Axel-In-Charge: Unmasking the "Totally Awesome Hulk"
“Welcome to the last Futurama panel ever,” Bongo Comics co-founder Bill Morrison announced to a packed room at Comic-Con International in San Diego. The audience responded with cheers that then gave way to a sullen “Awww.”
For those who haven’t heard, this is expected to be the show’s final season, following Comedy Central’s announcement of its cancellation in April. Note the use of “expected,” as Fox gave Futurama the ax a decade ago, only for the animated comedy to be resurrected twice, first in 2007 as four direct-to-DVD movies and then, in 2010, as a television series.
In the wake of Morrison’s proclamation, the overall mood in the room was somewhat bittersweet, with fans sad to see Futurama go off the air but excited to celebrate one of their favorite shows. Fortunately for attendees, they were given the chance say goodbye in style, as Morrison brought the creators and entire voice cast to the stage.
With Morrison as moderator, the session began with the introduction of co-creators David X. Cohen and Matt Groening, followed by cast members Katey Sagal (Leela), Billy West (Fry), Jon DiMaggio (Bender), Tress MacNeille (Linda), Phil LaMarr (Hermes), Maurice LaMarche (Morbo), Lauren Tom (Amy Wong) and David Herman (Scruffy).
Cohen and Groening began by acknowledging that, as far as they could tell, this would be the final season. The series finale, written by Ken Keeler, is called “Meanwhile” and will air Sept. 4. Cohen took this opportunity to joke, “Ken has written four series finales over the show’s lifetime.”
The creators revealed that the plot for the final episode deals with Fry proposing to Leela. The two then surprised the audience with the script for finale’s first act, which the cast performed.
As the act concluded, one of the characters was left in a dire position – and naturally, the audience wanted to know what happens next. Cohen then admitted they brought the second act with them in animated form. However, he didn’t feel that Comedy Central would want them to show it to the crowd.
“What are they going to do, cancel us?” Groening joked. And with that, the story continued on the large screens around the room, revealing that Professor Farnsworth’s 10-second time marchine plays a central role in the episode.
When the lights came up, Cohen had one other announcement: Comedy Central will be sending the show off in style by airing a special “Futurama Fanarama Marathon” on Aug. 25, featuring viewers’ 10 favorite episodes. Fans can cast their vote here.
The panelists then offered to answer a few questions from the audience. The first fan, who was dressed as Fry, wanted to know why the Fry and Leela are only referred to by their last names. Cohen explained that Leela’s alien race uses the Chinese naming convention in which the first name is the last name. As her name is Turanga Leela, her family name is Turanga and her first name is Leela.
Groening then jumped in to talk about the origin of Philip Fry’s name. “I named Homer Simpson after my father, Homer Philip Groening,” he said. “So I actually named Fry after my father, too.”
Regarding the reason other characters call him Fry instead of Philip, Groening said the character started out as Fry in the early episodes and it stuck. “I still find it funny that his best friends call him Fry,” he said.
Another question was one the panelists have heard many times before: Will there ever be a Futurama-Simpsons crossover? Cohen and Groening looked at one another, and Cohen responded, “Stay tuned for the Simpsons panel (which followed this one), and you’ll have your answer.”
The audience cheered at that statement, but then Groening jumped in and said, “Hey, it may be a very disappointing answer.”
They stopped taking questions at this point in order to hold a drawing competition – something of a tradition. Groening (the undefeated champion) went up against Edmund Fong, who directed the season premiere. The goal was to create a Futurama masterpiece in three minutes, and they could submit as many drawings as they wanted.
At the word “Go,” both artists scribbled furiously. Fong stuck with characters from the series, while Groening’s images included a three-eyed Bart Simpson and Popeye. Then, with 30 seconds left, Groening sneaked out a trifold with an elaborate drawing on it. After all, who is going to accuse the boss of cheating? (The entire cast, it turns out.)
With that, the creators and cast thanked fans for their support over the years, and they received a standing ovation in return.