The new addition to FOX-TV’s Sunday night lineup is Bob’s Burgers, Loren Bouchard’s hilarious toon about a strangely endearing family that runs a small restaurant.
You may think you’ve seen all kinds of animated shows about wacky families on TV, but trust us, the new show premiering this month on FOX TV’s Sunday night animation block is going to leave a lasting impression. Created by brilliant toon veteran Loren Bouchard, who brought us shows such as Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, Home Movies and Lucy Daughter of the Devil, Bob’s Burgers is that rare breed—a family sitcom that is the perfect companion to Fox’s The Simpsons and Family Guy, and yet, has a very distinctive voice and feel of its own.
Bouchard tells us that he’d been thinking about doing a show about a family that runs a restaurant for a while. “It was a natural, really,” he explains. “You get the pleasure of doing a show about a family and a workplace comedy all rolled into one. Plus, I always loved the idea of these kids who have to work against their will. Bob had no choice about going into his family business and now he’s making his kids to the same thing!”
The show’s exec producer is Jim Dauterive, who worked on Fox’s King of the Hill for over a decade. “They showed me a 12-minute demo Loren had created and I was blown away because, creatively, it hit all the right spots,” he recalls. “I just love the way it all comes together—starting from Loren’s creative vision, inventiveness and style, adding the actors’ improvisations and putting together something that is rooted in emotion and love. This family is weird, subversive and nutty, but they truly care for each other.”
Produced and animated with Toon Boom’s Harmony software at Burbank
-based Bento Box Entertainment and Vancouver toon studio Bardel, the series has a unique visual style that brands the characters in the viewers’ minds immediately. During the show’s development phase, Jay Howell and Sirron Norris did the character and background designs. At Bento, character designs are by Dave Creek and backgrounds are by Phil Hayes.
Since Bouchard loves to work with New York comics, the voice cast includes H. Jon Benjamin (who has worked with the creator in all of his toons to date) as the patriarch, John Roberts (who plays Bob’s wife Linda), Dan Mintz (in the role of eldest daughter Tina), Eugene Mirman (middle kid Gene) and Kristen Schaal (youngest daughter Louise). “There is a decidedly naturalistic tone to the way the dialog is written,” says Dauterive. “Most of the time Bob is the voice of reason, but we have a lot of fun when he flies off the handle. Both Bob’s Burgers and King of the Hill involve meat, and to a large degree, they both have a lot of heart. However, King was more realistic than Bob, because the animation is wilder and we also use animation to depict the characters’ fantasy lives. We even have a great homage to The Shining in the show’s second episode.”
Bouchard emphasizes that it’s the characters that drive each episode of the show. “We are not gag writers—nor are we social satirists like The Simpsons or South Park,” he notes. “We don’t have that voice and didn’t set out to do that kind of a show. We are less cool and nerdier! The thing I love about our characters is that they are complicated. Bob who is voiced by Jon Benjamin—I’ve never done a show without him and I never want to—can be annoyed with his kids and wife one moment and amused by them the next. We wanted to have the pleasure of watching a cartoon character that thinks his family is funny! And Bob is a very creative guy. He just has to express himself in hamburger. It’s about the burgerman as artist!”
Another great trivia bite about the show is that at some point in its development history, Bouchard was toying with the idea of having the family be cannibals. “I pitched it to Fox having just finished Lucy, The Daughter of the Devil!” says the toon veteran. “It was a dark, high-concept angle that seemed fun: They were going to be good cannibals—they only ate people who deserved it! Fox said, we just don’t think they should murder people. Of course, they were right! Murder is wrong, from a simple morality perspective! So we took that out of the equation!”
Bouchard also gives us a glimpse of what it’s like to work with the network’s standards-and-practices team. “Now I know that you can say ‘penis,’ but you can’t say, ‘My penis is hanging out!’ You can say, ‘Show me your ding dong,’ but you can’t have ‘Show me the tip of your ding dong!’
Comparing the experience to his previous animated shows, Bouchard says he is really enjoying the fact that he has more time to fine-tune each episode. “You know, I got very lucky early on when we were doing Dr. Katz and Home Movies in Boston,” he admits. “We were so green doing everything on our own. Now 15 years later, I am finally learning how it’s supposed to be done. I love the process and really enjoy working in L.A. and creating this show with such a big team.”
Bob’s Burgers premieres on FOX-TV on Sunday, January 9 at 8:30 p.m.