Although this will appear in a future issue of SFN, we thought that we’d give you a heads up on our interview with Futurama head writer and executive producer David X Cohen. Enjoy!
Interview by Sam Roberts.
How is production of the last Futurama movie, Into The Wild Green Yonder, going?
Good. As of Thursday 16 October I delivered the fourth and possibly final Futurama DVD movie to Fox. I’ve still got a bit of mopping up to do, but we basically just finished up this project.
Any news on whether Fox wants to do more straight-to-DVD Futurama movies?
I’d say we are cautiously optimistic based on the language we’ve been hearing regarding sales of Bender’s Big Score and Beast With A Billion Backs. In both cases, they use phrases like ‘greatly exceeded our expectations’, so we’re thinking they’ve done pretty well and that Fox is making a lot of money from them. So, logically you’d think they’d want to do more, but, on the other hand, I’ve never known logic to dictate anyone’s decision in Hollywood (laughs). We’re not counting our chickens, but there’s room for cautious optimism.
So, does Fox support Futurama’s new format?
They’re attacking our fans with two prongs: the DVD market and through various broadcasters around the world. So, they’ve got different ways of making their money back. If you go back about ten years to the beginning of the seeds of Futurama, that home video market didn’t exist. It couldn’t support a relatively expensive production like Futurama. Times have changed to the point where nobody knows the way to market a movie or a show any more. It doesn’t have to go through the normal channels. People, even now, are still trying to figure out if it’s the internet, or TV, or DVD, Blu-ray, cable TV… now it’s done in a non-traditional manner. The new economy has saved us, which is appropriate, I guess, for a show that’s set in the future.
Having to produce the show for both the TV and DVD releases must be difficult, though. What challenges did you face when conceiving the storylines?
That wasn’t something we had to deal with before, so we had to kind of make up the rules as we went along. The one thing that made it possible was that we were aware, from the onset of the project, that it was going to have to meet these different needs. If we had made these movies and were later told, “Okay, now hatchet these episodes”, it would’ve been a total mess. Luckily – and I will give Fox full credit for this – we were given our clear marching orders from the start. They said, “Eventually you’ll have to make this DVD into four episodes.” So, with that in mind, we were able to keep three cliffhangers in the middle of the story where we knew we’d break the episode. You know, Fry hanging off the event horizon of a black hole, something like that.
Do you wish to continue doing DVD movies, or would you rather revert to making full seasons of the show?
You know, I always prefer to do something different when given the choice, but I think I’d rather we go one way or the other in future. Either make more episodes into a full season of the show, or really go all-out – and this would be my number one preference – and make a feature film for theatrical release. Then we can just go crazy and pour on the space battles. We could do incredible animation and ridiculously dramatic storylines… for me, that’s the next big thing I haven’t done with Futurama.
In retrospect, how do you feel about the original cancellation of the show?
It’s interesting, because people have asked me before if there was this one devastating moment, but the answer is no. It wasn’t a sudden shock; it was a slow bleeding to death. The fourth production year, we were kept on the ropes longer than usual… and we knew what was coming. We wrote the last episode, ‘The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings’, with a 90 per cent certainty that it would be our last. We felt quite wistful, because we were getting better and better at it – many of our best episodes were in those later seasons. Returning was more of a shock, actually!
The episode ideas you laid out before the cancellation – are these the storylines we’re seeing now in the DVD movies?
Some of them are. For example, there’s a revelation in Bender’s Game that we were aware of before we even pitched the show to Fox. Matt [Groening] and I were just talking to each other about our ideas for the show, which was now more than ten years ago, but we just never got around to writing it.
Are the three movies we’ve seen building up to a grand, series-changing revelation in Into The Wild Green Yonder?
Yeah. I don’t want to over-hype it, but basically, yes, we’re going for a really sweet moment at the end of Wild Green Yonder. It’s a situation we’re familiar with from writing the last episode on the Fox Network… We once again don’t know if we’re coming back or not, but we wanted to write something we were satisfied with if it was the last instalment of Futurama we ever got to do. Ken Keeler wrote ‘Devil’s Hands’ and Wild Green Yonder, so he’s really the only writer who’s actually //experienced at writing the last episode of Futurama. It’s really hard to describe, but I think it’s the most theatrical feeling of the four.
The Leela-Fry central romance has become so essential to Futurama. Do you ever see that dynamic changing?
I don’t want to get into too much detail, but that’s touched upon in the fourth Futurama movie. It’s hard not to come back to that when you realise this could be the last thing you do.
Bender’s Game is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.