Don’t fret, my fellow Americans. One day soon, this DVD will also be ours. Oh yes – it will be ours. Here's Reed:
Hey Herc, absolutely love the column and thought you might be interested in a review of the first season of Futurama on DVD which I got in the UK today (no US release yet I'm afraid) as I know you're a fan:
Ah, so the day was finally here... With clammy hands and sweaty brow I made my way into my local Woolworths to purchase the eagerly awaited First Season DVD set of Futurama! Despite the RRP being £39.99 Woolworths had it for a Slurmtastic £34.99! could my day get any better? I should think so! Opening the DVD you get a sense that alot of effort was put into the outside packaging. The outside cover slips off over the top to reveal a cut out box with the three DVDs inside. One thing about the plastic cover is it's easily scratched so the constant pulling off and on might unfortunately wear away the design that has been printed on the inside. It's a great design though which reflects the cool and great designs of the series it self. There are two clear 'portholes' on either side too, showing you the outside of the box it covers. The box is covered with a lush design of the city with it's many streams of traffic, flying cats, and large billboards: very cool. Unfortunately you then have three thin plastic DVD cases, the tarditional sort you would get with film releases, which have been slotted into the box. Would a fold out box set like the Simpsons been to hard? These have great drawings of Fry, Leela and Bender wizzing through the NNY tube system on the spines of them but unfortunately have a completely different style of cover. You may have seen it on various sites recently, it's the designs which appeared some time ago on Video releases in Germany(or some other European country, I can't remember). While it's an ok cover, it feels completely out of place from the rest of the box and does spoil the over all effect. The backs are ok though and give brief over views of each episode. The inside of the cases look great and the discs themselves have great scenes of a couple of characters on them. The great thing about it is when you take out the disc there is a picture of what happens next in the scene behind it!
On to the discs: I won't go into the content of the episodes because by now you'll have made up your mind wether you like this season or not and nothing I say('It Rules!' etc...) is going to change your mind.
Once you get past FOX's annoying legal statements for about 10 countries you get to the opening menus which are basilcally long shots of NNY with either Fry, Bender or Leela in the foreground. While these are way better than the bland menus on the Simpsons set, it's still static and has a soundtrack in the background of busy traffic which soon becomes annoying. One very cool feature of the menus is that when you click and item the text changes to the alien alphabet briefly, just before you go to the next screen. The other screens are still shots of a screen from the Planet Express bulding or elswhere and and have nice, faint reflections of different characters behind the menu options. The chapter selection screens are the best though as they are covered in little clippings of items or scrawly to-do lists which may well have come from each episode. These are a great touch and well worth taking a look at because, well, they're damn funny!
The episodes themselves are presented in their original 4:3 ratio with a dolby stereo soundtrack. The picture quality for the traditionally animated parts of the show come across clear, with no smearing or pixelation. The blacks, a large problem on the Simpsons releases, appear solid and retain the depth they were meant to have. Even a shot in 'A Flight to Remember' with a black-haired man against the background of space is not that bad despite one of the commentators pointing out that they shouldn't have done it. Also, the blurring effect which bizzarely occurred when fading in from black on the Simpsons release is no where to be seen here. But it's in Futurama's famous 3D sequences that the format really shows it's worth producing fantasticly clear and dazzelling viewing that really show off the quality of the work the 3D animators do. The battle sequence in 'When Aliens Attack' is the most obvious example and really is a real feast for the eye balls.
Then we come to the sound track, which is(for normal stereo) quite excellent! The sounds come across crisp and clear the depth is fantastic. Nothing shows of the quality of sound more than the remixed version of the theme for 'Mars University' which zings away like it nothing else(incidently, the reason why the idea of multiple remixes was dropped was because the remix didn't come across as well on normal TV. Now it get's a proper showing, as it was meant to be heard.
The extras are quite a mixed bunch really with contents ranging from great(the picture gallery and commentaries) to not so great(the featurette) The script is great and contains many funny scribbles by David X Cohen. Unfortunately there's only one script. Why? The storyboard is very good too and gives an idea of how much of each show is planned out shot for shot. The animatic is also great. The stills gallery, though, is fantastic and contains a massive 64(I think) development sketches which are fascinating! The deleted scenes are cool too but, seeing as they were cut from the episodes for specific reasons, don't expect anything amazingly funny. The real gem of the extras though, which makes up for the lack of a decent behind the scenes documentary, are the commentaries. These bustle with humour and brilliant insights into the series. What comes across strongly, though, is that these guys are so enthusiastic about the show! There's usually at least 5 people commenting on each episode while they're not commenting on the making of the show they're cracking jokes at each other, the show, FOX or any one else they fancy. Out of all the DVD commentaries I've heard these are by far the best. The real stand outs on them are the inexhaustable John DiMaggio and the ever informative and witty David X Cohen. The best commentaries are probably 'When Aliens Attack' and 'Hell is Other Robots' but they are all great.
Basically, if you call yourself a true Futurama fan you NEED this set! Is it better than the Simpsons release? Yup! Is the translation to DVD great? You betcha! Is it worth robbing a bank to get the money? maybe not Is there room for improvement? definately! Is a good start? Oh YES!!
- Content: 9/10
- Picture: 8/10
- Sound: 9/10
- Extras: 8/10
- Value for money: 8/10
Futurama season 1 is on general release from 30th century Fox home entertainment in all good stockists priced £39.99 or less.
hope it's of some interest:)
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