Good things sometimes happen when you behave in a geeky and enthusiastic fashion. For example, from the minute I heard that four brand-new Futurama movies were going into production, I wet myself a little and then went insane. (Examples of the aforementioned insanity can be found here, here and here.) So not too long ago, I got an email asking if I'd like to express my Futurama obsession in the form of an interview piece, I said "Yes!" Which is how I got to ask a bunch of questions to:
- Claudia Katz -- Partner at Rough Draft Studios and producer of the Futurama movies and TV series.
- Dwayne Carey-Hill -- Director of Futurama movies one (Bender's Big Score!) and three (Bender's Game) and season four of the TV series.
- Peter Avanzino – director of Futurama movies two (The Beast with a Billion Backs) and four (Into the Wild Green Yonder) and seasons one through four of the TV series.
Not bad, eh? So knowing that I was about to chit-chat with three of the more "hands-on" creators, I set out to create some questions that were as interesting as they were amusing. So here's how the conversation(s) went down!
Futurama freaking rocks. Everyone in the universe knows this -- except for the small handful of people who used to work at Fox who canceled it. How painful was it when the final news came down? Did anyone make a beeline for the prototype suicide booth? At that point, did anyone hold out any (REALISTIC) hope that the series would be re-born in some fashion?
Claudia Katz: Well, the sad truth is it took a very long time for the news to officially come down. And even then we were lodged in limbo (between no pick-up and not canceled) and eventually got the hint. I believe, after what seemed like an eternity, they let Matt [Groening] know we were not getting a pick-up "for now," and we all figured it was time to move on. Before we reached this point, I felt it was a good idea to remove the studio's suicide booth. In retrospect, I consider this a very prudent decision. By Season 4 we had assembled the perfect crew [but] unfortunately the series came to an end. At Rough Draft we've always held out hope for its return. Right after the series ended, there was some brief talk of a possible theatrical Futurama feature. This, of course, is my new Futurama hope!
Dwayne Carey-Hill: Futurama came to an end in such a non-definitive way that there was a lot more standing around scratching heads than there was taking of one's own life. It was more like the ending to our Halloween parties. You don't want it to end and a lot of people hang around talking and laughing. But eventually, all the conversations come to an uncomfortable end and everybody just turns and goes their own separate ways.
How many DVDs had to sell before someone (new) at Fox said "Heyyyy, there's still some more money to be made here! Someone politely get Matt Groening on the phone!"? When discussing the new Futurama projects, does the word "vindicated" come up very often? Is it pretty much the same crew from the series that's working on the movies? And do you haze the newbies like in a frat house?
CK: It's very hard to get the numbers on DVD sales, but clearly for Fox to consider producing more, they must have sold well. Understandably for Fox, it come down to a business decision, and we're thrilled they decided to go ahead with the DVDs. We've always had a great relationship with Matt, David [X. Cohen] and the writers, and this time around there's also been a great collaboration with the Studio (Fox). We feel vindicated, but more importantly, it feels like you can go home again. As far as the crew, we're super-fortunate to have a lot of great return talent. In addition to the other Rough Draft partners Rich Moore, Gregg Vanzo and Scott Vanzo, both Dwayne Carey-Hill and Peter Avanzino who directed on the series are back. Scott is back as the head of CG, as well as our lead CG artist Eric Whited. Our color supervisor Samantha Harrison and colorist Rachel Stratton returned, as well as our digital producer, Geraldine Symon, and our associate producer Elise Belknap. Luckily some layout artists returned, but we geared up for the DVDs in the midst of production on The Simpsons Movie. So we hired a largely new crew, which was some initial cause for concern, but they've done an incredible job. I can't release any exact hazing details, but we try to curtail them to activities that don't leave any marks or cause lifelong therapy needs.