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The Animation Homages You Missed In Futurama's Openings

The classic animated science fiction show Futurama has always packed its episodes full of background details, hidden references, and obscure Easter eggs. No matter what the episode, it seems creator Matt Groening and writer/developer David X. Cohen are always willing to permit jokes that no less than five people will really understand.

Don't believe it? The minds behind Futurama are famously "over-educated" for their pay grade. According to YouTuber kaptainkristian, there are more brains in their writing room than you'd think. In total, they have, "seven Master's degrees, three PhDs, and over 50 collective years at Harvard." 

The big brains behind Futurama's jokes have never been shy about flexing their academic expertise in their comedy. Episodes are chocked full of mathematical or scientific puns and gags. It's not an understatement to say you'd need more than a math tutor to understand their equation-based jokes. However, Futurama's creators are also animators, and they treat their art the same way they treat their science.

How Futurama references classic animation

According to The Infosphere, a good amount of Futurama episodes contain a short snippet of classic animation in the opening sequence. Right before the episode proper begins, the opening sequence shows Leela flying the Planet Express ship directly into one of the many digital billboards in New New York City's skyline. At first, the billboard always shows the names of the show's creators and developers. However, it also shows mere moments of a clip from age-old cartoons.

Shows referenced in the clips include Betty Boop, Daffy Duck, The Simpsons, and even itself. For the most part, however, the creators stuck to using clips made during the first half of the 20th century. Similar animations were also used for the series' straight-to-DVD movies. Unfortunately, as Futurama grew into its later seasons, the classic billboard animations became less and less frequent. Only two episodes in the entire final season have proper billboard animations.

But that's not the end of the show's many animation homages

Despite lacking as many billboard scenes as the earlier seasons, season 6 had a specific episode which went out of its way to reference three other styles of animation. The season finale, "Reincarnation," is one of the show's few segmented episodes. Instead of a single story stretched across the entire runtime, "Reincarnation" shows us three unique vignettes.

The first of these is most directly related to the billboard scenes. "Reincarnation's" first vignette is completely animated in the same style of animation used by Disney and other animation studios during the early-mid 1900s. Classic cartoons, such as Steamboat Willie, act as direct influences for animators.

Likewise, the episode's second vignette pays homage to the early 8-bit era of arcades and home video games. This isn't the first time Futurama has shown their love for old-school video games, but it is the most effort they've ever put into it. This entire section is animated entirely in pixel art.

The episode presents its final vignette in the classic anime styles of the '80s and '90s. Many of the genre's quirks are poked out through this section, from the rampant recycling of animation sequences to the mismatched lip-synching on all the characters. It's a fitting finale to an episode that knows animation very well and isn't too afraid to make fun of it at times.