Western Animation: Futurama and Jurassic Bark

It was a bunch of month’s ago when I talked about the Boondocks, an American cartoon series that focuses on comedy but has its moment of deep intellectual themes presented by the main character, Huey. Huey represents the “smart” and “politcally” aware African American who plays the straight man and probably the only “logical” thinker in the entire show. On the flipside, Huey’s brother Riley is the exact opposite. He only follows trends set by mainstream african-american and has no “real thought” on the fate of the race. It’s an honestly true and hilarious look into the community (Of course, this is me just talking through the show, I have no say for any of this).

So enough about the Boondocks, maybe I’ll talk about another signifcant episode but on this day of November 17th I wish to address another American animation that caught my attention, that series is Futurama. 10 years ago on this day when one of the more “favored” episodes was released.

Like the Boondocks, Futurama definitely seems like a hilarious comedy (that spawned several memes) with no essential “deep” meaning behind its scenes. While I can personally vouch that most episodes are satirical, political commentaries, and parodies, some episodes are very different than others. One of the handful of episodes that do this is the 7th episode of the 4th season: Jurassic Bark.

Unlike the Boondocks though, there isn’t really an underlying theme in a lot of the episodes, or in the series itself so I’m not going to force the exposition on you. Actually, I kinda do, lemme just say what the series is about and what makes this episode just that emotional. Futurama’s art style is recognizably distinguished by the same style as the Simpsons, and of course, they share the same creator: Matt Groening

Futurama follows the story/antics of Philip J Fry, a pizza delivery boy who shows up to a joke address in a cryogenics lab during New Years Eve on 1999. Celebrating the festivities on his own, he accidentally stumbles into a cryo-chamber and becomes frozen for 1000 years. When he wakes up, he finds a completely different New York. As the series progresses, he finds work at Planet Express, a delivery company founded by his great (x10? 9?) nephew. He also befriends the one eyed Leela and the fan favorite robot Bender (AND ZOIBERG)

So even with a humgonous change in times, why isn’t there a deeper meaning to this series coming from our man Fry? Well to be frank, he’s an idiot and the emotional and appreciative nature of the show plays off his idiocy and the screwup antics done by the rest of the cast. Plus it’s a comedy first, emotional backstory second.

So let me shut up and get to Jurassic Bark now. WARNING: There’s going to present time info and flashbacks over and over.

The episode begins, like all the episodes, in a non-serious matter as Fry and Bender practice a magician routine. When Bender throws away a newspaper prop, Fry notices that scientists have unearthed the ruins of a 20th century pizzeria he worked at. While trying to prove to the museum visitors that he knows exactly what everything in the store is, he finds a fossilized mold of a dog. Flash back into 1997 (2 years before Fry leaves), Fry delivers a pizza to yet another fake address and ends up eating the pizza in an alleyway. There he meets this mangy dog who eats some pizza with him. Using the fake name that he delivered the pizza to, Fry names the dog Seymour. Returning to the present, Fry tries to take the remains of the dog but gets kicked out by the guards. Fry tries to protest against the museum, and we head back into the flashback again. Seymour becomes the quote on quote “mascot” of the pizza place, both adored by Fry and the old man who runs the pizza place. In the present, the protest works in a way that brings out the museum curator. Through some trivial information given by Fry, he gets his dog back. Fry heads back to Planet Express and shares the excitement to everyone that he’s going to get his dog back through the Professor’s inventions. Bender see’s the dog as an usurper to his best friend position in Fry’s place and hilariously gets jealous. The machine however malfunctions a bit and we sit back to see the flashback. On the fateful night of December 31st 1999, Fry gets a pizza order. Seymour as if knowing what’s going to happen tries to stop him, but the old man wants to keep Fry on the run (also telling him that he has no one to celebrate New Years with). Of course, this delivery brings Fry to the cryo-lab where he gets frozen. In the present, Fry prepares his apartment room with collars and every other object needed to take care of a dog, Bender isn’t as pleased. Back in the past, it’s January 1st of the new millenium and Fry’s family isn’t as concerned as Seymour when they find that Fry hasn’t returned from work.

In the final stages, the Professor readies the machine (underground near some lava) to perfectly clone Seymour’s body and memories back in the flesh. Bender keeps trying to pull Fry away from his dog, but gets outright rejected. Out of rage, Bender throws the dog fossil into the pool of lava while Fry watches in horror. Bender laughs in his victory but Fry doesn’t seem to have the same logic as he does. Bender see’s the atrocity he has done to his only friend and plunges into the lava to retrieve the dog (both of them being made from ‘dolomite’). In the past, Seymour spends the entire day of January 1st looking for Fry. He finally tracks him down to the Cyro lab with Fry’s family behind him. He’s the only one capable of recognizing the frozen body of Fry in one of the cryo chambers. Seymour gets leashed back to the house. In the present, Bender returns with the dog fossil and we prepare for its revival. The professor’s scan shows however, that Seymour had lived until he was 15, 12 more years after Fry had been frozen. Fry proceeds to stop the cloning process. In his mind, Seymour lived a happy life after Fry had left him. He thinks that Seymour had better memories than he had shared with him and he probably has forgotten him. Fry tearfully says goodbye to his companion and the crew ascends back to ground level

But Fry’s words could have never been more wrong. We see that Seymour has done NOTHING but wait for Fry’s return for the next 12 years of his life. Seymour waits in front of the pizza place as Fry had ordered him through the chilling air of winter, the pleasent shine of spring, the heat of summer, and the cool breeze of autumn waiting for his owner. He even outlives the pizza business that he represented in the neighborhood. Finally, Seymour lies down and closes his eyes.

Similar to the case of Boondocks, I never expected such a blow from a comedy series like this. While we somewhat feel some sense of loss in Fry’s behalf, we rarely get emotional because he’s usually a moron. The Boondocks episode dealt with death (in a sense that Riley drew the wedding photo of his granddad and his late wife), the entire thing was “realized” by our cast. This episode did indeed tugged at my heartstings a good deal but the thing was, no one in cast could relate to Fry’s experience and sadness. An unexpected plus to the episode was that Fry’s statement about Seymour was completely wrong. The irony of Fry’s words both filled with sincere love for his dog and slight fear of rejection turned him away from a heartfelt reunion.

Like I have stated in the Boondocks episode appreciation, I thank you Matt Groening and David Cohen, thanks for making me cry while watching tv.

That’s all the time I have for now folks. Weekly updates will come soon and I will have another one of these talks in due time (here’s a hint, it’s on the green month of March)

3 thoughts on “Western Animation: Futurama and Jurassic Bark”

  1. Nothing has made me cry quite like Jurassic Bark. I’ve got friends who flat-out refuse to watch it (again), despite loving the series as a whole.

    Even though you know it’s coming, the episode hits all the right feels.

    Also, to hell with the movie and how it revisited Seymour!

    1. There’s only one episode of Futurama that makes me cry harder than this, but that will come in March (but that’s a big hint on what it is anyway)

      Futurama and cartoon series of its calibur are dying out, I wish I had more time to watch some episodes again on TV.

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