Ten Things You Didn’t Know about Futurama

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It was revealed last month that Sons of Anarchy and Futurama actress Katey Sagal would be starring in the sequel to Pitch Perfect. Sagal will be playing actress Hailee Steinfeld’s mother in the movie. Sagal spent 7 seasons over the course of 14 years providing the voice of Leela on the hit animated sitcom Futurama. Though the show ended last year after airing 124 hilarious episodes, there still may be some facts you do not know about the show created by Matt Groening. Here are ten fun facts surrounding the show that survived cancellation way back in 2003 to go on and air four movies and four additional seasons.

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1. Billy West is the voice actor for the character Fry. He also lends his voice to the characters Dr. Zoidberg and Professor Hubert Farnsworth. He has been the voice of many popular characters over the years. Some of his more famous characters include Elmer Fudd on The Looney Tunes Show, Slimer on Extreme Ghostbusters, Ren and Stimpy on The Ren & Stimpy Show, and Roger Klotz on Doug. West’s career has expanded over four decades with 188 acting credits to his name. It was recently announced West will voice Bugs Bunny in Space Jam 2, which is due out in 2016.

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2. The title of the show was not always intended to be Futurama. Earlier ideas for titles included, Aloha, Mars! and Doomsville. The title Futurama came from the name of the exhibit from the 1939 World’s Fair. The exhibit was designed by Norman Bel Geddes, a designer who specialized in aerodynamics. The model was made to depict what the world would look like in 1960. The model contained an automated highway system, something that General Motors did achieve by 1960. Bel Geddes believed that the, “free-flowing movement of people and goods across our nation is a requirement of modern living.”

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3. The characters on the show are all named after actual people. Professor Farnsworth was named after Philo Farnsworth. Philo was the mad behind the 1939 World’s Fair and invented the first functional television system. Leela, whose full name is Turanga Leela, is named after the 1948 Turangalilia Symphony from French composer Olivier Messiaen. Phil Hartman was intended to voice the role of Zapp Branagan, but was murdered before the show aired. In honor of his passing, Philip Fry was named after him. Bender the robot was named after the character John Bender, played by Judd Nelson, from The Breakfast Club.

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4. In the closing credits of the show there is an image that shows 30th Century FOX Television. This is different from the 20th Century image that is shown at the end of other FOX Television shows. Since the show is set in the future, Matt Groening thought it would be a humorous gag to include during the closing credit of Futurama. Fox did not like the idea and was against Groening using it. Groening decided to fund the new logo out of his own pocket. Once FOX saw the final product, they reimbursed Groening. The spotlights shown on the sign are said to be used to blind pilots according to an episode of the show.

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5. Between the years of 2007-2009, four full length Futurama movies were released. This was during the seven year hiatus the show took before officially being cancelled in 2013. On average, it takes about four years of work to create a full length animated movie. This is especially true when it is made in high definition. That means that Groening and his team generated 12 years of work in a third of the time it usually takes to complete such a feat. The show was fined by the animation studio for including 250 different characters in one scene in the 2009 movie Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder.

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6. Former Vice President Al Gore is a huge fan of Futurama. He appears in a few episodes as a floating head and has even lent his voice to the role. Gore also voiced himself in the 2007 movie, Futurama: Bender’s Big Score. Gore has also appeared as himself on 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live. Moreover, he was the man who brought us An Inconvenient Truth in 2006. The movie featured the voice work of Billy West, the voice of Fry. Al’s daughter Kristin Gore was a story editor for six episodes Futurama between 2002 and 2003. Plus, She wrote an episode in 2002.

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7. Lauren Tom is the actress who voices the character Amy Wong. She has an extensive career in voice over work including voicing both Mihn and Connie Souphanousinphone on King of the Hill. Tom has admitted that Amy’s voice closely resembles her own. In early character developments, Amy was intended to be a tough lesbian car mechanic. Matt Groening liked Tom’s lighthearted laugh and cast her in the role anyway. Fans may remember Tom for her work on the sitcom Friends. Tom played Julie, the woman who began dating Ross, during the second season. She would appear in seven episodes between 1995 and 1996.

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8. When the show was cancelled for the first time back in 2003, the writers were unsure which episode would actually be considered as the final episode. The original idea was to have the episode entitled, “The Sting,” be the farewell episode.  This is the episode where Leela has an hallucination brought on by poison. She believes that Fry has died.  To viewers, it would have looked like the main character would have been killed off. The actual episode that was used was, “The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings,” which focused on Fry’s secret love for Leela and ended things on a more emotional note.

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9. There is a secret language that has been referenced several times during Futurama‘s run. The squiggles the writers and animators have created actually do spell out phrases.  Devoted fans have even taken the time to decode the messages and are able to do so successfully. A billboard on an episode showed the letters: d, r, i, n, and k. Because of this, fans figured out the special language within a few episodes. The writers created an even more complex language to stump viewers. Instead of simply switching letters to symbols, the decoder would have to add numbers to a letter’s place in the alphabet to crack the code.

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10. In early development stages of the show, some of the characters had different names.  Prior to the death of Phil Hartman, Philip Fry was going to be called Curtis Fry.  Fry’s robot pal Bender was originally going to be called URL. It would be pronounced like Earl. The name URL was used later on the show as the name of the robot Peace Officer. The character of Hermes was going to be called Dexter and was not intended to be Jamaican. Actor Phil LaMarr gave him the accent during a voice recording and it stuck.  That is why Hermes Jamaican heritage is not part of the storyline until later into the show.

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