20th Century Fox presents
Futurama: Monster Robot Maniac Fun Collection (1999-2003)
Bender: I'm hallucinating this, right?
Robot Devil: No, Bender. Robot hell is quite real. Here's our brochure.- John DiMaggio, Dan Castellaneta from Hell Is Other Robots episode
Stars: Billy West, Katey Sagal, John Di Maggio
Other Stars: Tress MacNeille, Frank Welker, David Herman, Lauren Tom, Phil LaMarr, Kath Soucie, Al Gore, Gary Gygax, Stephen Hawking, Nichelle Nichols, Dan Castellaneta, The Beastie Boys, Maurice LaMarche
Director: Brian Sheesley, Rich Moore, Chris Louden
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:30m:11s
Release Date: 2005-08-23
DVD ReviewIf you ask me, I say give me season sets or give me nothing, but that hasn't stopped the release of a number of themed mini-sets of various television series, usually made up of just four or five episodes. Case in point with Futurama: Monster Robot Maniac Fun Collection, a four ep conglomerate, with one each from seasons one, two, four, and five of the Emmy-winning sci-fi comedy that Fox seemed to purposely let slip into obscurity.
The setup for the show was simple and familiar: a pizza delivery guy from 1999 is quick-frozen and awakens in the year 2999. Chaos and comedy ensues, much of it delivered by a wise-cracking robot with a bad attitude. The redemptive powers of slapping four episodes of the Matt Groening creation onto a cost-effective disc doesn't remove the fan frustration of the way the series was treated by the network, but it is a damn funny show so it's not like this is exactly a chore to watch.
It's a different kind of humor than found in Groening's The Simpsons—the gags are just as bizarre but are layered in gadgetry and the fundamentals of sci-fi—and maybe the futuristic slant turned off some viewers, but the ensemble of crazy characters is held together by the first-rate voice talent of Billy West (Fry, Zoidberg, Farnsworth, and others) and John DiMaggio (Bender), as well as stalwart supporting voice work by Tress MacNeille, Frank Welker, David Herman, Lauren Tom, Phil LaMarr, Kath Soucie, and Maurice LaMarche.
Hell Is Other Robots (22m:31s)
Original Airdate: 05/18/99
Directed by Rich Moore
This Season One chapter sports an appearance by The Beastie Boys (or at least their heads), but earns it place as one of the great ones with guest voice Dan (Homer Simpson) Castellaneta as Beelzebot the singing and dancing Robot Devil of Robotology. For my money this is one of the best eps of the whole run of the series, with the confrontation between Bender and the Robot Devil easily one of the show's most memorable moments.
Anthology of Interest I (22m:35s)
Original Airdate: 05/21/00
Directed by Chris Louden, Rich Moore
It's guest voice time, with a few whoppers like Al Gore, Gary Gygax, Nichelle Nichols, and Stephen Hawking. When Professor Farnsworth builds a "what if" machine, each of the main characters get a chance to find out, well, what if. Hijinks include a really tall Bender in a neat Iron Giant parody, Leela (Katey Sagal) fantasizing about being more impulsive and Fry wondering what would have happened had he never been frozen.
Roswell That Ends Well (22m:33s)
Original Airdate: 12/09/01
Directed by Rich Moore
The fourth season opener dabbles in the conundrums of time travel, thanks to a rogue microwave and a supernova, with the crew ending up in Roswell in 1947. Bender loses his head, Fry meets his grandfather and the underlying theme borrows a few conceptual ideas from Ray Bradbury's A Sound of Thunder and even provides a few parodies of The X-Files and Independence Day. I'm a sucker for anything Roswell-related, and this one provides solid laughs.
The Sting (22m:33s)
Original Airdate: 06/01/03
Directed by Brian Sheesley
Last is a Season Five entry that features the addictive honey of the very dangerous space bees, but also appears to signal the death of one of the main characters. Or does it? Leela compounds the wave of strange by having a series of dreams within dreams, prompting her to go more than a little crazy. This is one of those episodes where the writing manages to flesh out a deeper edge of the relationship between Leela and Fry somewhat.
Yes, these are funny, but I'd much rather watch the season sets.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: All four episodes are presented in their original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and like the other Futurama full-season collections, the quality is quite impressive. Colors are exceptionally bright and vivid, with a great level of animated detail throughout all episodes, no matter which season.
It might be a "cartoon" to you, but it sure is beautiful.
Image Transfer Grade: A
|DS 2.0||English, French, Spanish||yes|
Audio Transfer Review: Audio isn't overdone, offering Dolby Digital 2.0 surround in either English, French or Spanish. There is some minor rear channel activity, but this is primarily relegated to the front channels, where there is some moderate directional movement from left to right (and vice versa). Character voices and sound cues sound rich and deep at all times.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Extras Review: Extras kick off with a Disc Intro (01m:42s) from Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, Rich Moore, Claudia Katz, John DiMaggio (in character as Bender) and Billy West (in character as Zoidberg). That's a lot of folks to cram in just over 90 seconds, and it's basically a self-effacing acknowledgement of how "good" the episodes on this set are. Likewise with the individual episode intros, which run under 60 seconds each. Also included is an Animatic (26m:01s) for the Hell Is Other Robots ep that actually runs a few minutes longer than the finished version, with optional commentary from Groening, Cohen, Katz, Moore, DiMaggio, and West.
Each individual episode is cut into five chapters, with optional subtitles in English, French or Spanish.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsGreat show, but I'm not completely sold on the merits of the trend toward these mini four-ep collections. The hardcore fans already have these, whether legally or not, and most diehards just want the full season sets.
Funny stuff, but the need to buy just this particular set of episodes is questionable.
Rich Rosell 2005-08-22