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‘Futurama' Devotees Treated to Special ‘Episode'

28 Jul, 2007 By: John Latchem

The cast of Futurama (L-R): Katey Sagal, Billy West, John DiMaggio and Maurice LaMarche.

SAN DIEGO — Those in attendance at the Comic-Con panel devoted to the new “Futurama” DVD movies were treated to a live performance of new material by the original voice cast.

In a moment that seems destined to become a DVD bonus feature, Billy West, John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche and Katey Sagal read in character the dialogue from an original mini-comic, “Futurama Returns,” which was distributed to fans prior to the event. The comic book story bridges the gap between the final episode of the series and the first movie, Futurama: Bender's Big Score, due Nov. 27 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

A total of four DVD movies are planned, but producers held out hope for more.

The movies will be spliced into four episodes apiece, essentially creating 16 new episodes to add to the syndication package being picked up by Comedy Central in January. Reruns had been shown on Cartoon Network since the show was canceled by the Fox network in 2003.

“Futurama” is the second Fox series to earn new life following successful runs on Cartoon Network and DVD, following “Family Guy” — a fact spoofed in “Futurama Returns.”

In Bender's Big Score, alien nudist Internet scammers attempt to take over Earth through a plot that involves sending the robot Bender through time to steal the planet's cultural treasures.

“Nudist Internet scammers take up a large part of ‘Futurama's' audience,” joked executive producer David X. Cohen. The film also pokes fun at the Fox execs who canceled the show in the first place.

Cohen said the new movies were achieved with a tighter budget than the TV show, but fans shouldn't notice any difference. The movies use the same cast, writers, composer and animators as the TV show.

“We have removed the live orchestra,” Cohen said, referring to the budget cuts. “But it sounds the same thanks to advancements in synthesizer technology.”

The look of the movies, he added, is probably a step up from the TV show, since they are produced in high-definition.

“The animation is a step above,” Cohen said.

“Every dollar is on the screen,” said director Dwayne Carey-Hill.

One of the challenges facing the new project was crafting a story that would work as both a feature-length movie and as four separate segments, which was no easy task, according to writer Ken Keeler.

“We wrote it first and foremost as a movie and then moved things around,” Keeler said. “Structure-wise it was not easy.”

Cohen also didn't overlook the idea of a “Season Five” boxed set of the movies in their edited episodic form.

“Some Fox Home Entertainment executives are out there taking notes to see how many suckers are out there,” he said.

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