Is a Bob’s Burgers movie such a good idea?

This article was originally posted by The Iris on October 10th, 2017.

At a time when most animated programmes are crass, cruel or just plain depressing, it’s heartening to know that a show like Bob’s Burgers appears on our screens. The colourful hand-drawn sitcom follows the inane adventures of Bob Belcher (voice of H. Jon Benjamin) as he and his family try to operate their fast-food restaurant whilst simultaneously navigating the complexities of the modern world.

Since the premiere of Bob’s Burgers back in 2011, the series has garnered critical acclaim, gained a legion of obsessed fans (myself included) and won an Emmy for Most Outstanding Animated Program – twice. Given this, it should have come as no surprise when, just last week, 20th Century Fox announced that it was turning Bob’s Burgers into a feature-length film, with a theatrical release intended for 2020.

The announcement of a Bob’s Burgers movie being released three years from now, give or take, suggests two things: that the writers already have a script (or scripts) ready, and that Fox has an incredible amount faith in this project succeeding. Too often, the idea of a television series being turned into a film is floated, only for it to be quashed by executives or quietly swept under the carpet due to “financial difficulties”.

An excellent example of the latter scenario would be the planned Adventure Time movie. Back in 2015, numerous sources reported that Warner Bros. was in the early stages of developing the much-loved Cartoon Network series into film; in the two-and-a-half years since, no further information has been shared on how the picture is proceeding, despite the euphoria that came when news of the development was shared online.

While no official reason was given for the stalling of production, the issue was more than likely one of money. To produce a hand-drawn, feature-length animation, at a time when most studios are using computers to render their films, would not have made good financial sense to the bigwigs at Warner, and having to market such a film to cinemagoers – who may not be familiar with the source material – would have been difficult.

The failure of the Adventure Time movie to come to fruition is what makes Fox’s confidence in a long-form Bob’s Burgers, to the point where the studio felt compelled to create an official press release, so baffling. While the series can boast the adoration of critics, love of a devoted fanbase and two Emmy Awards, there’s very little to suggest that Bob’s Burgers can make a profit at the box-office.

Those who believe otherwise will immediately point to the success of 2007’s The Simpsons Movie, another theatrically-released film based on an animated TV sitcom. The Simpsons’ Big Screen debut came 18 years after first airing on television; by that time, it had saturated the world with all manner of paraphernalia, including merchandise, albums, video games and its iconic catchphrases. Put simply, it was already a pop-culture icon before it hit cinemas.

The Belchers, meanwhile, do not share the same level of appreciation that their yellow-skinned counterparts do. While Bob’s Burgers has its fans, their numbers are nowhere near those of The Simpsons, and it’s rare to find any Bob’s Burgers-branded material in, say, Target. And forget about buying the show on DVD – the Australian arm of Fox has only released the first season on home-video, which is solely available at JB Hi-Fi.

It seems that the creator of Bob’s Burgers, Loren Bouchard, shares this concern and is willing to address it. In the official press release from Fox, he states:

“We know the movie has to scratch every itch the fans of the show have ever had, but it also has to work for all the good people who’ve never seen the show.”

Unfortunately, marketing the film to a wider audience brings presents further issues for Fox, chief among which is the movie’s tone. Part of the appeal of the Bob’s Burgers television series is its quirky sense-of-humour – the obscure puns, the overly-eccentric characters, the deadpan delivery of one-liners. Yet its greatest appeal is also its biggest downfall, for there are just as many people who dislike the series because of its brand of comedy.

Though not as problematic, the setting of Bob’s Burgers is another issue that Fox must contend with. Much of the show takes place in an unnamed seaside town where the streets are symmetrical and the terrain is flat, a location which is hardly appealing for a Hollywood movie. But this is a problem which can easily be rectified, for the story does not have to occur in the one place – The Simpsons Movie, for instance, had its titular family travel to Alaska.

Perhaps the greatest worry is whether or not the Belchers’ cinematic adventure will find an audience. There’s no doubting that the programme’s greatest admirers will be queuing to see the film on opening weekend; what’s less clear is if anybody else is willing to join them. If the picture is to succeed, it desperately needs to possess that fine balance that Bouchard was talking about: that need to satisfy both fans and newcomers.

Despite these many apprehensions, this author cannot help but be excited for the eventual Bob’s Burgers film. The thought of potentially being able to see Bob, Linda, Tina, Gene and Louise on a cinema screen is one that is both heart-warming and exhilarating, even if the resulting picture is a shadow of the series it is based on. And if Nerdist is to be believed and the film is indeed a musical, that can only make the experience more enjoyable.

Until the Bob’s Burgers movie is released in 2020, we can only guess as to how popular it will be. But if 20th Century Fox is confident enough to give its quirky show a feature-length spin-off, then surely it will find the audience it deserves.

What are your thoughts on the announcement of a Bob’s Burgers film? Comment below to make them heard! 

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