|First appearance||"Love's Labours Lost in Space" (1999)|
|Last appearance||Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow (2017)|
|Created by||Brian Kelley (writer)|
Matt Groening (designer)
|Voiced by||Billy West|
|Occupation||Captain of the Nimbus flagship|
|Significant other||Turanga Munda (ex-fiance)|
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Zapp Brannigan is a fictional character in the animated sitcom Futurama. He is voiced by Billy West, but was originally intended to be voiced by Phil Hartman, with West taking over the role after Hartman's death. The character is based on the Star Trek captain James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner. The show's executive producer David X. Cohen has described Brannigan as "half Captain Kirk, half actual William Shatner".
Brannigan is a 25-Star General in the Democratic Order of Planets, and captain of its flagship, the Nimbus. He is first introduced in the fourth episode of the series, "Love's Labours Lost in Space", in which he plays a major role. In the episode, Brannigan becomes enamored with Leela, whom he attempts to woo for the remainder of the series. Brannigan is viewed as a respected military hero in the eyes of his superiors and the general public, but is strongly disliked by his own crew, most notably his long suffering second-in-command, Kif Kroker. Though famed for his bravery and strategic genius, in reality Brannigan is sexist, vain, boorish, stupid, cowardly and incompetent.
Role in Futurama
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Brannigan is a senior member of the military of the Democratic Order of Planets (D.O.O.P.) though his title varies; he has been referred to as a "25-star General", Captain, "General Major Webelo", "Rear Brigadier", and "Commodore 64." Brannigan is widely revered in military circles for his numerous victories over hostile aliens. However, almost all of these victories tend to come from using excessive force to subdue comically weak opponents, or the use of tactics that rely on large numbers and wanton disregard for the safety of his men.
Soon after first meeting him, Leela has sex with him. He mentions this encounter repeatedly in later episodes while remaining convinced that Leela lusts after him despite her vocal (and often violent) opposition to the idea.
Brannigan's Law forbids interfering with an undeveloped planet, a parody of the Prime Directive from Star Trek. Brannigan himself does not pretend to understand it, he merely enforces it, and even fails to uphold it on at least one occasion. Brannigan's Law is officially called Directive B10.8:1. According to Brannigan, "Brannigan's Law is like Brannigan's love: hard and fast".
In "Brannigan, Begin Again", Zapp was stripped of his command and court-martialed, but was reinstated as captain of the Nimbus over the course of the same episode.
The Nimbus, BP-1729, is the flagship of the fleet of the D.O.O.P. under Brannigan's command. The Nimbus is an extremely large vessel, capable of blockading or besieging entire planets single-handedly, and of transporting armies large enough for the pacification of the planet, all without the aid of support vessels. It is a parody of the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Original Series.
Brannigan is based on the Star Trek captain James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner; Brannigan and Shatner meet face-to-face in the episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before". The creators of the series envisioned Brannigan as similar to what Shatner himself would be like as a starship captain. Cohen describes him as being "half Captain Kirk, half actual William Shatner", and that the initial premise for the character was "What if the real William Shatner was the captain of the Enterprise instead of Kirk?". In the episode "Amazon Women in the Mood" the DVD audio commentary describes Zapp Brannigan's reinterpretation of "Lola" as a spoken word song as a reference to what William Shatner did with "Rocket Man". Brannigan also wears a girdle to appear thinner and in another episode nearly loses his toupee, seemingly a parody of similar accusations aimed at Shatner. Originally Brannigan was to appear fatter in every shot throughout the first episode in which he appeared, but the animators were so disgusted by his ultimate appearance that the idea was dropped.
Brannigan's DOOP uniform is very similar to that of Magnus, Robot Fighter but he bears no other relation to that character.
Zapp Brannigan is voiced by Billy West, though he was originally intended to be voiced by Phil Hartman. Hartman insisted on auditioning for the role, and "of course, just nailed it" according to creator Matt Groening. However, after Hartman was murdered on May 28, 1998, West was given the role. On a Futurama DVD commentary, Groening reveals that Zapp's character and mannerisms were established in West's original audition for the character, and any similarity to Phil Hartman or his other well known cartoon characters (Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure) is simply coincidence. On the other hand, in an interview for the website TV Squad, Billy West states that his Zapp Brannigan is an imitation of Hartman and also "modeled after a couple of big dumb announcers I knew." During a live event, West stated that he partially modelled Brannigan's cadence after the radio persona of Doug Tracht, also known as "The Greaseman."
- Booker, M. Keith. Drawn to Television: Prime-Time Animation from The Flintstones to Family Guy. pp. 115–124. Search this book on
- Cohen, David X.; Groening, Matt; Kelley, Brian; Sheesley, Brian; Moore, Rich; Vanzo, Scott; DiMaggio, John (2002). Futurama: Volume One DVD commentary for the episode "Love's Labours Lost in Space" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
Oh, the gut was supposed to grow and grow over each scene, but it got a little too grotesque, so we had to pull it back a bit.
- Joel Keller (2006-06-15). "Billy West: The TV Squad Interview". Retrieved 2007-10-25.
- CelebFan2010 (2010-07-05), Billy West on Phil Hartman, retrieved 2019-05-13
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