‘Futurama’ without original voices?
Talks between Fox TV, cast members break down
Talks have broken down between 20th Century Fox TV and stars Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche and Tress MacNeille over how much they should be paid to take part in the show.
The studio announced last month that it would produce 26 new episodes of “Futurama,” and that Comedy Central was on board to begin airing the new episodes in mid-2010. As part of the announcement, the show’s producers said stars including West, Sagal and DiMaggio had all signed on to return.
Turns out that wasn’t true.
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.
It’s not the first time 20th has gone that route during a tough negotiation on one of its toons. The studio previously made a similar move on “The Simpsons” when it couldn’t come to a deal with its stars. Casting feelers were sent out for replacements, but a deal was eventually made with the original cast.
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.
Created by Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, “Futurama” originally aired on Fox from 1999 to 2003. The success of the show’s repeats on DVD and cable, as well as a series of first-run DVD releases, led to the decision to revive “Futurama.”
Other costs slashed in the process led to a smaller writing staff and a shorter delivery schedule.
“We love the ‘Futurama’ voice performers and absolutely wanted to use them, but unfortunately, we could not meet their salary demands,” 20th Century Fox TV said in a statement. “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 Matt and David’s brilliantly subversive characters.”