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6 Influential (and Awesome) Giant Japanese Robots

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Any kid that grew up in the 1980s is familiar with giant Japanese robots like Voltron and Transformers. But those are just a small taste of the dozens of mechanical men that make up the "Super Robot" genre that has been popular in Japanese manga (comic books) and anime (cartoons) for more than 50 years. Although a complete history would be a monumental undertaking, here are a few of the influential giant robots you should know.

1. Tetsujin 28-go

Tetsujin 28-go follows the adventures of a 10-year-old boy, Shotaro Kaneda, and his remote-controlled, rocket-powered giant robot, Tetsujin 28 (Iron Man #28). The robot was built by Shotaro's father as a secret weapon during World War II, but the war ended and Dr. Kaneda died before #28 ever saw action. Now, Shotaro uses #28 to solve crimes and defend the world from other giant robots, like his nemesis, Black Ox. That is unless someone else gets their hands on the remote control, for whoever has the remote can command Tetsujin 28 to do their bidding.

Not only did writer/illustrator Mitsuteru Yokoyama's Tetsujin 28-go create the concept of a Super Robot, but it helped establish many of the common tropes of the genre, like the "orphaned boy wonder" that controls the titular giant robot. It first debuted as a manga in 1956, before it was adapted for television in 1963 as an anime, which helped it find international acclaim. As is common with foreign translations, many of the Japanese names were changed for a regional audience. For example, in America, Shotaro Kaneda became Little Jimmy Sparks, and his giant robot became known as Gigantor, a name that still resonates with kids from the era.

The opening sequence of Gigantor

Tetsujin 28 remains an iconic character in Japanese popular culture. The long-running manga and anime are still best-sellers and have been followed by numerous sequels and remakes over the years. And in 2009, the big robot himself was immortalized as a life-sized, 60-foot-tall, 50-ton statue in Yokoyama's hometown of Kobe:

The official unveiling of the Tetsujin 28 statue in Kobe

If you'd like to check out the adventures of Gigantor, you can watch the whole series for free on Hulu.

2. Giant Robo

Thanks to 1954's Gojira (Godzilla), Japanese audiences became obsessed with tokusatsu, a style of film making in which special effects take center stage and that often incorporates actors who dress in rubber suits to portray monsters, aliens, and superheroes. The style has also been used for television shows, including the first live-action Super Robot on TV, Giant Robo.

Tetsujin 28-go creator Mitsuteru Yokoyama developed Giant Robo for TV and as a manga, both debuting in 1967. Robo's master, a 12-year-old boy named Daisaku Kusama, is part of a secret police force known as Unicorn. Unicorn, made up of both kids and adults, battles the giant robots and monsters of the evil alien Emperor Guillotine and his human henchmen, known collectively as "Big Fire." Like #28, Giant Robo can fly and possesses incredible strength, but he also has an arsenal of weapons at his command, including laser beam eyes, fingertip missiles, a super strong "Megaton Punch," and other surprises. To control Robo, Daisaku speaks into his wristwatch, announcing the name of the special attack he wants Robo to execute, a practice that has since become common in the Super Robot genre.

Giant Robo was adapted for American audiences under the name Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot. Other than a few name changes, like Daisaku becoming Johnny Sokko and Big Fire becoming The Gargoyle Gang, the show was a pretty faithful translation. This is a bit surprising, because Giant Robo was pretty violent by American TV standards, with characters dying left and right, and even the child agents of Unicorn taking the occasional bullet. You can find out for yourself over at Hulu, where the show is streaming.

Giant Robo remains popular in Japan and has been featured in numerous manga and anime sequels, most notably the critically acclaimed anime, Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still.

3. Mazinger Z

When the evil Dr. Hell unleashes his robotic Mechanical Beasts on Japan, Professor Juzo Kabuto develops his own giant robot, Mazinger Z, made from a mysterious alloy called Chogokin, to take them on. However, the professor is killed by one of Hell's henchmen, so it's up to the professor's grandson, Kouji, to command the robot and save Tokyo.

The opening sequence of the Mazinger Z anime

Mazinger Z, created by Go Nagai, debuted in 1972 as both an anime and a manga. The series was influential on many levels, most notably because it introduced the concept of a human pilot inside the giant robot, unlike the external remote controls of Tetsujin 28-go and Giant Robo. Kouji used a small hover craft that locked into Mazinger Z's head, which not only controlled the robot's motions, but also his arsenal of special weapons, like laser beam eyes, heat rays from his chest plate, and the now genre staple, "Rocket Punch," which launched the robot's fist towards the enemy. The show also featured the first female Super Robot, Aphrodite A, a very un-P.C. heroine whose only special attack was to fire missiles from her breasts. In addition, toy company Popy borrowed the word Chogokin to name their line of die-cast metal Super Robot action figures that were incredibly popular in Japan through the 1970s and early '80s.

The anime made its way to syndication in America as 1985's Tranzor Z. However, it didn't get much traction, because network censors demanded the show be heavily edited for violent content, rendering some episodes virtually unwatchable. Overseas, Mazinger Z was followed closely by two sequels, Great Mazinger (1974) and UFO Robot Grendizer (1975), which starred different robots but tied the shows together with common characters to create the Mazinger Trilogy (the three robots are together in the image above left). It went on hiatus until the 1984 anime, God Mazinger, but has pretty much been in some type of manga or anime ever since.

The opening sequence of Tranzor Z for American audiences

4. Getter Robo

Although Professor Saotome initially created three specially designed jets for space exploration, those plans changed when the Dinosaur Empire, evolved from the few dinosaurs that survived extinction, attacked with robotic Mechasauruses. Now, the professor must convince three teenage pilots to combine forces and become the Getter Robo team to save mankind.

The opening sequence of the Getter Robo anime

The Getter Robo manga and anime series, created by Ken Ishikawa and Go Nagai in 1974, only ran for one year, but it introduced "combining robots" to the genre, without which we wouldn't have Voltron or the Constructicons from Transformers. The three jets joined together to form three different robots, each with its own special weapons, and each best suited for fighting in a particular environment — Getter-1 was good for aerial combat, Getter-2 was better on the ground, and Getter-3 was made for underwater melees.

The original show was never adapted for American audiences, but its immediate sequel, Getter Robo G (as well as the Mazinger Z sequel, UFO Robot Grendizer) was adapted as part of a series called Force Five, a syndicated collection of anime shows that was popular in the U.S. during the late '70s and early '80s. In Japan, the series has seen numerous sequels, most recently with 2004's New Getter Robo.

5. Brave Raideen

The opening sequence of Raideen the Brave, with English subtitles of the song lyrics

Released in 1975, the anime Raideen the Brave (commonly called Brave Raideen) told the story of Akira, a young boy who discovers he is a descendant of the lost continent of Mu. When the Demon Empire attacks Earth, Akira is the only one that can pilot the ancient Mu robot, Raideen, in order to defeat Barao, the leader of the Demons.

Akira "fading in," or entering, Raideen for the first time

After beating up his enemy with missiles, a shield and sword hidden in his forearm, a boomerang, a bow with giant arrows, and other awesome weapons, Raideen's special finishing move was to turn into the God Bird, a jet plane with even more special attacks. Not only was this transformation a new concept in anime and manga, but it also revolutionized robot toys. With just a few twists and turns, the Chogokin Raideen action figure could change into the God Bird just like on the show. Since then, many other Super Robots have had alternate forms, including everyone's favorite Robots in Disguise, the Transformers.

Brave Raideen was, and continues to be, a very popular anime in Japan, spawning two remakes — 1996's Raideen the Superior and Raideen in 2006. It's also credited with becoming the first anime to reach a mainstream audience in America, as it was broadcast in syndication across many markets, and even had merchandising tie-ins like T-shirts and toys.

6. Shogun Warriors

Thanks to the stateside popularity of Brave Raideen, Marvel Comics and the Toei Company, the producer of many Super Robot anime, entered into a deal that enabled both companies to develop the other's creative properties into new shows and comic books. Toei used this opportunity to bring a few Marvel-inspired TV shows to Japan, including Spider-Man. Marvel created the Shogun Warriors, a comic book series that starred a handful of Toei's Super Robots. Released in 1979 and only running for 20 issues (the cover of the first issue is at left), the comic is mostly forgotten today. However, the same can't be said for the tie-in toys from Mattel.

The Shogun Warriors toyline featured 13 Super Robot action figures like Brave Raideen (the name was Americanized as "Raydeen"), Great Mazinger, Grandizer, the three robots from Getter Robo G, and others that were popular in Japan, including the giant robot, Leopardon, used by the Japanese version of Spider-Man. (The Japanese Spider-Man show was obviously quite a bit different than the American comic, but that's another mental_floss story for another day.) Kids loved all the accessories, the ability to transform some of the robots into other configurations, and the spring-loaded Rocket Punch action, which became a signature of the line.

A commercial for Shogun Warriors toys

But the toys didn't last long after parents reported that kids were swallowing tiny missiles or getting hit in the eye with those spring-loaded fists. These injuries contributed to stronger regulations in the toy industry and, as a result, sales quickly declined. The Shogun Warriors toys were gone by 1980, but their awesomeness paved the way for Transformers, Voltron, and, arguably, the entire Japanese toy, anime, and manga craze that has since become a national phenomenon in the United States.


Since their peak in the 1970s, Super Robots have been on the decline. Oddly enough, this is often attributed to the creators of Brave Raideen, Yoshiyuki Tomino and Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, with their anime Mobile Suit Gundam released in 1979. Gundam created a new genre called "Real Robots" that has since spawned popular titles like Patlabor, Macross, and Robotech. As opposed to Super Robots, which are essentially indestructible metal superheroes, Real Robot stories take into account things like fuel consumption, limited ammunition, and machine maintenance; perhaps more importantly, the good guys don't always win. While both robot genres have their place in modern pop culture, the uncontested reign of the Super Robot is, sadly, a thing of the past.

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12 Admissible Facts About Judge Judy
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Judge Judith Sheindlin was 54 years old when her namesake TV show premiered on September 16, 1996. Two years later the diminutive (5’1”) adjudicator was trouncing the powerhouse Oprah Winfrey Show in the Nielsen ratings. Today, she is one of the highest paid TV celebrities, earning $47 million per year—which she will continue to do through 2020, thanks to a new extended contract.

Fervent fans are familiar with Judge Judy’s more outrageous cases, like The Tupperware Lady and the eBay Cell Phone Scammer, but they might not know some of these fun facts about both the show and the woman behind it, who turns 75 years old today.

1. THAT GRUFF, NO-NONSENSE STYLE OF JURISPRUDENCE IS NOT AN ACT.

Judge Judy spent a little over 20 years in New York City’s family court system, where she earned a reputation early in her career for being blunt, impatient, and tough-talking. “I can’t stand stupid, and I can’t stand slow,” was one of her oft-repeated “Judyisms” at that time. She also frequently warned attorneys appearing before her: "I want first-time offenders to think of their appearance in my courtroom as the second-worst experience of their lives ... circumcision being the first." 60 Minutes filmed her in action as part of a 1993 profile, and while her hair color and eyebrows have softened since then, her impatient rants and verbal smackdowns haven’t changed a bit.

2. SHE BEGAN WEARING HER TRADEMARK LACE COLLAR AS SOON AS SHE WAS APPOINTED AS A JUDGE.

New York City Mayor Ed Koch appointed Judith Sheindlin to the bench in 1982, and to celebrate she and her husband Jerry—both civil servants at the time—took a $399 package trip to Greece for two weeks. While passing by a row of street kiosks with various locally made crafts for sale, she impulsively purchased a white lace collar from a vendor. She explained to her husband that male judges wore stiff-collared white dress shirts and colorful neckties that peeped out of the top of their robes, so that they had a nice colorful “buffer” between the austere black gown and their face. Female judges, however, had nothing but neck peeping out of their robes and the unforgiving black color revealed every minute of sleep deprivation as well as any skin tone irregularities. The white lace collar, she decided, would not only perk up her face but would also be a bit disarming for litigants—she could picture them thinking “That nice little lady with the lace collar sitting behind the bench couldn’t hurt a fly!”

3. DESPITE THOSE NEW YORK CITY SCENES ON THE COMMERCIAL BUMPERS, JUDGE JUDY IS TAPED IN CALIFORNIA.

Sheindlin spends 52 days per year taping her show. She flies to California via private jet every other Monday and hears cases on Tuesday and Wednesday (occasionally Thursday if there are production delays). One full week’s worth of shows are filmed each day. Many viewers, however, are fooled into thinking Judy is holding court in her native New York, thanks to the scenic Manhattan footage in between station breaks and the New York state flag behind her chair. That is, until something oh-so-unique to the west coast—like an earthquake—occurs on-camera. (Note that in the clip below, Judge Judy quickly ducks beneath her bench once the room begins to tremble.)

4. SHE IS BRIEFED ON THE CASES BEFORE SHE ARRIVES ON THE SET.

Judge Sheindlin does not go to the studio unprepared; producers FedEx the sworn statements and relevant information on each upcoming case to her home (Naples, Florida in the winter; Greenwich, Connecticut in the spring and summer) and she familiarizes herself with enough details to have some background, but not enough so that the case doesn’t appear “fresh” when she questions the litigants during filming.

5. THE CASES REALLY ARE REAL.

The production company has a staff of 60-plus researchers across the country who spend their days poring over lawsuits filed in local small claims courts. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, they are able to photocopy cases that they think might make for interesting television and those copies are forwarded to the show’s producers. Any cases that make it to the next stage (about three percent) involve contacting the litigants involved and asking them if they’d like to forego their civil court hearing in exchange for a free trip to Los Angeles, an $850 appearance fee, and a per diem of $40 (as of 2012). An added incentive is that any judgments awarded are paid by the show, not by the plaintiff or defendant. The best cases, according to the executive producer, are those that involve litigants with a prior relationship—mother/daughter, father/son, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc. Such cases engage the audience because it’s an emotional tie that’s been broken (the recurring plot on many soap operas).

6. THE AUDIENCE, HOWEVER, IS NOT SO REAL.

Regular viewers will note that the same faces seem to pop up in the audience regularly. Those folks in the spectator seats are paid extras (often aspiring actors) who earn $8 per hour to sit and look attentive. Prospective audience members apply for the limited amount of seats by emailing their contact information along with a clear headshot to one of Judge Judy’s production coordinators (sorry, we cannot provide that info). If chosen, the spectator must dress appropriately (business casual or better) and arrive promptly for the 8:30 a.m. call time. Audience members must pass through metal detectors on their way in and are not allowed to bring cell phones or any electronic devices with them, and food, drinks and chewing gum are also verboten. Spectators are rearranged after each case so it’s not as obvious that it’s the same group of people, and the most attractive folks are always seated in the front row (it’s Hollywood, after all). The audience is instructed to talk animatedly amongst themselves in between each case so that Officer Byrd’s “Order in the court!” admonition has more impact. Bad behavior is grounds for immediate expulsion (in front of 10 million viewers, as Judge Judy likes to remind us).

7. JUDGE JUDY DRESSES CASUALLY FOR THE JOB.

Sheindlin has been known to publicly chastise litigants who come to her courtroom in skimpy clothing or “beach attire,” but behind that bench and under that robe she is usually sporting jeans and a tank top or T-shirt.

8. OFFICER BYRD IS A REAL BAILIFF.

Brooklyn native Petri Hawkins Byrd earned his B.Sc. degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1989 and started working in the Brooklyn Family Court system. He first worked with Judge Sheindlin when he transferred to the Manhattan Family Court. “We [the court officers] used to call her the Joan Rivers of the judicial system,” he recalled in a 2004 interview. “She was just hilarious.” Byrd relocated to San Mateo, California in 1990 to work as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshal and a few years later he read an item in Liz Smith’s gossip column about Sheindlin’s upcoming TV show. He sent his old colleague a congratulatory letter and added, “If you need a bailiff, I still look good in uniform.”

9. DESPITE HIS SOMETIMES IMPOSING COURTROOM DEMEANOR, OFFICER BYRD IS ALSO A VERY FUNNY GUY.

He is a talented impressionist, but his sense of humor almost cost him his job—or so he thought at the time. Once, back when he was working with the feisty Judge Sheindlin in New York, he donned her robe and reading glasses to entertain his co-workers with a barrage of Judyisms. Of course, as always seems to happen when one mocks the boss in the workplace, he was caught in the act.

10. THE OCCASIONAL CELEBRITY RELIES ON JUDGE JUDY’S BRAND OF JUSTICE.

Depending upon your own definition of “celebrity”, of course. Actress Roz Kelly (Pinky Tuscadero on Happy Days) appeared on the show in 1996 as the plaintiff, suing her plastic surgeon for a leaky breast implant that was impeding her acting career. One year later, former Sex Pistol John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) appeared as a defendant when drummer Robert Williams, who was hired to support Lydon on a solo tour, sued the singer for lost wages and an assault. Despite Lydon’s occasional bad courtroom behavior, the decision was made in his favor.

11. THE STAR ORIGINALLY DIDN’T WANT THE SHOW NAMED AFTER HER.

Sheindlin first envisioned calling her show Hot Bench, a term used frequently in the appellate court, but the producers wisely advised her that the term was meaningless to TV viewers who didn’t work in the legal system. Her next thought was Judy Justice, since she’d overheard her court officers warning deadbeat parents who were delinquent in child support payments that they were in for a load of "Judy Justice" if they weren’t prepared to cough up some money. In retrospect, Sheindlin realized the wisdom in calling the show Judge Judy: She couldn’t be easily replaced, as the various judges had been on The People’s Court. However, after 19 years on the air, she still does not refer to herself by that sobriquet; whether introducing herself to someone or advertising her show in a promotional clip, she is always either “Judge Sheindlin” or “Judge Judy Sheindlin.”

12. JUDGE SHEINDLIN INHERITED HER SENSE OF HUMOR FROM HER FATHER.

Murray Blum, Judy’s beloved father, was a dentist whose office was in the family home. In those days—before sedation dentistry was an option—a dentist’s best tool to distract nervous patients was the gift of gab, and Murray became a master storyteller out of necessity. Years of listening to her father at the dinner table and at family gatherings taught Judy how to deliver a punchline. One evening outside of a hotel in Hollywood, Sheindlin was approached by a woman who introduced herself as Lorna Berle. She told the judge that her husband Milton was a huge fan and asked if she would mind talking to him for a moment. The elderly comic slowly emerged from a limo and Judy greeted him by singing the theme song to Texaco Star Theater, her favorite TV show as a child. Milton Berle complimented her in return, saying “Kid, you’ve got great comic timing.”

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10 Far-Out Facts About Futurama
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In 1999, Matt Groening followed-up the monumental success of The Simpsons with an idea for a sci-fi comedy that he’d been tinkering around with for years. With influences ranging from groundbreaking sci-fi movies like Blade Runner to shows like The Jetsons and pulpy ‘50s comics like Weird Science, Futurama proved to be yet another winner for the cartoonist. Characters like Fry, Bender, and Leela quickly became fan favorites, rivaling Homer, Marge, and the rest of Springfield for quotability. The show was also a hit with the critics, winning plenty of Annie and Emmy Awards along the way.

Never a ratings juggernaut to a larger audience, the show only lasted four seasons on Fox before being cancelled in 2003. Neither the production staff nor the series’ loyal fan base would give up on Futurama, though, and the series was revived for an additional three seasons on Comedy Central from 2008 through 2013. Here are 10 things you might not know about Futurama

1. THE SHOW’S NAME COMES FROM AN EXHIBIT AT THE 1939 NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR.

Though Matt Groening’s Futurama takes a comedic look at what the future might hold for us, the name is based on a very real-world version of the world of tomorrow. At the 1939 New York World’s Fair in Queens, GM built a mammoth attraction called Futurama, which was a scale-model city showing off the predicted wonders of 1960.

The model was the brainchild of industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes and his team of hundreds of artists and builders. It spanned an impressive 35,000 square feet, and gave audiences a glimpse at what a city might look like in the next 20 years, with the highlight being a monolithic utopia peppered with mountainous skyscrapers and a web of superhighways for futuristic GM cars to travel on. Visitors would sit in chairs that moved on a conveyer belt around the model, showing off all the wonders they could look forward to.

To pay homage to its namesake, the first thing Fry hears when he’s defrosted in the future during the pilot episode is the bellowing sound of a lab worker proclaiming “Welcome to the World of Tomorrow,” which was one of the heavily advertised themes of the fair.

2. THE THEME SONG WAS INSPIRED BY A TUNE CALLED “PSYCHE ROCK.”

Futurama’s main theme, composed by Christopher Tyng, bears a striking resemblance to the song “Psyché Rock" by French electronic artist Pierre Henry. The songs are so similar that the Futurama theme basically acts as a remix to Henry’s work. The song has also been remixed by Fatboy Slim, which is even closer to the Futurama version. 

3. GETTING THE SHOW ON THE AIR WAS A DIFFICULT PROCESS FOR MATT GROENING.

Though Matt Groening and the team over on The Simpsons have the freedom to mostly govern themselves, getting Futurama off the ground was a different story. When asked by Mother Jones in 1999 about getting the show on the air, Groening said, “It has been by far the worst experience of my grown-up life.”

He further explained that, “The second they ordered it, they completely freaked out and were afraid the show was too dark and mean-spirited, and thought they had made a huge mistake and that the only way they could address their anxieties was to try to make me as crazy as possible with their frustrations.”

Despite the battles with the network, Groening and his team didn’t cave, saying, “I resisted every step of the way. In one respect, I will take full blame for the show if it tanks, because I resisted every single bit of interference."

4. CO-CREATOR DAVID X. COHEN IS A MATH WHIZ.

When Groening was developing Futurama into a pitch, he had one key Simpsons writer in mind to collaborate with: David S. Cohen. Cohen (who is credited as David X. Cohen for Futurama) was known for some of the most popular Simpsons episodes of the mid-‘90s, including "Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie," "Lisa The Vegetarian," and "Much Apu About Nothing."

“After I assembled a few hundred pages of ideas, I got together with David Cohen, one of the writers and executive producers on The Simpsons, who is also a lover of science fiction and has a great knowledge of science and mathematics,” Groening told Mother Jones.

The emphasis on mathematics may sound odd, but it became a hallmark of the series. Dealing with sci-fi plots allowed Cohen to bring a certain authenticity to some of the more complex episodes; he was also able to sneak in all sorts of esoteric mathematical jokes for the like-minded viewers. This is similar to how math played a role on The Simpsons for years without ever becoming distracting to casual viewers. 

Cohen’s mathematical background goes far beyond the norm. He graduated from Harvard with a degree in physics, and from the University of California, Berkeley, with an M.S. in computer science. This knowledge gave way to plenty of in-jokes, including the creation of a numerical-based alien language and countless background gags that only the brainiest viewers would have a shot at deciphering.

5. ZAPP BRANNIGAN WAS GOING TO BE VOICED BY PHIL HARTMAN.

The character of Zapp Brannigan was originally written with actor Phil Hartman in mind for the voice, but he was tragically killed before he would have begun recording. The role then went to Billy West, who also voices Fry and Professor Farnsworth. In an interview with The New York Times, West says he based his Brannigan on disc jockeys from the ‘50s and ‘60s. There's also a bit of Hartman's signature, Troy McClure-esque sound in there. 

6. JOHN DIMAGGIO ORIGINALLY AUDITIONED FOR PROFESSOR FARNSWORTH USING BENDER’S VOICE.

Figuring out what Bender would sound like wasn’t an easy task for the folks in charge of Futurama. Would it be a human voice, or something more synthesized like Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet? The crew auditioned dozens and dozens of voice actors in an attempt to find the perfect Bender, with no luck.

At the same time, voice actor John DiMaggio was auditioning for a role on the show against his agent’s wishes, who worried about both the money and contract being offered. At first he auditioned for the role of Professor Farnsworth, using a boorish, drunken voice he partially based on Slim Pickens. The voice didn’t work for the professor, but according to the DVD commentary for the show’s pilot, the producers asked him to try it out for Bender. The voice instantly clicked, leading to the creation of the show’s breakout character.

7. THE NIXON LIBRARY EVENTUALLY CAME AROUND TO HIS HEAD BEING IN A JAR.

Richard Nixon famously proclaimed that the media wouldn’t have him to “kick around anymore” back in 1962; little did he know the jabs would keep coming for decades in the real world, and centuries into the fictional future as a nightmarish version of the former president with his head preserved in a jar was proclaimed President of Earth in Futurama.

With Billy West providing the jowly voice of the former Commander-in-Chief, Nixon became a villain for a whole new generation. And the Richard Nixon Library wasn’t very happy about it at first.

“[E]arly on in the show the network got a letter from the Richard Nixon Library saying they weren’t pleased with his portrayal and would we consider not doing it,” Cohen told WIRED.

But a few years later, things changed.

“We didn’t really stop, however, because we liked it, but the strange thing is that … a few years later we got another letter from the Nixon Library saying can we provide some materials because they’re going to do an exhibit about Nixon in popular culture and they’d like to include Futurama, so they came around.”

8. WRITER KEN KEELER INVENTED A NEW THEOREM JUST FOR THE SHOW.

In addition to Cohen, Futurama is staffed by a roster of Ivy League graduates with backgrounds in science and math. But while writing one episode, the staff had created a plot so complex that the crew soon found itself stumped.

The episode was “The Prisoner of Brenda” from the sixth season, and it involved a brain-switching machine that could swap the minds of any two people that stepped into it. There was only one problem: once used, the machine couldn’t be used twice to swap the same two minds back to normal. This means numerous pairs of other characters would have to use the machine in a roundabout plan to restore everyone’s mind to their proper body.

Though the idea sounded like a winner to the writers, Cohen recalled that they soon realized they had to create a mathematical explanation that could get everyone’s mind back. It was like a nightmarish SAT problem for the staff. That is until writer Ken Keeler, who has a PhD in mathematics, created a completely unique theorem that proved this plot was possible.

“Ken comes in the next morning with a stack of paper and he said, ‘I’ve got the proof,’ and he had proven that no matter how mixed up people’s brains are, if you bring in two new people who have not had their brains switched, then everybody can always get their original brain back, including those two new people,” Cohen told WIRED. “So I was very excited about this, because you rarely get to see science, let alone math, be the hero of a comedy episode of TV.”

In the episode, the mathematical heroes that solve the problem are none other than the Harlem Globetrotters, who are among Earth’s elite intellectuals in the 31st century.

9. THE SHOW’S USE OF FORESHADOWING IS INTENSE.

Futurama touts more than just science and math cred; the show is also one of the more intricately plotted animated series of the past 20 years. The show is notorious for leaving morsels of foreshadowing in episodes that pay off weeks, months, or even years down the road.

Plot points like Fry being his own grandfather and Leela’s mutant heritage were all hinted at before they became reality, but the most obscure piece of foreshadowing came right in the pilot episode. It happens right as Fry is leaning back in the chair that would “accidentally” topple over and send him into the cryogenic chamber, leaving him thawed out in the 31st century. For a brief moment, a shadow flashed across the screen with no explanation—at the time, it likely went unnoticed by many viewers.

Fast forward to the season 4 episode “The Why of Fry,” and we learn that the shadow belonged to Nibbler, who had traveled back in time to 1999 to push Fry into the chamber because he was the key to stopping an alien invasion in the 31st century. It's just one example of the type of intricate world-building that the writers of the show poured into every episode.

10. EACH EPISODE TOOK ABOUT A YEAR TO COMPLETE.

Every episode of Futurama is a labor of love, with each joke and frame of animation put under intense scrutiny. Because of this, there is a lot of work involved in the show—about a year’s worth for each episode.

“It's usually somewhere in the vicinity of a year from the beginning of a Futurama episode to the day when you can see it on TV,” David Cohen told The Atlantic.

This starts with a story idea, which is then assigned to a writer for an outline and first draft. From there, the first draft is dissected in the writers’ room on a “word-by-word, scene-by-scene basis.”

Then it’s recorded by the actors—like an old-timey radio show, according to Cohen—and then it’s given to the animators. That process involves animatics and final animation, which can take around six months to finalize. 

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