There’s a bitter addendum to John DiMaggio’s triumphant return to Hulu’s Futurama reboot. As it turns out, the pay raise he’d been holding out for before reprising the role of Bender never actually came.
DiMaggio had whipped up a bit of a fan campaign–#bendergate–when he declined to join the reboot, saying in a statement that he and the entire cast deserved to be paid more, and that the animation industry “takes advantage of artists’ time & talent.” When he ended up signing on a month later, fans may have assumed that his bargaining tactic paid off.
Sadly, this was not the case, as he told the audience at Phoenix Fan Fusion over the weekend. According to /Film, DiMaggio said, “People are like, ‘I’m so glad you got more money!’ I didn’t get more money. But what I did get was a lot of respect, and a lot of head nods from people who are like, ‘Yo bro, I see you and thank you.’”
Though he acknowledged the reaction from voice acting colleagues was “quite rewarding,” he admitted that “trying to get money out of Disney is like trying to get blood from a stone—you ain’t gonna get it!” In the end, his decision to concede came down to a discussion with his agent as to whether “we want to be in the house having a nice Thanksgiving dinner, or... standing across the street in the freezing rain watching everybody eat stuffing.”
“But listen, this was the best thing about that fight,” DiMaggio said, “I had Disney, Hulu, I was holding on to their collective testicles so hard that they couldn’t, y’know, there was nowhere for them to go. But there was also nowhere for me to go, and who wants to hold on to those for that long?”
Well, when put that way, it certainly doesn’t sound like a pleasant experience. And Hulu actually did have a backup plan, however unpopular it would have been with Futurama fans. DiMaggio told the crowd that if he hadn’t come back, the show was “planning on using guest stars, [and] they were going to replace Bender’s voice each episode.”
At least one major star (voice acting and otherwise) had pledged not to voice Bender, but it sounds like DiMaggio needed a bit more solidarity on his side to pull this off. While his return to Futurama is worth celebrating, it’s bittersweet to know he–and the rest of the cast–aren’t being compensated as they deserve.