“Plus, they can replace them, and no one can tell the diddley-ifference!”


Update 2: Nope, it’s a real salary dispute. Michael Schneider says the voice actors are demanding $75,000 per episode, and Fox is offering… not that.

Update: Or this could all be a hoax to attract attention to a Comic-Con panel. (No, it isn’t; see update # 2, above.)

Yes, apparently what you have heard is true: Fox has put out a casting call for the lead voice roles in the new season of Futurama.

According to no less than cast members John DiMaggio, Phil LaMarr, and Maurice LaMarche on their Facebook pages, a casting notice has gone out to replace actors DiMaggio, LaMarche, Billy West and Katy Sagal.

The casting call that follows lists all the roles played by those actors, and asks applicants to submit their best imitations of “these established characters.”

Those who remember the great Simpsons voice actor holdout of the late ’90s will remember that Fox put out a similar call asking for replacements. It was a negotiation gambit, to keep salaries down. The gambit failed because most established voice actors didn’t want any part of it (Pamela Segall, Bobby on King of the Hill, recalled that she told her agent not to go anywhere near this). In this case, there’s little doubt that Fox is doing this in hopes of getting the Futurama regular actors to take a pay cut, since Futurama will have a lower budget and less earning power on Comedy Central, and keeping voice-actor salaries down is one way to make budget cuts.

There are three ways this could work out, which I’d rank this way in order of likelihood: 1) The regulars are spooked into signing for less than they made before; 2) Fox can’t get any potential replacements lined up and the regulars get the money they want; 3) The show goes back on the air with new voice actors. I rank possibility 1 over 2 because Futurama is a less high-profile show than The Simpsons, being produced (now) for basic cable, and Fox and Comedy Central might have a better shot at at least signing up some plausible replacements, though not good ones.

West, of course, has been through the basic-cable replacement game on both ends. He replaced John Kricfalusi as the voice of Ren (on Ren and Stimpy) when Kricfalusi was fired by the network, and then, when the show came back with new (bad) episodes by Kricfalusi, West himself was replaced as Stimpy.

And, since I can’t find much else that deals directly with the replacement of voice actors, here’s a cartoon that ends with a guy getting scared into re-signing by the presence of lots of potential voice subs. “All righty, all here to read for the part of The Brain?”


Filed under:

“Plus, they can replace them, and no one can tell the diddley-ifference!”

  1. Piny and the Brain rules!

  2. Mark Evanier once reported an incident in which Hanna-Barbera attempted to replace Daws Butler in a Yogi Bear special that he wrote, also as a gambit.

    Incidentally, he presented his own take on the Futurama thing on his blog. http://www.newsfromme.com/archives/2009_07_17.htm… Since he has the perspective of seeing incidents like this firsthand, it's a must-read.

  3. Ironic that the clip of "The Brain" (as well as the photo of the actor mugging in front of the microphone, above) features Futurama co-star Maurice LaMarche, who is also part of this story, and the only Canadian in the group of five actors being "replaced". LaMarche and fellow cast member Tress MacNeille, who round out the core cast, are the "utility voices", and in their own way are as indispensable to Futurama as West, DiMaggio and Sagal. McNeille voices Mom, Linda the newscaster, Hattie, and every female incidental character on the show, and LaMarche plays upward of twenty regularly recurring characters, including fan favourites Kif Kroker, Morbo, Calculon, and Hedonismbot (my personal fave). Trying to replace them is like trying to replace thirty actors. It would be like trying to do the Simpsons without Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer. Or without Tress MacNeille, who is also the female utility voice on that show!

  4. In the late 1990's, when Fox pulled this bit the first time on "Simpsons" it seemed ridiculous that a network would be willing to damage a time-honoured franchise in such a way. Now it has become routine, though the voice cast on that program has succeeded in their salary demands to the point Fox is firing longtime behind the scenes personnel and whacking salaries to sub basement levels, causing the show to suffer in a different way than the threatened replacement of established voices. With Futurama now being produced for peanuts on cable, there is precious little room to bargain. It would be really stupid to dump a voice cast this skilled and talented in favor of what would surely be less being less.