Director Dwayne Carey-Hill and Producer Claudia Katz on Bender's Big Score: The RT Interview

Futurama returns at last this Tuesday!

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DVD sales speak volumes and nobody's listening more closely than Fox. After robust sales in the home market paved the way for a Firefly movie (Serenity) and re-opened production on Family Guy, Futurama -- Matt Groening's and David X. Cohen's beloved sci-fi animated series, unceremoniously canceled in 2003 -- is returning for four new DVD movies. The show is also reappearing on television: each DVD will be chopped into four episodes, to be aired on Comedy Central in 2008.

The first DVD, Bender's Big Score (in stores this Tuesday), features everything Futurama fans should expect from the series: one-liners from Bender and Zoidberg, an earnest love story between Fry and Leela, a head-swimmingly intricate time travel plot, and Al Gore's angry head. Rotten Tomatoes spoke with Dwayne Carey-Hill, director of Bender's Big Score, and Claudia Katz, producer for Futurama's animation studio, Rough Draft, on the joys and perils of returning to one of television's best animated series ever.

After Futurama ended, at what point did it look like it could come back?

Claudia Katz: At first it felt like it was never ending because it was so inconclusive. We weren't cancelled but sort of went to a slow fizzle. [But] I think it was at least three years before anything was plausible.

Dwayne Carey-Hill: And never in this concept. Never four DVDs. I think we always hoped we'd do a movie. A big, grand scale sort of thing. We all felt like the look was great, the writing was great, and there was so much more to do with it that it would make for a good feature.

At Comic-Con, Rich Moore said the budget was a little bit smaller but the CG department was a little bit bigger. How did that change your approach to the movie?

CK: The budget basically was a little smaller than it was than that last time we worked on it, which was probably five years ago. The only real change was computer technology has improved to the point where you can get a lot more bang for your buck from a hardware/software perspective. Honestly, our margins are just a lot smaller and all the money is going up on the screen.

Did you approach Bender's Big Score as four episodes put together or as a single feature?

DC-H: The writers had to approach it like four episodes and we had to keep it in mind that we'd direct it like one movie.

CK: We definitely had internal milestones we were trying to lock. We divvied it up and wanted part one done by this date and part two done by this date. But you would do that with any movie. You have to divide and conquer.

Was there any difficulty transitioning from TV series to feature?

CK: Working in 16:9, which is great except that we still have to protect the 4:3 standard depth. That was a little tricky from a composition standpoint because anything else you can pan and scan. That's an extra element for the directors and the storyboard people to have to worry about when that wasn't really there before. We're working in HD and that takes a certain amount of planning and legwork but, really, by the time we got to the fourth season of Futurama we really had the whole thing running pretty smoothly. We had gotten to the point where we had honed it down to a phenomenal crew and unfortunately as soon as we got to that perfect point...

It got cancelled.

CK: We were only able to bring some of those people back and I think the initial challenge was trying to staff up a fairly large group of people while production was going on The Simpsons Movie and several other movies. We were initially concerned about it.

But we ended up having a really great crew.

There are a lot of guest voices lined up for Futurama, like Al Gore again.

CK: I have to say his acting this time around is really terrific. I was personally a little surprised!

DC-H: He was less the candidate and more the actor.

 What other guest stars will be in the four movies?

CK: I don't know if we can talk about that.

DC-H: Really fun ones!

Were there certain elements fans responded to in the shows that you made a point of including in the movies?

CK: The first movie in particular, the fans will feel very well honored. It sort of tips a hat to the fans. There's a lot of really cool inside stuff in it. All of them really pay homage to the fans.