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The Live-Action Futurama Fan Episode You Probably Didn't Know Existed

Though we now know all moving parts are in place for the much-anticipated "Futurama" reboot, we have yet to be given an exact release date. A release year perhaps — 2023 — but not a release date. For some, the waiting is surely too much. After all, "Futurama" has notoriously been canceled not once but twice, with the most recent cancellation coming in 2013.

Even after that, the show has continued to garner adoration. "While Futurama certainly used its sci-fi premise to create some truly amazing moments," wrote Decider's Kayla Cobb in 2016, three years after its final episode, "it was the show's dedication to humanity and intelligence that made it remarkable."

Those of us who have missed tuning into the misadventures of Fry (Billy West), Bender (John DiMaggio), Leela (Katey Sagal), and the rest of the Planet Express crew have had to go without for almost a full decade. If this describes you, then you certainly aren't alone. In fact, one group of "Futurama" fans seem to have missed the show so much they decided to make their own live-action episode.

In 2016, Dan Lanigan endeavored to make a live-action Futurama

Filmmaker Dan Lanigan was driving with some friends in San Francisco. One of them, Kody Frederick, was dressed similarly to Fry. When Lanigan commented on this, Frederick started doing his best Fry imitation. Then, from the backseat comes his other friend, Andy Klimczak, doing his best Zoidberg. "And I went, 'Ah! I think that's what we've got to do,'" said Lanigan to Inverse, "a Futurama live-action fan film."

An endeavor like this surely came with a great many pitfalls. One of the benefits of "Futurama" being a cartoon is that it was easy to break the barriers of believability. No matter how absurd an alien character might be or how fantastical a cosmic event was, it was all rendered relatively easily through animation. Live-action presents practical challenges, mainly because writer and director Dan Lanigan wanted to use minimal CGI in production. "I wanted it to have a real feel to it," he told Inverse, "because CGI is great, but I feel like there is a quality of life that you have when you shoot a practical prop, especially if you have the right textures and stuff that you just brings it all together."

Fan-O-Rama is surprisingly well-done

Dan Lanigan was also fortunate to have many other friends and contacts in the business — particularly when it came to practical effects. This included one Academy Award-winning special effects and animation specialist in Martin Meunier, whose previous credits included "Starship Troopers," "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou," and "Coraline." Meunier also served as a producer for "Fan-O-Rama" (via IMDb). 

And so, in 2016, "Fan-O-Rama" was filmed and posted online. The half-hour short film revolves around the Planet Express crew's attempt to deliver a doomsday device to the planet Chapek 9 and Fry and Bender's attempt to win a lifetime supply of beer. As promised, it's about as live-action as is practically possible. "It's a very fully realized world," wrote Inverse's James Grebey, "and you'd be right to be dumbfounded that Lanigan and his friends actually pulled it all off as well as they did." Other reviews and commentary seemed to agree. Vox's Aja Romano was clearly blown away by how detailed everything looked. IndieWire's Liz Calvario was similarly impressed. It's a reminder of just how much is still possible in the realm of practical effects, not to mention the lengths many "Futurama" fans will go for more of their beloved show.