Futurama's production history has not always been easy. From difficult upbringings, network difficulties and cancellation to revivals, cost cuts and salary negotiation collapses.
Yet, Futurama has produced some of the better episodes and gags in the history of animated television.
Creating an episode for a show like Futurama is generally a three way task. First writing, then voice acting and finally animation. In that order. However, due to the amount of episodes the runners are usually working on at once, these tasks are often done simultaneously, and several episodes may be written, acted and animated at the same time.
After the production company have placed an order for a specific amount of episodes, it is up to the show runners to decided the general plots of each of these episodes. After having settled for a general plot using "index cards with plot points", a writer is assigned to this specific episode.
As writing progresses, the writers group to discuss their stories, where they are modified and trimmed up by the group. And certain gags may be added as well. They also use techniques like lampshade hanging.
Then the manuscript is handed to the voice actors. The voice acting progress usually takes about 1 to 2 weeks per season, depending on the amount of work and stability in the recording sessions.
While the voice acting is occurring, in fact, before the writing is done, the animators (for Futurama, this is Rough Draft Studio) begin working on the animations.
Most of the animation for Futurama is drawn upon paper, then digitalised and coloured digitally.
To keep with the futuristic setting of Futurama, 3D was employed to help certain scenes where 2D simply would have been to expensive. Such as space travel, but also other scenes got usage of 3D, such as holograms, car chases or wherever the animators felt 3D would work better than 2D.
In addition to 3D, computers were also used to employ certain tasks, such as colouring the hand drawn cells digitally, but also use certain technologies to fill crowd scenes with a so called "people hose".
In general, episodes must be cut down to 22 minutes to fit on television for half an hour with commercials. As part of a deal with Rough Draft Studio, Futurama gets 2 minutes extra that they are allowed to cut, but in generally, methods of putting a voice over an exterior shot or cutting frames here and there where a scene otherwise would be too long is generally used more than cutting full scenes.
- See also: Original run
When Matt Groening and David X. Cohen originally pitched Futurama to Fox, they were not met with initial support. In fact, the show had scared them somewhat with its setting and unusual characters, so in fact they told them to bring them a more down to Earth episode, which became "I, Roommate", unfortunately their reaction to it was plainly "worst. episode. ever", which made its runners conclude that they'd just do the show they wanted to do, rather than appease 20th Century Fox.
Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, despite not doing any direct writing duties, except for a few episodes, stayed close with the project throughout its run to ensure its quality and its story remain en par with their original vision.
But Futurama did not have it easy on the Fox Network, where they treated it carelessly by moving its airings on and off, to little avail for fans to find them. In addition, they ended up airing them out of order. When ratings suffered as a result, they did not want to order a fifth production season, and said they should consider that season 4 might be their last season they'll do, so better make their series finale something special.
As a result, they picked Ken Keeler to write "The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings", which would give some closure, but still contain loose strings in case they were brought back. However, no word ever came, and by Spring, 2003, they were officially cancelled.
- See also: Season 5
After several years of running in syndication on Adult Swim and strong DVD sales, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment re-approached the show runners to do a direct-to-DVD film, and after some negotiation, decided to do four direct-to-DVD films. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment's motivation came from the very strong DVD sale, as well as the good ratings it had had on Adult Swim during its hiatus.
In addition, Comedy Central signed a contract to obtain the airing rights of Futurama on cable television in the United States from 2008. In addition, the direct-to-DVD films were to be cut up into a total of 16 episodes (which would become production season 5) to air on Comedy Central.
- See also: Second run
- Main article: Speculation of Futurama's return till the second run
When the films were originally announced, fans themselves thought this was another opportunity to get the show back as a TV season. They argued that strong DVD sales of these films may give motivation to Comedy Central and 20th Century Fox Television to purchase a production season.
And after months of intense speculation, Comedy Central announced the news of an order of 26 episodes, possibly to split up into 2 seasons.
Casting negotiation ploy
On 17 July, 20th Century Fox Television announced that the main cast of Futurama would go on recasting, opening for new actors to audition. 20th Century Fox Television cited that salary negociations had collapsed with the voice actors, who, according to several reports wanted 75,000 dollars per episode in salary, however this number remains unconfirmed by 20th Century Fox Television or the voice actors' reps. However, others firmly believe that 20th Century Fox Television is doing a negotiation ploy to get the voice actors to cut their salary demands, and cited cases where 20th Century Fox Television had done the same thing for The Simpsons in the past, and they still have the same voice actors.
- ^ Vanzo, Gregg. Commentary for "I, Roommate" on Volume One, disc 1.
- ^ a b c Cohen, David. Commentary for "I, Roommate" on Volume One, disc 1.
- ^ Groening, Matt. Commentary for "Space Pilot 3000" on Volume One, disc 1.
- ^ a b c Groening, Matt. Commentary for "I, Roommate" on Volume One, disc 1.
- ^ a b Groening, Matt. Commentary for Bender's Big Score on the DVD.
- ^ Cohen, David. Commentary for Into the Wild Green Yonder on the DVD.
- ^ Cohen, David. Commentary for Bender's Big Score on the DVD.
- ^ Phipps, Keith (17 July 2009). "Futurama to get recast?". A.V. Club. Retrieved on 18 July 2009.
- ^ a b Schneider, Michael (17 July 2009). "'Futurama' without original voices?". Variety. Retrieved on 18 July 2009.
- ^ a b Carreon, Jorge (17 July 2009). "Not going back to 'Futurama?': Cult hit animated TV series finds its cast in a salary dispute". Examiner. Retrieved on 18 July 2009.
- ^ a b Fienberg, Daniel (17 July 2009). "Clarification on the 'Futurama' recasting reports". Hitfix. Retrieved on 18 July 2009.