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Fox Home Entertainment presents

Futurama, Volume 3 (1999)

Professor Farnsworth: Your net suits will let you experience Fry's worm-infested bowels as if you were actually wriggling through them!
Dr. Zoidberg: There's no part of that sentence I didn't like!- Billy West, Billy West

Stars: Billy West, Katey Sagal, John Di Maggio
Other Stars: Phil LaMarr, Tress MacNeille, Lauren Tom, Frank Welkner
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some adult humor)
Run Time: approx. four hours
Release Date: 2004-03-09
Genre: television

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Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+B+B+ B+

 

DVD Review

It would be impossible for Matt Groening to top or even equal his animated television masterpiece, The Simpsons. Nevertheless, he has made an admirable effort with Futurama, another animated series that uses the Simpsons style of humor and incorporates it into a Star Trek-like vision of the future. While not quite as polished or funny as The Simpsons, Futurama is abundant with the same charm and wit that made us fall in love with the Simpsons gang. I find that the success of an animated comedy series completely relies on quality writing and loveable characters. Futurama unequivocally delivers on both levels.

In Season One, a present-day pizza delivery boy loser named Fry (Billy West) fell into a cryogenic freezing chamber that kept him in a state of hyper sleep for 1000 years. When he woke up, it was New Year's Eve 2999. Things are obviously quite different 1000 years into the future, and the fact that intelligent robots and extra-terrestrials are amongst the citizens of planet Earth is only the tip of the iceberg. A stranger in a strange land, Fry soon befriends a smart aleck robot named Bender (John Di Maggio), and makes contact with his great-great-great-great-great nephew, a shriveled old man named Professor Farnsworth (also voiced by West). The professor hires Fry and Bender to work for his intergalactic delivery service alongside Leela (Katey Sagal), a by-the-numbers female who also happens to be an alien cyclops.

This setup is all anyone needs to know about Futurama, as it is predominately the basis of the crew's adventures leading up to Season Three. While I blame the eventual cancellation of Futurama largely on its inane time slot, I did find that the appeal of the series waned during the later seasons. However, the third season finds the show in peak form, with Groening's wonderfully droll style of humor still wholly evident. In many ways, he had more artistic freedom with a Futurama episode than he did with a Simpsons episode; keeping the series rooted in the year 3000 is a wonderful way to introduce plenty of radical ideas. Many of the episodes in here prove hilariously outlandish, such as the Fantastic Voyage mock-up, Parasites Lost, where a miniaturized crew travels through Fry's bowels in order to wipe out a colony of worm invaders. Even more devilish is the plot of A Tale of Two Santas, which shows the 31st-century Santa Claus as a robotic homicidal maniac. With such clever concepts, it is a shame that the series' potential was occasionally wasted on uninteresting characters such as Amy Wong (Lauren Tom) and the eternally annoying Nibbler (Frank Welkner).

As with The Simpsons, Futurama benefits from wonderful voice talent. Billy West (who many fans of animated television know from Ren & Stimpy) provides his vocal styling to innumerable roles, and gives each of the characters their own distinct personality. My favorite character, however, is unquestionably John Di Maggio's Bender. All the best lines belong to this wise-cracking robot, who could be considered the Futurama equivalent of Homer Simpson.

I only received screening copies of Discs One and Four of Futurama, Volume 3, so I cannot speak for the integrity of the entire boxed set. Nevertheless, from what I have seen, this is a classy presentation of one of the better shows on television.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: I expected the worst after witnessing the horrendous image quality of the Season Three Simpsons boxed set, but my fears were mostly put to rest. The animation is crisp, vivid, and detailed. The colors appear bold and vibrant though not overly saturated, as seen in many animated features. Shimmering is occasionally evident, while edge halos lend a rough characteristic to the picture. Additionally, the image exhibits an unpleasant digitized anomaly during moments of rapid motion. While far from perfect, any deficiencies of the 1.33:1 image transfer rarely prove distracting.

Image Transfer Grade: B+
 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 soundtrack suits the material well. The audio is predominately dialogue driven, and spoken words are clean and intelligible. Stereo separation is wide and distinct across the front soundstage, and I occasionally detected minor surround presence. Bass is impressive for a non-5.1 track, proving powerful on several occasions. Overall, this is a fairly uneventful soundtrack, but quite fitting nonetheless.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+ 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 55 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions with remote access
9 Deleted Scenes
Storyboard
11 Feature/Episode commentaries by creator Matt Groening along with various cast and crew
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. International Clips
Extras Review: Matt Groening provides audio commentary for all of the episodes. He is joined by a gaggle of cast and crew members, the participants changing from one episode to the next. The commentaries are fairly droll and fun, but I feel as if there were too many participants involved to make it a truly enjoyable experience.

Also included are numerous animation presentations. These include two wonderful storyboard sections, a three-dimensional model demonstration with artist commentary, rough animatic sequences, and a fun section that fully reveals how to draw Fry and Leela. All of the sections are quite enjoyable, and have enhanced my appreciation for the series.

Many episodes also contain a collection of deleted scenes. Nine sections in all are included, each section containing a plethora of excised clips. Though each clip is only 10 seconds or less, it is fun to view this deleted material.

The final section is called International Clips, where the viewer can watch a scene from the Amazon Women in the Mood episode with four different language options. This is a fun but somewhat pointless feature, as we can hear two of these languages on any of the feature episodes.



Extras Grade: B+
 

Final Comments

While not quite Simpsons stature, Futurama is a wonderful diversion for those who crave Matt Groening's quirky style of humor. Though this third season can be a bit uneven, its humor is still light years beyond the humor seen on a typical prime time sitcom. Futurama, Volume 3 boasts admirable image transfers and an enjoyable collection of special features for each of the 11 episodes featured on my screener discs. Futurama fans will not likely be disappointed.

Brian Calhoun 2004-03-09