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Futurama: Bender's Game

by Zach Oat November 5, 2008 11:50 am
Futurama: Bender's Game

As a fan of Futurama, I was excited to hear the series was coming back as several feature films, but the first one caught me off-guard. After all, it was the Futurama I knew and loved, but it was, like, an hour and a half long. It wasn't three episodes mashed together, either. It was one looooong episode. The trick for me was learning to get used to the pacing, which I eventually did, and now I think it's great. This week, the third movie, Bender's Game, hit stores, and it's even trickier to wrap my head around, because there's a pretty lengthy Lord of the Rings parody in it, which is longer than an actual episode all by itself. Still, that chewy Futurama goodness is still there, and the title is a pretty awesome pun. And the extras... oh, you could plotz over these extras. And also Zoidberg was there, even!

Menu Screens: First of all, the menu screens are beautiful. The chapter select is set up like a D&D game table, and the Languages and three Features screens each have a breakdown of the main characters' applicable gaming levels, like "Strength," "Intelijence" and "Armor Class." (Bender's armor class is "Shiny Metal." He must have been talking about his armored ass.)

Commentary: Somehow, they manage to get Futurama creator Matt Groening, executive producer David X. Cohen, voice actors Billy West (Fry, Zoidberg, Zapp, Prof. Farnsworth), John DiMaggio (Bender) and Tress MacNeille (Mom), writer Michael Rowe, producer Claudia Katz and director Dwayne Carey-Hill into one room to talk about the movie. I'd be curious to see it, and apparently you can see it on the Blu-ray version, in what may be the first video commentary track. But the audio is still plenty entertaining, since you get to hear from the creators, writers, performers and animators, with interjected impersonations by the voice talent. They manage not to talk over each other too much, and it's a good time.

Storyboard Animatic: While it's cool that this DVD has the animated black-and-white storyboards for the first half-hour of the movie -- including the Yellow Submarine-inspired opening sequence, which has nothing to do with the plot -- there isn't much to say about them. The sound plays over the entire thing, though, so if you ever wanted to watch a cartoon about a bunch of rough sketches who have a space ship, this is your dream featurette.

Futurama Genetics Lab: On one level, this is just a fun game; on the other hand, it's a peek inside the animators' sketchbooks, showing their brilliance and creativity. What you do is, you pick two characters from the seven provided -- Fry, Leela, Bender, Prof. Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg, Morbo the newsanchor and the Hypnotoad -- and you hit "Merge," and you're shown an original character that's a combination of the two. If I did my math right, that's 42 different characters, and they're all pretty awesome. Of course, seven of them are some kind of toad, but they're still neat. I recommend Zoidberg + Morbo = Zorbo, and Fry + Bender = Friender.

D & D & F: Dungeons & Dragons & Futurama: This is a mini-documentary about Futurama's love of Dungeons & Dragons. I thought it would be mostly a rundown and explanation of D&D references in the TV series, but it's also a look at of writers David X. Cohen, Eric Kaplan and Mike Rowe, who are pretending to play D&D in Eric's mother's basement and are dressed to suit. In a T-shirt with a stretched-out neck, Cohen looks like every D&D player I've ever known, and he shows off his childhood Dungeon map, from before he and his friends realized the game didn't need a board. Kaplan wears a chain mail hood and carries a flail, and is immediately brutalized by the D&D-hating Rowe, who carries a baseball bat for beating D&D fans like Kaplan. Whenever anyone's D&D explanation gets too nerdy, Rowe starts to bring out the bat. The weird part is that there are only three or four D&D-inspired TV scenes that they talk about before they start talking about clips from Bender's Game, the movie you just watched. Still, it's a pretty funny segment.

How to Draw Futurama in 83 Easy Steps: When I was younger, and The Simpsons was funny, I used to love the part of the Simpsons Magazine that showed you how to draw the Simpsons characters. Well, now the creative types at Rough Draft Studios are here to tell you how to draw the Futurama characters! ...Three of them, anyway. It's actually pretty informative, as we see Bender's Game director Dwayne Carey-Hill draw Bender, assistant director Derek Thompson draw Zoidberg, and supervising director Rich Moore use a 3B pencil to... call up his assistant, retake director Crystal Chesney-Thompson, and get her to draw Leela. (You can also read an interview and see amazing artwork by all three artists here.)

3D Models With Animator Discussion: Similar to the wire-frame breakdowns of the cars on the Speed Racer DVD, this featurette shows spinning models of all of the spaceships used in the demolition derby, including George Takei's Enterprise, Bakula's Enterprise, the ship, the "Lego-esque" ship, the Apollo module, the dump truck, Lrrr's ship and the space pickup truck. Director Carey-Hill and supervising director Moore talk about each ship, what it was based on and exactly how it had to be animated. Visually boring, but some interesting facts.

Deleted Scene: Cup or Nozzle? A short animatic scene, in between Farnsworth trying to smell-detect the crystal and Mom detecting the crystal, in which Cubert and Dwight are in line at an ice cream truck. The crystal in Cubert's pocket hums ominously, Dwight smells something, and Cubert opts to get his ice cream from the nozzle, causing a tube to be shoved into his mouth and ice cream to be dispensed. Throwaway, but it's nice they included it, if only to introduce a new fan-favorite character: shifty alien ice-cream vendor.

Blooperama 2: Outtakes from Bender's Game: Live-action footage shot during a group recording session for the movie. There are a few outtakes, but mainly it's to show the cast goofing off, and to show you what they look like in real life, leading you to realize that you've seen John DiMaggio on television before.

Bender's Anti-Piracy Warning: In case you didn't realize, Bender is not the best person to advocate not stealing things. It's pretty funny. His organization is called "D.O. I.T." In fact, you should just watch it now.

David X. Cohen's Dodecahedron Collection: Proving that he is an actual gaming nerd, and not just playing one for the purposes of the extras, Cohen shows off all of the 12-sided objects he owns that aren't actually dice. Well, one is a big, plush die, but that belongs to his daughter. The rest are made of wood, rubber, or naturally forming pyrite. Yes, 12-sided dice appear in nature! Maybe primitive man played D&D! (This is a "secret" extra, behind the Zoidberg skull on page three of the Features menu.)

"Wedgie It On In There": If you want to see Billy West say that line wrong 17 times, as the rest of the cast gets more and more exasperated, click on the castle on page three of the Features menu. Is it secret? Yes. Is it safe? Not really.

Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder: A sneak peek at the next Futurama movie. Normally, I wouldn't count previews as extras, but it certainly felt like a bonus for me, especially since Cohen has said that they would all be content if this was the last Futurama thing they ever did. The plot involves an ancient battle or some such, and it somehow involves the Robot Mafia, Zapp Brannigan and the voice of Snoop Dogg, which is all I needed to hear.

The future is now, so why wait? Buy it here!

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