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July 25, 2009

'Futurama' panel lends support to voice cast

Futurama A few of the voice actors joined Matt Groening signing autographs in the exhibit hall, suggesting producer-voice talent relations are still congenial despite the stand-off over salary. As previously noted, bet on this dispute getting resolved...

By Steven Zeitchik

"Futurama," the property that features a gallery of bizarre creatures, was forced to address the elephant in the ballroom when writers convened at a Comic-Con panel Saturday.

Exec producer Matt Groening came right out at the event for the Comedy Central movie series and addressed the labor standoff between studio 20th Century Fox Television and "Futurama" voice actors.

"We love our 'Futurama' actors. And we hope that Fox and the actors can come to an agreement as soon as possible," he said.

The actors -- a group that includes Billy West, Katey Sagal and John DiMaggio -- are in a dispute with the studio over contract and wage terms, a battle that threatens the future of the series.

Because of the dispute, the panel featured none of the actors, prompting exec producer David X. Cohen to slyly note the panel only contained writers "for some reason." He later added an optimistic, if tentative, "What is going on right now is business. Hope for the best."

Before they took questions, the panelists also tried an odd format -- they read segments from past shows off script pages that were projected on screens in the hall. While they made no comment on the reasons for the unusual format, their flat, almost robotic tone could be interpreted as a subtle bid of support for the voice actors.

The panel also saw Groening comment on what's been a perennial topic for the enduring TV property -- a potential movie.

Groening sounded a supportive note for the idea, noting, "We'd love to do a 'Futurama' theatrical feature. It's really fun to see 'Futurama' on the big screen."

The larger question, though, is whether there continues to be fun on the small screen.

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