The Animation Studio Fined Futurama For This Scene
“Futurama” was a deceptively complicated show to animate. The series blended 2-D and 3-D animation in almost every episode, doing it seamlessly. “The tricky aspect of seamlessly blending 3-D with hand-drawn animation is to keep the 3-D from looking too realistic,” Scott Vanzo told Wired in 2007. “We affectionately call this the ‘dumbing down’ of 3-D, since the commercially available 3-D packages are generally tuned to help produce uber-lifelike appearances.” The animators at “Futurama” have to take all the artificial intelligence out of 3-D rendering, “with a non-photorealistic process that makes the line and shading look like it was hand drawn and cel painted,” he said.
Beyond that, the entire world of “Futurama” was designed from the ground up. Co-creator Matt Groening already had a defined character style with “The Simpsons,” so “Futurama” had to blend those already distinct characteristics (overbites, heads always drawn in 3/4 profile, ping-pong ball eyes) with new sci-fi choices (realistic skin tones, “Star Trek”-inspired costumes). In the final direct-to-DVD “Futurama” movie, “Into the Wild Green Yonder,” all these elements came together for one big scene. And it cost the creators a buttload.
Rough Draft had to animate 250+ characters in one scene
“Into the Wild Green Yonder” was the second finale “Futurama” got. When the show was canceled on Fox, the writers created “The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings,” which ended Fry and Leela’s romantic arc on an optimistic note. Similarly, the Comedy Central run ended with an episode where Fry and Leela wound up living their entire lives together as the only two people left alive. But the final DVD movie ended in a slightly grander fashion. Yes, Fry and Leela kiss at the end, with the Planet Express ship diving straight into a wormhole. But before that, we got to see almost every grown-up “Futurama” character one last time. The show demanded Rough Draft do a scene that featured every adult on the show — over 250 of them.
Speaking on the “Into the Wild Green Yonder” commentary, co-creator David X. Cohen said that Rough Draft charged them a hefty premium for having to draw so many characters in one scene. Looking at one still of the fine-inducing scene, we can make out Lrrr and Ndnd of the planet Omicron Persei 8, the Zookeeper, a handful of Amazonians, the rhinoceros bride from “A Bicyclops Built for Two,” Titanic’s bartender iZac, Sal, the Hypnotoad, Flexo, a Yarn Person of Nylar 4, the Martian chief, Mayor Poopenmeyer, and the Donbot of the Robot Mafia. What better way to say goodbye to a series than to give each and every ancillary character their own send-off?