Studio: 20th Century Fox Television
Air Date: 2002
U.S. Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 414 minutes
Genre: Television Animated Comedy
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 3.0 Surround, Spanish 3.0 Surround
Subtitles: English & Spanish
Closed Captioned: Yes
SLP: US $49.90
Release Date: August 24, 2004
Show Rating: /
Starring: Billy West (Philip J. Fry & others), Katey Sagal (Turanga Leela), John DiMaggio (Bender & others), Lauren Tom (Amy Wong & others)
Created by: Matt Groening
Forced Trailers: None
What can I say about Futurama? When the show was first released as the television show The Simpsons were at their peak, it was promoted as being the new series from the same creators. Matt Groening and his team has done a fabulous job with The Simpsons over the years, but could this success be repeated again?
Futurama came out in 1999. The background of the story is about Philip J. Fry, a 25-year-old pizza boy who was cryogenically frozen on New Year’s Eve of 2000 and wakes up 1000 years later in New York City. His pals become a one-eyed beauty named Leela (a role Katey Sagal came into just after her final stint as Peg in the hit television series Married…With Children), a Martian human intern named Amy, and a beer guzzling, cigar smoking, and bad-mannered robot named Bender. Life in the future for Fry has become very interesting meeting scientists with insane inventions, aliens, mutants, electronic devices, and many crazy out of this world situations.
Through their fun episodic adventures, Futurama became known to both critics and fans as The Jetsons meets The Simpsons. The show reminded many people about that old futuristic cartoon from the ‘60s and saw it blend with the animation of the other Groening cartoon. The Groening cartoons are identical in style, and among other similarities are the intonation of voices and character behavior. Even the jokes and the play on situations can be quite close too. Given the moderate success of this series, could Futurama have paid the ultimate price of copy & bore because of these similarities? The show isn’t truly bad; it does have some good humor every now and then. The real problem for Futurama’s success was the fact that The Simpsons was still on the air during its release to network television. On the production side, ideas were probably spread thin between the two series in order to not appear too the same. For the television viewer, choosing which shows to watch on the Sunday night was probably the final hour – how much cartoon did one want to take in that night especially since both shows have similar offerings? My guess is that The Simpsons was still the number one choice for viewers while Futurama took the back seat. I think Futurama would have been more successful if it began its first season after The Simpsons ceased airing (whenever that may be).
There are committed fans for Futurama and its evident that the show is becoming newly found on DVD. First of all, this is the fourth volume of the series representing the fourth season. Now that The Simpsons has really run its course (because I have found that show uninteresting over the past five years), others are thinking the same thing and picking up the first few Futurama volume sets for a slight alternative since they missed it while it aired. Walking into my local DVD outlet today, I saw the earlier volumes are now on shelves for as low as CND$18.00 – truly affordable for this kind of entertainment. These shows are entertaining and I would classify them as not outstanding, but not a waste of time either. I may sound indecisive about my feelings of this show, but I will tell you as I watched it I was satisfied with the result.
So what shows are on this disc, anyways? Each disc contains about five episodes and each of them has a few special features attached that are of quality rather than being random supplements. It’s nice to see Fox put some effort into release this fourth volume to the fans with some nice extras. Clocking in at about 23 minutes per episode, here they are as they appear on the discs:
[*] KIF GETS KNOCKED UP A NOTCH[*] LEELA'S HOMEWORLD[*] LOVE AND[*] LESS THAN HERO[*] A TASTE OF FREEDOM
[*] BENDER SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED ON TV[*] JURASSIC BARK[*] CRIMES OF THE HOT[*] TEENAGE MUTANT LEELA'S HURDLES[*] THE WHY OF FRY
[*] WHERE NO FAN HAS GONE BEFORE[*] THE STING[*] BEND HER[*] OBSOLETELY FABULOUS
[*]THE FARNSWORTH PARABOX[*]THREE HUNDRED BIG BOYS[*]SPANISH FRY[*]THE DEVIL'S HANDS ARE IDLE PLAYTHING
VIDEO QUALITY /
I haven’t seen any of the first three volumes so I’m unsure how they compare to this transfer, but all I can say is “amazing!” This is one excellent looking new animated series on DVD compared to what I’ve seen from other studios. All of the colours are perfectly saturated to jump right out at you. They never appear to be blooming or over-saturated. Whether you are using LCD, CRT, or DLP, the image is strikingly bright and vibrant with a black levels deep enough to dive into. There is no trace of artifacts that is related to the disc, although you may find your video scaler adding a few from the 480i-480p conversion. The high average bitrate is most likely due to the lack of compression artifacts (average is about 8Mbps), and thankfully there is no noticeable edge enhancement that is transfer related. Well done!
AUDIO QUALITY /
Encoded in Dolby Digital 3.0 (front-left, front-right, mono surround), the result of a Pro-Logic II decoding is about average for a television series. It is center-heavy, so most of the dialogue aside from a few instances is placed in the center channel. In the brief moments of music, it occupies the whole front soundstage and provides subtle ambience with the surrounds. Sound effects are abundant to complement the space-age visuals in this animated series. They are placed across the front soundstage when appropriate, but for the most part they come mostly from the center channel as well.
While the soundstage of this series is not as active as I wish it were, I am happy that all aspects of the soundtrack are reproduced with a clear and defined sound. The dialogue, sound effects, and music never sound strained, overly bright, or aggressively forward. There is always a sense of space despite being center channel dominant. When a simple soundtrack is recorded clean, the program is far more enjoyable to watch.
SPECIAL FEATURES /
The special features are scattered over the four discs. Each episode includes at least a commentary and a deleted scene, although some episodes feature up to eleven deleted scenes. Most of these scenes are extensions of scenes in the episode and so the scene is presented in its entirety. Some of these scenes are quite funny; it’s too bad they weren’t inserted for the DVD release. Since these episodes are no longer limited to the tight 22 minutes for television airing, the DVD release would be the perfect solution to add these scenes back in. For your info, each deletion on each episode is not accessible individually but presented as a continuous flow of scenes with a black pause between each new one. All of the scenes are finished in animation but appear quite ghosted that it’s bothersome. The audio consists of dialogue only and no music or sound effects.
Aside from these great features, Kif Gets Knocked Up A Notch includes storyboard images, Love and Rocket includes an international video clip with selectable audio in German, Portuguese, Castilian Spanish, and English. On disc three, Absolutely Fabulous includes animatics with subtitles similar to the episode. There is also an Easter Egg on this disc. Unfortunately I was unable to check this feature out because I wasn’t sent disc three, but according to a Fox press release it consists of a Star Trek panel consisting of three clips tied together as a single asset where writer Goodman speaks about guest voice actors and about script changes, and where actor DiMaggio discusses Bender.
Disc four has the most features of the four discs. Aside from the standard features as on the rest of the episodes, we are also treated to eleven segments of 3-D models from rough drafts with narration, two “How to Draw Characters” of Bender and The Professor (and it’s quite extensive too!), a still gallery/new character artwork, and nine character pencil test segments. All of these are fairly interesting, but I thought the “How to Draw” gallery was the best of the bunch. Also, watch the two Easter Eggs on this disc, that is if you can find them.
While not a truly original cartoon series, Futurama does have its recycled laughs every now and then. The DVD is truly a wonderful looking transfer, so if you’d like to experience these shows better than your average awful looking cable or satellite feeds, this set is your ticket to the future.