‘Futurama’ voice actor balks at salary, fans threaten to boycott reboot
Big names like Mark Hamill and Community star Yvette Nicole Brown are defending John DiMaggio after news broke last week that he won’t be voicing boozy robot Bender in the new Futurama reboot–unless Hulu plumps his paycheck. The streaming giant’s apparent willingness to recast the iconic role instead of ponying up is drawing intense backlash from fans and fellow celebrities, sparking a deeper conversation about exploiting voice actors in the animation industry.
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DiMaggio set off #Bendergate with a tweet last Thursday, explaining why he wasn’t joining Katey Sagal, Billy West and Tress MacNeille in the 20-episode revival: “To be clear, I don’t think that only I deserve to be paid more. I think the entire cast does. Negotiations are a natural part of working in show business. … Bender is part of my soul and nothing about this is meant to be disrespectful to the fans or my Futurama family. It’s about self-respect. And honestly, being tired of an industry that’s become far too corporate and takes advantage of artists’ time and talent.”
Yvette Nicole Brown, who voices roles in Big Shot and Fairfax, tweeted her support on Sunday: “I also stand w/[John DiMaggio] … he’s a talented WONDER & DESERVES whatever he’s asking for. … Every actor should fight for what they know they deserve. It is BEYOND short-sighted for the powers that be not to realize that there is no Futurama w/o [John DiMaggio] as Bender.”
Mark Hamill added his own light-hearted veto: “Please be assured that I will NOT be auditioning for the role of FAKE Bender. You are one-of-a-kind pal!”
Futurama fans are also mobbing to Twitter to tell Hulu to bite their shiny metal ass, pointing out that the media giant generated nearly 5 billion dollars in 2020 and can well afford a pay boost for the entire cast: “These corporate owned studios would like to think that because they’re ‘simply voice actors’ and not big name screen actors, they won’t be a big draw,” said one user. “They’re dead wrong! They ARE the characters we know and love!”
“If you’re a fan of cartoons and anime and the people who make them, pay attention to #Bendergate,” said another user. “I think voice actors get a raw deal in the industry. They are some of the hardest working actors in the business who have given us countless hours of entertainment. I stand behind John 100%.”
As negotiations remain stalled DiMaggio says he’s “hoping for the best,” but livid fans are promising to boycott the show and kill their Hulu subscriptions if the show recasts Bender Bending Rodriguez. And while streaming services continue to revive beloved franchises and entertainment properties in an endless quest for content, the myopic focus on profiting off fandoms without being accountable to them or their creators might end up undercutting their bottom line in the end.