Futurama: Fox Replacing Voice Cast; Angers Fans and Other Actors

FuturamaLast month, it was announced that Futurama would be returning to television with all new episodes. The cast was supposedly already on-board for the revival but now the studio is trying to replace them.

Futurama begins as a pizza delivery boy (Billy West) is accidentally frozen and then wakes up 1,000 years later in the far-flung future. He gets a job at Planet Express and meets a myriad of strange characters played by actors like Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Lauren Tom, Phil LaMarr, Maurice LaMarche, and Frank Welker.

The animated series was cancelled after a troubled four season run on FOX and then found new popularity in reruns. The characters were revived in four made-for-DVD movies and the films were then reworked into another season of television shows. Those were popular enough to cause the show to be revived for 26 additional half-hour installments.

When the new episodes were announced last month, stars like West, Sagal, and DiMaggio were said to have already been signed to return. That wasn’t quite true. The actors had all expressed interest in returning but the contracts hadn’t been signed. Now, because of salary disputes, it’s not happening at all.

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As part of the deal to produce the new episodes, the production budget had been severely cut. When the offers came in for the talent, they were significantly lower than what the actors had been expecting. It’s unknown what 20th Century Fox TV offered but Variety reports the actors receive about $75,000 per installment. Via Facebook, LaMarr says Variety is incorrect and that they’re asking for much less.

The studio and performers weren’t able to come to an agreement so the executives have decided to put out casting calls to replace West, Sagal, DiMaggio, and LaMarche with cheaper, sound-alike actors.

In a statement, the studio said, “We love the Futurama voice performers and absolutely wanted to use them, but unfortunately, we could not meet their salary demands. While replacing these talented actors will be difficult, the show must go on. We are confident that we will find terrific new performers to give voice to Matt and David’s brilliantly subversive characters.”

The reaction to this turn of events has been understandably negative from fans of the show. Other voiceover professionals, some of whom could conceivably land the jobs, are also standing by their fellow actors.

One pro wrote to his fellow actors, “Bottom line is, the cast of Futurama deserve whatever amount they are asking for. The network and studio make zillions more than these actors ever will!! Many of in the Futurama cast are friends of mine. I respect their talent, and I respect them as people. I’m asking that if you are asked to audition for this, please respectfully pass. There will be more gigs, I promise! I believe in karma. And I know what goes around comes around. Don’t advance your career by damaging someone else’s.”

Of course, the studio may still be able to work something out with the Futurama cast. Fox tried a similar ploy they played hardball with the cast of The Simpsons several years ago. That became a public relations nightmare and a new deal was eventually hammered out.

Insiders caution that this situation is a bit different since the reduced production budget is making it possible for the show to be made on a cable budget. However, as part of the deal, the show could still be sold for a broadcast network run. If that were to happen, the studio’s profits would increase significantly.

What do you think? Do you care if the characters’ voices are different? Or, are you just interested in the quality of the stories? Are the voice actors as replaceable as Fox would have us believe?

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25 Comments · Read them below or add one

  1. Poala says

    I find it totally offensive to replace talented voice actors who brought life to lovables characters in the same of saving a buck. I’m not a voice actress but I respect them and I’m sick of our country downplaying the value of voice acting talent.
    You can’t just replace voice actors at the drop of a dime. The voice actors and actresses play a role in breathing life into the characters and choosing the wrong voice actor ruins an otherwise lovable character.
    If I was a voice actress and I happened to be really good heck yeah I’d want a salary increase.

  2. OrangeCrush says

    Fox, lol. This is a perfect example of the intellect that is Fox Studio. These people bring the meaning of the word greed to a whole new level. They wound up coming to an agreement with the original cast but then again this was most likely their plan all along. Anything to make a couple extra bucks. At this point nothing Fox does surprises me. This is a studio whose greed is only outdone by their own idiocy. Actually the professor sums it up best when he rips Fox a new one in the opening of first movie. Its so funny because its so true.

    I actually envision Fox meetings to be much like the chimpanzee exhibit at my local zoo. Actually that’s kind of insulting to chimps.

  3. Shaunoez says

    God dammit, i am so sick of fox trying to make as much money as possible
    futurama is one of the greatest shows ever made, it trumphs simpsons, family guy and southpark, im really wishing fox would get their heads out of their asses and just fork over the cash, futurama outsells most other tv shows for dvd sales, your money will be made back..

    I need futurama back..
    too many good shows are being cancelled, and all these crap ones continue on.. its ridiculous

  4. big futurama fan says

    To use new voices would be like leaving a message over a month after the last message, whats the point? If Billy, John,Katie,Tres, Phil, Maurice and of course
    Lauren and the other great voices werent there, I would loose all respect and all interest in the show. This show has been a family favourite since the first show and I dont want to watch a show this clever because the voices are what makes the show. Good Luck actors we hope your voices stay!!!!

  5. Fighter says

    They changed the latinamerican voices for the movies and it was COMPLETELY AWFUL. I didn’t not watch more than half of one and I did not buy the dvds, they were HORRIBLE. So I got used to the english voices… but if they do this, the show is dead for me.

  6. Anonymous says

    This would be retarded. Have you ever watched the first few episodes of your favorite show after you’ve been watching it for years? They’re horrible. The timing’s off, the voices sound funny, the characters are undeveloped. You liked them at the time, but that’s because you didn’t know the characters or the show yet, just like the actors playing the characters. As time went on, the timing became more natural, the actors came to know their character and became more comfortable performing them and became the characters that you loved. Replacing the core actors of characters you’ve known for 10 years would be like watching those first episodes again, but without the knowledge that it will become the show you love, rather with the knowledge that they are not and will never become those beloved characters.

  7. Anonymous says

    Well, according to the current status of the “Would you watch it?” poll, only 9% of the people who voted would watch new episodes if the actors are replaced. Seems like incontrovertible proof that they should not be replaced.

    So here are FOX’s choices:

    A. Correct the budget, pay the correct actors what they deserve, retain their fanbase, have a successful show and make much more money than the salary differential, or
    II. Replace the actors with sound-alikes (not perform-alikes), “save” a couple bucks, lose 90% of their fanbase and have a phenomenal failure on their hands.

    Hmmm, tough choice.

  8. Dan says

    You would have to be mentally retarded to think that Katie Segal, Billy West, John Dimaggio, and Phil LaMarr are replacable. Futurama was character driven comedy. If you fired Gracie Allen and gave George Burns a new wife, would that still have been the same show? If you got rid of Aunt Viv on Fresh Prince of Bel Air, would that…oh wait…nevermind. Point is, you can’t get rid of the actors in a character comedy. The show won’t work.

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