TV.com Q&A: Drawing Futurama's films

Good news, everybody! Futurama is back after a few years off the air, and this time the futuristic animated comedy is going where it has never gone before: the realm of feature-length films. After a successful revival on cable and good DVD sales, David X. Cohen's tale of a shipping company in the year 3000 makes its return on November 27 with Bender's Big Score, an hour and a half of shiny, new adventures with Bender, Leela, Fry, and the rest of the crew.

But that won't be it for the cult show--three more Futurama movies will also be coming to DVD in 2008.

Most know that Simpsons producer David Cohen is the creative force behind the show, but much of the look, style, and feel of Futurama is done in the offices of Rough Draft Studios, a Los Angeles-based animation studio. TV.com chatted with Rough Draft senior vice president Claudia Katz to talk about the upcoming Futurama films and how they're put together.

For all you hardcore Futurama fans, be sure to check back with TV.com Monday for an exclusive interview with the show's head writer, David Cohen.

TV.com: Could you tell me exactly what Rough Draft's role is with Bender's Big Score?

Claudia Katz: We're the animation studio for all four Futurama DVD movies, so we produce all of the pictures. We provide all the animation for all four DVD movies, and we're basically doing most of the production here at our studio in the United States, which would include basic design, storyboard, key animation, timing, all the [computer graphic] animation, the color styling, and the camera and compositing on the back end when the footage comes back. And we actually have a sister studio in Seoul, Korea, Rough Draft Korea, who is doing the overseas work on the project.

TV.com: How long has Bender's Big Score been in the making, and when did your studio get involved?

Claudia Katz: We started production on Bender's Big Score in August of 2006, and we delivered to the producers--Matt Groening and David Cohen--what we call a director's cut. That was delivered around July or August and the final retakes and all that footage was delivered in September.

TV.com: And you're doing the other three movies at the same time?

Claudia Katz: Correct. Yeah, every four months we started the next DVD feature. I mean, they take about a little less than a year, but it's a staggered production schedule.

TV.com: You send director's cuts to Matt Groening and he looks it over with a red pen and sends it back to you?

Claudia Katz: Yeah, we'll have a color screening with them and then we'll literally sit in person and get notes on the color. And those notes get divided into what we consider technical notes--things that will be fixed at no cost--and creative revisions, which are [additions] they decided. You know, "What if we did this?" type of things.

TV.com: One of the highlights at Comic-Con this year was the script reading, where the voice actors read a Futurama comic in the characters' voices. Do they send you the audio right along with the script?

Claudia Katz: Pretty much. How it worked for us is there'll be a table read--basically what you saw at Comic-Con--which the director and the board artist and I will go to. And then they will record the tracks, edit it together, and then send us a final script and an edited voice track, which is sort of like a radio play. And that's what we start with and continue to work from.

TV.com: Did you find it hard to concentrate during the readings? It was absolutely hilarious at Comic-Con.

Claudia Katz: Yeah. I mean, some of those readings can get a little wild in a good way. You know, the cast is just so funny, and they like to have a good time. They're generally really fun, and it's really nice to get to go to them.

TV.com: What's the difference between animating the TV and the film for DVD?

Claudia Katz: Firstly, all four of these DVD movies were written as features. So the stories are feature stories as opposed to just being four episodes that are jammed together. So they're definitely more epic and have feature storytelling. We're working in a 16x9 aspect ratio, so we're working wider screen than on the series. And we're also producing them in HD. I think the initial release is just standard definition, but they will be releasing the movies in an HD format.

TV.com: Is the animation quality going to be the same?

Claudia Katz: I think it'll be the same or better. I mean, I think the first DVD has one of our best, if not the best, space battles so far. Which is saying something. When we started Futurama, we were the first to be doing the 2D with the associated 3D.

TV.com: How did that idea of mixing the two come about? It was a pretty new technique at the time.

Claudia Katz: If you're going to do a sci-fi show, [you] sort of accepted the burden of, well, gosh, space and these ships and the battles have to look pretty amazing or you're going to lose a pretty large part of your fan base. And really the only way of doing that was in CG animation. And we spent a lot of time, honestly, sort of dumbing down the software to the extent that it really married well with the 2D animation. And at the time I think that was pretty groundbreaking.

TV.com: Can you give us any insight as to why you think Futurama was finally revived?

Claudia Katz: I suspect the DVDs of the series sold really well, and from a business perspective, at some point it started to seem like a good idea to do more of them. The entertainment industry is a business and most decisions are made from an economic standpoint, and there's nothing wrong with that.

TV.com: Was there any talk of bringing it back as a television series again?

Claudia Katz: You know, I'm not sure. I think there's always sort of been talk of that and I guess right now we're just concentrating on these DVD movies. And I mean, we're sort of hoping some day there'll be a bona fide theatrical Futurama feature. But, hey, if they want to bring the series back, we, you know, we'll be first in line.

TV.com: Right. You guys also do work on tons of other animated projects, including The Simpsons Movie. Do you have a personal favorite?

Claudia Katz: You know, I think for me, sentimentally, you know, Futurama is always, you know, that was our first really big prime-time series, and I guess for me that will always be my favorite.

Bender's Big Score hits stores Tuesday, November 27. For more information on Futurama, read TV.com's previous coverage.

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when whil the new shows come on
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Futurama truly is one of the great animated shows. Hopefully the film can be successful at moving to the full length feature film genre. Too often animated sitcoms leave the viewer with what feels like multiple episodes haphazardly thrown together without real coherence. The entire time you watch the film you expect it to end and thus the experience is tainted
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One of the best shows ever which will make this one of the best movies ever!
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how cool
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I knew this was coming, but I still have to pinch myself. its really happening! My only gripe is that it wasn't created by David X. Cohen, he produces it with the creator, Matt Groening, next time do your research.
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That is good news everyone!



Alghotugh, it the latter seasons it lost a little of that special torch that it had...I still love this show.



Looking forward to November 27th
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Does anyone know why they stopped making these in 2003 this show is great. will be glade to see more moies coming soon. If they did replace this with a crappy reality show again that be another reason for me hating reality shows. P.A.C.T.(people against reality TV) DEATH TO ALL REALITY TV B{
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Yay! Go Futurama! I so can't wait
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this was awesome,worthy of being in movie theaters.
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This show is SO AWESOME! Watching old reruns on cable is wayy better than watching new episdoes of the simpsons which sucks now! I feel bad for downloading the movie early instead of buying it on DVD to help out. :( But i loved it so much im gonna buy the DVD anyways!
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Yay movies, now let's start with some new episodes :)
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I saw the movie yesterday, it was really nice. Loved every second of it. Futurama is back
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About time, about time...
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I can't wait to see this movie.. it's gonna rock!
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it was canceled because fox hated it. they aired episodes out of order, had it at 7, and unfair compared it to king of the hill which had the Simpsons as it's lead-ins. The very last season wasn't even fresh, it was composed of episodes from previous seasons that fox decided not to air. The exects killed this series just like they killed firefly. You'll be surprised how many series fox exects mess with rather than letting the creators write the stories they want.
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Great! But why was Futurama removed off the air after four years on the tube?
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This will eventually air on Comedy Central, but I will be eagerly waiting to get this on Tuesday.
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will this air on comedy central or adult swim?
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Futurama has ended up being one of my all-time favorite series. The performances of the actors have a loose quality, especially Bender, that adds to the energy and the writing is so adventurous--the robot devil musical, Fry moving stars for Leela, the final oprea episode. I'm so glad this show was left to die in cancellation when there are so many more stories to tell!
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Watched Bender's Big Score earlier, it was worth the wait. Pure unadulterated Futurama fun, with fan service galore. Here's hoping this set of "movies" is only the beginning!
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yeehaw! if only it was out this week so i could download it onto my ipod for the flight home after thanksgiving...
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Giddy up!!
can't wait
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I really can't wait for November 27th, welcome back Futurama!
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