Behind the Music of ‘The Bob’s Burgers Movie’
The Bob’s Burgers Movie, the film adaptation of the popular Fox show that was released in theaters over Memorial Day weekend, was Disney’s most successful 2D animated movie since 2009 and certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics and fans alike praising it as a fun, faithful big-screen translation of the series.
In addition to carrying over the show’s heartfelt hilarity, the movie also brought along with it the unique musical stylings of Bob’s Burgers, which has been well established over 13 television seasons. While not a full-on musical, The Bob’s Burgers Movie included four big musical numbers — from the introductory “Sunny Side Up Summer” all the way to the big finale, “My Burger Buns.”
All of them were written by Loren Bouchard and Nora Smith, who worked on the screenplay together, too. Bouchard also co-directed the movie and is the creator of Bob’s Burgers, and it’s his musical sensibilities that have informed the series over the years. Which is why we’re handing the mic over to him to take us through each of the four musical numbers that really made The Bob’s Burgers Movie sing and how the show got its signature sound in the first place.
The Bob’s Burgers Boogie
I think of Bob’s Burgers as a cable show that snuck onto broadcast TV, and that’s how I feel about the show’s music too. I knew we could do silly little things that were fun for us, but at first, I wasn’t sure how much we could put on the show.
I recorded the theme song and had some help from my longtime collaborator John Keith. That theme was testing the waters with the audience to see if they could tolerate the ukulele. Then we recorded a bunch of bumpers, and for the first few episodes, we played the show out with Bob’s theme at the end. But as soon as we could, we did an original song over the end credits to see if it felt natural. The audience responded well to it, and we just kept going. The montages got longer, the songs got sillier and soon we committed to the idea that every episode would end with a new song in the end credits.
And so, we knew going into the movie that music was going to be a big lever we were going to pull on to make it a spectacle. When they invited us to do the movie, we were actually rehearsing for a two-night-only Bob’s Burgers concert in L.A. That show was for like 2,000 people, and we wanted to be sure to give them a good show. So we got confetti cannons, and we got puppets made of Topsy the Elephant and a big, 20-foot snake for the song “I’m Afraid of Snakes.”
We didn’t make any money on those concerts — it was just for fun — but because of them, because we were already thinking in terms of a big spectacle, we said yes to the movie, and we knew music would be a part of it.
That said, we knew that we didn’t want to make The Bob’s Burgers Movie a “musical.” We realized quickly that if we did the same number of songs that you might see in a Disney animated movie, it would be too much for Bob’s — it would have taken the place of something else integral. So we arrived at having a big opening number (“Sunny Side Up Summer”), another song coming into the second act (“Lucky Ducks”), a big expositional number that told you everything you needed to know about the crime that was committed (“Not That Evil”) and music at the end (“My Burger Buns”). That was the perfect amount of music for us.
“Sunny Side Up Summer”
This was a classic case of Nora and I knowing a few chords that we liked and going from there. I’m more the music guy and she’s more the lyricist, but we change hats often. She picked up a ukulele at my house and played a sound that she’d been thinking about. I quickly said, “I like that! What is it?” Within a few minutes, I picked up the ukulele and expanded upon it, and “Sunny Side Up Summer” wrote itself.
We wrote all the lyrics pretty quickly — except for the chorus. It wasn’t until we had the movie mostly animated before we came up with the chorus. We finally got it because the fiancée of my wife’s cousin, a woman named Lia Eddy, was talking to us one day, and she said, “What about ‘Sunny Side Up Summer’?” I wasn’t sure though, because it’s a burger shop and they don’t really do eggs. Later on, I was talking to Nora and I realized we could do eggs because Bob could put an egg on that first burger he’s making in the movie.
We cut Lia in on the songwriting credit because she thought of it first, and it was perfect for what we were doing. It was such a summer movie, not just because it came out in the summer, but because all five characters were looking forward to the promise of summer.
I was excited about the chords in this song, but I was slightly worried that it was too much like the first song, so I kept rejecting it. I just couldn’t let this song go, though; it had a hold on me. This one was always Louise’s song, but when we finally figured out the “Lucky Ducks” set piece and that it would be sung by all the carnies, I finally gave in. In a way, it’s kind of like part two of the first song. But that’s okay, they kind of speak to each other.
During the recording, Kristen Schaal actually burst into tears over it. Some of it was the song, some of it was COVID — as we recorded during the pandemic — and some of it was her being sleep-deprived from her young child. But it was so sweet: She’s singing, “I’m going to show them all that I can do,” and this big sob just came out.
She apologized for it, but that moment made me so appreciate that her character is just this little girl who is such a big part of the movie. Each member of the family has their part in the movie, but at the heart of it, it’s about this nine-year-old girl and whether or not she was going to be brave enough to take this hat off. She seems like the bravest character on the show — she’s always starting fights and she’s fearless — but we know it’s a front because she won’t take that hat off. Even if we don’t address it very much, you know that there’s some fear under there and addressing that was so important to the movie.
“Not That Evil”
This is the villain’s song, where he explains his motivation and how he doesn’t think he’s the villain, he thinks he’s the star. It’s fun to write the villain’s song, and there are great examples in Disney movies you can point to.
We also had the idea early on that the whole song would be in falsetto — a very silly, Muppet-y kind of falsetto. But David Wain (who played the villain, Grover Fischoeder) couldn’t do it. We tried to transpose the song into a different key, but it wasn’t quite right. He even worked with a singing coach and still couldn’t get it. I then thought I could do the voice and sound like him, but that didn’t work either. Finally, he came in and asked to do it one more time, and he did it all in one take!
Afterwards, we sent him the song and asked him to dance to it like he likes to dance, with his very specific, David Wain movements. Then our director, Bernard Derriman, watched it and used that for the animation. That’s also why Bernard got the job in the first place — we wanted him because he directs dancing so well.
“My Burger Buns”
This was Gene’s arc, and we love his band, The Itty Bitty Ditty Committee, from the series. This song is more of a jam, and we wanted it to be something big and uplifting to bring you into the closing credits with all these characters dancing. We knew the idea was to have the song lift off, and even if many people didn’t show up for their concert, in Gene’s mind, it was a packed house.