Saturday, April 12, 2008

Futurama and The Simpsons

The London Sunday Times has a lengthy piece on Matt Groenig and his thoughts on his major and minor cartoon creations.

(And why would old Rupe be allowing one of the cornerstones of his media empire waste ink and pixels on an unregerate Lefty? Because the Lefty has made old Rupe mountains of money.)

... Futurama is simply an alternative perspective on the primary dynamic of the Groening psyche. So, since The Simpsons perspective has been such a global success for so long, why isn’t Futurama? Well, for a start, the latter isn’t exactly real. “In the course of doing Futurama, I came to the realisation that one of the reasons The Simpsons resonates the way it does is because people relate to human beings, even though they have car-toonishly yellow skin, more than they can relate to robots and cyclops and alien crab creatures.” As a result, Futurama ran for just four years on Fox – The Simpsons will hit 20 years in December 2009 – before moving to the Cartoon Network. The latest deal between Fox and Comedy Central is for four feature-length DVDs, which will be shown on TV as 16 episodes. This is scarcely a failure, but the contrast with The Simpsons is stark. Yet now it’s back.

Of course, TAG's wants are simple. We desire that Matt Groenig's Yellow Family goes on for a dozen more seasons on the teevee, and that Futurama one day soon come under an Animation Guild contract.

Few things could be more simple than that.


Anonymous said...

"Of course, TAG's wants are simple. We desire that Matt Groenig's Yellow Family goes on for a dozen more seasons on the teevee, and that Futurama one day soon come under an Animation Guild contract."

If only multi-millionare Groening was a real lefty he'd be a union man , but he's got his, so why take a stand with "the little people" ? He's as robber-baron capitalist as they come.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon #1 completely..I worked on the Simpsons during the first 5 seasons.. I met Mr Groening.. Seemed like a real nice guy..
One thing always bothered me regarding his overt left winged-ness though...He NEVER supported his show(s) going union. In fact it took, what, 16 years for the Simpsons to finally sign on due to issues re: Film Roman's non union benefits? I should think a REAL liberal would have supported, from the very beginning, the needs and rights of the domestic labor force that was soon to make him millions.

Anonymous said...

Wait....The Simpsons coming to Cartoon Network? I know you're in the industry, Steve, but source?

Sam said...

It's curious, but The Flintstones, a family satire, was the first animated series launched in prime-time and enjoyed a lasting success. Later it came The Jetsons and, as Futurama, it flopped slightly. Does it mean that sci-fi comedy isn't up to mainstream audiences?

Larry Levine said...

As a big Simpsons fan, I could never get into Futurama. I tried giving it another chance on Cartoon Network & still couldn't get into the characters & overall humor--and I like the original Jetsons so it's not the sci-fi setting (at least in my case).

Anonymous said...

Futurama left me cold as well. I mean, literally, it lacked warmth (which the Simpsons certainly has), and all its characters were basically just one-note jokes who lacked real personality. And while not all the characters in the Simpsons are loveable, none of them are as grating and annoying as Bender. Also, I think Futurama tried a little too hard to be quirky, and the result was that, all too often, it just came across as dumb. Plus the Simpsons has something Futurama does not, and that is a funny and endearing central couple in Marge and Homer. I feel like I know them, and I feel a lot of affection not only for them, but for just about all of the rest of the characters, from Ned Flanders to Krusty the Klown. I never could warm up to the Futurama cast, and since they weren't all that funny either, I soon lost interest in the show.

Steve Hulett said...

Wait....The Simpsons coming to Cartoon Network?

I believe the writer is referring to Futurama on CN, not The Simpsons.

The sentence could have been a little better constructed. I think it's those dashes that muddy things.

Steve Hulett said...

If only multi-millionare Groening was a real lefty he'd be a union man

There are millionaire Hollywood lefties and then there are lefty lefties.

Just as there are super-patriots who support the troops, but will never be one of the troops themselves.

(Kind of like the Reverend Ted Haggard being a good Christian family man ... not counting the muscular gay hookers he sneaks off to every now and again ...)

Anonymous said...

I never liked the Simpsons. And yes, I'm including the first couple of seasons in that. For all its satire, it's too mainstream (which, I guess, is why it's so successful). I've always considered the Simpsons too crass for my liking but not crass enough to be ridiculously amusing (like, say, South Park). Futurama, on the other hand, I've liked from the beginning. I caught an episode completely by accident and didn't want to like the thing (having deluded Simpsons-lovers all around certainly contributed to that), but enjoyed it enough that I checked out the rest of the series. And it was great.

It didn't just use its setting to poke fun at sci-fi (though it did that, and I'll concede that the sci-fi in-jokes require more knowledge and interest in the genre than is the case with the Simpsons), it used it for biting satire. What I liked even more was the tender element that the series possessed. My favourite episodes tend to be the ones that ultimately end up being more emotionally involving than amusing. Not many shows can shift effortlessly between the whimsical, the satirical, the sad, the thrilling, and the funny. (Firefly is another, though I wouldn't really consider it satirical; there are other elements at play there that don't play a role in Futurama).

Incidentally, the Simpsons Movie was a horrible, horrible mess, and to think that it almost matched Ratatouille in domestic earnings and sort of came close internationally gives me the shivers. The recent Futurama direct-to-DVD film was surprisingly good, if maybe a tad derivative of earlier plotlines. (For the record, I didn't really like Serenity either, certainly not as much as the series.)

Anonymous said...

Claudia Katz and Rough Draft going union? She'd be kicking and screaming...

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