One of the more subtle running jokes in the show is that in the future, owls have replaced pigeons and rats as being pests. If you look carefully in many episodes, you can see owls pecking at food on the ground or coming out of mouse holes.
At the beginning of the show, during the opening credits and theme song, there is always something different displayed in text at the bottom of the screen. At the very end of the theme song, there is always something different displayed on the screen before the ship crashes into it. This is reminiscent of Matt Groening's cult phenomenon of The Simpsons (1989), as there are three distinctly varying elements in the intro music as well. (Bart's chalkboard writings, the method of the family sitting down on the couch and Lisa's saxophone solo as she leaves band practice.)
Fry's first name, Philip, is a tribute to Phil Hartman, who was originally cast to do the voice of Zapp Brannigan. After Hartman's murder Billy West decided that the voice of Zapp Brannigan should be reminiscent of Hartman's own voice.
Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth is named after the inventor Philo T. Farnsworth, one of the pioneers of television, whose invention was premiered at the 1939 New York World's Fair, along with the Futurama exhibit.
J is Matt Groening's favorite middle initial in tribute to Jay Ward, creator of Rocky and Bullwinkle (Bullwinkle J. Moose) and other classics; hence the J in Philip J. Fry, Hubert J. Farnsworth, Cubert J. Farnsworth, Homer J. Simpson, Abraham J. Simpson, and Bart J. Simpson.
The hieroglyphics in the opening titles read: "Tasty Human Burgers". There are also two other examples of that alphabet (one just on the left a few frames after the ship passes through the R, and one during a quick pan to the right).
Lines of an unknown language, similar to hieroglyphics can be seen in varying locations throughout the intro song. According to Matt Groening, the glyphs *do* mean something, and it's up to loyal viewers to figure them out.
Bender's antenna has been used as the following: an antenna, a timer button for his internal digital camera, a beer pump lever, a measure of his manhood, a popcorn butter dispenser lever, a pager vibrator, a flushing lever, a cooking timer, an alarm clock snooze button (accidentally by Fry), a voice mail alert light, a voice mail "delete all" button, "little bender", a cap for a beer still, and an audio tape dispenser button.
According to Matt Groening, viewers were able to decipher the alien language that is sometimes seen in the background the same night as the pilot episode aired. The only primer for the code in that episode was a sign that read "Drink Slurm". The sign appeared once with the word "Drink" written in the alien code and once in plain English. This resulted in the producers creating a second, more complex alien code to be seen in the background of later episodes.
The show was canceled in May of 2002. The last first-run episode of the show aired on August 10, 2003. In 2006, Billy West announced on his website that 26 new episodes had been ordered, but then later retracted the announcement, stating that series co-creator David X. Cohen had corrected him "with a hammer". Instead, four feature-length direct-to-DVD releases were produced. Comedy Central later brought the show back in June of 2010.
The character Cubert (the Professor's clone) was initially conceived as being somebody who would point out all of the show's inconsistencies and plot holes. The idea was that he would be the voice of obsessed fans that paid far too much attention to detail. Unfortunately, the writers couldn't figure out a way to introduce him until Season 2, and aside from his debut episode he never took on his original intended role.
Leela's full name is Turanga Leela. This is a reference to French composer Olivier Messiaen's "Turangalîla-Symphonie" (1948), an 80 minute work in ten movements for piano, ondes Martenot and orchestra. The name "Turangalîla" derives from two Sanskrit words which may be translated a number of ways, including "love song".
Writer/producer David X. Cohen is a Dungeons and Dragons player. References to the game have been included in the show, including a cameo by D&D creator E. Gary Gygax, and 'Al Gore' referring to himself as a "10th level vice-president". At least two D&D monsters have made appearances as well: a Rust Monster at a veterinarian's office, and a beholder appearing as a guard in the bureaucratic building. The third straight-to-DVD Futurama feature film, Futurama: Bender's Game (2008), also uses a lot of D&D references, and is, in fact, hugely based on the game. The credits tribute the film to the memory of Mr. Gygax.
In one episode it is said that they can translate the second alien language, but only into beta crypt 3, a language so complex that it is even less likely to understand, this is an inside joke, because the second alien language is in fact beta crypt 2 with symbols replacing the initial alphabet.
When he started working on Futurama, David S. Cohen (I) joined the Writer's Guild. Since there was already a David S. Cohen in the Writer's Guild, he changed the S to an X because he felt it was more "sci-fi-ish."
The show went through only four production cycles, but not all the episodes from cycle four were aired during the fourth broadcast season. These were held over for a fifth season before cancellation took effect. The original DVDs were not released in seasons, but rather according to the production cycles. For this reason, there were only four volumes, though all the original episodes were included.
As the opening credits cut to the final shot, just before the Planet Express Ship crashes, several characters are seen moving through one of the transport tubes. The very first guy to go through is reading a news paper, the headline reads, "Moon pie fight in Mars Bar."
Zapp Brannigan's portrait in his captain's quarters is based on the famous White House portrait of US President John F. Kennedy. They are both in the same distinctive pose, arms crossed against the chest and solemnly looking downward.
Originally aired on Fox, and canceled in season 5. The last episode aired August 2003. In June 2009, Comedy Central announced that it will revive the show with new episodes. The first episode of season 6 then aired in June 2010.
Billy West was inspired by Lou Jacobi's performance in the Diary of Anne Frank when he was creating the character of Zoidberg. He imagined Zoidberg to have Yiddish mannerisms because of the last name. He also said he was attracted to the idea of a doctor that was poor.
DVD EASTER EGG: Season 4, disc 3. Go into the sub menu for "Where no fan has gone before". Highlight the option "HOME". Press "RIGHT" on the DVD remote to display the Planet Express ship in the menu. Press "PLAY" to start a behind the scenes video.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
In Volume 4 DVD an Easter Egg can be found by clicking on the sandwiches in the fridge. It reveals a long alien message, the message reads: "This DVD includes a specially encoded Easter egg which you are now meticulously translating from an alien language because you have no life and are a compulsive nerdlinger, how sad. It's especially sad if you don't speak English and you have to translate the alien language into English and then into your own tongue and you come upon a word like nerdlinger which really isn't a word at all, but still aptly describes someone who would actually translate such a word twice and those of you who are reading this translation on a Futurama newsgroup aren't any better. We lurk on those newsgroups and we know what nerdlingers you guys are, too, of course, you're also probably our biggest fans, which is sad in its own way, but since you went to all this trouble to translate an Easter egg we do owe you something, so here's a secret about the show. The writers, producers, directors, and most of the actors who worked on the show are all nerdlingers too."