ToonXers ToonXers

2014 Is Shaping Up To Be The Year of Cartoon Crossovers

Considering that three crossover events have already been announced for next year, 2014 may just become the year of the cartoon mash-up.

With still three weeks left Phineas and Ferb join forces with Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Hulk and Thor in Phineas & Ferb: Mission Marvel, it was announced at Comic-Con that the angle-headed stepbrothers would star in an hour-long episode that relocates them to the desert planet of Tatooine, living next door to a popular sci-fi figure named Luke Skywalker. When plans for destroying the Death Star accidentally fall into their hands, they are recruited into the Galactic rebellion, and…well, you know the rest.

In addition, there have been recent announcements that The Simpsons will be rubbing shoulders with not just one, but two sets of their ‘toon contemporaries when they team-up with both Futurama and Family Guy. Serving as either The Simpsons season 25 finale (May 2014) or the season 26 premiere (fall 2014), Futurama’s Bender will travel back in time with the intention to kill Bart before his actions negatively affect the future. Meanwhile, a date to-be-determined Family Guy episode will feature the Griffins becoming fast friends with Homer and his family after a road trip leads them to Springfield.

While these episodes are guaranteed to be fan pleasers, they would also appear to be carefully coordinated gambits for ratings. As less and less media conglomerates own more and more entertainment properties, expect to see these kinds of opportunistic crossovers with increased frequency in the future.

  • Dana B

    Huh, I guess I was (kinda) right about what I said in the LEGO movie post: crossovers being the next trend, just on the small screen. Pretty gimmicky if you ask me, or even anyone. Just more proof Hollywood is running out of original ideas…

    • SarahJesness

      When I was a kid not too long ago, I remember Disney Channel doing crossovers with a ton of their cartoons. Thinking about it again, I remember seeing some ads a few years back for crossovers of their live-action shows as well. So for Disney, this isn’t a new thing.

  • Jason Cezar Duncan

    Family Guy and The Simpsons crossing over is a red flag they both need to end. They are both on scraps for ideas, Family Guy has become little more than a meme factory and The Simpsons is just, continuity eating zombies. Also, I thought The Simpsons people were supposed to “hate” the Family Guy people as sort of an inside joke, seeing them cooperate to make an episode? Gah! That just isn’t right,

    • Roberto Severino

      Seth MacFarlane actually once said this, probably in a joking manner.

      “Part of me thinks that Family Guy should have already ended. I think seven seasons is about the right lifespan for a TV series. I talk to the fans and in a way I’m kind of secretly hoping for them to say we’re done with it. There are plenty of people who say the show is kind of over the hill. But still the vast majority go pale in the face when I mention the possibility.”

      Seems like he was right no matter what context you see that quote.

      • Jason Cezar Duncan

        Joe Murray (creator of Rocko’s Modern Life) also said something along the lines of “the quality of a television show may decline as production continues when you are dealing with volume”. And TBH, I very much personally agree with that theory in animated sitcoms. I also tend to see it after creators leave or step down from being in charge and aren’t guiding their creations that we’ve come to know. And as time progresses in series where characters don’t age physically and much in maturity, you’re bound to run out of original ideas for them and resort to either seriously breaking continuity or a formulaic “these characters dealing with this current event using their classic mannerisms”. And as that happens, the more bland the characters become and more the show feels like a nostalgia riding bot. I rarely watch the new Simpsons, occasionally when I do out of curiosity, I find it overall very “irking”. Just like Spongebob, even though a few things might be funny still, the show itself just feels meaningless. Why not just have people (and by people I mean serious artists and not some celebrity with a vanity project) create new shows that we haven’t seen, and perhaps have a new smash hit. Just like The Simpsons once were. Times change, people change, art evolves, and styles change. With that comes demand for new and original things, why these execs are so bloody thick to that when that’s what put their channel on the map, beats me.

      • SarahJesness

        I’ve been told that that MacFarlane doesn’t have much involvement in Family Guy these days anyway, but you can correct me if I’m wrong.

        Anyway, he’s definitely right. For as many people say the quality has dropped too much, there are still a lot of people who don’t want to see the show leave. Even if they do acknowledge that the show isn’t good anymore, they have too much attachment to the show to want it to leave. It’s a weird thing. I think part of it is that they believe the show might get good again, if they hold out just a LITTLE longer.

        I wonder if MacFarlane really does want the show to end. Like I said, supposedly he’s not really too involved with it these days. But even if he wants it to end and has the power to do so, I can’t totally blame him for keeping it on the air. After all, it is a cash cow.

        • Roberto Severino

          At least for American Dad, Matt Weitzman and Mike Barker have been showrunners for most of the show’s production and even Seth admitted that a lot of the show’s direction and vision could be attributed a lot more to them. They were also producers and writers on Family Guy during the show’s original run.

          It kinda sucks how that show is going to move to TBS. I am also kind of worried that Steve Callaghan might diminish the quality of the show significantly as showrunner since Seth wanted to “shake things up.” There were also a lot of writers that were laid off according to one of the former showrunners, so with the latest season that aired, they kind of had to sort of start from scratch while having a very developed idea of what the show was about. After Season 2, the show really developed its own voice and became much more surreal, fresh and funny.

          • Funkybat

            This is the first I’ve heard of a move to TBS or a shakeup in the writers’ room. I share your concerns, American Dad has become my favorite Seth MacFarlane show. I really like it’s unique, kind of gonzo personality, and I feel like it’s going strong as is. I have to wonder how “shaken up” it will get. There have already been some excellent new elements in recent seasons, like Principal Lewis’ increasingly erratic behavior, and the whole storyline with Jeff (especially the “majestic” episode.)

            I don’t know why the show would be moving to TBS, I would guess that it has less to do with TBS “stealing” it than Fox wanting to make room for new and different animated shows. Still, I worry that ratings will drop, unlike Family Guy I feel like American Dad has many more great years left to go before it should be put out to pasture.

    • Barrett

      “Continuity eating zombies,” I like that.

      I agree that both shows could at this point go off the air and it wouldn’t be a tragedy, though I’d argue that The Simpsons has experienced a semi-renaissance in the last few years. From 2000-ish ’til 2007, I felt like the show was just sliding into an active volcano, lots of heat (hype) and light (constant celeb guests) but not much else. Since then, there has been a shift in tone, the writing is more clever, and the bulk of the season more enjoyable. There are still at least 3-4 episodes that are best forgotten, but several others that are worth repeat viewing.

      Family Guy…..well, I just don’t know what to say. The show continues to have sporadic bursts of hilarity, but very few episodes I would call “solid.” The last 7-8 years has had an increasingly dark creep in the nature of the jokes, what was once a kind of casually genial spirit of guys’ club toilet humor and misogyny has become an almost psychotic kind of cold, calculated hatefulness. I still can’t get over the “viagra joke” at the end of the “Peter Wins The Lottery” episode. There seems to be an idea that gory/needlessly violent images, with no real ironic twist or anything else attached now constitutes “humor.”

      American Dad does this too to some extent, but the writing on that show is tighter and funnier. I’m actually going to miss Cleveland SHow because it seemed to avoid this violent/mean for meanness’ sake trend.

      • SarahJesness

        Eh, personally I disagree with you on “The Simpsons”. The recent episodes are slightly better than the ones a few years ago, but I still don’t think they’re very good. They might get one or two laughs out of me per episode, but that’s not very good for a comedy. Not to mention a lot of the stories are pretty groan-inducing. The show is no longer the fun, subversive sitcom than it used to be. Instead of making fun of cliches, it plays them straight, even when it goes against how the characters usually are. Honestly, if you took a recent Simpsons episode, changed designs and character names, and aired it as a new TV show, it would probably get cancelled for low ratings pretty quick.

      • Funkybat

        I think the Simpsons has gotten noticeably better in the past 4-5 years, but there are still a lot of “meh” episodes mixed in with the good ones. And a lot of the good ones are entertaining more because they touch upon or explore long-dormant bits of Simpsons “history” or 2nd tier characters who have been suggested to have more to them, but we’ve never gotten a good look. The recent “Carl Carlson” episode was odd, but good in that way. The best SImpsons eps these days are almost inherently “meta” because it’s hard to do anything truly new that’s also great because the show has already done so many kinds of storylines.

  • Alex Dudley

    I love cartoon crossovers, so I’m looking forward to all of this. A lot of people have said that they’re just doing it for ratings, but when has that never been the case? That’s why they do it in comic books (to boost sales) and live action shows, right?

    • SarahJesness

      Oy, yeah. I really don’t mind crossovers in and of themselves, though The Simpsons ones don’t just seem like a ploy for ratings, it feels like an attempt to keep a dying show on the air for just a little bit longer.

  • Andrew

    If the SImpsons and the Griffins were neighbors…I just might start watching these shows regularly again.

    • SarahJesness

      Admittedly I do have a morbid curiosity as to how that would play out. Both shows have different styles of humor and their worlds operate on different rules. How would the characters of The Simpsons react to seeing the over-the-top violence frequently used in Family Guy?

      But I still probably wouldn’t go out of my way to watch it.

      • There have been a number of times that I wished I could have been in a writers room for the creation of a certain television moment, but the discussions for how to make a FAMILY GUY/SIMPSONS crossover work shoot right to the top of that list.

        The one thing I read is that the Simpsons will consider the Griffins albinos. So will the Griffins consider the Simpsons suffering from jaundice?

  • I’m not sure how I feel about this. Whenever I hear the word ‘crossover’ fanfics and executive meddling come to mind…

  • grahaeme

    Flinstones meet the Jetsons! Batter up!

  • Matt Sullivan

    Hopefully the Simpsons crossover means the end of the Simpsons. Really. It’s time to let someone else have a show on primetime.

  • top_cat_james

    My dream crossover is Beavis & Butthead and the Goode Family moving next door to Hank Hill.

    • SarahJesness

      I’d totally go for that, ESPECIALLY if Daria also showed up.

  • Joshua Marchant

    Someone characterized the news thusly:
    Take two dead horses, stack them on top of each other, beat them with a stick and see if anyone notices the smell.

  • SarahJesness

    Oy, this is nothing new for Disney. The animated shows they had in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, they did a LOT of crossovers. A few years later, I believe they also did multiple crossovers for their live-action shows. (in fact, I recall seeing an ad for a triple crossover. I think it was Suite Life of Deck, with Wizards of Waverly Place, and Hannah Montana, maybe?)

  • GW

    Does Fox want to buy back Futurama and continue it for more seasons? Not that I’m asking for that, I’m just wondering.

    Anyhow, I don’t like the corporatization of everything but look at all the animated web series we’ve been getting. People come up with bad ideas regardless of the networks and overload everything with even grosser humor. Television animation is mostly substandard but web animation is proving to be sub-substandard. Maybe if they freeze me and thaw me out in 50 years the ecosystem will be ruined but the animation will be good. For now I’m looking for good webcomics.

  • Mr Sunday Night

    I want to see Stewie and Bart fighting

  • DarylT

    And we all know that the Phineas and Ferb one will be excellent.

  • wildeyed

    fewer and fewer… Yes, I am that guy.

  • Adam

    Um, no please. At LEAST I hope the Futurama crossover will be a Treehouse of Horror segment…If it isn’t then thats really desperate. I know The Simpsons has done everything but there are still ideas out there. I’ve seen fan ideas and scripts that look like good episodes. So why can’t the writers think of any???!

    • SarahJesness

      The badness that The Simpsons has fallen into isn’t just about plot ideas, it’s bad writing as a whole. The show used to be subversive, and now it plays everything straight. Characters act out-of-character now for the sake of the plot.

  • Dana B

    Well, I just had a nostiaga attack. I forgot about all of those!

    And you’re right, crossovers are very common on TV. I was just referring to the big screen and that crossovers might soon be common there. When you got Avengers, Wreck-It Ralph, and the upcoming LEGO movie, others could follow soon enough.

  • Kenny Durkin

    He’s said it many times before, but here’s Matt Groening from an interview in 2012 regarding a Futurama/Simpsons crossover: “I always say that the reason they don’t cross over is because Futurama is real and The Simpsons is just a cartoon.”
    I’ve always been satisfied by that answer. It made sense to me. A crossover doesn’t.

    • Funkybat

      That fits with how they handled a crossover in the comics. The “real” Futurama gang entered the “fictional” Simpsons universe via the giant brain aliens who had previously sent them into fictional stories in a Futurama ep. This idea of Bender playing Terminator in the Simpsons universe seems totally out of step with Groening and Company’s vision for those shows.

  • Jason Cezar Duncan

    And that’s just it, networks need to make money. A compromise you have to accept if you want them to consider pumping money into your idea. But I still don’t understand why they are so adverse to trying new shows and new ideas. The only network I can think of now that’s really refreshed itself is Cartoon Network, and so it be. They’ve got 3 hits and are at the top of the ratings when it comes to cable TV. You think other networks that showcase animation would get the idea. But nope, they seem to stay stubborn and insist on running old once hit series into the ground, reboots, and now, crossovers.

  • Animator606432

    I don’t know about this…this reeks of desperation for both parties (expect for Furturama of course. That show can’t seem to KEEP it’self on the air much less overstay it’s welcome.) The whole rivalry between the Simpsons and Family Guy was the only thing keeping either show interesting now a days, as the writing and animation isn’t doing much. Maybe this well equal decent ratings, but I think it’ll just lead to a major let down.

  • Funkybat

    I’m kind of disappointed in the outline for the Futurama/Simpsons crossover. Matt & Co. did a really great multi-part SImpsons/Futurama crossover in their Bongo Comics line about 10 years ago, and in that story it firmly established that The Simpsons is just a fictional universe (as it is “here”) existing in stories told in Fry’s “real” universe. Different Earths, different timelines. I don’t mind the occasional crossover sight gag on either show now and then, but a storyline where they interact that suggests Bender comes from the future of Springfield’s universe is a continuity trainwreck. There’s no frozen Fry waiting to be thawed in the Simpsons’ universe, he’s in the “real” NYC.

    As for the idea that the Griffins could just “take a road trip” to Springfield…I think I’ll just stop here.

    /geek rant

    • SarahJesness

      If they wanted to do a Futurama/Simpsons crossover, I think it would’ve been a better idea to do it with alternate universes. I mean, it’s a popular idea in science fiction and Futurama has played with it before. It would work a lot better than a time travel story because, like you said, Futurama has its own established timeline and world.

  • Funkybat

    I am not sure how much involvement Matt has with the Simpsons at this point in time. I know Matt was outraged at the idea of a Simpsons/The Critic crossover back in the mid-90s, and refused to have his name in the credits of that episode, even though a lot of the Simpsons team created and worked on that series. It was actually done well, mocking the inherent cheesiness of the idea and even giving Jay Sherman’s lame attempt at suggesting a visit to his show a glib blow-off.

    Having the Simpsons show up on Family Guy sounds like something he’d totally oppose, but it’s also worth noting that it’s a FG episode featuring the Simpsons, not a Simpsons episode featuring Family Guy. If it were the latter he’d probably have more veto power.

  • Funkybat

    I wouldn’t have minded if the show ended after the Simpsons Movie was released, though I feel like it can go out now on a somewhat better note because before the movie, the show had really been pretty lame for a while. At least if it ends any time soon it would have had a bounceback in quality before the end. I fee similarly with Family Guy, they should shift that into a wind-down, with the goal of setting up a feature film. No matter what one may think of Family Guy, it’s obvious that it would be a hit in theaters, and probably could be done with lower production costs than the Simpsons Movie.

    Frankly, I’m a lot more disappointed at the end of Futurama, whose return from the dead has been a lot better than Family Guy’s. Also kind of sad to see Cleveland end, though three FG universe shows seemed excessive to me. Hoping American Dad will thrive for several more seasons on cable.

  • Derpderp

    Honestly I just want to see how long the Simpson can last and become the longest running cartoon show ever. Their Haloween episodes are at least entertaining, even though not creepy or Haloween-y at all anymore.

  • GW

    That’s true, but it isn’t hard to come up with a decent idea and use primitive contrasty animation with a good use of positive and negative space. I can understand the abundance of terrible webseries but I don’t understand why there aren’t some good ones. And sorry for replying so late. I was on vacation and only had an IPad to access the web.

  • John Applebee

    People are freaking out over Mission Marvel and the Star Wars Crossover but Disney have done this with their other cartoons back in the day, and they are more than likely to do it with Gravity Falls and Wander Over Yonder. For Phineas and Ferb’s case, Disney want to see what they can do with both their current flagship and the franchises they’ve acquired. The show has declined in popularity as of last year in small doses but I still enjoy it and looking forward to the crossovers because I actually think Phineas and Ferb pulls specials off really well.

    Family Guy, The Simpsons and Futurama crossovers being a ratings gimmick? That would be hard to say, as Family Guy still gains the right amount of ratings to justify being on the air. To be realistic and I find the new Simpsons episodes okay and I love the Comedy Central episodes of Futurama, this could be the case for The Simpsons because they lost popularity around the 2000s and even more after the movie, and Futurama even though it has a large fanbase that is rallying against Comedy Central for cancelling the show again, could be that FOX is actually trying to bring the show back to their Animation Domination lineup and the crossover could be a taster to see how well it does in the ratings. If the ratings meet expectations, Futurama could return to FOX’s Animation Domination lineup.

    My speculation is that because Comedy Central didn’t cancel Futurama because of poor ratings but because FOX wasn’t paying them enough, FOX are actually trying to bring Futurama back to it’s main lineup. In 2009 FOX made a statement that if Futurama finds success on Comedy Central, they will instantly return the series back to FOX.

  • Anthony D.

    I’d actually like to see a crossover between Futurama and American Dad because those show kinda connect to me in a way.