD: Yes.

DXC: You had, Matt. Another thing, Matt had early on was the idea that he wanted this one-eyed, beautiful character. Where did that come from?

MG: Err... no, I just thought it would be really cool to do "sexy babe", err, you know, science-fiction style heroine and -- but give her one eye. And see if we can still make her... comely and attractive.

DXC: Are there--?

JD: And she is, I've seen her on the Internet. And anyway...

[Laughter erupts.]

RM: Oh yes, oh yes, my friend.

DXC: So, Rich and Gregg, are there difficulties in drawing a one-eyed character? What problems did that cause?

GV: Well, first we thought it would be difficult, but now, we've gotten used to it, so it's pretty easy to do. Right, Rich?

RM: Yeah, it's—

DXC: You used the hair; you cheated a little bit?

GV: Yeah, learn cheats like the hair and the— and again the expressions like a frowning brow is difficult, but once we get down—

RM: Like a sad eye and frown eye are a little tricky.

GV: Yeah, hopefully, she never gets a front haircut.

DXC: It was another long scene here in the pilot, actually which was even partially animated where we had decided to rewrite it, where this complicated device was hooked up to Fry's head, when they were studying him and we saw all these scenes from his past, including his birth and going up to college, at Coney Island.

RM: Guidance Counsellor.

DXC: His Guidance Counsellor, that's right.

GV: There was a lot of stuff.

DXC: We were very over ambitious in the beginning and we really probably had 2 hours of material for the pilot and realised we could not possibly use it all.

JD: Wasn't this the highest rated debut in Fox history? Am I mistaken in saying that? [DXC wonders] I think it was.

MG: I can't remember. It did really well. And much to the surprise of Fox, because they were very alarmed by this show– this episode. David and I waited to pitch this thing and– everybody got really excited and they ordered 13 episodes on the spot. And they said, "well, show us what you got" and all we had was some notes for this script and— they couldn't understand. 'cause we said that we didn't want the future to be dark and drippy like Blade Runner, but we didn't want it to be bland and boring like The Jetsons. And they loved The Jetsons. And they said, "argh, it's the greatest!", you know and– they couldn't understand how the future could be fun with a one-eyed alien woman and– a crazy—

DXC: And a suicide boo—

MG: And a suicide booth, but they said, "why are people lined up to kill themselves on New Year's Eve if it's so great, hmm?"

DXC: The decision we came to was basically that if we wanted to be able to do any kind of commentary on life today, then the future would have to have good elements and bad elements. It couldn't be a Utopia or a total Dystopia.

MG: Yeah, you know, exactly, either way, a Utopia or a complete Dystopia would be boring after a while.

[Man enters tubes and says "Radio City Mutant Hall".]

JD: Yeah, that line was originally "JFK, Jr. airport".

DXC: That's right.

JD: But unfortunately—

DXC: It actually aired once with that guy saying he wanted to go to JFK, Jr. airport and then there was the tragedy with JFK, Jr. in the plane crash, so we decided, because it was a plane and an airport, we should change it.

[Fry flies past Blinky.]

MG: This is our only Simpsons reference? Right?

DXC: What was it?

MG: Blinky, the three-eyed fish.

DXC: Oh, that's right.

[Fry exists tube.]

RM: That was a joke that went around and around with him coming out of the tube, that he was going to hit a mattress or something at the end.

MG: Because we didn't wanna kill him.

RM: Yeah, it was lots of different ways.

[Fry stands in line to the suicide booth, Bender is behind him.]

JD: This is the introduction of Bender! Hey! There I— there's me!

Bender: [episode] Bite my shiny metal ass.

JD: Now, that's the first words, but– you know what, I auditioned for the– when I auditioned for this show, I auditioned and I auditioned for the Professor as well. And I used that voice for the professor and I used that voice, and I also used– [URL's voice] I also used URL's voice [normal] for Bender. So I did a couple of different things.

DXC: It was actually a producer we worked with named Jason Grode, who came up with the idea that you should re-audition with your Professor voice as Bender and that's what we went with. It was very hard to decide what a robot should sound like, we auditioned dozen, scores, I don't know how many...

MG: Every robot in Hollywood. [laughter]

JD: David Duchovny was around, Kevin Costner was– no?

MG: No, we did. Because how does a robot sound? I mean, if you're doing comedy, you don't want [mechanical voice] the robot to sound like this [normal], which most people did.

DXC: There was another early version of the script, in which Fry woke up and went straight to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty for processing. And he fell out of the head of the Statue of Liberty and the statue moved and caught him. These are all the things you missed, viewers.

[Suicide booth is finished.]

DXC: Its weapons are great.

RM: We gotta bring those back.

MG: The coin-op suicide booth was inspired by a Donald Duck cartoon, in which Donald Duck went to a museum of the future and he did all these coin-op devices that injured him.

[Leela and Ipgee are discussing Fry's run-off and Career Chips.]

DXC: I have to admit that we kinda let the idea of these chips fall by the wayside over the years, people kinda take the jobs they want to, we've dodged this issue. But it's an interesting idea.

MG: No, they have chips.

DXC: They have the chips.

MG: We just don't talk about it.

DXC: We don't show it, yeah. We don't show it or talk about it. They've come back once or twice, but turned out not to be that pivotal in our universe.

[Fry and Bender are sitting at the bar.]

DXC: Olde Fortran is a joke on Olde English. And look at that, that's a critical thing in the background, there, that sign for Slurm.

RM: Rosetta Stone.

DXC: Exactly.

[Bender belches.]

JD: And that's a real belch, by the way.

MG: What does it say, "drink"?

DXC: "Drink", it's the alien language letters say D-R-I-N-K; "drink Slurm", elsewhere in this episode we showed a banner all in English, that said "drink Slurm". That was our clue to people, how to translate those five letters, D, R, I, N, K. Based on that, they translated all of the alien language within a couple of hours since this being on the air. We thought it would be more challenging than that, but people were pretty on the ball. So, we later introduced a second alien language, which is much hard to translate and people finally got it, but only after—

MG: Did they get it?

DXC: Yeah, they got it. Took a few months though.

MG: Wow.

DXC: We may have to do a third one, that's computational difficult to translate.

JD: To master the Bender belch, by the way—

?: We worked hard on that alien alphabet too. Oh yeah. Go ahead.

JD: All you have to is go, is say "ai-". Just go "ai-", when you're belching and it's a Bender belch, just go "ai-". And it'll be a Bender belch. That's it.

MG: Uh oh.

JD: Now there's gonna be kids Bender belching all over.

[Leela calling for back up.]

RM: And yes, we know the wrist band's on the wrong arm.

DXC: Oh, is it? She wears it on the right arm?

RM: Yeah.

DXC: You kinda think it's the kinda thing you can get away with easily.

RM: Those people on the Internet, they're–

GV: They're brutal.

JD: Ah, the Head Museum.

MG: Ah, having Leonard Nimoy coming in and do the— do this, actually in this very studio—

DXC: This room.

MG: ... was– that was a real treat, that felt like an endorsement. Hey, we can't go wrong now.

DXC: Yeah, that's was a true thrill for me.

RM: Hot dog on a stick.

DXC: Any specific place the heads in jars came from? The idea?

MG: It's a standard science-fiction cliché.

[Matt Groening's head in a jar appears on screen.]

MG: Yay!

DXC: And there is Matt's appearance in series.

[Fry is fighting with Nixon's head.]

DXC: I remember Matt just taking glee in the idea that so many years down the line, we could still make a living making fun of Richard Nixon.

MG: I was so mad at Nixon, you know, as a kid growing up, he was just a jerk. To be able to– if I could have known back then, in 1999, I'd still get to make fun of him. It would have cheered me up. [Long pause until Leela defends her nose.] Actually, the nose thing, that was a– that was a big thing to actually get the designers to draw her nose that big, because they thought it was hideous. That it– that cartoon heroines must have tiny noses.

DXC: How does the character designs differ from your original sketches, Matt? I know Bender had antennas that were like ears.

MG: Bender is– except for having little ear antennas, but that's pretty close, Bender's pretty close. Fry's definitely been cleaned up, but I have this theory about animation design what makes memorable characters are characters that you can identify in silhouette. Look at the characters on The Simpsons and my comic strip Life in Hell, if you put them in silhouette, they're still very easily identifiable and I try to do the same thing on Futurama as well. So that's why Fry has those two fork things in his hair, Bender has a little antenna and Leela has her ponytail. [Another long pause.] Oh and, Fry's wearing James Dean's outfit in Rebel Without a Cause.

DXC: What was the animation difficulties in making Bender speak? He is the only robot, for the most part on our show, that has lip sync.

RM: We tried doing a test where his mouth just lit up, you know when he talks, the syllables of the the dialogue.

MG: It just didn't look any good or what?

DXC: Less expressive for a major character to not have lip sync.

JD: Let me ask you something, now you said it was James Dean's outfit from Rebel Without a Cause. It's kinda funny, because we had the premiere at the Griffith Park Observatory.

DXC: That's right.

JD: You know, I am– on the planetarium screen — which was really amazing experience — but, you know, it was our little tribute to Laser Zeppelin or something like that I guess. But that's kind of interesting that you say that.

RM: And then that night I visited Sal Mineo's grave. [Laughter]

[Fry and Bender escape into Old New York.]

DXC: Back up above there was some alien graffiti, that was our test to see if they had translated the language, it says "Venusians, go home". And sure enough, they were able to translate it in one airing.

MG: Wow.

JD: Old New York

[Fry and Bender overlooks the former Rockefeller Plaza]

DXC: See this drawing here of Bender's angry eyes? One of our producers, Claudia De La Rocha and I used to just laugh, we were just laughing uproariously when we watched this animation first came in. There's something so funny about him for no reason having that evil... look...

[Leela stands in a sunbeam.]

RM: I always loved that shot.

Bender: [episode; lean in] No friends.

RM: The master of the lean in.

JD: Yes!

[Leela talks about her being alone.]

JD: Reveal!

RM: A lot of storyboard artist will ask on a Bender line boarding, "is this line– should this line be a lean in joke?". [laughter] "Nah, just a regular joke."

DXC: In some very early conception of the series, Fry wasn't even a delivery boy, he was a night watchman at the cryogenics lab. One very early one.

MG: We went through a lot of agony to figure how we were gonna get this show off the ground, figure out what the premise was and that he's a delivery boy in the future and what the whole series is about.

DXC: We also considered making him captain of the ship at one point, instead of Leela, but it seemed more fun to have him be an underdog.

RM: Wasn't he in an early, early version a soldier or something like an army man? I remember drawings that you had—

DXC: You're thinking of G.I. Joe.

MG: You may be right, I can't remember. I'll have to get out the notes. I can't remember, that'll be in the book. In the coffee table book.

[Dick Clark talks on TV.]

DXC: That's his first appearance. That's really Dick Clark. Actually, there's a whole bunch of Dick Clark that we just could not use 'cause we didn't have enough time to get it on the air and it was very funny.

RM: The heads of Sha Na--?

DXC: The heads of Sha Na Na.

MG: Dick Clark was a really good sport and he came in and he read the script and like you said, he had a lot more lines to read and he said, "I have no idea what I just said". [laughter] "I don't get it, but I take your word for it."

[The professor confirms his relation to Fry.]

RM: I love this machine that seems to be the only use that it has is for people to—

DXC: Nephew detector!

RM: Stick fingers in and detector relation—

MG: With a little light bulb.

[Professor is showing them around.]

DXC: This is — if you compare the professor's voice hear to subsequent episodes and seasons, it really changed a lot.

MG: This is the introduction of the ship?

DXC: Yep, first appearance of the ship.

MG: Notice the ship has an overbite, like all other characters.

DXC: One of the interesting things about this ship and other parts of the show is that certain things like that is done in 3D – computer graphics, but then blended in with the 2D, which is not easy to do and still make it look like a drawing.

[Bender drops a brick.]

MG: Big joke! Big joke, big - the brick...

RM: Yep. Secret! [Laughter]

DXC: Secret phrase comes to mind.

MG: Fox didn't like that joke, either, did they?

DXC: I doubt it. If I had to guess

MG: Then use it in the promo!

DXC: You reminded me of one other funny thing from Fox, from the very beginning when Fry is on the Probulator, we had a note from the Fox censor, and I quote verbatim, "standard caution on the Probulator." [laughter] We've never figured out what that meant. Apparently, they had seen the Probulator in many other episodes of other series and they had some standard...

JD: By the way, URL is me in the morning, for any ladies who have the DVD, that are watching.

[People are counting down to New Year's Eve, 3000.]

DXC: You notice, they would say– a little inside joke there in the future the French language is gone and they just speak English in France.

[Ship escapes lasers and fireworks.]

DXC: That's a cool shot.

RM: That whole sequence, I think came out really good. I remember seeing it, and hoping, "god, I hope we can do this on a weekly basis".

JD: Is that a speaker right there on the floor?

RM: [laughs] Yes.

JD: Without a cover on it?

RM: Without a grill on it.

JD: That's great.

Farnsworth: [episode] Oh those poor sons of– but that's not important, the important thing is I need a new crew.

DXC: That was little improv by Billy West there, we left in.

GV: Oh really?

DXC: That "poor sons of," yeah.

Leela: [episode] Thanks for the offer, professor, but we don't have the proper career chips.

JD: Katey Sagal. Just felt like saying it.

[Farnsworth drops chips out of the "contents of space wasp" bag.]

DXC: I love that...

GV: It's great.

JD: Wow, it really has changed.

RM: It's changed a lot, I was just gonna say.

JD: [imitating the professor's voice and muttering] [normal voice] By the way, Billy West and I do duelling Professors, we do David Bowie. The Professor sings David Bowie. [Professor's voice; singing] Ground control to major Tom.

[Credits roll.]

DXC: So, Matt, what you think now looking back at the pilot? How does it hold up?

MG: I– we did a good job. I mean, everybody did. Great voices, great writing, and– great music Chris Tyng did, great animation– incredible animation. Unlike anything. I just gotta talk about the Curiosity Company, the– production company with this thing, I use a film of my father's called A Study in Wet, which he made in 1964 using that little bit [water drop sound effects] as water drop sounds. It's a tribute to my dad.

[The Curiosity Company logo comes on.]

MG: That's a reflection of a surfboard.

GV: Oh, wow,

RM: Secret!

[The credits have ended.]

JD: Who came up with the 30th Century Fox?

DXC: We suggested it and Fox initially didn't want to do it 'cause it cost a lot of make that, er... logo.

MG: Fox didn't want to do it at all so David and I paid for our own logo out of our own pocket. And, uh...

DXC: Later they decided that liked it.

MG: It kind of embarrassed them that we did that so... [JD laughs alone.] They paid us back. But originally [Strange elderly voice:] we believed in the show so much [Normal voice:] that we, uh...

RM: That we paid the fifty dollars! [Laughter]

DXC: I think the pilot holds up quite well, I'm happy to say. I hadn't seen it for a while and it does hold up pretty well.

RM: I have no regrets!

[JD laughs, followed by others.]