‘Futurama’ Episodes Took Longer Than You Think to Finish

Not only is Futurama one of the best science fiction TV shows of all time, but it also has the rare distinction of being one of the few shows to be canceled twice and revived once.

Its smart writing, satirization of modern culture, and terrific voice acting have made it a cult classic, and few shows have a more rabid fan base. What you may not realize is how much work goes into the writing of Futurama.

Whether due to getting minute details correct or wanting to invent their own mathematical formulas, Futurama writers can take a surprisingly long time to write specific episodes.

Each episode already took a long time

David Herman, Billy West and David X. Cohen
David Herman, Billy West and David X. Cohen | Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Jam City

Many series took a notoriously long time to write, but each Futurama episode took nearly a year! The writers added so many details to each episode that the episodes took a very long time to write, let alone animate.

The writing and the voice characterization took about six months, and the animation took another six months. They wanted to create a unique aesthetic and had the actors record their voices together, like in an old radio program.

‘Futurama: The Prisoner of Brenda’

One of the episodes that took almost twice as long to write was The Prisoner of Brenda from the sixth season. It involved a brain-switching machine that swapped the minds of the two people that entered it.

But once used, the device couldn’t be used twice to exchange the same two minds. Once everyone was switched, they had to take a torturous journey of logic and math to get everyone back to normal. Little did they know how torturous.

The episode was planned for the fifth season, but they kept pushing it back. They wanted a valid mathematical proof that showed that everyone COULD get their mind restored. According to Mental Floss, even though the writer’s room had numerous math minds, it took writer Ken Keller, who had a Ph.D. in math, to write the original proof.

Foreshadowing in ‘Futurama’ could take years to pay off


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In the first season of Futurama, a recurring joke is that Fry is probably related to himself. Two years later, they actually wrote it into the show in Season 3, Episode 19, “Roswell That Ends Well,” where Fry indeed turns out to be his own grandfather. But the most extended piece of foreshadowing took four years to pay off!

We see Fry fall into a cryogenic chamber in the debut episode, but right before he falls, we see a brief shadow flit across the scene. Four years later, in season four, episode ten, The Why of Fry, we learn that the shadow belongs to Nibbler, who needed Fry in his time to stop an alien invasion.

It took years to create their own language

Writers knew since the debut episode that they wanted to create an alien language. It took them four years, but in season four, in episode five, Leela’s Homeworld introduced “Alienese.”

Alienese was based on a math cipher and was used throughout the rest of the series. They called the first iteration of Alienese AL1 (alien language one). Still, they soon got bored with the simple substitution cipher and decided to create a more advanced mathematical language called AL2. After completing these languages, they appear in almost every episode of Futurama.

Whenever you watch Futurama’s episodestake some time to look at all the details in each episode. After all, they took a year or more to create. While you’re at it, be amazed that you see it at all. The episodes took so long to write that you might have needed to wait until time travel was actually invented to watch them.