Saturday the 19th of July was a special day for Futurama fans in the general San Diego area. The 2003 Comic Con had its gates open for a few days already and at noon it finally was time for the much awaited Futurama Panel v5.0. That is, if you were there many hours early to find and pass the miles long line of admission into the con. Sadly, our crew was not. That's why this article was based on accounts by some of our readers. Thanks go to Mary, Gaffey, Mike M., David F., David P., Kon and Brian for their help with both the pictures and the story.
Groening, Cohen & Moore
Moore, Katz & Odenkirk
Verrone, LaMarche, DiMaggio & West
The panel was set up in 4 parts. First, the 9 panelists were introduced - being Futurama creator Matt Groening, executive producer David X. Cohen, writer Bill Odenkirk, writer & producer Patric M. Verrone, animation directors Claudia Katz & Rich Moore and the three voice actors Maurice LaMarche (Morbo, Kif), Billy West (Fry, Zoidberg, Farnsworth) and John DiMaggio (Bender).
Prior to moving on to the second part and screening a yet unseen episode, Matt Groening commented that he has to thank FOX for this as they enabled them to still have unaired episodes left. Futurama's schedule was so much played with that the 4 season show still isn't done with airing all episodes after 5 regular seasons. At the time of the convention, 4 episodes have yet to be aired during the summer.
On to part two: "Bender Should not be Allowed on TV" - introduced by David X. Cohen - made the day of the fans. This episode got pushed back in schedule by FOX as they meant to show it as the series finale. Although this plan was abandoned, the regular airing will be on August 3rd only. For this reason, you could be spoiled if you highlight the following paragraph to read its description:
Overall, it got a great reaction by the crowd. Some described it as the best of the season yet.
The intro starts with a new Futurama beat box theme featuring more Zoidberg goodness. The episode portrays the television business and the executives involved with it. After seeing what Fox did to Futurama, this just seems dead-on.
Bender replaces a child actor on his favourite TV soap opera "All My Circuits". Of course, he instantly becomes an idol to teens all around. Complete with smoking, drinking, cursing and theft. When Cubert and Dwight get into trouble by behaving like Bender, Professor Farnsworth and Hermes create Fathers Against Raunchy Television (FART). They're soon joined by Bender, demanding he'd be taken off TV.
'Fry' singing 'Walking on Sunshine'
West & DiMaggio beat boxing
John DiMaggio at the podium
Next came the obligatory Question & Answer session. The atmosphere was really relaxed with Matt and David being a bit more technical while the voice actor trio was clearly having great fun with Billy West singing Fry's "Walking on Sunshine" and doing a live beat box duet with John DiMaggio.
Of course, the main question was whether there was some way to get new episodes produced. Matt answered that he'd still like to do that and a Futurama movie trilogy and is trying to come up with ways, though it's tough. Cartoon Network would have serious difficulties to come up with the needed funding for a show like Futurama. As for FOX, he didn't take their decision to cancel Futurama personal and would work with them together again. In fact, he jokingly said, he already pitched a new show to them. It was to be set in the future and feature a one eyed alien. They passed.
Many other questions regarded this season's episode "Jurassic Bark", which just won an Emmy nomination a few days earlier.
Also, it was revealed that Cartoon Network should be able to start showing the remaining "Season 5" episodes sometime around November (but they might take some time to go through the other 4 first).
One highlight was triggered by the questions why Scotty actor James Doohan was the sole Star Trek celebrity missing in "Where No Fan Has Gone Before". The producers asked him to join, but his answer was "no way." From there Billy West kicked in with a pitch-perfect Sulu imitation and then LaMarche started riffing on Kirk. This just had to lead to the captain's line "I don't... say... 'sabotage'. YOU... say... 'sabotage'. I... say... 'sabotaahge'." The crowd went nuts and the kirky voice continued to say "DON'T... applaud. It... SICKENS... me."
DiMaggio signing merchandise
Groening posing with a fan
The panel was finished off with a prolonged autographing and posing session for the fans. Signing everything from the new Futurama comic available early to con visitors to Altoid tins, the panel had to be cleared for the Simpsons meeting, but even then most panelists stayed and continued in the hallway to make sure that everyone got their photo. Unlike some other conventions could make you think, it was apparent that everyone was very happy to be there and come together for the fun that Futurama is.
-- [-mArc-], July 21st 2003