When I heard there would be a Futurama panel at this year’s New York Comic Con, I volunteered immediately to cover it — makes sense as I’ve been reviewing the new season. Still, because of the strikes, what would have normally been the voice cast on full display got scaled down to feature more unsung heroes of the animation industry.
Yes, while the actors get all the love and the showrunners/creators can bathe in the admiration of the fans, ideas and actors alone do not make a show. Animators, writers, and directors are the cogs that make the machine run smoothly, and they rarely get the love they deserve. David X. Cohen, Peter Avanzino (Supervising Director), Claudia Katz (Producer), Crystal Chesney-Thompson (Director), Edmund Fong (Director), and Lee Supercinski (Producer) gave the audience insight into what goes into making their favorite show. So a small thank-you to greedy Corporate America for causing the strikes, because it gave some rarely recognized background players a chance to shine.
Now, being used to the shadows, it came as no surprise that the panel chose to play an episode before throwing things right to an audience Q&A. Credit to the fans too, who were happy to ask the varied panel a bevy of genuinely decent questions. Normally, voice casts routinely hear a take on the old “What’s your favorite episode?”, and although the query of “What were your favorite team ups this season?” comes close (it was Bender and Zoidberg, if you’re wondering), I didn’t hear any others like it.
David X. Cohen (executive producer) who has been a part of the show since its inception, fielded a few fun Q’s. With regards to how the process of making an episode works, he said they like to start with an idea and then figure a way to make it relate to the crew; from there the story unfolds naturally. Point and case? The season finale was actually supposed to be the season premiere, but once the season ideas started to flow, the opener concept seemed better as a closer. He also assured the audience that being resurrected multiple times has given him a degree of comfort when it comes to the long breaks between seasons. Finally, due to the longevity of the show, new hires have the tendency of being fans of the show, and fans of anime, which can be a blessing and curse. Essentially, while the new guard enjoys being a part of a show they’ve known and loved, they really, really want to draw anime.
Avanzino and Fong clued fans into the animation process, where a concept might go through different iterations simply for the level of complication that would come from animating it. For example, the shootout in “How the West was 1010001” caused some logic issues which 3-D animation helped, but also created a strange loophole that they were all hoping fans wouldn’t jump on. This lead to the fun fact that David X. Cohen was a Physics major! Coincidentally, a question about alienese revealed that a Computer Science major created a second, more complicated version that what was originally featured on the show (that first language having been quite easy to decipher), but they ultimately went back to the first language because the CS major had made a miscalculation and turned the second language into gibberish. Oops.
With regards to plots for the next season, the panel didn’t wish to spoil anything, but did tease a trip to Mexico for Bender that involves meeting a new family member. There will be more references to the season 10 finale, and more fulfilling character arcs are on the way (they hinted at Amy and Kif and Fry specifically). More great guest stars are on the horizon, including Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
Finally, we were given a preview of the upcoming season and what I saw certainly made me eager for the show’s return — sometime next year.