Bob's Burgers movie director still plans for theatrical release, talks developing film alongside show
It was called My Butt Has a Fever and it saw the Belcher kids — Louise (Kristen Schaal), Tina (Dan Mintz), and Eugene (Eugene Mirman) — singing a song of the same name. Similar to how The Simpsons short Playdate with Destiny screened in front of showings of Pixar's Onward, Disney was going to find a spot to release this mini musical moment. Then the pandemic hit.
"First of all, there are no theaters to release it into and, second of all, would anyone want to go see the Belcher kids sing a song called 'My Butt Has a Fever'?" Bob's Burgers showrunner Loren Bouchard tells EW during a discussion about the state of animation in the age of COVID-19. "Of course, we’re hoping at some point it’ll be okay again, but talk about pre-COVID plans getting changed."
Bouchard and his team, including supervising animator Janelle Momary, had to rethink their production pipeline as the industry adapts to this new era of developing movies and TV. Many Hollywood studios shifted their theatrical goals for this year entirely to 2021, while moving other titles exclusively to streaming platforms. Even after Soul, a tentpole for Pixar, went to Disney+, Bouchard says he's still planning to release the Bob's Burgers movie, which he's directing, in theaters.
"We talked about [streaming] as it pertains to the movie and we decided we really want the movie to come out in theaters because Bob’s is already on TV," he says. "Of course, we want everyone to be able to safely see it in movie theaters. We don’t want anyone to put themselves at risk. But assuming there’s a point at which everyone can go back to theaters safely, we’re excited about Bob's the movie being seen in the theater, in the dark with other people, because that’s something we’ve never been able to do before. That’s the main course that we’re delivering to people, in this case."
Heading into 2020, Bouchard says the crew set up "the most ambitious year ever" for themselves. That's not just about planning for the movie and the upcoming 200th episode of the show. It's also in reference to the continued development of Central Park on Apple TV+ and the launch of another series, The Great North, on Fox. Sometimes, in the face of such stress, all you can do is laugh. "I feel like the timing is really hilarious," Bouchard says. "We were just slammed."
The film version of Bob's, which Bouchard describes as "a unique beast unto itself in a lot of ways," was initially on the schedule to hit theaters on July 17, 2020. That, obviously, didn't happen. Amid the latest reshuffling, it's now on the docket for April 9, 2021.
Schaal, Mintz, and Mirman, as well as their on-screen parents H. Jon Benjamin (Bob Belcher), and John Roberts (Linda Belcher), return to voice their characters in the movie. Other familiar voices and animated faces are coming, too.
"The things that we did up to this point help set us up, hopefully, for success on the movie," Bouchard says. "For example, the Bob's Burgers concert was a big part of why we agreed to do the movie." He means Bob's Burgers Live!, a tour with the cast that started in 2013 and returned to Los Angeles in 2016 for the show's 100th episode. "We felt like we learned a lesson that we could apply forward."
The pandemic is offering even more lessons, as the crew continues to develop the show and film simultaneously.
"The movie definitely opened our eyes to a different way of making animation," says Janelle Momary, a supervising producer on both. On the show, she says they are used to "moving through so quickly." "We’re not able to dissect frame by frame, pixel by pixel in what is the best for the image," she adds. "That’s even with story. The writers on the series have a limited time to do their story, outline, get it in, and get it into production. Even with our production and rewrites for TV, it is a very tight schedule."
With the film, Momary explains they're "able to go back and polish, refine every word and every frame. We have the time and we have the resources because we’re able to see it in a different space and we’re able to see in a theater and see those pixels and you don’t want those to go by, either. I think TV has set us up to make the film in a very cost-effective and efficient way, and the film has set us up to take a look at the series with a different set of creative lenses and how they can make more out of each moment."
With the movie and show, Bouchard says "one kind of waters the other. There's a scenario where every little thing that drips off of the Bob's Burgers movie ends up in the show." At the same time, "when you’re working on the movie, you are simultaneously trying to avoid things [on the show] that you will do in the future," he notes. "So, you really have to thread the needle in terms of the episodes you’re breaking. At any moment, you not only have to not repeat past episodes but you have to not step on this future movie."
Production continues on Bob's Burgers and the movie, despite a minor hiccup or two from the pandemic. The show was back in business after a five-day pause in March as they shifted the production to remote home locations.
"After the pandemic, and also to a large degree after George Floyd, we had to really ask ourselves, why do we do this job? What is our job?" Bouchard muses. "Obviously, a lot of us like having work and like getting paid, but you also find yourself in this new normal. What does it mean to make an animated television show? In our case, it was helpful to stop. We didn’t stop for long, but just took a moment and recommitted to the work."
The animated series from Loren Bouchard follows the world of the Belcher family and their burger joint.