From 1989 to 1995 Billy West helped launch his career on The Howard Stern show bringing us some amazing voices and also some outstanding impressions, most notably and Howard’s favorite, Larry Fine of the Three Stooges. Well, the talented and funny voice over actor may not have much to speak about in the near future.
“Good new everyone!” 20th Century Fox recently announced that they have ordered 26 new episodes of Futurama, the popular cartoon based 1000 years in the future, to be aired beginning in 2010. The success of DVD sales and re-runds on Comedy Central have brought the show back into popularity and prompted Fox to make a move. Billy West was a key role in the shows production, voicing over four of the shows main characters and a countless number of additional voices. Why is this so significant for Mr. West?
Fox has entered production of the show with a certain budget ($75,000) for the voice over talents. The problem is the actors can’t come to a salary agreement with Fox that will make both parties happy. Fox says it will begin going through the process of recasting the voice over talents since an agreement can’t be reached.
“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.”
Fox has also gone this route before during some tough negotiations with another popular cartoon, “The Simpsons”. The studio had threatened to replace the voice talents on the show when it couldn’t come to an agreement with the actors. Auditions for replacements were about to begin but an agreement was finally made with the actors.
So who will be the voice of Philip J. Fry, Professor Hubert Farnsworth, Dr John Zoidberg, Captain Zapp Brannigan and many others? Billy West hasn’t made an official statement to the public about the situation but I’m sure the former Stern show personality isn’t happy with the situation. The wouldn’t be the first time Mr. West has had a problem with being compensated for his work. In 1995 Billy West reportedly left the Howard Stern show because WXRK/CBS management refused to give him a sufficient pay raise. Billy is greatly missed by Stern show staff and fans.
It has recently been confirmed that Billy West and the rest of the original cast of Futurama will be joining the show as it returns with new episodes to be aired on Comedy Central next year. Apparently a salary deal has been struck with 20th Century Fox and the cast joined creator Matt Groening at Comic-Con last week to sign autographs and help promote the return of the show. Good news all around for Futurama and Stern show fans of Billy West!