Unsure of how to market the film after disastrous test screenings, Twentieth Century Fox sat on the nearly completed film for over a year, before finally giving it an unusually small release in only six markets (skipping over major markets such as New York City). The release was done with little to no marketing.
The premise of this movie, someone waking up several hundred years in the future and finding that people have gotten much more stupid due to an expanding population and a lack of evolutionary pressure, was previously used in "The Marching Morons", a short story written in 1951 by Cyril M. Kornbluth.
Although the marketing campaign for this film went unnoticed, 20th Century Fox licensed the "Brawndo" drink for sale. The drink itself has gained a cult following, though it is no longer available for purchase at www.brawndo.com.
In addition to concerns about how to market the film, Twentieth Century Fox also grew weary of the film's frequent, harsh critiques of recognizable corporations. Studio executives wished to shuffle the movie to DVD shelves as quickly and quietly as possible. The film's contract, however, stipulated that it had to receive a theatrical release. The studio met the terms of the contract, but provided no marketing for the film, released it in an unusually small number of cinemas in select cities, and pulled the film in all markets after only one week. So little effort was put into showing the film in theaters, that some of the few cinemas that screened the film were forced to promote it as "Untitled Mike Judge Project" in their lists of coming attractions.
In addition to the Fuddrucker's gag, early drafts of the script had another scene showing the devolution of sports, with a stadium's marquee sign changing from "Championship Baseball" to "Extreme Baseball" (essentially just a bat fight), to finally just "Fire".
When Joe is being "rehabilitated" via a demolition derby, the announcer declares his opponents are going to hit him with The Malachi Crunch. This is a direct reference to Happy Days (1974). The Malachi Brothers were Fonzie's enemies, who faced him in a demolition derby and whose killer move was The Malachi Crunch.
Frito's last name, "Pendejo", is a Spanish insult which means pubic hair but coveys the same sentiment as "dumbass", his full name "frito pendejo" means fried pubic hair or "fried dumbass". It might also be a reference to Fritos corn chips' ill-conceived and Mexicanphobic "Frito Bandito" advertising character.
Writer and Director Mike Judge came up with the idea for the film while he was visiting Disneyland with his family and saw two mothers, with kids in strollers, fighting and cursing at each other. He thought it would be horrible if humanity was like this in the future.
The main character's name is "Joe Bauers", who is made the Secretary of the Interior, charged with trying to solve the issue of crops not growing in the future. "Bauer" is the German word for "farmer".
Early on, when the narrator explains how the military's hibernation experiment went awry, they show stills of newspaper clippings - about the arrest of Officer Collins and the pimp Upgrayedd. In the clipping for Upgrayedd, it mentions that he'd been charged with "420 crimes". The number "420" is visible in several spots in the article, and is slang for marijuana.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
When President Joe Bauers is giving his inauguration speech he raises both middle fingers over his head. This is based on President Richard Nixon's typical hand gesture of both hands raised in a "V for Victory" sign.