The penultimate episode of Futurama season 11 was “The Prince and the Product.” The theme of this anthology of stories tackled a new topic: toys. However, this is the seventh Futurama episode to adopt the three-story out-of-continuity anthology format. Here are all 7 Futurama anthology episodes (so far).

Please note: for ease of streaming, the season listings are based on the show’s organization on Hulu. 

Anthology of Interest I

Farnsworth (Billy West) shows off the Finglonger, an invention that extends the reach of one's index finger.

The first Futurama anthology episode is season 2’s “Anthology of Interest.” In the frame for this episode, Hubert Farnsworth (Billy West) uses the Fing-Longer to turn on the “What If” Machine. The “What If” Machine can answer a “What If” question with a short video simulation. First, Bender Bending Rodriguez (John DiMaggio) asks, “What if I were 500 feet tall?” Next, Turanga Leela (Katey Sagal) asks, “What if I were a little more impulsive?” And finally, Philip J. Fry (West) asks, “What if I never came to the future?” 

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Leela’s response includes the first appearance of Scruffy the Janitor (David Herman) as a Planet Express employee. Scruffy subsequently appears in the frame between Leela and Fry’s stories. Then, Fry’s response includes appearances by recurring anthology guest stars Al Gore and Stephen Hawking, and recurring series guest star Nichelle Nichols.

At the conclusion of this episode, it is revealed that the entire episode was actually a “What If” Machine response to Farnsworth’s question, “What if I had invented the Fing-Longer?” Later, in the season 3 episode “The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz,” Farnsworth is revealed to have invented the Fing-Longer.

Anthology of Interest II

Fry (Billy West) speaks with General Colin Pac-Man (David Herman) in the Pentagon's War Room.

The second Anthology of Interest, season 4’s “Anthology of Interest II,” follows the same formula as the first. However, for the second question the “What If” Machine works in a strange way, and the third story is a hallucination caused by Leela getting wanged on the head after asking her question.

But first, Bender asks, “What if I were human?” Just like in “Anthology of Interest I,” the outcome of this question is fatal for Bender. Next, Fry asks, “What if life were more like a video game?” And finally, Leela asks “What if I found my true home?” However, the head wang causes her to hallucinate a Wizard of Oz parody in which she ends up succeeding Mom (Tress MacNeille) as the Wicked Witch. Later, Leela’s canonical lineage is revealed in the subsequent season 4 episode, “Leela’s Homeworld.”

The Futurama Holiday Spectacular

Bender (John DiMaggio) as a nutcracker, Amy Wong (Lauren Tom) wearing a Santa hat, and Hermes Conrad (Phil LaMarr), all appear in the Futurama Holiday Spectacular anthology episode.

The next Futurama anthology episode is season 7’s “The Futurama Holiday Spectacular.” The frame for this episode is a series of promotions for the special’s fictional paid advertiser, Gunderson’s Unshelled Nuts. Three holiday-themed stories respectively feature a song about Xmas, Robannukah, and Kwanzaa. In each of the three stories, the PlanEx crew meets a horribly gruesome fate.

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At the conclusion of this anthology, Gore’s head appears to assure the audience the crew will return intact next season. However, he also falsely claims he will appear in the next season of the show in the recurring role of “Captain Lance Starman.”

Reincarnation

Pixelated versions of Amy Wong (Lauren Tom) and Stephen Hawking (himself) in Futurama's anthology episode "Reincarnation."

Futurama season 8 concludes with the anthology episode “Reincarnation.” This episode begins with a cold open introduction hosted by “God.” God intones, “A wise man once said that nothing ever really dies, it just gets reborn in a different form. Then, he died. Standby for reincarnation.” The anthology consists of the crew being reborn in three different styles of animation. In each instance, the plot is built around a visual element that cannot be conveyed due to the limitations of the respective animation style.

In the black-and-white “Colorama,” Fry creates a new color, totally distinct from any existing color or combination of colors. Then, in “Future Challenge 3000,” Farnsworth discovers the smallest unit of matter, but its complexity is rendered moot because it is depicted as a single pixel. Finally, in “Action Delivery Force,” the fluid movement of the climactic dance performed by an anime version of a shell-less Doctor Zoidberg (West) is subverted when he appears only as a static image during the dance.

Naturama

Fry (Billy West) and Leela (Katey Sagal) as Galapagos birds in "Naturama."

Futurama season 9’s anthology episode, “Naturama,” begins with the regular theme song before giving way to a sub-theme song for a “Mutual of Omicron’s Wild Universe” special about Earth wildlife. This alludes to “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” In each of the three specials, the PlanEx crew (and friends) are reborn as different animals. The episode’s narrator (Phil LaMarr) pays homage to Morgan Freeman‘s narration of the documentary March of the Penguins.

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In the first story, the crew are reborn as salmon and complete a lifecycle together. Next, Farnsworth is cast into the role of the real-world last-of-his-subspecies Galapagos tortoise, “Lonesome George.” In a sad aside, George died two months before the episode aired. The third story sees seal Bender at the top of the heap when the cast becomes elephant seals, a proposition that leads to a very messy end for seal Kif (Maurice LaMarche) after he attempts to “sneaky-male” mate with seal Amy (Lauren Tom).

Saturday Morning Fun Pit

The Futurama and Friends Saturday Morning Fun Pit anthology episode title card.

In season 10’s “Saturday Morning Fun Pit,” President Richard M. Nixon’s head (West) and Vice President headless body of Spiro Agnew (LaMarche) sit down to watch Saturday morning cartoons. First up is “Bendee Boo,” a parody of Scooby Doo. This segment features frequent Futurama guest star George Takei. Plus, as an interesting side note, while he doesn’t appear in this episode, Futurama‘s recurring character Nibbler is voiced by Frank Welker. Welker has been the voice of Scooby Doo‘s Fred since the show’s inception in 1969.

However, Nixon’s head’s morning is soon interrupted by pushback from angry parents on the White House lawn. In the second segment, the PlanEx crew become mascots for an “educational” cartoon whose sole purpose is advertising a sugary cereal, Purpleberry Puffs. The segment is interrupted by multiple commercials for said cereal. In the final segment, Nixon’s head uses his audio tape editing equipment to remake a G.I. Joe parody, “G.I. Zapp,” into a “more family-friendly” cartoon. According to a narrator at the conclusion of “Saturday Morning Fun Pit,” this episode is followed by six hours of golf.

The Prince and the Product

The PlanEx crew as Round Wheels car toys.

Photo: Matt Groening/Hulu

In Futurama season 11’s anthology episode, “The Prince and the Product,” the frame story takes the form of a PlanEx delivery to the King of Space. During the visit, Leela falls under a “science spell” that makes her fall in love with the Prince of Space. However, the ensuing melodrama is overwhelmed by three “ad breaks” which see the PlanEx crew reincarnated as different types of toys. In the conclusive frame segment, Fry and Leela reconcile after a remote Farnsworth reveals the ersatz nature of Leela’s infatuation.

But before that, the crew becomes Windos wind-up toys in the anthology’s first story. Thematically, this story explores the confrontation of one’s mortality and explores the idea of literal reincarnation. Next, when the crew becomes Round Wheels toy cars, it is revealed car Zoidberg has a secret. He’s a serial killer who has some connection to a car-themed The Ring video parody. Finally, the crew is reborn as both rubber ducks and Eggulon egg toys (or in the case of Fry and Leela, both rubber ducks and Eggulon egg toys).

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This Futurama anthology episode is notable for having a frame with a plot that does not signal the anthology segments it contains. However, the comparatively substantive “advertisements” may represent a sardonic commentary on the relationship between TV show plots and the advertisements for which those shows are a vehicle. Plus, we get to see Bender reborn as the PlanEx ship in the final frame segment. Neat!

All these Futurama anthology episodes are currently available for streaming on Hulu.

This article was originally published in September 2023. 

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