Futurama and Robot Chicken @ Comic-Con 2009

Space is weird… really, really weird.

The Futurama panel was one of the hot tickets at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. The rumor was that the line to get in circled the building twice. But I had a job to do and with the help of my magical press badge, I was able to make my way in without a hitch. After a brief glimpse at some of the fans dressed up as Fry, Bender, Leela, and a girl in a very impressive Nibbler outfit, I grabbed a seat and prepared myself for what was sure to be an intriguing conversation.

One of the reasons this was such a huge event is that a new season had recently been announced after the success of the direct-to-DVD films. But not all was to remain good in the year 3000: About a week before Comic-Con, the news broke that FOX had put out an open casting call to replace some of the main voices on the show. An obligatory wave of shock and disbelief has been resounding through the internet in the form of petitions and cookie-cutter letters ever since. As far as I know, this was to be the first time that Matt Groening weighed in on the subject.

And weigh in he did; after a brief introduction from the Hypnotoad Matt G, who gave a brief speech about tolerance and forgiveness. One can only assume that this was being addressed towards FOX network execs and possibly the voice talent as well. After the speech, we were treated to a behind-the-scenes parody of how an episode gets made. According to the film, it’s apparently all put together by Lauren Tom, the voice of Amy Wong (and supposedly everyone else).

After the brief intermission, the panel took the stage. For obvious reasons, the voice actors were not in attendance as had been formerly announced. The first thing they did was quickly nip the issue right in the bud by saying what was going on was business, and that they hoped an amicable agreement could be reached between FOX and the original cast.

UPDATE: Since Comic-Con, FOX and the original voice actors have indeed come to an agreement, and  the entire original cast will be returning to the show.

Then it was time for some writer’s room notes from the last decade. They mostly consisted of random notes or quips taken at 2 a.m.; one of the more amusing ones involved Matt showing up in a tux and tie on his way to the Webby awards for which he was a judge. When asked what he had voted for, he simply replied, “I forgot to vote”.

Next, the floor was open to questions from the audience. What insight did we get? Well for starters, it turns out that they turn to fansites to help with continuity errors, and that the final scene from Into the Wild Green Yonder, in which the crew enters a wormhole, would be addressed in a literal “rebirth” and that it would be gross and messy. They would love to make a full-length feature film for the big screen, especially now that they've had practice with the Simpsons movie. Fry and Leela will have their ups and downs in their new relationship “but it’s their destiny [to be together]”, and it’s always harder to write stories than jokes. Amy and Zapp got it on because “given an infinite amount of time, all relationships will happen.”

The next question came from someone, that I must say again, was in one of the most impressive homemade Nibbler costumes I’d ever seen. Okay, so maybe it was the only one I’d ever seen, but that makes little difference. The young lady simply asked how Matt had come up with the Niblonians. He said, “[It was] my idea of designing something cute. It’s my Ewok.” For that question and probably most likely the costume itself, the superfan was awarded their very own Futurama Box set. And as much as everyone else in the room wanted it, we all knew that this was the person who deserved it the most.


Once the Q&A was done, the writers gave everyone a sneak peek at some of the plot ideas they’ve been toying with for season 5. Here’s a breakdown of some of their plots:

– The secret Origins of Scruffy the janitor will be revealed! The script hasn’t been written yet, but we were assured that it would be something awesome.

– Mom owns Twitter in the future, and therefore, it is evil. So basically it’s the same as it is now.

– Kiff and Amy’s marriage ceremony may not be as legally binding as some may hope. As a result, Amy will be free to marry… Bender?!?! It’s going to be the first robo-sexual marriage ever, and it’s going to cause a lot of controversy and a new measure on the ballot to be known as prop ∞. Anyone who’s been following the gay rights situation in California will find this parody hitting close to home.

– Leela and Zapp Branigan, the captain with the sexy learning disorder (sexlexyia), get trapped on an isolated planet. Will nastification ensue?

– Fry is always late for his dates with Leela. He finally shows up early for one and he gets tired of waiting. When the professor shows up with a time machine that only goes forward 10 minutes in time, how can Fry resist? The only problem is that it actually takes them 10 years into the future.

– Why did the Professor hire Dr. Zoidberg, a crazy penniless lobster doctor as his staff surgeon? Well, apparently they’ve been meaning to tell us since season 1, and now we may actually get to find out. They don’t know what Z did yet, but they know it had to be something big.

They also mentioned that they did have some celebrity head cameos lined up, but couldn’t name names until after since had been put on paper and signed.

David X. Cohen ended the panel by asking everyone to keep their fingers crossed in the hopes of a agreement being reached between FOX and the cast (I guess it worked).

Along with the Futurama panel, the only other non-video game related item I attended was the Robot Chicken Press conference. Fortunately, we videotaped it, so instead of me trying to relay how awesome it was you can just sit back, relax and enjoy the footage:

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