Futurama and The Simpsons

Futurama (1999-2003, 2010-2013)
The Simpsons (1989-    )
Type: Crossover
Group 14

   These shows have many connections and have "referenced" each other a whole bunch but for a long time there was never a solid true crossover. Well, there is now.

   For those of you just out of a decades long coma, The Simpsons is the Fox Network's long running super popular cartoon series created by Matt Groening. It's the story of the Simpson family who live in the town of Springfield (the state they live in remains unclear). Homer is the buffoonish though well intentioned dad. Marge is the sweet if also slightly daft mother with the hairstyle borrowed from The Bride of Frankenstein. Bart is their troublemaking son, Lisa their insanely smart daughter and Maggie their silent pacifier sucking infant. The whole show was drawn in the distinct style Groening developed in his Life In Hell comic series: googly eyed characters with crazy big overbites.

   One good mega hit deserves another. Hoping to strike gold a second time, Fox had Matt Groening create a second show. Futurama was Groening's shot at a sci-fi cartoon comedy. Now sci-fi comedys? Risky. Quark, Homeboys From Outerspace... ratings, quality... something always seems to go wrong. But as it turned out, Futurama was actually a really good show. Here's the setup. On New Year's Eve, pizza delivery boy Philip Frye delivers a pizza to a cryogenic freeze company. Turns out the delivery order was actually a crank call (the pizza order for the cryo lab was ordered by I.C. Weiner). Disgusted Frye sits down in a chair. He leans back in the chair aaaaand... whoops! He slips and falls into one of the cryo tubes only to be finally thawed out in the far distant future. He has become a sort of combination of Homer Simpson and Buck Rogers. Having reached the future, Frye finds himself now working as... well he was still a delivery guy.

   Frye worked at Planet Express Delivery along a host of insane characters. Lila was the hot cool chick who happened to also be a Cyclops; Professor Farnsworth was the super elderly mad scientist who ran the delivery company and who also happened to be Frye's descendant; Dr. Zoidberg was the delivery service's crustacean physician and general loser... the list literally goes on and on. But for the purpose of this page there is just one more character that has to be mentioned.

   Bender was the show's requisite robot (every sci-fi show needs one). Bender could not have been more aptly named. His intended function as a robot was to bend thing. Take a big heavy metal beam, bend it. That was his intended function. What he actually did on the show was... uh... his intended function was to bend things. See, Bender didn't do a lot and if he did do something it was usually illegal. Case in point. They did the classic sci-fi plot where Bender's evil twin showed up. In the best Star Trek tradition you knew he was the evil opposite of bender because he had a goatee. A metal goatee but a goatee. Bad things start happening. Someone is clearly up to no good. It must be Bender's evil twin, right? Nope. It was Bender. Yeah. No need for a twin. Bender is fully capable of stealing everything in sight all on his own.

   Not only did Bender steal, he also drank. Allll the time. But see, it was okay because Bender actually ran on alcohol (I told ya he was aptly named). If he didn't drink, he'd start acting like he was drunk.

   The show was well done. The writers knew science and sci-fi incredibly well. They would reference not just popular science fiction like Star Wars and Star Trek, they would also reference classic science fiction books too. And then on top of that they would throw in serious math and science gags in the background too. So you got drunk robot jokes for everybody and super smart gags for the braniacs to catch.

   The plotting was smart too. The writers thought this crap out way in advance. For example, in a later episode it was revealed that Frye's falling into the cryo tube was not an accident. Another character from the show was there in the lab and purposely pushed him in. If you go back to the pilot episode and look, you'll see that that character's shadow is present in the scene. Then in another episode flashing to that scene, you can see not only that character's shadow but, another one that looks like Frye. Then in a later episode it ends up that Frye travels back in time so that his future self was there to see himself get frozen. Follow that? Time travel can be so confusing.

   Anyway, the show kicked ass. Sadly, Fox didn't see that. They didn't treat the show so great. They would film a full season of the show and then preempt it for half the year with sports. They'd end up airing about half the episodes and banking the rest to air in later seasons. Every year it seemed only half a season of episodes would air. They did this so much that Fox ceased production on the show but still had enough episodes to keep it on the air for another season! So the show was still running for a season while the folks behind the show were out of work. Crazy.

   Futurama and The Simpsons would name check each other every once in awhile but in ways that did not directly link their realities. The Futurama folks would stumble upon a pile of old Bart Simpson dolls. Or on The Simpsons they'd have Matt Groening appear at a comic book convention billed as the creator of Futurama. But no concrete "shared world" connections. For a long time the closest they got was a crossover between the shows that happened in a comic book. But I'm not going there.

   Eventually they did a small crossover. The Simpsons constantly do episodes flashing to the character's futures. In their 350th episode in 2005, Future-Drama, The Simpson's resident mad scientist, Professor Frink, invented a device that allowed users to Tivo their futures. Bart and Lisa sit down to watch what will happen to them. At one point Future Bart goes to visit his dad. He and Homer go for a ride in Homer's crappy hover-car. Seems Homer bought one of the first hover-cars before they worked all the bugs out. Homer and Bart drive along and hit a quantum tunnel in a mountain. Basically the quantum tunnel allows them to drive right through solid rock. When they come out the other side, Bender is riding in the car with them. He tries to buddy up with Homer and Bart but they kick him to the curb. And I breathed a sigh of relief. Lord help the world with those three paling around.

   The problem with this crossover though was... sigh... now, not that I'm looking for carefully exact continuity from The Simpsons but... Futurama was set about 1,000 years in the future. The Future-Drama episode of The Simpsons was set 8 years in the future. What the hell is Bender doing in a time period 992 years before his time? At the time of this episode I had to wonder if Bender units in general were created a thousand years before Futurama. And they thought Frye was ancient? As 100 year old tech Bender would be like an Edison cylinder player in an mp3 era. Didnít quite make sense... at the time...

   Cut to November 2014. Following its revival on Comedy Central, Futurama had been cancelled again in 2013. But Groening and friends decided to give the Planet Express crew one more moment in the spotlight in the Simpsons episode Simpsorama. The episode packed in everything you would expect from The Simpsons, from Futurama and what you would want if those shows collided.

   The plot starts with the city of Springfield burying a time capsule. Bartís friend Milhouse throws in his lucky rabbitís foot. Being a brat Bart blows his nose on a sandwich and throws it in. Then the time capsule is buried in a hole that is filled with liquid nuclear waste oozing up through the ground from the nearby power plant. Cut to a mysterious object falling from the sky. Itís Bender! Heís come from the future to fix something... he just doesnít remember what. Eventually he remembers he is supposed to kill Homer! Homer is going to do something to destroy the future. Only, really, it turns out, of course, Bart was responsible. His booger DNA combined with the rabbitís foot and the ooze combined and mutated into monster rabbit creatures that ravaged the world when the time capsule was opened. Almost the entire Futurama crew ends up coming through a time portal into the past (so you can see them in Springfield). Then almost the entire Simpson family ends up going through the portal into the future (because we want to see that too). The Bart-bunnies then mutate into goblins causing more havoc. Eventually the problem is solved when they round up all the Bart-goblins and launch them into deep space. They all land on the planet Omicron Persei 8, home to an alien race Earth has had strained relations with. See, at one point we unknowingly harvested their young who seemed to be alien chicken nuggets and started eating them. Now Bart-goblins from Earth were destroying their planet. Iím sure thatís not going to help things.

   The very end of the show actually solves the mystery of Benderís appearance in the previous crossover. At the end of the episode everyone goes back to the future via the time portal which is inside of Benderís chest. Only as he basically is the portal, Bender canít himself go back to the future that way. Instead, he goes back to the future the long way: he simply shuts himself off and will wait a thousand years to wake himself up. In the meantime he will simply sit in the Simpsonsí basement (this itself is a recurring joke as the Simpsonsí basement over the years has been filled with all sorts of insane artifacts). This means Bender is now technically present in The Simpsons timeline. And Bender being Bender... heís not making it back to his own era without getting into some trouble along the way which would explain him being out and about in Future-Drama. The question is might he show up as a guest on future episodes of The Simpsons.

   Now, there is no way I could fully list all the riffs and references in this episode but here's some of them...

- The show opens with the Futurama opening credits retrofitted to The Simpsons.

- The plot riffs off various sci-fi/fantasy movies like Terminator, Alien, and Gremlins.

- As I said before, you get Homer and Bender hanging out. They directly point out that Bender is a lazy rip off of Homer in every way.

- Marge Simpson is known for her freakish blue beehive hairdo. Futuramaís Leela is known for her one freakish eye. They have these two meet, each paranoid about mentioning each otherís weird feature which, of course, they do.

- The Simpsonsí resident mad scientist gets to meet up with Futuramaís resident mad scientist Professor Farnsworth.

- When we first see the future overrun with Bart-bunnies, in amongst them are the main characterís from Matt Groeningís bunny-populated comic strip Life In Hell, including Bongo writing, "Crossovers Are Hell," on a wall. This has a nice irony too it since Life In Hell was really the source of the figurative dna of The Simpsons and the plot of this episode has The Simpsons being the literal source of the dna for the Life In Hell rabbits.

- Homer is well known for violently strangling Bart in frustration over his bad behavior. When the Simpsons head into the future overrun with Bart-goblins, Homer laconically strangles goblin after goblin, actually ripping their heads off lazily dropping his "strangling catch phrase", "Why you little..." over and over.

- On Futurama they established that in our era Frye had a dog he left behind when he went into the future. Frye assumed the dog forgot about him and lived out his life happily without him. But in a moving montage we see that the dog waited his entire life for Frye to return. While the Planet Express crew is in the past we see Fryeís dog still waiting for him, although it isnít really explained why the dog is in Springfield instead of New York.

- The Bart-goblins are lured into being trapped by Lisa Simpson claiming that there are Butterfingers in Madison Cube Garden. Bart Simpson was part of a long running ad campaign for Butterfinger in which he was obsessed with them. So it makes total sense that would be a lure for his offspring.

- When we see the Bart-goblins destroying Omicron Persei 8, that planetís ruler Lrrr and his wife Ndnd are awaiting the arrival of visitors who turn out to be the Simpsonsí resident aliens Kang and Kodos.

- At the end of the show they again go back to the Futurama opening credits, going through the entire sequence instead of just the title card and littering the future with Simpsons references. Simpsons characters shoot through the transport tubes, businesses are shown that are riffs off Springfield businesses or characters. Futurama always would feature coded messages in the background signs on their show. As hard as they ever made those codes someone always cracked them. The end credits featured new encrypted signs. For the lazy, uncoded they read, "Rent A Smithers", "Eat My Shorts", and, "Congratulations youíre a nerd".

Other Futurama Crossover Links
Futurama and The P.J.s

Other Simpsons Crossover Links
The Simpsons and Cheers
The Simpsons and The Critic
The Simpsons and The Flintstones
The Simpsons and King Of The Hill
The Simpsons and The Tracey Ullman Show
The Simpsons and 24
The Simpsons and The X-Files

Links To Simpson Web Sites
New Springfield: It's a helluva town!
The Simpsons Emporium

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