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Disney And Hulu Face Backlash After 'Futurama' Star Calls Them Out For Underpaying Reboot Actors

Disney And Hulu Face Backlash After 'Futurama' Star Calls Them Out For Underpaying Reboot Actors
Jerod Harris/Getty Images; 20th Television

The announcement of the cult-favorite, animated TV series, Futurama, returning as a reboot series set to premiere in 2023 was embroiled in controversy after one of the show's prominent voice actors said he will not be returning.

John DiMaggio–who voices the sardonic robot, Bender, along with a dozen other characters in the popular comedy series–turned down an offer to reprise his role because he couldn't reach a compensatory agreement with Disney's Hulu and 20th Television Animation.

Both sides of the situation–including DiMaggio's side and the studios' side–have expressed interest in wanting DiMaggio to return.

Deadline reported that, according to sources, DiMaggio's deal was in line with that of fellow leads Billy West–who plays Fry; and Katey Sagal, who voices Leela.

However, DiMaggio's team found the lowball offer was not "competitive" enough to the market and to the legacy of the series.

It appears showrunners Matt Groening and David X. Cohen have recast the role of Bender ahead of the first table read on Monday.

Plans for recasting Bender sparked an uproar on social media among fans who threatened to boycott the reboot by using the hashtag, #BenderGate.

While some scoffed at DiMaggio's standoff as a greedy endeavor, others supported him and campaigned against low wages for voice actors across the board.

Prominent voice actor Mark Hamill–known for his iconic portrayal of Luke Skywalker from the original Star Wars trilogy and for voicing Joker from Justice League Action–chimed in and said he would not attempt to take over for the original actor to voice the role of "FAKE Bender" should he receive the opportunity.

After seething Futurama fans continued demanding for Hulu to pay up, DiMaggio posted an update, expressing his standoff was in regards to “self-respect," reflecting upon labor issues in the voice animation industry.

"I've been thinking about everything that's been going on these past months and just to be clear, I don't think that only I deserve to be paid more," he wrote.

"I think the entire cast does. Negotiations are a natural part of working in show business. Everyone has a different strategy & different boundaries. Their 'price.'"
"Some accept offers, some hold their ground. Bender is part of my soul & nothing about this is meant to be disrespectful to the fans or my 'Futurama' family."
"It's about self-respect."

He added:

"And honestly, being tired of an industry that's become far too corporate and takes advantage of artist's time & talent. Look, I wish I could give you every detail so you would understand, but it's not my place."

He thanked fans for their love and support and said he was "still hoping for the best."

The Daily Dotnoted how core fans are becoming increasingly aware of labor issues in the industry–whether relating to the pay disparity between cartoon and live-action writers, or the tendency to rely on stunt casting with A-list actors, such as Chris Pratt–who lent his voice to animated movies like Disney/Pixar's Onward and the upcoming Super Mario Bros. movie.

But without the specifics pertaining to DiMaggio's negotiation with Disney and Hulu, fans find it easy to stand by their favorite voice actor and their #BenderGate cause.

The Futurama revival will have 20 episodes released in two batches. It will be the fourth revival of the adult series after running on Fox from 1999 to 2003 and being canceled midway through production during the show's fourth season.

In 2007, Futurama returned as four direct-to-DVD movies that subsequently aired as edited, 30-minute episodes on Comedy Central in 2008.

The cable network went on to fund for two additional seasons that aired between 2010 and 2013 before being canceled again.

In addition to West and Sagal, Hulu's reboot will reunite the majority of other main cast members, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Lauren Tom, Phil LaMarr, and David Herman.