Although yesterday’s announcement that Futurama would be coming back for a highly unlikely eighth season was welcome, the notable absence of John DiMaggio in the list of returning voice actors has gotten much more noticeable after reports that the show has recast the role of Bender in advance of the show’s upcoming table reads. And fans — as well as DiMaggio — are not happy.
To clarify, here’s exactly what Deadline says about what’s happening: “The role is currently being recast ahead of the first table read on Monday. The decision was made after DiMaggio’s negotiations with Futurama studio 20th Television Animation came to a standstill though there is a desire on both sides to have him rejoin the cast and reprise his role.” A table read is not a recording, so there’s still time for DiMaggio and the studio, which is owned by Disney, to come to terms so that the voice actor can return before actual recording starts.
No one but DiMaggio and 20th Television are privy to exactly what the issue is, or why the series’ other two leads, Billy West (who voices Fry) and Katey Sagal (Leela) were able to work out deals while DiMaggio couldn’t. However, according to Deadline, sources say that DiMaggio wants more money than his co-stars negotiated for — not because he considers himself more important, but because he thinks the offer isn’t commensurate with the popularity of Futurama. Given that this is the show’s umpteenth revival, it’s probably safe to say DiMaggio has a point.
There’s also the matter of the fans, who are almost unanimous in their support for DiMaggio and their dismay at the idea of someone else playing Bender, many of whom have expressed their refusal to watch a DiMaggio-less Futurama, and the voice actor has been retweeting these fans. As a fan myself, I’m with the others — Futurama without DiMaggio as the voice of Bender is like The Simpsons without Dan Castellaneta as Homer. The character is so iconic and essential to Futurama that changing the voice would change the entire tenor (no pun intended) of the series. DiMaggio has voiced Bender since the show premiered in 1999; what fan wouldn’t be upset by this needless change?
There’s also the matter that Disney has a really bad habit of not paying talent what they’re worth, so I’d be on DiMaggio’s side out of principle even if I wasn’t a Bender fan. Here’s hoping the folks at 20th Television and Hulu see the outcry and realise that without him, there’s not much of a point to reviving Futurama again. And if not, Maybe DiMaggio can go make his own show about a drunk robot with tendencies to kill all humans, but with blackjack and hookers. In fact, forget the show.
Futurama, with or without John DiMaggio, is currently scheduled to air on Hulu in 2023.