The First Draft Of Futurama: Bender's Game Was Even Less Down To Earth  

The plot of the 2008 "Futurama" movie "Bender's Game" is massively complicated. When the alcoholic robot Bender (John DiMaggio) tries playing "Dungeons & Dragons" for the first time, his imagination gets a little carried away and he, like Don Quixote, begins to believe that he is actually a knight errant named Titanius Anglesmith. In a fit of fantasy, Bender scoops fistfuls of dark matter into his abdominal cavity. In the world of "Futurama," dark matter is actually a solid substance pooped out by an alien species called Nibblonians, of which Nibbler (Frank Welker), Leela's (Katey Sagal) pet, is a notable leader. Dark matter is used as starship fuel.

The conversion of dark matter into starship fuel was a process discovered by the Professor (Billy West) many years before, and the process produced a pair of (essentially) magical crystals. The Professor has one of said crystals among his possessions. When the two crystals are brought together (in a grim, massive, poop-harvesting dark matter farming facility), they activate bizarre energies within the galaxy's dark matter, including the fistfuls inside of Bender. While Bender is receiving an insanity-reducing debugging at a robot asylum, the poop merges with his imagination, effectively creating a parallel universe wherein all the "Futurama" characters are transformed into Gygaxian fantasy creatures. 

That was a long, long way to go just to draw Leela as a centaur and Fry (West) as a dragon. It's all very silly. 

The first half of "Bender's Game" was penned by "Futurama" writer Eric Horstead, and, according to show co-creator David X. Cohen, the story was originally even more complicated than that. Cohen revealed on the "Bender's Game" commentary track, that there was also interplanetary travel in the first draft. 

Saving exposition

It was explained in the episode "Love's Labours Lost in Space" that Nibbler lived for many years on a distant planet called Vergon VI where it consumed all of the world's fauna (Nibbler is a notorious voracious eater, capable of swallowing giant creatures whole). Likewise, Nibbler also pooped out so much dark matter that he essentially filled the entire interior of the planet. This would set the precedent for "Bender's Game," which saw the villainous Mom (Tress MacNeille) kidnapping Niblonians and force-feeding them chickens to get them to defecate more. Dark matter fuel is, naturally, quite valuable. 

Mom's poop farming factory was, in "Bender's Game," located on Earth. This location was handy for story streamlining, as Horstead wanted it to be located on the Nibblonian homeworld. Cohen recalled the change, saying: 

"The original form of this story was quite different than it ended up being. In the first draft as written by Eric Horstead. [...] A lot of the action was going to take place on Nibbler's home planet, which makes sense because that's where the Nibblonians live ... So obviously the center of Nibbler's planet was gonna be all dark matter and Mom's dark matter mine was going to be on that planet and they were gonna investigate that mine, but it just got too complicated and we said, 'Let's keep it on Earth,' and it saved about half an hour of explanation." 

In a movie that exists merely to transpose the "Futurama" characters into a comedic fantasy world, all the extra investigation would have merely delayed things. MacNeille joked that they couldn't get the drilling rights on the Nibblonian planet.

Incidentally, "Bender's Game" is a savvier and funnier spoof of fantasy tropes than Groening's story-heavy series "Disenchantment." Although fans would clearly welcome a crossover. 

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