On 17 July, 2009, 20th Century Fox Television announced it would hold open auditions to recast the characters for Futurama's upcoming sixth production season when they failed to meet the salary demands of the voice actors. This announcement outraged the fans and lead to much speculation.
On 31 July, 2009, Katey Sagal, Maurice LaMarche, Tress MacNeille, Billy West and John DiMaggio all sealed their deal with 20th Century Fox Television. Supporting cast, including Lauren Tom, Phil LaMarr, Frank Welker and David Herman, were settled a week later.
When Futurama was officially revived for its sixth production season, it was assumed that the voice actors of the show were also expected to return and that a contract had already been signed.
Before 20th Century Fox Television's official statement, Phil LaMarr posted about an audition call for some of the main characters on Futurama as well as Kif Kroker and Zapp Brannigan. The call also included links to videos of characters so actors could get an impression of the voice. News of this call was later broken by Forces of Geek.
Moments later, the story was confirmed by 20th Century Fox Television in a statement:
|“||We love the 'Futurama' voice performers and absolutely wanted to use them, but unfortunately, we could not meet their salary demands. 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.||”|
—20th Century Fox Television
The immediate fan reaction to the news was anger and scepticism. Fans quickly predicted that the whole thing was merely a negotiation ploy by 20th Century Fox Television to force the voice actors to cave in and sign up to work for a lower salary. Immediate reactions elsewhere included speculation of it being a publicity stunt to stir up more talk about Futurama.
In addition, Variety reported that the actors had asked for 75,000 dollars per episode in salary demands. However, at the time, it was neither confirmed by 20th Century Fox Television nor the voice actor's reps. This claim was later disputed by Phil LaMarr on his Facebook page.
Despite the two more obvious versions, other theories started appearing to explain the whole ordeal. Although, after the Comic-Con panel, people are confident that it was a negotiation tactic more than anything else.
Some fans suggested that it was a Union requirement to recast actors for a returning show. However, this was quickly rebutted with references to how neither Family Guy nor Futurama itself had to be recast when they returned.
Perhaps the most popular theory; fans speculated that the whole ordeal was put together by 20th Century Fox Television as well as the show's runners and voice actors to stir up more publicity for Futurama. The theory held up until the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con, where supposedly the truth would be revealed.
After the cast was dis-invited, popularity of the publicity stunt theory diminished as it would be improper for 20th Century Fox Television to dis-invite its cast as part of a stunt. However, John DiMaggio's singing in an interview regarding the negotiation, a day prior to the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con panel, seemed odd considering that he was dealing with a negotiation for one of his favourite jobs. Though, some dismissed this as DiMaggio being confident that the cast would return.
However, with no presence of the Futurama cast at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con, this theory was finally put to rest.
When the news broke, the Futurama fan base quickly mobilised. Several of the sites reporting on the news advised its readers to sign petitions, send e-mails to 20th Century Fox Television executives or the casting director, Scott Muller, and/or join Facebook groups to voice their discontent with the decision.
With the extensive uproar from the fan base, the cast members responded with much appeasing of the fan base. Billy West personally thanked his readers on his forum. John DiMaggio applauded the support in his IGN TV interview.Also, Maurice LaMarche and Phil LaMarr expressed their gratitude on their respective Facebook pages and through a video.
The fan base is not the only group to express their opinions. Adult Swim responded with a small piece on their channel regarding the recasting ploy, saying that if Fox did it their way, the show would fail again, and when they gave it back to Adult Swim, they would do it right again.
2009 San Diego Comic-Con
A Futurama panel was scheduled for the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con on 25 July, 2009  that would feature the show runners, Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, voice actors John DiMaggio, Billy West, Katey Sagal and Maurice LaMarche were also scheduled to be there. However, on 22 July, 20th Century Fox Television dis-invited the voice actors from participation in the panel.
The panel began without the actors present, and an announcement by the Hypnotoad told people to ignore the lack of their presence. Cohen and Groening then walked up on stage to explain that they were very concerned about the situation and hoped it would be sorted out soon, but could not speak on the negotiation matter. In addition, the audience was asked not to ask questions about the dispute.
Producer Claudia Katz and writers Patric M. Verrone, Eric Kaplan and Michael Rowe were also present at the panel. While the panel itself revealed little new information about the situation except for Cohen's and Groening's support for the voice actors and some plot points coming up in the new season, the structure of the panel did put an end to the publicity stunt theories, which would have required some sort of announcement at the panel by 20th Century Fox Television.
Some sources concluded that the production of the show had been delayed because of the dispute, while others went out with stories suggesting that the production had been put entirely on hold, and even suspicion of cancellation:
|“||The show was cancelled and all the actors went on to make other commitments. It's the studio who can't decide on how to get everyone on board.||”|
—An "industry insider"
The comment was clear though. If the cast did not return, then there would be no new Futurama at all. However, the later statement released by Matt Groening and David X. Cohen seemed to hint that production had stopped with their comment: "[t]he call has already gone out to the animators to put the mouths back on the characters".
On 31 July (around noon, Pacific time), 2009, 20th Century Fox Television announced that Katey Sagal, Maurice LaMarche and Tress MacNeille had signed contracts. Later that day, Billy West and John DiMaggio also sealed their deals with 20th Century Fox Television. David X. Cohen and Matt Groening released a joint statement on the matter:
|“||We are thrilled to have our incredible cast back. The call has already gone out to the animators to put the mouths back on the characters.||”|
—David X. Cohen
20th Century Fox Television also released a statement:
|“||Just wanted you to know that we now have deals with the entire Futurama voice cast to return: John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche, Billy West, Tress MacNeille and Katey Sagal.||”|
—20th Century Fox Television
|“||Dear Futurama Fan,
Thank you for voicing your strong support for Futurama and the original voice cast. We appreciate the time you took to fire off a thoughtful and/or concerned and/or homicidal e-mail message to our casting director, Scott Muller. (Rest assured, not a single one of these e-mails reached the actual decision-makers at 20th Century Fox Television. For future reference, please note that Scott Muller is in fact one of Futurama's biggest fans, and was instrumental in bringing about the return of the cast. Please hoist a bottle of Olde Fortran for Scott!)
Speaking of the cast returning... good news, everyone! The cast is returning! All of our series regulars are back in action for Season 6. Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche, Tress MacNeille, Lauren Tom, Phil LaMarr, and David Herman are all on board and have already begun delivering their customary virtuoso performances. The all-new Futurama episodes are slated to air on Comedy Central beginning in June, 2010.
We are extremely grateful for the outpouring of support for the series. Your loyalty over the years has kept the show going through its original four seasons on FOX, its subsequent reincarnations on Adult Swim and DVD, and now its Bendiferous return to life on Comedy Central. See you in the (near) future!
—David X. Cohen & Matt Groening
Reports say that 20th Century Fox Television agreed to a pay more than they originally offered, while the actors agreed to accept less than they originally wanted. The actors asked in the final negotiations for 40,000 dollars per episode, but it seems they have settled for less than that in the end. Where the original figure of 75,000 dollars per episode came from remains disputed.
When the main cast settled with 20th Century Fox Television, the supporting cast, consisting of Lauren Tom, Phil LaMarr, Frank Welker and David Herman, were not settled. The following week on 3 August, they began negotiation. By 7 August, the negotiations with the supporting cast were settled, and all the actors are back on board with the Futurama production team,  which is appropriate as the first table read for season 6 started on the very same day.
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