FUTURAMA Cast vs. 20th Century Fox: Pick a Side!


On Friday, word leaked out that 20th Century Fox (the studio behind FUTURAMA) had sent out a casting notice to replace original series voice talents John DiMaggio, Phil LaMarr, Maurice La Marche, Billy West and Katey Sagal with more affordable actors after talks broke down over money. According to Variety, “The stars had all expressed interest in returning. But with the budget for FUTURAMA dramatically slashed, the salary offers came in well below what the thesps were asking — believed to be around $75,000 per episode.” In other-words, assuming the parties fail to come to their senses, “Bite my shiny metal ass” may never sound the same again. What’s worse, this usually opinionated TV Addict finds himself conflicted as to whose side he should be on.

On the surface, 20th Century Fox sure comes across as the Mr. Burns of this story — the easy target if you will — the greedy, soulless, corporate mega-behemoth-conglomerate that will undoubtedly bear the brunt of the fandom’s anger. Unless that is, one takes into account that FUTURAMA never really was the cash cow that its yellow-skinned brethren were. And that Fry, Bender, Leela et al, while popular enough to attract enough of a cult following to warrant the continuation of the series on DVD, will only work on Comedy Central if it makes complete dollars and cents sense.

Which brings us to the talented original voice actors and their rumored exorbitant salary demands. Putting aside the obvious that we’re not sure we could ever enjoy FUTURAMA without them (Who doesn’t remember the debauchery that were the Aladdin sequel sans Robin Williams or those really weird episodes of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES were Donatello’s voice wasn’t quite right) this TV Addict is finding it really hard to sympathize with actors who are turning down tens of thousands of dollars for a few hours of *work* a week.

Your take?

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  • Ace

    I think I’m actually *shudder* with FOX on this one. $75,000 per episode for a show that was once cancelled and now will be on Comedy Central (not exactly known for their original programing outside of South Park), is pretty good. Just seems weird to me that they didn’t sort all of this out before announcing that they were bringing the show back. Unless they can hire people to mimic the voices perfectly, I would rather they didn’t bother. Umm, unless they want to hire me. I’m perfectly happy taking $75,000 for like a week of talking into a microphone.

    TVA — Do we have any idea what other voice over talents make per episode?

  • Hil

    Maybe they won’t feel like hiring the same writers either and will hire replacement writers to mimic the jokes and skills of the original for half the cost. Oh! Maybe they can get a college art class to animate it to save money there! This is starting to make more and more business sense to me. When all that is done they can hire different people to view it too.

  • Hil

    But on a serious note, voice actors routinely get no respect in the business. Many of the non-Hollywood actor types work their butts off for little pay as far as the industry goes. At least in the anime realm some actors assume more than one name so they can work more jobs to make ends meet. And then when a great animated film comes out and everyone wants to try out for it they end up hiring an actor from Hollywood for the job instead of a career VA. If this is their chance of making it big finally I don’t blame them for it. Futurama has been a success, especially on DVD sales, and I am all for spreading the love around to the people who make it possible.

  • Dave

    You’ve got it all wrong. The cast were willing to return for 75K an episode but FOX refused.

  • Neal

    I agree with the posters in that the actors are probably rewarded handsomely for their work and that any other voice would just not measure up. However, when John Kricfalusi left Ren & Stimpy, I really couldn’t notice the difference in voice actors. So, it could work. But still “Bite my shiny metal ass” coming from any other voice would probably sound .. hollow. I have a feeling that without the original cast or extremely good mimics, it’s just not even worth it. It won’t make any money for sure.

  • Ace

    Whoops. Dave, you are right. $75,000 does seem to be what the voice people were asking for, not what FOX offered. I might have to amend my comment depending on what FOX actually offered.

  • Mario

    fun fact: they used to get paid 75000$ to record, and i cannot stress this enough, a maximum of 3 hours every WEEK. and if they really cared about this show, they’d settle for less since the people who brought it back have basically been negotiating this deal for 2 years now to finally see it come to fruition…

  • I admit I’m not a watcher of Futurama, but I have to agree with the TVAddict. It’s hard to sympathize with actors who want six digits across two weeks of work, when a lot of people have to work two years or more to make than much.

    I know acting in Hollywood is a high paying business. *To a certain extent*, it’s justified. It’s a high-demand job. Some of the accountability of the success in a show lies in the characters & performances. It’s expensive living & working in L.A. Actors have to pay for agents, publicists, etc., so their salary isn’t just for them. Job security is low (show could get cancelled, movie could bomb, actor could get typecast, etc.). And, some actors give back by donating time, money, and/or influence to promoting charities. I have to remind myself of all these factors whenever I hear of high actor salaries.

    But, sometimes, the salaries are still just too extravagantly high. I can understand if your role is based partially on looks and you have to work extra hard off-camera to keep fit, or if you’re in an action role and you have to do potentially dangerous stunts, or even if you’re in sci-fi and you have the added challenge of acting against a green screen.

    But, voicing a 30-minute show? Especially one that’s apparently been cancelled at least once and is moving to cable? I’d say $75,000 is a very gracious *monthly* salary. If I had any vocal talent, I’d take that much per year!

  • Rose

    So suddenly being a voice actor is not real work???? Am I reading that right? That’s kind of harsh.

    Also, it’s not up to us to decide what they should be paid. We don’t know the financials involved in the show. How can we decide which side is being greedy? I think those voice actors have every right to negotiate for every dollar they can get. What’s wrong with that?

    I have no doubt that they will reach a deal eventually. It’s just a shame that both sides seem to be negotiating in such a public and tacky way. Ugh.

  • The network should dish out the cash. Seriously, lose the voices, lose the return before it even starts.

  • Ace

    Rose “I have no doubt that they will reach a deal eventually. It’s just a shame that both sides seem to be negotiating in such a public and tacky way. Ugh.”

    I thought that too. And it is weird that so many negotiations are going public now; that used to be very back doors hush hush. But I can think of three other examples just in the last few months: (1) Chad Michael Murray OTH, (2) SVU leads, and, of course, (3) Paula Abdul. Sometimes it works (see SVU) and sometimes it backfires (see CMM).

  • Hil

    The reason people in tv get paid a lot is because there is a lot of money being generated by what they do. It is like the whole sports star argument. Why should football players be paid more than firefighters? Well, the NFL makes billions. It either is going to the players who are out there in front of the cameras sacrificing their bodies entertaining people or it is going to the owners who…well, they do something I guess. Own. Owning is hard work and all.

    If anyone has a big problem with voice actors wanting $75,000 then just turn off your tvs. How much do you think the LOST actors or HOUSE actors or anyone else is making? And if those actors were not making that much it would be lining the network’s pockets or someone else’s. We are not going to be getting a check back from our cable company telling us that since the actors decided to be paid like a firefighter we the consumer will get our cash back. The money will be going to someone. I’ve got no problem with it going to the VAs.

  • Josh C.

    i agree im also conflicted. If i had to choose a side it would be the cast tho. Ive been a loyal futurama for years and was first in line for the straight to dvd movies. I cant imagine watching one of my fav animated series without the right voices. its like watching an old episode of family guy vs a new one with megs voice

  • FLutterby

    Putting the money aside, if you can’t get the original voice talent for the revived show, don’t bother spending the time and effort to move forward. I won’t be watching, and I doubt few other fans will either.

    Would you continue to watch The Simpson’s if Dan Castellaneta or Nancy Cartwright were replaced? I didn’t think so.

  • Tim

    The show isn’t making more money yet. Voice actors should do this cheaper and save the show money in the hopes show goes BOOM again. Perhaps the voice actors could reach a back door settlement: paid after the fact. Could be more money.

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  • A Friend Of The Show

    Let’s get a couple of things straight. First, these actors aren’t milking YOU for your last dollar. That would be the IRS that does that. Actors don’t “take” from consumers, unless they adopt a life of crime because their careers are failing and they have no morals. We consumers willingly give over what we feel our entertainment dollar buys *in exchange* (important phrase there) for that which is most… entertaining to us. And we give those entertainment dollars over to mega-corporations like Newscorp, when we buy their DVDs, downloads, or give our time to their broadcasts so we can be subjected to Hypnotoad-like ads. That said, actors provide a service, for which they charge the production companies as the demand for their talents will bear. In this case, Futurama, which, as you aptly point out, has never been a cash cow, is about to *become* one. Big time. For, this order of 26 episodes will put them over the top of the magic number of 100 episodes, and make the show a viable syndication package, forever. Picture, if you will, the Mother Alien in “Aliens”, birthing those gooey alien egg-things every few seconds, and you’ve got a somewhat accurate image of what a syndication package is to a studio, because those gooey egg-things are filled with cash. Millions upon millions in cash for the studio; self-generating, without the studio ever again having to do… anything. The show just sits there, spewing ridiculous gobs of wealth at the corporation, possibly for decades.
    These actors have been the most underpaid cast in primetime animation since it became a genre again. They make less than the King Of The Hill actors, less than the Family Guy or American Dad actors, and certainly less than the Simpsons actors. By a lot. This is the magic season, and they are actually asking for less than their fair share, considering their contribution, and considering what this show is about to become, in terms of earning power, for so many much higher on the totem pole than they. And BTW, $75,000.00 per episode is a made-up figure. And who would be surprised if it was made up by 20th Century Fox TV to make the actors appear greedy, when in fact, the almost entire *lack* of balking at that amount in comment threads all over the Web seems to indicate the actors’ real demand is probably, again, not high enough to garner the outrage the 20th TV spinmeisters desire from the general public, so they had to tweak it. And it is probably closer to what they should have demanded. The irony is, they underestimated their own value again. How do I know all this? Look at my display name. I can’t tell you much more than that, to protect my ties to the show, but my facts are solid.
    And now you can pick sides with a bit more information at your fingertips.

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  • Doug

    Hay. The Cast of this show have been doing a great job for years and when Fox finally sees it’s a show that will make money they want to keep it all for themselves. Why else would they be looking at doing another season? ? ? Face it. Futurama without the original voices is nothing but a Cheap Rip Off. Forget it FOX. You do this and no one will watch. No one will care. Its like trying to do the X-Files without Scullie and Mulder. TRASH ! ! ! Drop the voices and you kill the show ! ! ! I for one will avoid it like the plague……….

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