This article contains spoilers for Futurama season 11 episode 6.
The Matt Groening-verse just got a little bigger. The latest episode of Futurama, “I Know What You Did Next Xmas,” finally confirms that The Simpsons, Futurama, and Disenchantment are connected by more than just writers and producers. But the timeline’s probably not what – or should we say when – you’re thinking.
Disenchantment is Matt Groening and Josh Weinstein’s medieval fantasy-skewing follow-up to Futurama and The Simpsons. Originally sold as an episodic comedy similar to those shows, Disenchantment is actually a coming-of-age adventure series, following Princess Bean (Abbi Jacobson) as she reckons with her future place in the kingdom of Dreamland, and her complicated past. Something that the trailer for the recently announced fifth and final season is much less coy about than previously.
Despite the vaguely Middle Age trappings, the show’s timeframe has always been somewhat nebulous, leading fans to speculate about where exactly it fits in the Groening-verse. Early seasons had just enough anachronisms to cause viewers to think it wasn’t strictly set in the past, while the later addition of another realm, this one based around steampunk science, only furthered the notion.
One persistent fan theory states that Disenchantment actually exists in between the present day of The Simpsons and the future of Futurama, thanks to a brief gag in the latter’s pilot episode. As Fry (Billy West) is cryogenically frozen, viewers see the world outside his window crumbling and being rebuilt several times. During one of these apocalypses, medieval-looking castles pop up, only to be destroyed again by aliens.
Another blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Easter egg of Fry, Bender, and the Professor briefly appearing in a time machine – in the first season finale of Disenchantment, “Dreamland Falls” – seemed to confirm the connection between the two shows, while still leaving the timeframe muddled.
“I Know What You Did Next Xmas” has finally cleared the waters. As the Professor is traveling backwards from the future – something he goes out of his way to say out loud, just so there’s no confusion – we see him pass by Disenchantment’s Bean, Luci (Eric André), and Elfo (Nat Faxon), confirming that Disenchantment is, in fact, in Futurama’s future.
The connection of Futurama and Disenchantment to The Simpsons is a tad murkier, or at least full of contradictions. (Which is saying something, given that none of the Simpsons have aged in thirty years.) You see, in the first seasons of Futurama, The Simpsons was very clearly a television show and pop-culture phenomenon. A pile of discarded Bart dolls are featured in “A Big Piece of Garbage,” while “Mars University” shows Bart and Homer dolls as carnival prizes in the background. “Leela’s Homeworld” includes Bart’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon. Later, in “Lrrreconcilable Ndndifferences,” Bender even asks the jarred head of Matt Groening when a second Simpsons movie is coming out.
But then came “Simpsorama.” The 2014 The Simpsons episode was a full-on crossover with Futurama, shortly after the latter’s second (third?) cancellation.
“Simpsorama” finds Futurama’s future overrun with mutant bunnies – themselves a callback to Groening’s Life in Hell comic – the direct result of some B-movie-style science involving Bart’s snot, Milhouse’s lucky rabbit’s foot, and just a bunch of nuclear waste. Tracing the DNA to Homer (Dan Castellaneta), Bender (John DiMaggio) travels back in time to eliminate the problem, but befriends Homer instead, leading Fry, Leela (Katey Sagal), and Professor Farnsworth to try their hand at Terminatoring him up instead.
With Lisa’s help, Professors Farnsworth and Frink solve the mutant bunny problem without resorting to murder, and Fry, Leela, and Farnsworth head back to the 31st century. Bender gets trapped in the past and, not wanting to mess with the timeline further, powers down and gets stashed in the Simpsons’ basement to wait out the future.
And so there you have it: The Simpsons is firmly in Futurama’s past, and Disenchantment is the one, true future of both shows. Why the residents of Springfield are bright yellow is still anybody’s guess, though.
New episodes of Futurama season 11 premiere Mondays on Hulu through the mid-season finale on Sept. 25.