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August 29th, 2009 No comments

Categories: Weird Tags: , ,

In Which I Am Greatly Relieved On Behalf Of A Cartoon Dog

December 5th, 2007 No comments

Last week saw the release of Bender’s Big Score, the first of four direct-to-DVD animated films based on the defunct Futurama series. Misunderstood by Fox TV execs who quickly yanked it from its primo post-Simpsons, pre-X-Files slot (in favor of that chancre on TV’s lip Family Guy), Futurama was shuffled off to scheduling hell where it was constantly pre-empted by football. Happily, the combination of cable rerun ratings and DVD sales figures have (as was also the case with Family Guy) given it another chance.

When Futurama shared Sunday nights with The Simpsons, I had no doubt which was the better show. Not only was the writing fresher (remember, this was well after The Simpsons‘ heyday) and the computer-assisted animation more spectacular, but Futurama added a loose story arc and a mixture of comedy and pathos.

Nowhere did the latter come into play more than the notable episode “Jurassic Bark,” in which Fry–a human trapped 1,000 years in the future due to a cryogenic freezer accident–discovers the fossilized remains of Seymour, the stray dog he once befriended in the 20th Century. The technology exists to clone Seymour but at the moment of activation, Fry says no. Having learned that the dog lived some twelve years past the time that Fry was deep-frozen, he realizes that he was only a small part of Seymour’s life and decides to let him rest in peace. However, we soon learn what he never knew: that Seymour never stopped waiting for Fry to return. In a long, sad montage, we see him standing ever vigilant outside the pizza parlor where Fry worked, aging over the years, and finally laying down to sleep.

As good as that particular episode is, I can never watch it again. It was as if the animators wrenched my heart from my chest and stamped it to bits on the sidewalk, and that was before I lost my first pet earlier this year. Even typing the above description makes me misty.

There are a lot of reasons I enjoyed Bender’s Big Score, but the big one is a welcome piece of revisionism regarding the fate of Seymour. The complicated time-travel plot has multiple versions of Fry returning to the 20th Century, one of them deciding to stay behind. We see Fry return to the pizza parlor, stopping to pat the patient Seymour on the head. We never view much interaction between the two, and the plot has present-day Fry spending a couple of years away from home searching for a narwhal (don’t ask), yet the happy implication is that Seymour didn’t spend all that time alone after all.

Granted, we do get to witness the real reason for Seymour’s fossilization (hint: it involves Bender), but I still find it oddly comforting to know that this dog that never really existed outside an animation cel knew a little happiness first.