Sorry Hulu, It's Not 'Futurama' Without John DiMaggio Voicing Bender
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It's that special time of the decade when Futurama fans are granted a bunch of extra seasons before, as Matt Groening himself said in the press release, "we get canceled abruptly again." Hulu marked the announcement that they're ordering 20 new episodes of the show with an image of Bender carrying a flag that says "WE'RE BACK, BABY!" -- but, as half of their replies on Twitter point out, the choice of image is pretty ironic considering that Bender is the one central character who is not back. Not yet, anyway.
When Variety broke the news, they reported that John DiMaggio, who voices characters like Chez Elzar, Henry Kissinger's head, Fry's dad, Jake the Dog (one time), and Bender Bending Rodriguez, is "not currently attached" to the revival but the producers are "hopeful" that he'll return. At the exact same time, Deadline claimed that negotiations with DiMaggio had frozen like a clumsy pizza boy in a cryogenics lab and that Bender's part is "being recast ahead of the first table read on Monday." In fact, according to actor James Adomian on Twitter, "Everyone in the industry saw the audition notice go out two weeks ago for Bender, asking for a voice match for John DiMaggio," which is great news for his twin brother Fauxo.
Now, we have no doubt that this is all part of a carefully calculated negotiation tactic and Hulu's executives have already predicted every possible way this story will be covered, down to this article. Even then, it's still nuts that the possibility of someone else playing Bender is being considered for a single second, even for a table read. If you want a clear demonstration of DiMaggio's importance to this show, we invite you to look up Futurama fan dubs on YouTube; the other characters kinda sound like themselves, but most Benders somehow end up sounding like angry Homer Simpsons. (We'd embed some of those here, but that'd count as bullying.)
Or you can watch this video of DiMaggio reviewing some decent counterfeit Benders and explaining the elaborate process that goes behind the voice, which is basically three different voices at once: old-time cowboy actor Slim Pickens, a drunk person, and a character called "Charlie the Sausage Lover" DiMaggio's college buddy used to do. Hey, maybe if things don't work out, DiMaggio can do a Charlie the Sausage Lover show for some other streaming service. An all-ages one, ideally.
Another important consideration is that, as DiMaggio points out in that video, most people physically can't do Bender's voice for too long, including Futurama's Billy West and Maurice LaMarche. Damn, Hulu might accidentally cause some poor actor's throat to explode on the table read. "That's called job security, folks," an unsuspecting DiMaggio adds.
On the press release, the head of 20th Television Animation says that one of the upsides of animation is that "it's possible for a successful show to take a pause and then resume years later," mainly because you can't see how old everyone suddenly got from one episode to the next. That's true, but a downside to not seeing the actors' faces is that some people think they're easier to disrespect and replace -- Hulu couldn't have gotten away with that "WE'RE BACK, BABY!" picture if it was, say, Danny DeVito there being propelled by his own farts.
As of this writing, DiMaggio has only released a message of appreciation to the thousands of people who have expressed their support, but at the same time he's been busy retweeting invitations for Hulu to bite all sorts of asses from fans, including those who say they'll boycott the show if he isn't there. Again, we're sure Hulu's execs are only doing this to get DiMaggio to agree to less bathroom breaks or something (those recording studio toilet flushes eventually add up), but who knows how far they'll take it. Hopefully negotiations don't go from the cryo tube to the suicide booth and we end up with one of those fan dub guys on the show. Not even an irate Dan Castellanata would be acceptable.
Top image: 20th Television, Super Festivals/Wikimedia Commons