Bob Bergen and Gregg Berger Propose Convention for Voice Actor Fans!

02.05.2011

The following is a repost from the All Things Bob Bergen Facebook Group, with permission from Bob Bergen. It was originally published February 5th, 2011. Please scroll down for the most recent updates.

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Bob Bergen (image courtesy BobBergen.com)


Hi all!

My buddy Gregg Berger and I are working on an idea, and I need your opinions:

ToonCon– a fan convention devoted to fans of animation voice actors.

This would take place on a 3 day cruise out of Los Angeles some time in 2012. Guests would include some of the top animation voice actors from some of the top animated series’ and features in the business. Kind of a cruise vacation/con combo!

Itinerary ideas:
-meet and greet cocktail party
-moderated Q&A with voice actors, as well as animation voice-over agent and voice director
-observing a mock animation recording session, directed by a top animation voice director
-as well as all the things involved on a cruise: miles of food, miles of ocean, port of call, ship’s entertainment, casino, etc.

SO-is this something you’d be interested in? The price would be 2 fold: the cruise itself (about $300-$600, depending on the stateroom size you book) and an additional con fee. (not sure what that would be, but I’m thinking around $150-$250..all depends on final budgets)

Gregg Berger (image courtesy myspace.com/voicevirtue)

Let me know your thoughts! There has been a lot of interest amongst the top animation voice actors out there. If this gets a green light I’ll let you know. My goal is to start selling this in the early Spring. And of course, it will get a big push at the San Diego Comic Con in July.

Cruises book up early, and deposits would be needed to hold cabins. Deposits are refundable up to a certain date before the excursion. But cruise lines will only block off the cabins for a limited time, so early deposits are important to guarantee the best prices and availability.

This is all still in the planning stages. But let me know your thoughts. And if this is something you might be interested in pop me a note and I’ll make sure you get first dibs when this goes on sale.

Best!
Bob Bergen
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Exclusive note for Voice Actors in the News readers: Send your feedback to Bob and Gregg via bob@bobbergen.com and mention that you saw the news here and Bob says he will make sure that those who respond from reading the blog will get priority when they begin taking bookings.

** Update: 3.25.2011 **

Well, we don’t have a genuine “update” on this event…yet. But since we keep getting email inquiries about it, I thought I’d at least share a response from Bob from this question we received from “Ken”:

Bob: I [attended] an animation voiceover [event in Burbank, CA]. I enjoyed it tremendously, made great contacts, good experience and got lots of good reference material. I can probably speak for all of us when I say the convention itself is a good idea but considering the negative publicity several recent cruises have received (mechanical problems, bad weather, etc), I’d prefer to stay on land. I’d also find it EXTREMELY helpful if established voice actors like yourself could give us a bit more insight on how to get our feet in the door.

Bob replied:

Thanks for the feedback. This is still very much in the planning stages. The cruise is really incentive for the voice pros. We do a ton of these sorts of conventions and having a paid vacation on a cruise along with the fan con is a big hit. There will be Q&A planned as a part of the con. But it isn’t a workshop per se. That said, I do hope to have an animation agent and casting director on board as well. And believe it or not, a cruise is far cheaper than doing this on land. I know a cruise isn’t for everyone. But my goal is that this is the first annual con of it’s kind. I’d love for the next one to maybe be on the east coast.

And as far as “issues” regarding cruises, what doesn’t make the news is the hundreds of cruises with no issues each year. But the 2 or 3 problem cruises a year, statistically, should not be of concern. Trust me, more people will have problems flying this year than on a cruise.

Bob has promised to provide further updates as things progress.

And on the mention of voiceover workshops, Bob hosts a recurring one in Los Angeles . . . which is usually sold out a year or two in advance, unfortunately. However, he schedules workshop events and performs his one-man show in other U.S. cities throughout the year. Check his appearances schedule on BobBergen.com to see if he’s coming to a city near you. He still currently has spaces available for his May 21-22 workshop in St. Louis, MO. Here’s the Facebook event link for more details.

** Update: Bob is offering a 10% discount for Voice Actors in the News fans/readers for his St. Louis workshop. If interested, contact Bob’s workshop producer Marian at marian@marianmassaro.com and be sure to mention that you read this through Voice Actors in the News.

~ Craig Crumpton
Publisher, Voice Actors in the News


Happy Birthday, June Foray!

09.18.2010

June Foray in an undated publicity photo.

Voice Actors in the News would like to wish a very happy birthday to “The First Lady of Cartoon Voicing” — June Foray — born September 18th, 1917.

June Foray with fellow Looney Tunes character voicers Maurice LaMarche and Bob Bergen at VOICE 2010. Photo courtesy Dave Nimitz.

For cartoon voice actor fans, June needs no introduction. With more than 300 credits listed on The Internet Movie Database, her most notable roles are… well, all of them, but the most widely-known characters she’s voiced are Granny and Witch Hazel in classic Looney Tunes cartoons, Rocky and Natasha in Rocky & Bullwinkle, Magica De Spell and Ma Beagle in Disney’s DuckTales, and Jokey Smurf in The Smurfs.

June Foray, Dave Nimitz and Ginger. Photo courtesy Dave Nimitz.

And as we’ve reported here a few times, there’s a June Foray documentary forthcoming, which according to the official site is currently in post-production. (A new trailer was added on August 5th, 2010.)

There’s also the Smurf Justice for June Foray campaign which needs the continued support of all her fans and a great deal more media exposure if it’s going to be successful:

There’s also more than 40 links, interviews and video related to June that I collected via June’s category at The Open Directory Project. And I’ll probably be adding more to it over the next week. One link in particular that’s highly recommended is The Archive of American Television’s 2-hour video interview with June from 2008. Here’s part 1 via YouTube:

Additionally, animation artist Dave Nimitz, who has been close friends with June for ages (and who also donated personal photos for this article), has home videos with June on his official YouTube Channel, and many, many photos featuring June on his Flickr photostream.

Voice Actors in the News staffer Doreen Mulman also has a tribute to June on her blog, including an image Dave Nimitz created for June in honor of her birthday.

Cover image for June Foray's autobiography courtesy of BearManorMedia.com.

Lastly (but certainly not leastly), June’s autobiography Did You Grow Up With Me Too? is available through her official site, JUNEFORAY.COM. Mark Evanier stated via NewsFromME.com in February 2010:

[We] will soon be closing down her site and it will no longer be possible to order signed copies from there. But I like you so I’m giving you what may be your final opportunity. If you want a copy autographed by the legend herself — the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Natasha, Tweety’s owner Granny, Nell Fenwick, Jokey Smurf and so many more — go there now and order one…or more. And don’t come crawling to me when you finally decide you need one and they’re no longer available.

Mark hasn’t followed up on this since, and the site does appear to still have copies available. But if for some reason they’re sold out, you can still purchase the book through the publisher: BEARMANORMEDIA.COM.

June Foray and Bob Bergen at VOICE 2010. Photo courtesy Dave Nimitz.

June’s character voices have been entertaining me since I was a toddler. I hope to finally get a chance to meet her so I can tell her in person how much I admire and appreciate her work, and how much it influenced me to pursue a career as a performer.

And from myself and the staff here at Voice Actors in the News, we wish you a very happy birthday, June.

Actress June Foray arrives for the 2009 Governors Awards at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, California on November 14, 2009. Photo credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images.


SAG Appoints Bob Bergen National Chair of Animation

07.27.2010

For Immediate Release:

SAG National Board of Directors Appoints Bob Bergen
National Chair of Television Animation and Basic Cable Animation

Negotiating Committee Receives Report on The Presidents’ Forum for One Union
Announces Fiscal-Year 2010 Surplus and Receipt of Unqualified Audit Opinion

Los Angeles, (July 24, 2010) – Screen Actors Guild National Board of Directors, meeting in a one-day video plenary in Los Angeles and New York, named Bob Bergen National Chair of the 2010 Television Animation and Basic Cable Animation Negotiating Committee. Pursuant to Screen Actors Guild policy, the members of negotiating committees are confidential and their names will not be released. Negotiations for a successor agreement to this contract are scheduled to begin September 27, 2010.

In other business, National President Ken Howard reported to the Board regarding the formation of The Presidents’ Forum for One Union – a joint platform with American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) to facilitate development of a process that can lead SAG and AFTRA to form one autonomous union.

Screen Actors Guild’s contingent to The Presidents’ Forum will consist of six SAG members including President Howard as Chair, Secretary-Treasurer Amy Aquino, and four additional members selected from the Guild’s SAG/AFTRA Relations Task Force. The Forum will include a similar group designated by AFTRA.

President Howard said, “This is a positive step toward uniting SAG and AFTRA and good news for our members. The creation of a single performers’ union is overdue, and I’m pleased to be working with Roberta Reardon, who’s been such a champion of that goal.”

Related post: 12.11.2009 – Smackdown: Union Voice Actors VS Video Game Companies


SMACKDOWN: Union Voice Actors VS Video Game Companies

12.11.2009

A Dec. 7th article from The LA Times from Dec. 7th discusses the contract dispute between The Screen Actors Guild and video game companies, with interview quotes from voice actors Dave Whittenberg and Dee Bradley Baker (the article also includes a photo and audio clip of Baker performing).

The article reveals some interesting facts which are related to some of this blog’s top searches, such as “what do voice actors earn” which Whittenberg states as “roughly $30,000 a year from his video game work and, like most of his peers, supplements that income by doing voice work for animated TV shows.”

And even in a sluggish US economy, the Times article states that the “U.S. video game industry revenue has more than doubled since 2005 to $21 billion in 2008 — about twice the amount of movie ticket sales in Canada and the U.S.”

But video game developers are largely hiring non-union voice talents which make up 80% of the work available, leaving a significantly smaller percentage to union talents.

“The concern going forward is that as these games become larger and larger and generate more income, we as actors won’t see any more money when we walk out the door,” said Wittenberg.

In response, The Times interviews Attorney Scott Witlin, “who represented video game publishers in the recent labor negotiations, disputes the notion that actors are being shortchanged”:

If you look at the total contribution either in terms of hours that go into the creation of a game or the earnings of the people who make the games, voice talent represents a minute percentage.

Casey Hudson, director for Electronic Arts’ Mass Effect 2 says:

It used to be that there wasn’t very much data available for voice acting, and what we had tended to be cartoonish.

Later, with the advent of higher-capacity compact discs, characters started to speak a few dozen or hundred lines in games. But voices were still often performed by amateur actors or even the game developers themselves, because many companies didn’t think spoken dialogue was important enough to merit spending money on professionals.

In the last decade, however, as the video game industry has transitioned to DVDs and the storytelling ambitions of many game developers have blossomed, hiring experienced actors has become routine.

Hudson adds that Mass Effect 2 has a massive cast, with “90 actors playing 546 characters who speak about 31,000 lines of dialogue.”

The greatest issue that SAG is addressing in this contract dispute is the pay scale for actors performing “atmospheric voices — words and sounds for the incidental characters — bartenders, soldiers, elves, random monsters — in war and fantasy games that involve large crowds.”

What SAG is proposing is that “actors would receive a fee of about $800 for performing up to 20 atmospheric voices (up to 300 words per voice) in a four-hour session. Actors who perform ‘principal characters’ — defined as those that drive the story — would fetch the same fee for doing up to three character voices, and more than double the amount if they do six to 10 voices during a six-hour session.”

The video game companies countered by offering only a 2.5% wage increase. And according to the LA Times, the voice actors don’t seem to be pleased with either option, stating that “an influential group of Hollywood voice actors has strongly opposed the contract”:

They contend that the provision would require them to do substantially more work for roughly the same pay and put undue stress on their vocal cords, notwithstanding a provision in the agreement to protect actors against “vocal stress.”

“Before, you were doing three characters dying a horrible death. Now you’re doing 20 characters dying a horrible death,” said Dee Baker, a veteran voice actor who has worked on such games as Halo 2 and Spore, in which he voiced entire races of evolving alien creatures. “Not only will this mean less money for more experiences, it’s also going to be a lot more vocally difficult.”

But SAG’s primary goal in the negotiations is “to give the companies more incentive to hire union talent”:

“One of the things we’d like to do is improve the union’s footprint in this area of production,” said Mathis Dunn Jr., an assistant national executive director of AFTRA. “A lot of employers are not signatories to our contract, and part of the reason is that we can’t accommodate their budget. . . . This will keep us in the game.”

If you’re waiting for the inevitable editorial commentary, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I must bow out of the discussion on this one, since I’m a non-union talent living in a right-to-work state who unfortunately cannot find enough union work available in the state to merit joining the union. But I’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on the developments with this story.

And if you’d like more informed and insightful opinions on the subject, here are some I dug up for your perusal:

– From animation/comics writer and voice director Mark Evanier:

Actors who do voices for video games are concerned about the pay scales for what they do…and rightly so. Some of those jobs involve doing literally thousands of lines of dialogue and/or screaming for hours on end. I have one friend who spent two days recording a game…for not-wonderful money. And at the end of the second day, his throat was so raw that he couldn’t talk (i.e., work) for almost a week.

– Comment thread from Kotaku.com.au: Paid Less to Die More: The Actors’ Union’s Beef with Video Games.

– Discussion on Voice-Overs.com with posts by veteran video game VO pros J.S. Gilbert and Bob Bergen.

– A Joystiq.com news post on the LA Times article ignites a rather heated comment thread between gamers, industry professionals, and aspiring voice actors.

– Video game writer Jeff Spock guest blogs on Gamasutra.com with his thoughts on the LA Times article.


Spaces Still Available for Upcoming Voice Acting Workshops

08.06.2009

Just passing this info along as a favor to some friends. And as an FYI — I’ve had voice acting training/coaching with nearly all the individuals listed below and personally recommend them.

BOB CARTER and SEPTEMBER DAY LEACH in Atlanta, GA — Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Bob Carter. (Photo credit: Tyler Mason via IMDb.com)

Bob Carter. (Photo credit: Tyler Mason via IMDb.com)

Voice-over actors September Day Leach and Bob Carter are teaching a joint voice-over workshop near downtown Atlanta, GA this weekend.

September is a full-time voice talent who has worked for such clients as MTV, ABC, IKEA, Skecher’s, Levi’s, Honda, and Toyota, and was the promo voice of Skynet for the Warner Bros feature film Terminator: Salvation.

Bob Carter’s name should be very familiar to anime fans, as he has voiced characters for such popular titles as Case Closed, Dragon Ball series, Samurai 7, Evangelion series, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Speed Grapher, as well as the video games Halo Wars and Street Fighter IV.

The class takes place at Captive Sound Studios this Saturday only in Atlanta, GA from 10 AM – 5 PM. There are only a few spaces left as of this writing. If you live near the Atlanta area, I highly recommend calling September ASAP to get in on this opportunity — at a cost of only $150, this class is a tremendous value and would be a great investment for any actor’s career. For full details on the workshop, see September’s post on TheSouthernCastingCall.com.

To reserve your space, please contact September through her website: SeptemberVoice.com.

And here’s my personal recommendation after attending a previous workshop by September:

I’ve known September for about a year now — met her through some fellow Atlanta-area voiceover talents. She’s not only friendly and personable, she’s a consummate and experienced professional VO talent whose credits and clients speak for themselves. As for her workshop — I have had workshops and coaching with some well-known voiceover/voice acting instructors: Bob Bergen, Bill Holmes, Tony Gonzales, Patrick Fraley, Susan Berkley, and James Alburger. And I personally attended one of September’s recent workshops. She was well-prepared, well-spoken, helpful, informative, and especially knowledgeable of the Atlanta market and the tools, talent, and resources needed to get started and to ensure success. I would highly recommend her workshop not only for aspiring voice actors interested in breaking into the voiceover industry, but also for actors and performers interested in expanding their marketability and increasing income opportunities.”

MICHAEL BELL and LYNNANNE ZAGER in Burbank, CA —
August 15-16, 2009

Michael Bell. (Photo credit: Lynnanne Zager)

Michael Bell. (Photo credit: Lynnanne Zager)

Cartoon voice acting legend Michael Bell (Transformers, G.I. Joe, etc., etc.), and voice actor/ADR casting/voice director Lynnanne Zager (Monsters Vs. Aliens, Madagascar) are teaching a joint “two-day voiceover intensive” workshop for actors Saturday/Sunday August 15-16 from 9 AM – 1 PM at RH Factor Sound Studios in Burbank, CA.

Michael should really need no introduction to animation fans, as he’s voiced literally hundreds of cartoon characters over the last 3-4 decades. I did a piece here on the blog for Michael’s birthday with highlights of his voice acting career.

Lynnanne is also a prolific voice actor with more than 100 TV series and feature films to her credit. She also once served as an assistant for animation legend Tex Avery. She shares her history with Michael and as a voice actor via e-mail:

I have known Michael Bell since 1981 when we met at Hanna-Barbera studios. I was a typist, then worked with Tex Avery as his assistant right before he died, typed for Andy Heyward and then was the Talent Coordinator working with Gordon Hunt and Ginny McSwain. I was so fortunate to have landed at HB as a young actor – never imagining that I would end up being a voice actor myself. I only saw myself as a younger version of Meryl Streep doing Shakespeare in the Park.

Today I am a voice actor, teacher and casting director (for ADR kids voices). I teach for the Kalmenson’s and do workshops in ADR VO Acting for Teens and Kids.

The cost of this workshop is is $500 ($100 non-refundable deposit in advance to reserve a spot), and there are only a few spaces left of the 12 available.

To reserve your spot, please contact Lynnanne Zager:
Phone: 818-516-5726
E-mail: lazager@gmail.com

Click here to view the flyer for the event.

BOB BERGEN in Portland, Atlanta, Chicago, Orlando, NYC

Bob Bergen has the distinction of having lived a lifelong childhood dream to become the voice of Porky Pig, which he has now been performing for a number of animated projects since we lost cartoon voice acting legend Mel Blanc in 1989.

But Bob actually began his voice acting career in the early 1980’s — his first noteworthy lead role in animation was providing the voice of Wembley in the animated version of Fraggle Rock (1987). Bob’s since voiced characters for many, many other animated TV series and feature films.

[A little addendum here from Bob, after my article first posted: “Although I hold a place in my heart for Fraggle Rock, it was in no way my first gig. I’d been in the biz for a good 5 years before I booked that show. Gremlins was a good 3 years before Fraggle. That was probably the first major gig. But I’d still done oodles of commercials, cartoons, etc., before Fraggle.”]

I’ve known Bob for about a decade as well, and have had the privilege of taking two of Bob’s workshops which were a great experience that I heartily recommend to others. The last workshop I took with him, I actually had an audition the same day for a TV pilot. With Bob’s instruction fresh in my head, I used one of his specific techniques during my audition and afterwards I actually booked the role.

Bob has upcoming workshops in Portland, OR (August 15-16), a Voicelympics Vancouver-to-LA workshop/cruise with Deb Munro (September 21-26), Chicago, IL (October 3-4), Orlando, FL (November 14-15), and New York City (December 5-6). Bob will also be a guest at Dragon*Con in Atlanta, GA on Labor Day weekend September 4-7 (I’m also organizing a meet-up dinner with Bob that weekend), and will be performing his one-man show So, Here’s The Deal! during his weekend in Chicago on October 2nd.

To reserve your spot for any of these events, see Bob’s website for further details: BobBergen.com.

Here’s the trailer for Bob’s show:

PAT FRALEY in San Francisco, Detroit, Buffalo

Pat Fraley has been voicing cartoon characters for more than 30 years, and is widely considered one of the top voice acting instructors in the country. I’ve gotten to know Pat through e-mail and phone conversations since the 90’s, and have promoted many of his great audio products via “Voice Actors in the News” over the last decade.

Pat has upcoming workshops in San Francisco, CA (Saturday, August 8th), Detroit, MI (August 15th), and Buffalo, NY (September 19th). If you live anywhere near these areas and have an interest in enhancing and enriching your acting skills, you really should make an effort to attend. More details are available on Pat’s website at PatFraley.com.

Pat now has his own YouTube Channel where he has been uploading some of the free audio lessons from his website, but the videos include photographs from his workshop events (some of which feature photos of his celebrity guests, like Ed Asner). Here’s Pat’s tutorial on auditioning:

For a calendar of other upcoming voice-over workshops, please visit VoiceoverUniverse.com and VoiceOverXtra.com.

And on a related note, the previously reported teleconference classes being offered by Lani Minella have since sold out. I’ll get an update from Lani to see if she might be hosting these events again in the future.


Updated: Futurama Cast Full Coverage — DVD Box Set, and “The Letter”

07.17.2009

If for some reason you haven’t yet read about the Futurama recasting (situation now resolved, thankfully), my original article follows these important updates.

Update: 8.28.2009Movieweb reported 8.26 that “Futurama: The Complete Collection” will release to stores nationwide on October 13th with a suggested retail price of $169.98.

Additionally, TVShowsonDVD.com has the official press release with the complete details on this 19-disc box set limited to 25,000 copies.

The press release contradicts Movieweb’s report on the SRP — it states that it will be $199.98 for both the U.S. and Canada which seems like it might be an error. (Since Canadians unfortunately always end up paying more for stuff.) I’ve contacted TVShowsonDVD to get the SRP verified.

This box set is slam-packed with bonus content which also features the voice cast by way of episode commentaries, deleted scenes, video featurettes, and blooper reels. I was also very pleased to see the news that “a limited number of empty ‘Bender Heads’ will also be available for purchase.”

Update: 8.24.2009 — I got a really good laugh out of the message I received from ScottMullerCasting.com in response to the e-mail I sent in July voicing my concerns over the Futurama recasting.

The following e-mail was dated Monday, August 24th, 2009, 7:43 PM:

Dear Futurama Fan,

Thank you for voicing your strong support for Futurama and the original voice cast. We appreciate the time you took to fire off a thoughtful and/or concerned and/or homicidal e-mail message to our casting director, Scott Muller. (Rest assured, not a single one of these e-mails reached the actual decision-makers at 20th Century Fox Television. For future reference, please note that Scott Muller is in fact one of Futurama’s biggest fans, and was instrumental in bringing about the return of the cast. Please hoist a bottle of Olde Fortran for Scott!)

Speaking of the cast returning… good news, everyone! The cast is returning! All of our series regulars are back in action for Season 6. Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche, Tress MacNeille,
Lauren Tom, Phil LaMarr, and David Herman are all on board and have already begun delivering their customary virtuoso performances. The all-new Futurama episodes are slated to air on Comedy Central beginning in June, 2010.

We are extremely grateful for the outpouring of support for the series. Your loyalty over the years has kept the show going through its original four seasons on FOX, its subsequent reincarnations on Adult Swim and DVD, and now its Bendiferous return to life on Comedy Central. See you in the (near) future!

Sincerely,

David X. Cohen & Matt Groening

Update: 8.08.2009, 6:00 AM (ET)Katey Sagal (voice of Leela) talks with TVSquad.com about the “contentious negotiations between 20th Century Fox and the voice cast”:

Her reaction? Slightly perturbed, but not surprised, given her industry experience. “Well, it’s what always happens. We’re starting our sixth season, and the actors felt that it was deserving of a sixth-season salary. And we weren’t being offered that. We were united in our search for… we wanted what’s fair, that’s all.”

When 20th put out a casting notice looking for replacement voices, Sagal said, “I wasn’t surprised. It’s business.”

Did she think there was any chance they would replace the cast? “Well… first of all, I think it would be very hard to find five people to replace us. I think that it would have been a very different show. The fanbase for Futurama is so fiercely loyal; that’s why we’re back, because of the fanbase. And I think they were upset, really upset that the voices would be different.

Elsewhere, in a brief interview with IGN.com Katey stated that recording for the first episode of Season 6 will begin next week.

Update: 8.07.2009, 12:15 PM (ET)Futurama cast member Maurice LaMarche says by way of his Facebook page that he has a cast table read today (Friday, August 7th) for the first of the 26 new episodes of the series which were announced in June. Moe emphasizes that the cast is “really” back, which I take to mean that the negotiations with the supporting cast have successfully settled.

12:25 PM (ET) — Now have another source confirming that the supporting cast now has a deal, but I cannot offer further comment. However, I can say *now* that it’s finally, officially over.

Update: 8.06.2009, 4:00 PM (ET) — Still no word on the progress of the negotiations of the supporting cast (which I personally take as a good sign).

However, I do have an update on status of the series’ future which had fans scratching their heads when IGN relayed the news (below) that “[the] deal 20th Century Fox made with Comedy Central allows for a broadcast network to first air the new episodes, should a separate deal be made.”

IFMagazine.com has a report from Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly at the TCA Summer Press Tour, who stated that FOX is considering bringing Futurama back to the network if it’s successful on Comedy Central:

“It’s going to do its run on Comedy Central first,” says Reilly. “They really saw continued commercial business on that and fan interest and that’s what led to that order. It’s a good show, we like the show. It’s not out of the question [to pick it up on Fox], but we have not committed to picking up that option yet.”

And although I’ve already covered the SDCC Futurama panel thoroughly below, I wanted to give a heads up on the August 2nd article at Comic Book Resources which has a very accurate transcription of the entire panel presentation.

Thanks to “Svip” of TheInfosphere.org for posting this news to PEEL: The Futurama Message Board.

Update: 8.05.2009, 3:45 AM (ET) [originally posted: 8.04.2009, 5:00 AM (ET)] — Rumors have been circulating around the web that the supporting cast of Futurama has now entered negotiations with 20th Century Fox. These secondary negotiations may or may not include the following individuals: Lauren Tom (Amy Wong), Phil LaMarr (Hermes Conrad), David Herman (Scruffy, Dr. Ogden Wernstrom, Roberto), and Frank Welker (Nibler).

I can only confirm that said negotiations are indeed taking place. However, I cannot confirm how many of the above individuals are involved. My sources unfortunately cannot comment at this time.

I’ll have more details on this once they become available.

In the meantime, IGN.com has an update on the status of the future of the series:

The move to cable has meant Futurama is being done on a much tighter budget than in its original network run, including a reduced writing staff and shorter production time for episodes. Variety says that it was believed that the voice cast were asking around $75,000 an episode to return (though they note at least one of the actors dispute this), but ended up lowering their request to $40,000. Variety says the final number settled upon was lower than that, but above the original offer from Futurama production company 20th Century Fox.

The deal 20th Century Fox made with Comedy Central allows for a broadcast network to first air the new episodes, should a separate deal be made. The natural place for that to occur would be the FOX network, both because of their corporate connection to 20th and because they were where Futurama first aired – but as of now, no deal has been made with any network for the show. However, Variety notes that with a year still until Futurama is set to air on Comedy Central, a deal could still happen.

Additionally, “Svip” of TheInfosphere.org has an update on what I reported earlier that some of the show’s writers would not be returning due to budget cuts. Svip confirms that writers Ken Keeler, Eric Kaplan, David X. Cohen, and Patric M. Verrone are currently confirmed as returning, “among others.”

Update: 7.31.2009, 11:55 PM (ET) — It’s officially over.

Published around 10:00 PM (ET) via IGN.com:

We just got this word from 20th Century Fox: “Just wanted you to know that we now have deals with the entire Futurama voice cast to return: John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche, Billy West, Tress MacNeille and Katey Sagal.”

Futurama creators Matt Groening and David X. Cohen released this statement: “We are thrilled to have our incredible cast back. The call has already gone out to the animators to put the mouths back on the characters.”

Furthermore, The Hollywood Reporter reports (redundant, I know) that the series is “set to come back with new episodes on Comedy Central in mid-2010.”

BenderNow fans can celebrate.

(Oh, yeah… and the cast too.)

Congrats to the cast on closing the deal, and thanks to 20th Century Fox/Comedy Central for not hiring imitators. Also, thanks to Futurama fans worldwide who posted, e-mailed, statused, linked, forwarded, blogged, vlogged, tweeted and retweeted about this in support of the cast. I got over 14,000 hits on my blog since I first began coverage of this on July 17th. If I were wearing a hat, it would be off to you all, my fellow Futurama fans.

And now that this is over with, I’d like to redirect your attention to an unresolved issue.

[Update: 8.05.2009, 1:40 AM (ET) — The commentary originally posted here on 7.31.2009 has been removed in favor of my “open letter” campaign to Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.]

Update: 7:31.2009, 9:20 PM — Well, it appears the celebration may have been a wee bit premature. So there’s some good news, some promising news, and unfortunately some bad news.

Variety published an article at 3:26 (PT) Friday which states:

Three of the five “Futurama” cast members – Katey Sagal, Maurice LaMarche and Tress MacNeille – have just sealed pacts with 20th Century Fox TV to return to the show as it reboots with 26 new episodes for Comedy Central. The show’s other two voice stars, Billy West and John DiMaggio, are expected to follow suit shortly.

Both the actors and 20th are believed to have found a compromise.

So the good news is that we have official confirmation that Moe, Katey and Tress are locked in for 26 more episodes. The “promising news” is that other sources, such as IGN and HitFix are both reporting that Billy and John “are close” to signing, with IGN stating that they contacted 20th directly and were told that “deals with the rest of the cast are imminent and will hopefully be finalized by the end of the day.”

And the bad news is what has already been previously reported that 20th and Comedy Central were “kicking around ways to make ‘Futurama,’ originally produced for a broadcast network (Fox), make financial sense for a cable run.”

Renegotiating contracts with the cast was the first part of the budget cuts. And Variety adds, “Other costs that were slashed in the process led to a smaller writing staff and a shorter delivery schedule.”

So, the downside to all this is that the show has lost some writers, which is unfortunate because the writing has overall been solid.

(Special thanks to “Svip” of the Futurama Wiki — The Infosphere — for the heads-up on the Variety article, and for doing such an excellent job chronicling the events that have taken place during this ordeal.)

Update: 7.31.2009, 4:50 PM (EST) — Good news, Everyone! Seriously! From Maurice LaMarche‘s Facebook status at 4:37 PM (EST):

Mauirce LaMarche…had a productive afternoon… he finally cleaned up his backyard – threw away all the sun-scarred cracked pool toys, peeling boogie boards, an old broom, deflated faded basketball, and, oh yeah, closed his Futurama deal. [Emphasis mine.]

A fan (Phoenix West) responded to this asking, “Hopefully the use of ‘closed’ here means you signed a new deal instead of finishing an old one.”

To which Moe replied, “It does, Phoenix. It does.”

Additionally, Facebook group Save the Voices of Futurama founder Dave LaFaive sent the following notice with a statement from Moe:

“Thank you for all you have done, my friend! I have to believe all the fan support, from all the petitions, polls, and your Save the Voices of Futurama page made a huge difference. Feel free to announce away! We’re back Baby! With the Original Voice Cast!!

Moe”

NOW…we can truly look forward to the new season!!

Thank you to everyone who sent emails and participated in the group.

If you would like to do one more thing, send one more email thanking 20th Century for hearing our voices and Saving the Voices of Futurama.

Let the celebration begin!

~Dave

News of this first broke Friday, July 31st at 3:26 PM via The Toronto Star. [Although it was afterwards discovered that the announcement was slightly premature since only three of the five cast members had signed on at the time of printing.]

There is one item I’d like to point out in The Toronto Star article:

The compromise agreement, with the studio paying more and the actors accepting less, comes after the announcement of a 26-episode pick-up here by Comedy Central. [Emphasis mine.]

Once again, this refutes earlier statements by Variety and The Hollywood Reporter that the cast were making excessive salary demands.

And if anyone is wondering why in the world wide web did a Canadian news media source get the scoop on the Futurama cast signing new contracts — Toronto is Maurice LaMarche’s birthplace. Moe says, “Toronto Star Entertainment Editor Rob Salem and I are old BFFs from high school days. He [was] in L.A. for the TV Critics Association junket, where all the new and returning shows are promoted, and we needed to make lunch plans anyway, so I thought I’d lay the ‘exclusive’ on my old pal. I love that my hometown paper, and my buddy, got the scoop!”

And my apologies for not getting the Comic-Con photos posted yet. It’s a WordPress issue, unfortunately. I can’t do images in a gallery apparently without it looking sucky, so I’m looking into some hosting options.

7.30.2009, 8:00 PMBilly West posts to his forum in reply to a fan’s praise for his work:

Yipes!
How can I leave this one alone???
Seriously though,I’m so fortunate to be thought of in this way.
I worked long and hard (what am I? A porno star?)
in my journey and I was also very lucky as well.
I SO know that you guys are super supportive and always have been.
I appreciate it more than you know.

I wanna go back to work and give a thousand percent of my passion and
love of the voice acting craft just like I always have!
I love the show–so let’s hope for the best.

Thank you,

Billy

Update: 7.26.2009, 2:40 PMHitFix.com has published full coverage and commentary of the SDCC Futurama panel.

Additionally, I’m reposting an earlier request I made to any fans who attended either the Futurama panel and/or the voice cast autograph session at SDCC: if you took any photos from either event that include members of the voice cast, I’d be more than appreciative of yout sharing them here with your fellow Futurama fans who weren’t able to attend the con. Please e-mail me at voiceroyNOSPAM@yahoo.com (just remove the “NOSPAM”), and make sure you let me know how you’d like to be credited for the photo. In return, I’ll even include a plug for a site you own or are affiliated with.

Update: 7.26.2009, 2:05 PMIGN.com posts their full Futurama panel report — this one offering more show/movie details that I haven’t yet reported here:

Other news items stemmed from the question: Where will the next season of Futurama begin? After the revelations at the end of the last movie “Into the Wild Green Yonder” (driving the Planet Express ship into a wormhole as Fry and Leela finally profess their love for one another), Matt Groening mentioned that he wanted to ignore the happenings and just continue back on Earth like a traditional sitcom, while David X. Cohen wisely convinced everybody to resolve the conflicts… however brief the resolution may be. From the minor spoilers that they were giving out, we are expecting Fry and Leela to be dating, which should be interesting for all fans of the series.

On the movie front, Groening and the rest of the panel mentioned that they are willing and ready to do a feature length Futurama movie, but the studio needs to work it out first. And in response to quality of the straight to DVD movies, Cohen and Groening stated that nothing changed with who was writing the episodes, it was just that they had to pace the special to have a feature format that would work when chopped up into episodes. While they won’t say whether the movies were better or worse than the TV episodes, they put it up to the audience to decide.

Update: 7.26.2009, 4:00 AM – According to an article Variety published Saturday at 2:18 PM (just after the Futurama panel presentation at Comic-Con):

[Talks] between the 20th Century Fox TV and stars Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche and Tress MacNeille have taken a turn for the worse. New budget restrictions mean a salary cut for the show’s stars. With the cast and studio currently at an impasse, Fox put out a casting call for new voice actors.

At the panel, writers Eric Kaplan and David X. Cohen discussed ideas for future episodes, carefully skirting the issue of the negotiations.

Currently, there are no plans for Fox and the cast to continue talks.

Said Cohen, “Keep your fingers crossed.”

I’d like to interject here that Variety was also the first source to report the misinformation that the actors were asking $75,000 per episode, which has since been proven to be untrue by at least one Futurama cast member as well as other sources close to the actors.

That being said, my journalistic instincts tell me that the “no plans” comment is not an objective statement, and this was an opinion formed from comments made by the panelists. Note that the above statement is not in quotes, likely meaning that Variety did not conduct an in-person interview with any of the guest panelists to get an official statement.

Update: 7.26.2009, 3:00 AMFancast.com blogger Andy Hunsaker has a full report of the Futurama panel at Comic-Con. Highlights follow:

– “They opened with the classic Hypno-Toad, assuring us that ‘Everything is going smoothly at Futurama. You will not notice that the cast is not here. You will assume they are on vacation in Barbados! All glory to the Hypno-Toad!’ Funny.”

– Beginning: “Groening says no beating around the bush. They all love their Futurama actors and hope Fox and the actors can come to an agreement as soon as possible. Now they commence with amusing quotes from writer’s rooms past. Fun, but it seems as though they’ve scrambled for some way to fill the time.”

– “When they open the floor for questions, they hope they’re not on ‘a certain subject,’ and even offer prizes for what they judge to be good questions.

– The writers maintain continuity by consulting Futurama fan sites and forums: “Futurama writers are nerds who trust the nerd fans.”

– “‘The wormhole’ will be addressed for continuity, and David X. Cohen says they’re going to be ‘rebirthing’ of the series ‘quite literally.’ So be warned.”

– There are “no plans” for a theatrical Futurama movie.

– Upcoming celebrity guest voices have been “written in” but nothing’s recorded yet so they cannot divulge any details.

Update: 7.25.2009, 5:30 PMIGN.com‘s Eric Goldman talks with John DiMaggio at Comic-Con about the recasting:

When I asked him what he could say about the situation, DiMaggio first broke into song, singing some famous Elvis Presley lyrics: “Caught in a trap. I can’t walk out! Cause I love you too much, baby!” He then smiled and told me, “In other words, no comment. I really can’t talk about it. All I can say is that Matt [Groening] and David [X. Cohen] have such a wonderful project and I love it dearly – love it to death. And hopefully we’ll be able to work it out. And I think we will. It’s just going to take a little time and that’s about it.”

I mentioned to DiMaggio how tremendous the fan support has been for the actors since the story broke and DiMaggio nodded, saying, “Yeah, the fans have been really wonderful and that’s really great. But you know, that’s just the way it goes. That’s just the way this show business works. And we’ll see what happens. Hopefully… I have a good feeling it’s going to turn out for the best. That’s about it. That’s all I’ve got. That’s all I have to say about that!”

My Facebook friend and fellow voice actor fan Sherry Ane Moore attended Comic-Con’s Futurama panel and provided the following updates via her Facebook status [NOTE: Beware of spoilers on upcoming Futurama episodes!]:

– is in the Futurama panel. Wondering if the sh*t is going to hit the fan…
– So far, it’s going without incident. The panelists are writers of the show, David X Cohen and Matt Groening. They showed and talked about writer’s notes that were written and passed around during the show’s production. Then they opened it up to Q&A — they are not taking questions about the recasting.

At the beginning, Matt gave a shoutout to the cast, saying “we love the Futurama actors and we hope that they and Fox can come to an agreement shortly.”
– There’s also someone here in a great Nibbler costume… she’s getting the grand prize; Matt is handing out various Futurama gear to those asking questions. The new DVD boxset with all movies and tv seasons.
– They are talking about future episodes. First, there will be twitter in the year 3000 and second, the origin of Scruffy will be revealed. Third, there might be a relationship between Bender and Amy, and they might get married.
– That marriage will create controversy because a human and a robot will be getting married. Fourth, Zapp and Leela will get stranded again. Fifth, Fry and the Professor will have a time machine that only goes forward in time. Sixth, the universe will collapse.

Also found additional details and news summary thanks to ToonZone.net forum member “mowub”:

First image from the panel:
http://twitpic.com/blx5e
So far, it’s just Matt Groening.

Update: From what I’ve heard, apparently MG and DXC are “reluctant” to answer any questions about the recasting thing.

– Bender marries Amy?!
– Origin stories for Zoidberg and Scruffy
– Mom takes over Twitter
– Anthology of Interest III
– Leela and Zapp get stranded on a desert planet
– Fry and Prof. Farnsworth travel farther into the future in a time machine.

They gave out Futurama stuff to some fans, but they ran out and Matt Groening actually started giving out FAMILY GUY BOXER SHORTS.

Underwhelming. At this point the fate of the voice actors is unknown.

(A very special thanks to Sherry for reporting updates direct from the panel, and to mowub for the heads-up on the IGN article and additional panel updates.)

Update: 7.24.2009 — Clarification from Maurice LaMarche on the Futurama panel, following the report (below) that the actors had been “dis-invited” from attending the presentation:

Just to clarify, we have NOT been kicked out of Comic-Con completely. In fact, gotta give ’em credit, Fox was good enough to keep our registrations and hotel arrangements “alive”, (although at our own expense), perhaps because somebody, somewhere at Fox Productions is preparing some kind of reasonable offer back to us, in time to save the panel.

Who knows? Maybe they’re just being decent. Anyway, I always express gratitude when I can, and this does save my kid’s once a year trip (cz Comic-Con’s sold out), so in spite of any contention, thank you, Fox. And thank you to our friends, Matt & Dave, thank you Marcy and Antonia, and thank you, Lee.

The “Good news, Everyone” is that we (the cast) WILL still be signing autographs in the Sail Pavilion from 3pm til 7pm. Come by, say hi, even if you don’t buy an autograph (yeah, sorry… we “greedy actors” have to make a living somehow). And if you have questions, and we can legally and ethically answer them, we will.
there STILL WILL BE a Futurama panel (as of this writing, anyway). Just not including us. So, go check it out, if you like. I just hope that what is said from up there is accurate and fair, as we will not be there to rebut. However, I do still dare to think that Matt, Dave and the writer-producers are our friends. The people who have been doing this “recasting thing”, are the “Box Executives”, not Matt and David X. Be nice to them.

Here’s the panel info again:

Saturday, July 25th, 1:00-1:45 Futurama: Life or Death?!— Be a part of sci-fi history! Join executive producers Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, and stars Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, and Maurice LaMarche for high-stakes thrills as a top-ranking FOX executive decides live, on stage, whether Futurama will make yet another triumphant return or whether it is gone forever! The very fate of Futurama hangs in the balance! Paramedics will be standing by in case the intense excitement causes any panelists to collapse. Raucous celebration or abject despair to follow the news. Ballroom 20

If anyone reading this is attending this panel and could provide feedback on what occurred and the fans’ reactions, it would be most appreciated to pass onto Futurama fans here. Please e-mail me at voiceroyNOSPAM@yahoo.com (just remove the “NOSPAM”) with details. Also, if you took any photos from the Futurama voice cast autograph session, I’d be more than appreciative of you sharing them here with your fellow Futurama fans who weren’t able to attend the con.

Update: 7.23.2009 — [Update deleted at the request of one of my sources.]

Update: 7.22.2009 — From Jacob W Robinson (via Facebook): “My friend, sadly auditioned for Futurama. I was pretty angry that he tried. But none the less, he told me when he was contacted, the man he spoke to told him chances are no one will be hired. Now what this means I don’t know. But I hope it means Fox is realizing its mistake and will realize fans will literally turn them into Torgo’s Executive Powder if they cast different actors.”

I don’t mean to cast doubt on Jacob’s word, but for those reading this please keep in mind that this is second-hand info that cannot be verified as legitimate.

Additionally, Billy West posted the following on his forum today:

Hi everyone!!!
I came on to let everybody know how grateful I am for the
OVERWHELMING and loving support that I have received from the
amazing fans of Futurama!
Everyone has been a CHAMP as usual and I,along
with all of you and of course the international fans of the show continue
hoping that things will work out!

Wonderful wonderful people.

Thank you for everything!!!

Love to all,

B.West

Update: 7.21.2009 — From The Hollywood Reporter:

20th Century Fox TV has restructured its marketing and communications teams.

Mark Pearson, senior vp brand management, will take over the studio’s marketing and research departments, while Chris Alexander, senior vp corporate communications, will head 20th TV’s publicity and talent relations departments.

The timing of this news is curious, in light of what’s happening with the Futurama cast. And it will be interesting to see if this restructuring will have any effect on cast negotiations.

[Link source removed by request.]

Update: 7.21.2009 — The “open call” for this audition apparently has a deadline of July 24th. That’s less than 24 hours before the Futurama panel scheduled Saturday, July 25th at 1:00 PM at the San Diego Comic-Con. And once this Craigslist posting reaches the major media sites (finally catching up with the fan blogs), it’s going to make for a very interesting panel presentation come Saturday.

I found this post on the forums at BillyWest.com from someone who sent an e-mail to the first casting notice posted by Forces of Geek, and this is what they received in return:

This is an Automated Response:

Thank you for your submission for the casting of Futurama. Please note the following:

1. We will do our best to answer any emailed questions, but questions from agencies and managers will take priority.

2. If you are submitting an AUDIO AUDITION it MUST be a reading of the sides with your best match of the established characters, NOT a general VO Demo. Unfortunately, general VO demos will not be helpful for the re-casting of established characters.

3. Audio auditions MUST be in MP3 format. UPDATE: Good news everyone! I’ll accept M4a auditions as well, due to overwhelming demand.

If you did not follow the above guidelines, no worries, just submit again following those guidlines.

The sides can be found on Sides Express or at the following link:

http://www.mysticla.com/Futurama/FuturamaSides.zip

The sides have links to clips of the show for use as reference.
When reading, please consider not only the voice, but the comedy as well. [Emphasis mine.] Auditions will be accepted until at least July 24th, 2009.

Thanks!!

Scott

Notice anything missing from that line about “the voice” and “the comedy”? How about the acting!

The key word in voice acting is “ACTING.” And this is why sound-alikes won’t work for Futurama and why the show would fail without the original cast. Doing a sound-alike for a principal cast member requires more than just being able to imitate a voice while trying to be funny too. The acting should be the top priority, not an afterthought.

Here’s how the math plays out:

Sound-alikes + comedy – acting = Fail.

Updated again: 7.21.2009 (2:00 PM) — It has been brought to my attention that there is speculation that the Craigslist ad is nothing more than a prank.

I just got off the phone with a representative from Dandridge Entertainment who stated that the ad “is not a prank,” and added that the same notice has been forwarded by a number of other agencies to their voice talents.

[Original comment posted here removed by request.]

BTW, I must offer a tip of the hat to “Svip” of the Futurama Wiki — TheInfosphere.org — for linking my article on Slashdot. I’ve since gotten more than 5,000 hits on this coverage since it was posted.

Zoidberg 2Update: 7.20.2009 — Unbelievable. 20th Century Fox is soliciting auditions for Futurama via Craigslist:

Date: 2009-07-17, 12:51PM PDT
Reply to: [address withheld, but the auditions are now being handled by JCDandridge.com]

This is an IMMEDIATE NEED for ANIMATED Voice Over Talent. FUTURAMA is now Casting for these Famous Voices:

IF YOU HAVE REPRESENTATION – DO NOT RESPOND TO THIS AD
————————————–
PHILIP J. FRY
TURANGA LEELA
BENDER BENDING RODRIQUEZ
PROFESSOR HUBERT FARNSWORTH
DR. JOHN ZOIDBERG
MOM
ZAPP BRANNIGAN
KIF KROKER
————————————–

ELECTRONIC SUBMISSIONS ONLY!

-SAG ONLY
-SUBMISSIONS MUST BE FROM UNREPRESENTED SAG ACTORS ONLY (OTHERWISE, SEE YOUR AGENT)
-SUBMIT TO [address withheld]
-MP3 AUDIO ONLY – LESS THAN 5MB
-DUE: NOW!

* Location: WLA
* it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
* Compensation: no pay [emphasis mine]

You did catch that last line, right? “No pay”?

Fry spit-take

Bwaaah-ha-haaaaa! That’s the best laugh I’ve had in months.

And just an FYI: I refuse to post any e-mail addresses for the auditions in this article. I’m already getting too many search hits off “futurama audition(s)” and I will not provide the means here for anyone to submit an audition (you can “Google” them for yourself — I’m not going to make it easy for you).

I don’t mean to offend anyone who decides to submit for this (even though I believe it’s unprofessional), but you need to realize that if 20th Century Fox/Comedy Central gets their way and replaces the cast and you book this the gig, not only will it kill the show, but you must understand: a) you will never be recognized by the fandom (you’ll likely be hated and despised for it); b) helping 20th Century Fox/Comedy Central dump the cast by getting hired will not help your career in the long run. There are a number of casting directors and voice actors who fully support the Futurama cast, and having connections in the VO industry is vitally important. Stab a fellow voice actor in the back by taking their job, and I guarantee you it will come back and bite you in the arse. (Not that the voice actor would bite you, but then again… I bet John DiMaggio would.)

Karma can be a killer, and what goes around…

And if you think you’re going to “laugh all the way to the bank,” and this is going to be your “big break,” please take note of the messages in my original article below from Bob Bergen and Mark Evanier.

[Original update posted here removed by request.]

[Thanks to Deirdre for the heads up on the CraigsList ad via The Voiceover Bulletin Board.]

Update: 7.17.2009, 7:00 PMHitFix.com has an op-ed piece to correct “misreporting” by various web media outlets and bloggers, clarifying that FOX is in no way responsible for this:

To clarify, when reporters refer to “FOX” or “Fox” (without any additional words afterwards), they’re referring to a television network, a distribution system for television programming owned by the good people at NewsCorp.

FOX, the television network, both aired “Futurama” for many seasons and cancelled “Futurama.”

FOX, the television network, has absolutely nothing to do with “Futurama” as of this exact second.

The problem here stems from generally shoddy online reporting of the deal that resurrected “Futurama,” a deal that was between Comedy Central and 20th Century Fox TV.

Here’s where I have to clarify again: 20th Century Fox TV is a production company, the company that produces “Futurama.” Although the same people own 20th Century Fox TV and FOX, they are not the same thing and they have completely different corporate structures and a deal with one is not a deal with the other.

So Comedy Central and 20th Century Fox are bringing “Futurama” back to TV. 20th Century Fox TV has the option to shop first-run episodes of “Futurama” to broadcast networks. That would include FOX. As of now, though, FOX has not acquired broadcast rights to new episodes of “Futurama.”

FOX *may* acquire broadcast rights to new episodes of “Futurama.” In fact, it’s expected that such a deal will be announced at Comic-Con next week. As of now, though, FOX is unconnected to new episodes of “Futurama” and the network has nothing to do with any recasting. In fact, the casting noticed published by Forces of Geek clearly says “Twentieth Century Fox Television.”

The following was originally posted 7.17.2009 @ 5:27 PM:

Zoidberg 1Now confirmed via Facebook direct from Futurama cast members Maurice LaMarche, Phil LaMarr, and John DiMaggio, 20th Century Fox TV has actually released a casting notice for sound-alikes to replace the core voice cast of Futurama: DiMaggio, LaMarche, Billy West, Tress MacNeille, and Katey Sagal.

Forces of Geek has published the audition notice (originally posted on Facebook) from 20th Century Fox TV, and even an e-mail address for the casting director. (And just an FYI, but ScottMullerCasting.com was acquired as a domain name January 30, 2009, and is based out of Canada?)

An earlier update from The Hollywood Reporter stated:

[20th Century Fox TV] is proceeding with auditioning new actors after failing to reach an agreement with the original voice cast: John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche, Billy West, Tress MacNeille and Katey Sagal.

“We love the ‘Futurama’ voice performers and absolutely wanted to use them, but unfortunately, we could not meet their salary demands,” the studio said in a statement Friday. “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 (creators) Matt (Groening) and David (Cohen)’s brilliantly subversive characters.”

20th declined further comment but sources indicated that the voice actors had been seeking at least a tenfold increase of what they made when the animated series ran on Fox from 1999-2003.

The studio approached the original cast members after reaching a deal with Comedy Central in June to produce 26 new episodes of “Futurama.”

Sources indicated that it is still possible that the two sides may come to an agreement.

And Variety published an article a few hours prior to the above with more specific details, and appears to contradict THR’s reporting that the cast was allegedly asking for “a tenfold increase” of what they originally earned working on the series:

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.

As a result, 20th has put out a casting call to find replacement voice actors for the show.

The situation is unusual this time around in that 20th and Comedy Central have been kicking around ways to make “Futurama,” originally produced for a broadcast network (Fox), make financial sense for a cable run. Yet there’s also still a possibility — and a window built in — for “Futurama” to run on a broadcast network first.

It’s believed that the “Futurama” cast members were asking for around $75,000 per episode; it was not clear what 20th was offering. Calls to the voice stars’ reps were not immediately returned.

Mark Evanier also disputes the report from The Hollywood Reporter that the cast is asking “a tenfold increase”:

You may … have heard that the entire voice act is being replaced. This is almost certainly not so, though the production company has announced that they’d welcome submissions of voice demos by folks who think they can do the characters. Allow me to explain…

What this all means is that members of the voice cast (Billy West, Maurice LaMarche and others) are asking for certain amounts of money higher than Fox wishes to pay. Fox no doubt thinks (or for the purposes of negotiation, is taking the position) that the amounts are insane and astronomical. This is unlikely. All these actors have wise and experienced agents who know how profitable Futurama has been in the past and how much loot it will likely gross in the future, and what would be a fair price for its vocal stars.

The company does not want to replace those actors. Those actors helped make the show popular enough that it’s still a viable commodity, [but] they’d like those actors for less money because that will mean more money for the company. That is why they’re soliciting replacements, not because they want replacements but because they want to plant the seed of fret; to make the actors and their reps wonder if maybe, just maybe, Fox is crazy enough to actually replace the whole cast with cheaper folks so they’d better grab the latest of what have probably been several final offers.

[Original update posted here has been removed by request.]

Sources close to the cast have confirmed with me that the excessive salary amounts allegedly being requested by the cast which were reported by Variety and The Hollywood Reporter are false.

Now, you animation fans and industry peeps reading this will remember too well that this same thing occurred with The Simpsons and The Powerpuff Girls (the latter of which I covered extensively back in 2001), and I honestly believe it was largely due to fans rallying support via the internet that the voice casts were saved.

The character voices on Futurama are the primary reason why I became a fan — not just because Matt Groening’s name was attached to it, or because the series is well-written and produced (which it is), but because the cast’s performances added a tremendous amount of entertainment value to the show. Futurama also introduced many to the voice talents of John DiMaggio, and Bender became the series’ breakthrough character. And DiMaggio deservedly won an Annie Award in 2001 for his performance on the series. (For a comprehensive cast listing on Futurama with links, pics and info, visit GotFuturama.com.)

Would I watch Futurama without the cast who helped the series (and movies) to become successful? Not on your life. And if you’re a Futurama fan, I seriously doubt you would either. As Bender would say, “Fox can bite my shiny, metal ass!”

[Original source quoted here removed by request.]

If you’re on Facebook, show your support for Futurama’s original voices by joining these groups:

“Leave the cast of Futurama alone!!!!” (Thanks to Ashley for the heads-up on this.)
Save the Voices of Futurama
No Billy West? No John DiMaggio? No New Futuramas!

And feel free to sign the fan petitions too:
Keep The Original Voice Actors on Futurama Petition
Stop Fox From Recasting Futurama Actors

You can also send feedback to Fox Broadcasting via FOX.com, and to Comedy Central via ComedyCentral.com.

And if you’re a voice-over actor reading this and considering auditioning, I’m passing along a message I received from cartoon voice actor Bob Bergen addressing this subject:

Many of you in the business have heard about Futurama auditions. This is a negotiation ploy!! The cast of The Simpsons have had to go through this several times over the years.

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.

And Mark Evanier adds on the same topic:

If you’re an aspiring cartoon voice actor who thinks “This is my break,” think something else. They’ll get thousands of submissions and it’s unlikely that anyone with hiring capacity will ever listen to any of them. This is, like I said, not the way to really find a replacement. It’s just a showy means of intimidating the actors and their agents…a way which costs the studio nothing. They don’t even have to book time in a recording studio or have producers sit and listen to auditions. The whole idea is to be able to say to Billy West’s agent, “Hey, we’ve got three thousand demos from guys who can imitate your boy’s voice.” But I know Billy’s agent. He’s been at this a long time and he knows how to not be intimidated and to arrive at a reasonable deal.

Hopefully, we’ll this situation will be resolved soon, because there’s a Futurama panel presentation schedled for Comic-Con next weekend. From Comic-Con’s schedule:

Saturday, July 25th, 1:00-1:45 Futurama: Life or Death?!— Be a part of sci-fi history! Join executive producers Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, and stars Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, and Maurice LaMarche for high-stakes thrills as a top-ranking FOX executive decides live, on stage, whether Futurama will make yet another triumphant return or whether it is gone forever! The very fate of Futurama hangs in the balance! Paramedics will be standing by in case the intense excitement causes any panelists to collapse. Raucous celebration or abject despair to follow the news. Ballroom 20

Should prove a very interesting panel, regardless of how this turns out.

It’s interesting to look back now on a couple of interviews published in June when it was announced that Futurama had been picked up for a run of 26 new episodes via Comedy Central.

Matt Groening stated in a June 9th interview with Variety that “he was inspired by the ‘Star Trek’ movie this summer enough that the updated ‘Futurama’ may take a similar tact to explain the launch of this run,” which implies that he was considering something along the lines of a reboot of the series and/or its characters.

Variety’s article also reported: “Voice actors Billy West (who played Philip Fry), Katey Sagal (Leela) and John DiMaggio (Bender) have all signed on to return.” To which Groening added, “Basically everybody who has worked on the show wants to come back. I choose to believe it’s more than the economic situation. People had a good time working on this show.”

And in a Wired June 12th interview with Futurama executive producer David X. Cohen, seemingly in response to Groening’s interview, Cohen said, “Obviously we’re not going to recast it. Fortunately our characters are still young and good-looking, so there’s no need for that yet. But in upcoming episodes we want to talk about the characters’ lives and the everyday tech of the future. We’re already working on one involving a shocking sexual relationship. We like to both shock and inform our viewers in equal measure.”


VAs on DVD: Don LaFontaine Celebration of Life Tribute

03.31.2009

From voice artist Paul Pape, via Voiceover Universe:

A man that many people feel was the greatest voiceover talent in history passed away on September 1, 2008. Just eight days after his death at the age of 68, a “Celebration of Life Tribute” was held in Don LaFontaine’s honor at the Writer’s Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, California. The evening was a smashing success. From a full gospel choir to filmed sequences paying honor to Don’s legacy to music performed by The Taiko Project, Arnold McCuller, Jenifer Lewis, Adam A’ejaye Jackson and the incomparable David Foster, a life well lived was celebrated in grand style. Nearly 800 people attended, filling the theater to capacity and spilling out into the lobby where it would be standing room only as audience members watched on a monitor that had been set up especially for them.

Voiceover greats Joe Cipriano, Keri Tombazian and Bill Ratner spoke about Don’s career and his impact on their own. Other powerhouse voiceover artists, including Peter Thomas, Ben Patrick Johnson, Tom Kane, Randy Thomas, Townsend Coleman, Bob Bergen and Beau Weaver were either in the audience and/or appeared in audio tributes to “the King”. Don’s agents from the TGMD Talent Agency, including Steve Tisherman (the only agent Don ever had), Vanessa Gilbert, Kevin Motley and Ilko Drozdoski, spoke of working with this legendary artist, who voiced the trailers for over 5000 films and recorded literally hundreds of thousands of spots. Musical director Charles Randolph-Wright, South African music producer Cedric Samson and producer Lorin Dreyfuss would recall what it was like to have a personal friendship with the generous and amiable “DLF”.

Finally, Don’s wife, Nita Whitaker LaFontaine, spoke with elegance and humor as she recalled their nearly 20 years of marriage. He was her prince and treated her like a goddess, she said, before introducing their three daughters, Christine, Skye and Lisi.

Don was my best friend and as the Master of Ceremonies that night, it was my great honor to help produce this tribute to my old pal, whom I miss greatly. My production company filmed the evening’s celebration as a way to memorialize the event, not only for those who attended, but also for those who were unable to be there or had to be turned away.

The Don LaFontaine Celebration of Life Tribute DVD is now available for purchase with a minimum contribution of $25 ($30 for international orders), with “100% of the proceeds [going] to worthy causes in the Voiceover community and beyond.” Please visit ZUREKVO.com for product orders.

You can watch a preview video of the DVD at VoiceoverUniverse.com, and an official website honoring Don will soon be launching at HonorDon.com.

In related news, the Promax/BDA Awards has added a new category in honor of Don. TVWeek.com reports: “The Don LaFontaine Award will recognize outstanding work done by voice talent in entertainment promotion.” Winners at the annual event are juried selections and will be announced June 16-18, 2009 in New York.

Previous news: 3.11.2009 — AFTRA Honors Don LaFontaine.