News of a Futurama revival initially sounds like a cause for excitement, but last week’s announcement came with a troubling caveat: Voice actor John DiMaggio won’t reprise his role as the robot Bender.
According to Deadline on Feb. 9, while the rest of the main cast will return, DiMaggio turned down the job because he felt the pay offer wasn’t “competitive” enough. Awkwardly, Hulu used an image of Bender to announce the revival on Twitter.
With showrunners Matt Groening and David X. Cohen still at the helm, the revival is reportedly planning to recast Bender—a decision that led fans to criticize Hulu and Disney on the hashtag #BenderGate. Some said they’d boycott the new Futurama if DiMaggio wasn’t on board, and over the next few days, animation fans used this controversy to call out low pay for voice actors across the board.
DiMaggio is a prolific voice actor in film, TV, and video games, with roles across the DC and Marvel franchises, and in shows like Adventure Time. Others in the industry were quick to voice their support for his conflict with Hulu, with Mark Hamill saying he’d turn down the role of Bender if it was offered to him:
One week on from the initial announcement, Futurama fans are still expressing their displeasure on the #BenderGate hashtag and calling on Hulu to pay up. The most recent update arrived on Wednesday, with DiMaggio tweeting a statement describing the pay dispute as a matter of “self-respect,” reflecting upon labor issues across the animation industry.
“I don’t think that only I deserve to be paid more,” he wrote. “I think the entire cast does.” He added that while “Bender is part of my soul,” he’s “tired of an industry that’s become far too corporate and takes advantage of artist’s time and talent.”
While some Futurama fans accused DiMaggio of being greedy and letting the fandom down, most of the responses were supportive, arguing that voice actors are habitually underappreciated compared to live-action stars.
“I’m entirely uninterested in a Futurama where Bender is recast,” reads one of the top quote-retweets. “I hope they figure out that a lot of people are like me and decide that underpaying their actors is probably going to cost them more in the long run.”
If Hulu does recast Bender, it’s entirely possible that casual viewers just won’t notice. However the core Futurama fanbase will clearly be displeased, echoing similar controversies at other animated shows and movies. Thanks to social media, animation fans are increasingly aware of labor issues in the industry, whether it’s the massive pay disparity between cartoon and live-action writers, or the conflicts over replacing professional voice actors with A-listers like Chris Pratt. So despite the lack of concrete info about these Futurama negotiations, fans find it easy to take DiMaggio’s side on #BenderGate.
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