The fourth and final Futurama direct-to-DVD movie has just been released, aptly named “Into the Wild Green Yonder.” And while the DVD seemingly ends the series, the future of the animated characters is still very much up in the air.
Created by The Simpsons’ Matt Groening and David Cohen, Futurama revolves around a slacker named Phillip J. Fry (Billy West) who is cryogenically frozen. He awakens in the year 2999 and ends up taking a job as a cargo delivery boy at Planet Express. He encounters a strange crew of characters, played by West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Lauren Tom, Phil LaMarr, Maurice LaMarche, Frank Welker, Tress MacNeille, David Herman, Byrne Offutt, Kath Soucie, Dawnn Lewis, Tom Kenny, Danny Jacobs, and Phil Hendrie.
Sandwiched between The Simpsons and The X-Files, it debuted to 19 million viewers on Sunday, March 28, 1999. The following week, it drew 14.2 million. For episode three, it was moved to a Tuesday night timeslot and attracted 8.85 million. The series was created in four seasons but the network broke it up into five, aired episodes out of order, and changed its timeslot numerous times. By the end of its run, the show was averaging 6.4 million viewers. As a consequence, the show was cancelled by the FOX network
Though the series seemed dead, the show’s cult following spelled successful syndication on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim and massive DVD sales. As a result, the studio decided to revive Futurama in four made-for-DVD movies, “Bender’s Big Score,” “The Beast with a Billion Backs,” “Bender’s Game,” and “Into the Wild Green Yonder.” Following the DVD releases, the movies were split into four parts each, reworked and then combined with new footage to create 16 new episodes of the TV show. The new installments are currently airing as a new season on Comedy Central.
DVD sales have been consistently strong for the new films. And though Fox has yet to indicate if there will be additional adventures of Fry and the gang, both Groening and West are optimistic.
The show’s creator recently told CNN, “We hope [this isn’t the end]. If it is, we feel we’re offering an emotionally satisfying conclusion to this epic science fiction saga. But we did leave the door open just a bit in case we get renewed… We’re having discussions and there is some enthusiasm but I can’t tell if it’s just me.” He enthusiastically told Total Film, “We would love to continue making more Futurama episodes in whatever form… except Pogs. I think we haven’t even exhausted all the story ideas that we came up with back when the show started in ’99.”
Cohen added, “Every morning, and I’m not making this up, I find myself thinking in the shower about the next episode that we’ll do after this one. I have it mostly worked out, so we’re ready to go if the call comes in.”
West recently told a convention audience, “They [the DVDs] sold so well that Fox started talking about doing a sixth season for television. So, I’d love that. I’d absolutely love that.” On the Hippojuce podcast, he later said, “They’re trying to figure out how to maybe do a sixth season. They’re talking about it… I hope it’s [on a] network.”
Time will tell if “Into the Wild Green Yonder” is merely the end of Futurama, or the beginning of a new life for the show.
Image courtesy Fox.