futurama.jpg

This news started floating around on Friday, and it is going to be pretty bad if it’s the case, but when (and if) Futurama returns to the airwaves, it may not features the voices we’ve grown to love over the years.  Why?  Money, pure and simple.  Contract negotiations between Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche and Tress MacNeille and the studio have broken down causing the cast to find themselves out of jobs.  20th Century Fox wants to pay the actors only $75,000 per episode, while the cast believes they deserve more.

As a result, 20th has put out a casting call to find replacement voice actors for the show. According to insiders, a deal could eventually be struck that brings the original voice actors back — but for now, the studio said it’s serious about finding replacements.

This isn’t the first time Billy West has been involved in contract disputes over money – his publicized exit from the Howard Stern show was also over money.

That being said, everything is still up in the air.  Often news like this is sent around the press and the Intardwebz to judge the reaction to these kind of changes or to stir up fans into forcing the studio’s hand.  It’s really touchy trying to do something like this as it could backfire ala Terrance Howard’s removal from Iron Man.

I’ll let your fan outrage bubble to the surface…now.

via Variety

The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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15 Comments

  1. Kirby
    July 20, 2009 at 9:34 am — Reply

    I’m as annoyed as the next man.

    Anyway I honestly belive that thing’s will all be settled out, because half of the fun of that show was the voice work. It’s a show that really shows don’t get big named celebrites to do the characters, get people who know how to change their voice and use inflection and what not.

  2. July 20, 2009 at 9:48 am — Reply

    $75,000 per episode, times 26 episodes…$1.95 million dollars…I get that they deserve to be paid for what they do, and I wouldn’t watch the show without their voices, but almost 2 million bucks is a nice payday for a voice actor, even one of Billy West’s caliber.

  3. Dr. Bolty
    July 20, 2009 at 10:14 am — Reply

    Futurama is the sort of show that thrived on its casting. Billy West is not replaceable.

    Honestly, it seems to me that Fox just has a very low opinion of voice actors’ value, considering the similar disputes with the cast of The Simpsons.

  4. Big Money B.G.
    July 20, 2009 at 10:32 am — Reply

    If the original cast is replaced, it just won’t be the same show. At all. It’ll last a season, maybe, due to curiosity. If FOX is serious about a “Futurama” return, why not go all the way with it? Would “Family Guy” have worked with it’s comeback if Seth Macfarlane wasn’t involved? Negative.

    They’ll see…

  5. July 20, 2009 at 10:35 am — Reply

    I’m of two minds on this honestly…

    First off, the original cast was terrific, and I can’t really hear any other voices for them…

    …but then again, I’m trying to find out whatever I can about the casting call mentioned, because it would be a great in…. other than fans hating whoever comes in on principal.

  6. websnap
    July 20, 2009 at 10:51 am — Reply

    If they changes the characters to new ones I’d give it an episode to see where it was going but probably drop it after that. If they just recast the characters voices… I won’t even give them that much.

  7. July 20, 2009 at 11:20 am — Reply

    Simply stated, I just won’t watch the show without the original voice cast. If they don’t feel the show warrants an increased payout to the cast members, they shouldn’t pick it back up, plain and simple.

  8. Salieri
    July 20, 2009 at 11:56 am — Reply

    I recall the writers in intreviews talking about ideas for TNG or Voyager-type continuations of the series.

    This, however, would be the ‘Enterprise’ equivalent. All of your fave concepts with none of the interest or coolness of the previous series.

    Between this and my guarded caution over the next season of Scrubs, I’m starting to become very suspicious of any American comedy that isn’t The Venture Bros…

  9. July 20, 2009 at 12:05 pm — Reply

    Philip J. Fry
    Prof. Hubert J. Farnsworth
    Dr. Zoidberg
    President Richard Nixon’s Head
    Zapp Brannigan
    plus MANY more!

    These are all voiced by Billy West. Does this mean they are going to hire five voice actors to replace him? They’d have to, as talent like his is a rare thing. Five actors for the price of one?! You’ve got to be kidding, FOX!

  10. Wodwose
    July 20, 2009 at 12:13 pm — Reply

    I get that most people don’t grok that voice acting is very, very taxing to do. They deserve this money. If you listen to the commentaries they do on the new movie DVD’s you can hear how it effects them, to have to voice 4 back to back movies. And, honestly FOX still makes out on the deal. I think this is just more of FOX’s long-documented need to bully the creative types just to let them know who’s REALLY in charge (see: entire early-2000’s FOX prime time line-up).

  11. j corri
    July 20, 2009 at 12:47 pm — Reply

    Is it 75,000 per actor or as a group?

  12. Brian Duff
    July 20, 2009 at 4:11 pm — Reply

    Well, now they’ll more than likely just pay the new voice actors less than what they were initially going to pay the old Futurama cast and look at it as a bargain. It’s like you think you’re getting the name brand show, but it’s really a cheaper imitation of it’s former self. Though I really do hope they can get actors whose voices are freakishly similar so it’s not too jarring. (ie: Old Bugs Bunny to Modern Bugs Bunny type casting)

    I really think an efficient compromise would have been to offer them cheaper salaries, but get a percentage of the profits off the show and all the related merchandise. I’m sure that would have more than been satisfactory if it was in the deal (if it wasn’t already).

  13. Darren Ellis
    July 20, 2009 at 4:19 pm — Reply

    I wish the original cast was retained. However, in this economy, $75K per episode (or more than most Americans make each YEAR) is nothing to sneeze at.

    If the producers can find voice actors will similar voices, I will still watch. It is the stories that sell Futurama for me (as long as the voices aren’t jarringly different.

    I think the voice cast went too far out on a limb and it got cut off behind them. I wish the the original cast would just sign for one season to see if the show gets the ratings to get picked up again and then determine if they can get a raise.

  14. Red Star
    July 20, 2009 at 7:05 pm — Reply

    i won’t watch it without billy

  15. ~wyntermute~
    July 20, 2009 at 10:46 pm — Reply

    These people are on television EVERY SINGLE DAY in syndication, and will likely be thus for a long, long, LONG time judging by how much people love their work. So they don’t deserve to get paid commensurate with that? Musicians get “royalty payments” every time songs are played, and I don’t think voice actors receive similar treatment. So it is a situation sort of like the one a pro athlete is in: you’re going to have “X” many hits/good seasons/paying jobs, and must maximize the income you get WHEN you get it. Also, I’m not sure if a lot of people have noticed how many “big name stars” are doing traditional voiceover work… Keifer Sutherland & John Goodman doing car ads, for instance. That means that salaries for those jobs are going up, which means people want “name recognition” for the massive amounts of money, which leads to the “regular” voice actors getting less jobs. Bringing it all back to “maximize the financial output cuz they’ve minimized your job opportunities” thesis.

    So, like, yeah, the cheapskate in me figures that it sounds like a metric buttload of money… But, like, considering the amount of revenue this show has probably generated for the studio from dvd sales and merchandising and etc., what they are asking for might not even total up to 10% of the gross. I’m not actually going to quote numbers or anything, cuz I don’t know them, but I just wanted to put things into that perspective and hopefully be of some use in so doing. :D

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