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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.

Will you watch if the actors are replaced?

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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 }

Anonymous July 26, 2009 at 8:28 am

While I am a huge fan of the show-probably have watched each episode 5 or more times-I think the show should continue. If money is issued – why not offer the cast a % of profits if the show does well.

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TJStepp July 25, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Bender is the only voice they really need to keep.
The show then, and more so now, was very uneven & sometimes frustrating. It seemed unfocused. Societal commentary? Just being silly in a science fiction setting?
The set up for Futurama made for gigantic canvas. Show never really seemed to know what to do with it.
The Jetsons & Futurama both take place in the year 3000. I always thought it would be cool if some kind of crossover story took place and Bender and Rosie hooked-up.
I could see Rosie being the dominate one in an attraction of opposites sort of thing.
Oh well………. A fan can dream….

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albino July 25, 2009 at 2:03 am

keep the original voices……….cuz I said so

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Dan July 24, 2009 at 11:27 am

The only thing that I hope this negotiation will bring is that if its settled, viewership will hopefully rise. Again I would rather see Futurama end with Into the Wild Green Yonder than have a new season with replaced voices.

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splazmataz July 22, 2009 at 9:48 pm

I certainly hope that the announcement of voice auditions does turn out to be a negotiating ploy. It’s one thing to change out voices after a few shows or one season. It’s entirely another to change out most of the cast after a total of 10 years passing…..it simply won’t fly. Greed may be accused at both the studio execs and the cast, but if the original voice actors aren’t part of the new episodes, I will not watch even one episode. One comment said we should give the possible new voices a try, maybe they’ll be even better. You are completely missing the point and/or you simply aren’t a real fan of the show to have such a flippant attitude over what the heart of the show is…..you can draw brightly colored pictures and write funny (or not) stories for the pictures, but when you add the VOICES….that’s when the characters are “real”……and when you’ve been listening to those voices for 10 years (7 of them in repeats), NO other voices, no matter how close they sound to the originals, will suffice. I have watched every single episode and the movies. There’s no changing of voice actors that I would accept, short of the actual death of those actors. As for suggesting that the actors need the work…..the only actor who visibly needs the work is Phil Lamarr……who happens to be staying on. Check out IMDB before you insinuate such drivel. All of the actors have remained faithful to the fans all these years with appearances…..despite being cancelled, then not, then resurrected to Adult Swim, then switched over to Comedy Central. Everybody knows that animated shows in general are labor intensive and thus more expensive to create, but those that become successful garner TREMENDOUS profits in the long run. Think about future back-end syndication; think about merchandising; think about Full featured films; think about spin-offs. $75k per episode is really not that much when you think about some past situations with very popular shows wherein cast members threatened to walk unless they got a quarter mil per episode….now THAT’S greed! If at the end of the day 20th/CC decides to eschew a dedicated fanbase in the hopes of garnering a completely new fanbase that hasn’t already been exposed to the show, and therefore will likely NOT re-check it out cause the voices changed, then they will lose LOTS more money in the short-term. Without Billy, Katey et al, the show is doomed to fail. So, to recap, either this is a ploy in negotiating or 20th/CC execs are really, really, REALLY stupid.

“Just HAD to come back for the Crushinator, didn’t ya robot!”

“Good News, Everyone!”

“……I guess I’ll have to listen to idioticness!”

“Bite my Shiny, Metal Ass!”

Keep the actors or cancel the show. None of the above lines will ever sound the same.

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chris July 22, 2009 at 6:13 pm

#7 is the guy who would cross a picket line

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chris July 22, 2009 at 6:11 pm

about the question at the end of your article, fuck you for even asking that!

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Dily July 22, 2009 at 4:41 pm

I watch the show because of the voice actors. Billy West, Katey Segal, and John Dimaggio are very talented, and have excellent chemistry. Their comic timing is perfect. Would you watch Seinfeld if the voices were dubbed by someone else?

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Jon July 21, 2009 at 11:27 am

I think judging the voice acting casting decisions before the new, affordable actors have even had a chance to show us what they can do is a bad idea.

If the budget can’t afford Billy and John that’s sad, but I’m not going to condemn two new voice actors, the other old voice actors and all the staff working on the show to failure just because of a natural human resistance to change.

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billy bob July 21, 2009 at 8:38 am

For example – on the live-action series “Roseanne”. At some point mid-way they replaced the actress that played the older daughter “Becky”. Nobody noticed that 2 similar girls that looked alike and sounded alike were swapped out. they both used their normal voices.

Billy West does the voices for 3 of the 7 main characters – Zoidberg – Fry and Prof. Farnsworth. That is nearly half of the main character roles. All 3 of them are distinctly different (and I promise non of them are Billy own voice).

It is a very difficult thing just to emmulate someone’s normal voice – and it’s even more so to emmulate someone’s alterd voice. And I guarantee you that FOX will not take the time and effort to find replacements that end up having the ability to maintain the vocies themselves.

Katey Sagal’s voice is very specific for a woman. There is no mistaking her voice for anyone else. When she is talking you know it’s her.

The thing is that animation is different from live-action. The voices of animated characters are a part of what makes the character.

What if somehow Matt Stone and Trey Parker were outed from South Park and some Movie Studio decided to hire other voice actors – no one would have watched the show anymore. Cartman has a very distinct whiny voice. The only exception might be Kenny as all there’s no wya.he does is mumble the whole time. but characters like Butters or Tweak or Timmy there’s no way.

The vocie of an animated character is what makes the character come to life.

I for one will not even be curious if the voice actors are replaced. I will not watch the pilot episode or the rest of the series.

One primary reason why the series has life again is because of Katey and Billy and Maurice and Phil and John and Lauren. Without them doing the series or the DVDs the fans would not have given a damn. the only reason we are stoked about the new 26 epsidoes are because of them. They put in a decade of time and effort to the series. They came back after 4 years of moving on and doing other projects and made time in their schedules to do the DVDs. And now FOX is dicking them over.

Forget it! the fans that made the DVDs happen will boycott the new episodes if the actors are replaced. If FOX EVER thought that Futurama wasn’t worth their time – they ain’t seen nothing yet.

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Dan July 20, 2009 at 7:24 pm

I agree with brian, The cast is 50% of the reason why people like Futurama. You couldnt replace Peter of Family Guy or Homer of The Simpsons with similiar sounding voices. These voices are the reason people like the series. Billy West’s Clueless Fry or his wild Zoidberg, or John Dimaggio’s crude “bite my shiny metal ass” Bender. Even Katey Sagal’s strong leader of Leela makes a great character. This reminds me of a few years back when they replaced the dubbed voices in Pokemon, Sure I got used to the new voices but they werent the same as the original. Replacing one actor like Amy or Hermes might work but all he other voices are memorable because of what the actors bring to the characters. They need to make some sort of agreement or the show will be forever screwed up.

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Alison Videto July 20, 2009 at 7:07 pm

The original voice actors are well known names that deserve the salary they are seeking. Fox stands to make huge winnings with this show. They should pay the actors accordingly because they [Fox] will undoubtedly reap huge rewards from fan loyalty. Without fan loyalty, they’ll just be sinking their money onto another Titanic. They don’t need yet another failed show. I doubt I’ll be very interested if they re-cast the voices.

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CJ July 20, 2009 at 6:17 pm

For the first time in my life I feel like writing an angry letter to them

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CD July 20, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Fox screwed this up the first time, and they need to suck it up. I’d rather they not bring it back at all if they’re going to disrespect the original cast and the viewers.

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Brian Mcquaig July 20, 2009 at 2:53 pm

I’m a die-hard Futurama fan…but if the original cast isn’t there…neither am I. Fox has had it in for this show from the very beginning. They’re just trying to sabotage it. I just don’t get it. It didn’t see a revival from the original airings…it was popular ALREADY…it failed to draw audience because Fox kept screwing with its time slot. You’d never know when the damn thing was on!! Someone has had it out for this show from the start. They need to be crucified, tarred & feathered and staked onto a fireant hill…in that order.

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