Daria—a Beavis and Butt-head spin-off—starred Daria Morgendorffer as the reincarnation of Dorothy Parker, a teenager placed back into the world in cartoon form and forced to endure life with her family and a high school which, for the most part, did not catch on to the fact that she was making fun of them with her acerbic wit. The series ran for five seasons on MTV beginning in 1997. Here are some facts about the show even Sick, Sad World doesn’t know.
1. DARIA WAS NAMED AFTER A CLASSMATE OF MIKE JUDGE’S.
For Daria's look, Judge referenced Darlene Conner again. After others tried and failed to come up with a design Judge liked, John Garrett Andrews sketched the first drawing of who audiences would come to know as the future protagonist, on a paper plate left over from a lunch meeting. "It was a version somewhat inspired by my girlfriend senior year of high school, a smart but shy teenager with a sarcastic wit named Lindy Regan," admitted Andrews.
3. MIKE JUDGE WASN’T INVOLVED WITH DARIA.
Judge was busy working on King of the Hill and Beavis and Butt-head Do America when MTV asked for his blessing to create a spin-off for Daria. Judge told Andrews, “It’s okay with me as long as I don't have to do anything." Years later, Judge told The A.V. Club he “wasn't crazy about some of the people they hired,” and accused the network of “trying to show that they could do something without me. A normal network would never do that kind of stuff, unless you were a real a**hole to them. I feel like Beavis and Butt-head helped a lot of these people's careers, then they do this series without even consulting me on it. But I heard the show is pretty good. I think Glenn Eichler was a good choice to write on it. I've honestly never seen more than two or three minutes of it.”
4. THE THEME SONG WAS BY A BAND WHOSE ONLY ALBUM WAS RELEASED TWO YEARS BEFORE DARIA PREMIERED.
Daria co-creator Susie Lewis Lynn found a copy of Splendora's 1995 album, In the Grass, on her desk and asked the band to produce some demos. Out of the four demos, Lynn chose “You’re Standing On My Neck” to serve as Daria's theme song.
5. THE ORIGINAL PILOT WAS FIVE MINUTES LONG.
“Sealed With a Kick” was a pencil test to see what the show could be, for both the staff and for the network. The school was “Modern Day High,” and in very un-Daria-like fashion, Daria smiles not once, but twice (once when she gets the idea to trick school jock Kevin, then again when she's following through with the plan).
6. IT TOOK 35 ARTISTS TO MAKE EACH EPISODE.
The animation work was done in Korea. It took 10 months to produce each half-hour episode.
7. THE WRITERS GOT SOME OF THEIR TEENAGE LINGO FROM MAGAZINES.
Daria writer Neena Beeber told The New York Times that while it was easy for writers in their thirties to relate to the psychology of a disaffected 16-year-old girl, they sometimes pilfered language from sources they wouldn't normally pay attention to. "In the episode I just wrote ["The Lost Girls”], we used the word 'jiggy,'" Beeber said. "And this sounds pathetically white-bread and thirtysomething, but I think I found it on the editorial page of Jane magazine and thought: 'Huh. Why not use that, whatever that is?'"
8. A LOT OF THE CHARACTERS WROTE BLOG POSTS ON THE SHOW’S OFFICIAL WEBSITE.
Staff writer Anne Bernstein wrote most of the website material, which co-creator Glenn Eichler then edited. They were all considered canon for the show, including the reveals of Tiffany and Stacy’s last names (Blum-Deckler and Rowe, respectively). Posts included Daria’s “Net Nodule of Negativity,” Brittany’s cheerleading tips, Jane’s artwork gallery, and Quinn’s poetry.
9. THE VOICE OF DARIA WAS ALSO THE VOICE OF MTV’S DAILY UPCOMING SHOWS CALENDAR
Tracy Grandstaff, who voiced Daria, was also a cast member in the unaired pilot for The Real World, and a writer for MTV’s On-Air Promo department and later The Tom Green Show.
10. TOM WAS ADDED BECAUSE IT WASN’T BELIEVABLE FOR DARIA NOT TO HAVE A BOYFRIEND.
It also gave the writers new storylines to explore after three seasons of the show.
11. THE END OF THE SERIES FINALE WASN’T CANON.
The screen captures at the conclusion of the TV movie Is It College Yet? (2002) showed the main characters in scenes from the future, which included Daria and Jane becoming talk show hosts. "They were just for fun,” Eichler said. Back in 1997, Eichler joked to The Washington Post that Daria's future profession would be “a story editor of a cable show.”
12. A MYSTIK SPIRAL SPIN-OFF ALMOST HAPPENED.
A script was commissioned and written by Eichler. Then MTV closed its animation department, and the project was dropped. The script of the pilot was a feature on 2011's DVD box set. In what would have been the first episode, the band moves from Lawndale to Mirage, a “cool town” resembling Seattle, Austin, or the East Village, and tries their luck there.
13. THERE WAS TALK OF A REVIVAL.
When Beavis and Butt-headmade its comeback in 2011, Van Toffler—the then-head of Viacom, MTV's parent company—told reporters that he was in discussions with the creators of Daria about bringing the show back. There have been no updates since.
Forty years ago, on November 3, 1977, Pete's Dragon was released in theaters across America. Though it was a box office disappointment at the time, it has since turned into a beloved classic for the generations of audiences who grew up with Pete and Elliott. In honor of its 40th anniversary, check out these brazzle-dazzle facts about the Disney classic.
1. ELLIOTT WAS VOICED BY VETERAN ACTOR CHARLIE CALLAS.
Charlie Callas was a comedian known for his rubbery face long before Jim Carrey was around.
2. IT WAS HELEN REDDY’S FIRST LEADING ROLE IN A FILM.
You’d assume that working with an invisible dragon would be pretty challenging for anyone, let alone someone new to the film industry, but Helen Reddy enjoyed the experience. “I only had one actual scene with the dragon," she explained, "and during rehearsals I worked with a latex model of his head so that I would be familiar with the dimensions during filming.”
3. REDDY’S BALLAD IN THE MOVIE WAS NOMINATED FOR AN OSCAR.
Reddy's "Candle on the Water" was nominated for Best Original Song. It lost to “You Light Up My Life.”
4. DON BLUTH SUPERVISED ELLIOTT'S ANIMATION.
The project notoriously called for a lot of overtime hours, and a couple of years after Pete's Dragon was released, animator Don Bluth left Disney. He went on to animate and direct The Secret of NIMH (1982), An American Tail(1986), The Land Before Time (1988), and All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989), among others.
5. CALIFORNIA DOUBLED FOR MAINE.
The movie may look like it takes place in Maine, but neither the cast nor crew went anywhere near the Pine Tree State. The landscape scenes were courtesy of Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch in Canyon Country, California, while the Passamaquoddy town square and wharf area was constructed on the Disney Burbank Studio lot, partly from an old Western set. Even the harbor was constructed on-set.
6. ACTOR SEAN MARSHALL HAD NO FORMAL ACTING BACKGROUND.
Despite this, he beat hundreds of kids who auditioned to play Pete. “I think Disney always went for kind of the natural,” he said.
7. MARSHALL BECAME AN ALL-AMERICAN POLE VAULTER IN COLLEGE.
He partially attributes his athletic success to his role in the film, saying that the training he went through for the part, especially ballet, made him more of an athlete.
8. THE LIGHTHOUSE BEACON COULD BE SEEN FOR MILES.
Nora and Lampie’s lighthouse was equipped with a real lighthouse lens and a wickstand that could create a beacon that was visible for 18 to 24 miles. Constructed on California's Morro Bay, Disney had to obtain permission from the U.S. Coast Guard to actually light the lamp. There were plans to eventually move the lighthouse to Disneyland, but it became too deteriorated.
9. MICKEY ROONEY AND RED BUTTONS DID SOME AD-LIBBING.
The scene where Mickey Rooney and Red Buttons drunkenly walk to the cave to see Elliott turned into a massive ad-lib session, with each comedian trying to outdo the other with pratfalls and slapstick. “The director said, ‘That was fantastic, but we can’t have a 20-minute scene where you two are just walking through the cave. We’ve got to re-shoot it,’” Marshall recalled.
10. IT WAS A DISAPPOINTMENT AT THE BOX OFFICE.
The film only made $18 million in the U.S., which was a real disappointment to Disney. The studio was hoping to experience the same level of success it had had with another movie that mixed live action and animation—Mary Poppins.
11. THE SODIUM VAPOR PROCESS WAS USED TO MIX ANIMATION AND LIVE ACTION SCENES.
Invented by Ub Iwerks, the co-creator of Mickey Mouse, the process involved using a camera with a prism installed that separated the sodium vapor lights from the rest of the color. This projected a yellow light onto the screen behind the actor, which could later be subtracted out, and any background could be added in its place.
12. THERE’S A GOOFY YELL TUCKED AWAY IN THE FILM.
It’s when Dr. Terminus (Jim Dale) accidentally sends himself flying via harpoon. Listen for it at 1:13 below.
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 toldThe 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.