producer of Futurama
and creator/exectutive producer of Zombie College
Eric has Currently
written the following episodes: 'Hell is Other Robots', 'Why Must
I be a Crustacean in Love?', 'A Bicyclops Built for Two', 'Parasites
Lost' and 'I Dated a Robot'
Hi Eric, welcome
Eric: Hi reed, hi Andie!
reed: ok, let's get started!
Eric: Sir! : )
reed: Why choose to write
Eric: Well I assume I absorbed
some sort of comedic sense from my family. I wasn't actually totally
committed to professional writing for quite some time. I was an
English teacher in Thailand for a while and then I did five years
of philosophy graduate school at Columbia and UC Berkeley. But I
always enjoyed writing so I tried to get a job at The Late Show
with David Letterman. That was my first t.v. writing job although
I had done some magazine work. I worked on the show for a year and
reed: Zombie College is quite
a weird idea, how did you come up with it?
Eric: I like the idea of the
human ability to get used to practically anything. That there's
nothing so horrible that we can't get used to it and accept it as
part of life. So for example we go around in cars which are full
of burning fossils and if we make a mistake we can get killed, but
we just don't think about it. Also food - people eat cows and so
on. So the zombie idea is sort of a metaphor for that. Zombie College
is an environment where there are undead monsters running around
and trying to eat your brain but everybody is o.k. with it and they're
more interested in getting good grades. Also there's a main character
who loves his girlfriend so much that he's willing to risk becoming
a zombie to be with her. I think that's an interesting idea - what
are people willing to give up for love?
reed: How does being the boss
on Z.C compare with being on a large team of writers for Futurama?
Eric: Well the biggest difference
is the one you allude to - on Futurama I'm one voice among many
creating a communal project. On Zombie College as far as the writing
goes, I'm the only one. I don't have to run my ideas by anybody
before executing them. Although in the actual creative process there
is a team - most importantly John Rice who's the animation director
and is extremely talented, and also the talented storyboard artists,
voice-over actors and so on. Oh, and Smashing Ideas the studio.
reed: Is it harder?
Eric: I wouldn't say it's
harder. It's different.
reed: Alot of the Futurama
cast lend their voices to the characters on Z.C. How did this come
about? Eric: Well I was familiar with their work from Futurama and
cast them. Actually Zelda is played by an actress who does another
animated show for Fox.
reed: Is it John DiMaggio
[Bender] that voices Zeke?
Andie: I knew it sounded familiar...
Eric: Yes. It's actually pretty
similar to his own voice. Mr. Dimaggio is like a giant mountain
of a man - a force of nature.
reed: What's in store for
the characters on Z.C this season?
Eric: Well this season we
will find out how Zelda became a zombie. And we will learn how zombies
are made and actually see a person being made into a zombie. Scott
will continue trying to get Zelda back. There will be 10 or 11 episodes,
we are figuring out how long one of the episodes is right now.
reed: Are Icebox.com proud
of Zombie College?
Eric: I've received positive
feedback from them. Actually if you do a search on yahoo there are
quite a few entries. And I heard we have a picture in The New York
Times today(Wednesday October 20th 2000)! I heard this from my mother.
We've received a great response from the media.
Andie: Is she a big fan?
Eric: She's not 100% sure
what to make of it actually. I think the word "disgusting" may have
reed: Will we see more of
the minor characters this season?
Eric: Yes. The rock star,
who's name is Graham, figures prominently in the story as does the
reed: What about the Eskimo?
Eric: Not much Eskimo I'm
afraid, but if you guys want him maybe for season 3. His name is
Oogoongoroseok and he's an exchange student from Greenland.
reed: Will the episodes be
individual or linked together like last season?
Eric: They will link together
with each other and with the episodes from last season. The story
just picks up from where episode 7 ended.
reed: Plenty of cliff hangers
Eric: Yes sir. Really you
don't understand episode 1 clearly until the end of episode 17.
Things are not what they seem, I'll just say that.
reed: Tell us how you came
to write for Futurama
Eric: Well I had recently
quit Letterman and moved out to Hollywood to look for a job in half
hour work - and when I heard that Matt Groening was doing a show
in the year 3000 I was very interested and applied for work using
some writing samples. After about a month of sweating it out I got
reed: How much is Matt Groening
involved in the actual episode to episode writing in the show?
Eric: Matt is often in the
room pitching jokes, and his general sensibility guides the way
decisions are made. Also he gives notes at every stage of the production
from script to re-write to the final audio mix.
reed: Do the writers visit
the fan sites and do you think FOX will start closing them down
like the simpsons?
Eric: I don't know - Fox will
tend to be upset if they make copyrighted material available and
rightly so. The writers do visit the fan sites and like them a lot.
Especially in the first nine months of the show before anybody had
seen it it was a great morale booster to know that there were already
fans out there. Everybody is very impressed by the general high
level and attention the fans show.
Andie: I think fan sites give
publicity to the show...
Eric: Yes that's true. From
a personal point of view as a writer it's very gratifying to know
that there are people out there who get it.
Andie: I don't think I would've
watched futurama if I never saw it in realvideo on a site back in
Eric: Well that's an interesting
observation! The fear is that people will just download the shows
from the web and not watch them on TV But I guess that fear is wrong
- if people like the show because of the fan site that's great...
Andie: I did a poll once to
check that and 99.8% said they would watch the show.
reed: In 'A Bicyclops Built
for Two' there's that amazing internet scene which one Bari Kumar
an Emmy award. Being the writer of that episode, how did you feel
when you heard this?
Eric: I felt great! I thought
Bari did an amazing job and well deserved the recognition.
reed: Particularly in scenes
like that, how closely do the writers work with the artists in visualising
Eric: It was very cool because
it was creating something that really didn't exist before. Well
we actually had some discussions with Rough Draft (Futurama's animation
studios) about how the characters would look in their web avatars.
And I stressed that it was an unreal world with a lot of very abstract
visual elements like primitive video games. But stuff like the rows
of identical clouds in a red sky, that was all them. It's really
reed: This has been bothering
me for ages so I'm just going to get it over with and ask it: Please
explain the two versions of the scene with Fry in the cryogenics
lab. What was Nibble doing under the table in the first one?
Eric: Well if there was anybody
under the table, which I don't necessarily admit to, their presence
(or absence) would be something that would gradually be revealed
in the course of the series. You might have to keep your eyes open
for other clues and also solve the second Alien Alphabet. We will
learn more in the season 3 but if I tell you it's kind of like playing
tennis with the net down. What makes you think it's Nibbler?
Andie: Same shape, no doubt
about it. Or a nibbler shaped plant. And why was the guy in the
cryo chamber wearing glasses in the second version?
Eric: Right, but it's a 2-dimensional
projection of a three-dimensional shape. And was he wearing glasses?
Or were the glasses wearing him? Well I've said too much anyway!
reed: What romantic stories
are in line for Fry and Leela this season, and how do you see their
Eric: Fry loves Leela. But
Leela has mixed feelings about Fry because he's such a dope. In
a couple of episodes we will see that dynamic change markedly. Let's
just say there are two ways that the relative intelligence of Fry
and Leela can change.
reed: We were introduced to
a whole host of new characters in season 2. Can you tell us about
any more in season 3?
Eric: Well there's Dwight,
Hermes' son and an insane robot named Roberto. We also travel to
a parallel universe where we meet the parallel universe doppelgangers
of our crew. That's in 'I Dated a Robot'.
reed: Any more you can tell
us about the season?
Eric: Well, Fry encounters
a Tyrannosaurus Rex, gets into a fight in a deep space truck stop
and destroys an entire planet!! Also, Fry and Leela journey to the
world of the Internet again. (I Dated a Robot) There's also a battle
in New New York between our crew and an army of robots! We'll see
more of Mom and Cubert also makes a suprising discovery... Do you
guys like Cubert?
Andie: No! Most people want
him dead. We had a 140 post in our message board about how much
people hated him :) They even thought of ways to kill him with animated
gifs and everything!
Eric: Ok! Cool people, I won't
write anymore Cubert episodes!
reed: Thanks for chatting
Eric, it was great talking to you and I know the fans will enjoy
Eric: Take it easy! We're
screening a colour version of one of my upcoming episodes now! Watch