The crowd at Comic-Con International was treated to a rapid-fire Futurama presentation filled with sneak peeks, contests and hints about the new season of the Comedy Central animated sitcom.
The panel featured creator Matt Groening, executive producer David X. Cohen, stars Billy West (Fry, Zoidberg, Professor Farnsworth, Zapp Brannigan), Katey Sagal (Leela), John DiMaggio (Bender), Lauren Tom (Amy Wong) and Maurice LaMarche (Kif Kroker, Calculon, Morbo), director Steven Sandoval and writer Patric Verrone.
Fans were treated to the first eight minutes of a new episode called “Fun on a Bun,” in which the crew goes to Oktoberfest. Although Fry expects a beer party, he instead finds the world’s most sophisticated celebration of German culture. In the beer-tasting room, Fry downs an entire spittoon of beer, leading him to perform a drunken chicken dance on the tables. An infuriated and embarrassed Leela breaks up with Fry, who wasn’t even aware they were dating.
Bender, determined to enter a fancy hot dog-making contest, flies himself and Fry to retrieve a 3-million-year-old frozen mammoth to transform into sausage. After retrieving the prehistoric beast, Fry is accidentally caught in the meat grinder. Unaware, Bender dubs the final product Mammothwurst and feeds it to Leela, who, while enjoying the flavor, is horrified to discover it’s actually sausage-Fry.
At the conclusion of the episode sneak peek, Cohen declared to the audience that "We're still on the air! We got very used to having the knife dangling over our neck, but this is our third year back. We're still going to be on the air next year. Things are getting a little bit cozy, but after that, we can relax. We're going to be back to our comfortable situation of the knife hanging over our neck once again."
Rather than describe upcoming episodes himself, Cohen let the cast perform the introductions in the voices of their characters. Tom, in the voice of Amy Wong, said, "I fly around in a skimpy butterfly costume, get addicted to drugs and make out with Fry, all in front of her boyfriend Kif."
DiMaggio, in the voice of Bender, said, "In an episode entitled '33th Century Fox,‘ I'm going to go fox hunting with guest star Patrick Stewart. It's going to be fun on a bun, until I realize the fox I am hunting is a poor helpless robot."
LaMarche, in the voice of the Donbot and then Morbo, said, "Listen to my boss words. On Aug. 22, I will attempt to kill Dr. Zoidberg after he steals $8 million of my rightfully stolen cash. Morbo says Dr. Zoidberg is doomed, hahaha!"
West, in the voice of Professor Farnsworth, said, "Good news, Comic-Con! In an upcoming episode the crew will be shocked to learn that my parents are still alive. All that and more, this summer on Futurama."
Turning to the audience for questions, the writers we asked if they had Fry's destiny plotted out in advance, and if so how far along the way is that plot.
"We make it up as we go along,“ Verrone said. “I don't think we had any aspect of any character planned out."
Groening interrupted, saying, "David Cohen and I, we had a plan. We have a plan." Cohen added, "Well, we used up a lot of the plan at this point, that's the thing. … We had individual things we wanted to play out over the years. Fry and Leela's romance, the revelation of Leela's parents … Nibler's secret appearance pushing Fry into the freezer tube. So it's more like we had a whole list of things we wanted to get to, but we were kind of loose on how we were going to weave them together.”
Asked how long it takes to draw a character, Sandoval answered, "Bender is the easiest, Leela is the hardest -- anywhere from a minute to five minutes, depending on the complexity of the character."
Asked if Zoidberg will get some action soon, and maybe Scruffy, West said, "Yeah, he's gonna get some action."
Cohen continued, "I don't know how much we want to give away, because this is for next summer, summer 2013. We have an episode where Zoidberg is dealing with his personal body odor issues, and he falls in love with a woman who has no sense of smell. The perfect mate for Zoidberg."
Cohen then brought up “The Fry Meme,” which is generally a picture online depicting Fry with a suspicious look on his face, unsure about two choices. "For example, 'Not sure if intelligent, or just British.’”
In that theme, West, in the voice of Fry, presented some live “Not Sure” demonstrations by placing his head within three placards with different sayings: "Not sure if Comic-Con, or Keg Party in District 9," "Not Sure if San Diego Convention Center, or Just a Small Wing of Matt Groening's House," and "Not Sure if Futurama Panel, or Just a Room Filled With 5,000 of the World's Most Attractive Geniuses!"
Turning to a Futurama drawing contest, Sandoval challenged Groening to a furious Sharpie throwdown. West and DiMaggio provided commentary as the two drew. Groening blew through numerous pictures in the allotted three minutes, including sketches of Bender, Fry, Leela, Charlie Brown, and Mikey Mouse. Meanwhile, DiMaggio spent the entire time drawing one good drawing of Leela. At the very end, with seconds left, Groening cheated and flipped to a pre-drawn sketch of Leela that was obviously far too detailed for the short time frame of the contest.
With Groening caught cheating, despite the sheer quantity of his sketches, the audience voted for Sandoval.
David Glanzer, the director of marketing for Comic-Con International, then presented the Comic-Con Icon Award to Groening for "being instrumental in creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics related popular art forms, and bringing them to wider recognition.”
The audience costume contest then took place near the stage. An excellent Zoidberg won, and everyone who participated received a prize of some sort, including fan-made items. The grand prize was the two images Groening and Sandoval had sketched earlier, presented along with poster tubes. It was then revealed that Bill Morrison was the actual artist behind Groening's cheating image.
Futurama airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Comedy Central.