After 10 years, Futurama fans are back to getting a fresh weekly dose thanks to Hulu’s revival of Matt Groening’s animated sci-fi series. To learn more about what’s going on behind the scenes, io9 got a chance to conduct an email interview with Futurama producer Claudia Katz, who’s been with the show from the very beginning and throughout its many iterations.
Cheryl Eddy, io9: What do you think it is about Futurama as a series that makes it so resilient and able to manifest all of these comebacks?
Claudia Katz: Much like The Simpsons, Futurama is a show about a family with great social and political commentary. The family in Futurama is more centered on “the family you make,” and the sci-fi premise allows us to take a fun look at how much or how little has changed in 1,000 years. Ultimately, I think the resilience of the show is a combination of great characters, storytelling, humor, and heart. The beauty of the sci-fi nature of the show also allows for almost limitless stories to tell on earth and unlimited worlds to travel to. Having awesome fans also helps.
io9: You’ve been with Futurama since 1999. How did you come to be involved with the show, what is your day-to-day role like as a producer, and what’s been the most rewarding thing about being part of Futurama for all these years?
Katz: Matt [Groening] approached Rich Moore, Gregg Vanzo, and me in 1998. Rich and Gregg both worked on early Simpsons, and I had been working with Matt since 1991 in some way or another. Once things started to move forward, we faced some initial hurdles from the studio, but we were able to convey our vision of the show to Matt and he really fought for Rough Draft [Studios].
To me, my role is the perfect intersection of art and commerce. It’s my job to set up a production methodology where the crew can be successful; that still works within the confines of the schedule and budget. I also have a lot of creative input which I love, but no one wants me drawing anything! Futurama is well crafted in every way; great writing, a great voice cast, and animation and visual storytelling that hopefully lives up to the material we are given to work with. Having been a part of every episode is a privilege. And, having fought so hard upfront to get the show, makes it even more heartfelt.
io9: Do you have a personal favorite episode or storyline (and why)?
Katz: Well, that’s like picking a favorite child, but there are always some episodes each season that I am especially fond of. I love the funny and elegant way Matt, David, and the writers figured out how to bring the show back in “The Impossible Stream.” The Momazon episode, “Related to Items You’ve Viewed” is a true comedic and visual tour de force. I also really really love the “Rage Against the Vaccine,” and “Zapp Gets Cancelled.” And, our season finale is one of the best ever! I told you I couldn’t really choose.
io9: How has working with Hulu been different from your previous experiences with Futurama’s various homes over the years?
Katz: Both 20th and Hulu are fantastic partners. Marci Proietto at 20th was a huge driver in bringing the series back and the whole team at Hulu really gets the show and is incredibly supportive. The marketing and launch of the new episodes is incredibly thoughtful and inspiring, and continues to this day.
io9: Has shifting to streaming changed the scope of the show at all?
Katz: I think these two seasons of episodes we’ve produced are probably the biggest in scope so far, at least on average. Moving to streaming has also been a big positive for both the writers and Rough Draft. We’re running about two minutes longer which is really liberating for storytelling and giving some of the more stunning visuals a little more time when needed.
io9: How do you hit that sweet spot between pleasing pre-existing fans of the series, while also enticing new ones to start watching?
Katz: I think Matt, David, and the writers do a great job of nailing the tone of the show and rewarding longstanding fans by bringing back characters from prior seasons as in the return of the worms from “Parasites Lost” in “Parasites Regained.” However, you wouldn’t need to have seen the original worm episode to enjoy the new one. Visually, our goal is always to make sure the series looks as good or better each time we are lucky enough to return.
io9: How’s the reaction to the new season been so far?
Katz: So far it feels like people are really enjoying the new episodes. I think we’re making our original fans happy, while gaining a whole new audience.
io9: A lot of the episodes have been very focused on stories that feel like commentaries targeting 2023 (including the return of Futurama itself, but also the advent of streaming, bitcoin, the pandemic, Dune, etc.) Why was that something the show wanted to foreground in the new episodes, and is that something we’ll continue to see in the rest of the season?
Katz: I think that type of commentary has always been a big part of Futurama. In our 10-year absence, there is a LOT of ground to cover. You’ll see a little more of that this season, but there are also episodes that depart from that. Those are great too.
io9: Even if you can’t comment either way, do you hope that there’s more beyond the 20 new episodes?
Katz: Yes! We all do!
io9: How long do you think the show could keep going, in the best-case scenario?
Katz: Given the scope of our universe and all the stories left to tell, a really really long time.
New episodes of Futurama arrive Mondays on Hulu; check out a clip from the most recent episode here.
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